Friday, November 18, 2011

Lesson in Productivity...More food with fewer workers...Should we be OUTRAGED that employment in agriculture has declined so much??

Productivity (Output per worker) down on the farm is amazing.  The first graph shows the yield per acre of various agricultural commodities relative to the growth of the US population.  Food production per capita has increased dramatically post-Depression Era. 
Source: Coyote Blog
This second graph shows productivity in agriculture has been achieved with fewer workers. Notice in both graphs 1930 to 1940 was a seminal year---a dramtic divergence in the production of food and the number of workers needed to produce that food.
Source: NASS

Why is this?...

Source: HERE: ""The use of technology in modern agriculture began with the replacement of the horse with modern tractors, combines, and cotton pickers after the turn of the 20th
century. The nextrevolution in crop production began in the 1930s with “hybridization” of crops, or the breeding of

select crops to produce desirable characteristics not typically found in the original crop. As a

result, crop yields have increased from 25 bushels per acre in 1930 to more than 140 bushels

today. During the 1940s came increased availability of fertilizers to further increase crop yields,

and in the 1950s we saw the introduction of herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides to help

control weeds, insects and diseases that can reduce crop growth. In the mid 1990s, the

introduction of food biotechnology helped to increase the quantity and quality of the foods we

grow by making them tolerant of pesticides and preserving nutrients and other desirable traits. As

with other industries, farmers have had much to gain from the availability of computers, software,

satellites, and the Internet. Such technologies enable farmers to practice what is often referred to

as “precision agriculture,” which gives them the ability to more effectively use crop inputs such

as fertilizers, pesticides, tilled or cultivated land, and irrigation water. More effective use of these

inputs means greater crop yield and/or quality, without polluting the environment. Additionally,

since 1930, the time necessary to produce a bushel of corn has decreased from more than 30

minutes to a fraction of a minute in 2002."""

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