The directions you'll go and the tools you'll find will amaze you.

If you were to fall prey to the hype about Internet use and e-commerce, you'd think that everyone but you is rushing to his computer to buy ag products online. You'd also think that everyone but you has access to tomorrow's news today. Well, that's cowchips. So let's begin with a little perspective:

v According to the USDA, the share of farms with Internet access more than doubled between 1997 and 1999 to 29%. That means 71% of farms are not connected.

v The USDA also found that of the farms and ranches that accessed the Internet in 1999, 15% conducted e-commerce transactions. That means 85% did not.

v It also noted that more than 70% of active e-commerce users are between the ages of 35 and 54 and more than one-third have completed college or graduate school. As a whole, 46% of the farm population falls into that age group.

So what does it mean? It means that Internet use and e-commerce transactions are about to take over farm country, and if you aren't connected you'll be left in the dust.

Huh? Look at it this way.

Only 29% of U.S. farms now have Internet connections, but that low number probably is due to lousy connections and limited access. Fortunately, the issue of access is changing as you read this.

Only 15% of the farms with Internet access conducted e-commerce transactions in 1999, but keep in mind that e-commerce as an industry is just now taking its baby steps.

Finally, the average age and education level of e-commerce users is a sign of what's to come. Younger, more educated farmers are the first acceptors of new technology.

If you are not connected and are still unsure about the Internet and e-commerce, settle in and see what the users we profile have to say. Statistically, 100% say the initial experience was frustrating. Connections were slow. Searches went nowhere. The users felt dumb and were generally miserable.

And their advice? Again, 100% urge the disconnected to get online immediately. They say that now they can't imagine life without the Internet. And they wish the technological blessing on everyone.

Perhaps the best news, though, is that rural dwellers are no longer left out. Local service providers are popping up everywhere. All the major phone companies offer access. And even if you are not in a good phone service area, wireless companies are stepping to the plate, using antenna-based transmitters and satellite connections to give the most remote farm on the planet high-speed access.

Certainly, the Internet is bringing change to farm country. One change is the instantaneous access to information; that's the area users say has the most value. The e-commerce side of the Internet is increasing competition at every level of agribusiness. And companies, cooperatives and dealers are responding with a surge in customer service that truly will change the way you do business.

Want the world's largest library on your desk? Want to shop price for some Roundup? Need a first baseman's mitt for your left-handed son? Just sign on.

Welcome to the Internet. Change is good.