1 — The Miracle of Productivity

American Agriculture is Producing More With Less

The Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service released a major report recently that illustrates how agricultural productivity has increased while farming’s impact on the environment has shrunk.

USDA released the 2007 National Resources Inventory (NRI) for Non-Federal Lands. The report is science-based and relies on actual farm surveys. “The NRI results are significant because they provide a scientifically based snapshot of the nation’s natural resources and the ability to track trends in natural resource use and condition,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan.

One key finding of the NRI: soil erosion on cropland declined by more than 40 percent during the past 25 years, while more than one-third of all development of U.S. land occurred during the same period. The NRI can be accessed here.

Great corresponding graphics from American Farm Bureau, that illustrate key findings are found here.

These facts, based on in-the-field science, are worth sharing. Farm and ranch families today are caring for our natural resources while feeding our nation. In fact, they are doing so with greater efficiency than ever before. More with less. Any way you slice it that makes sense for people and our planet.

AFBF News Release, April 2010


1 — The Miracle of Productivity – Today’s Farmers Produce More Food with Fewer Resources: While farm and ranch productivity has increased dramatically since 1950, the use of resources (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.) required for production has declined markedly. For example, in 2008 farmers used 2 percent fewer inputs while producing 262 percent more food, compared to 1950.

2 — More Food with Fewer Resources – We Can Feed a Growing World Thanks to the miracle of productivity: America’s farmers and ranchers are doing their part to feed a growing world. Total U.S. crop yield (tons per acre) has increased more than 360 percent since 1950.

3 — More Milk with Less Feed – America’s Dairy Cows Produce More Milk with Less Feed: Dairy cow milk production has become more efficient since 1980. The pounds of feed (grain, forage, etc.) a cow needs to consume to produce 100 pounds of milk has decreased by more than 40 percent on average in the last 30 years.

4 — U.S. Farm Land Use – U.S. Farm Land Use for Crops is Trending Down: Since 1982, U.S. land used for crops has declined by 70 million acres. Conservation tillage, a way of farming that reduces erosion (soil loss) on cropland while using less energy, has grown from 17 percent of acreage in 1982 to 63 percent currently.

5 — Soil Erosion in Decline – Soil Erosion Continues to Decline: Careful stewardship by America’s food producers spurred a nearly 50 percent decline in erosion of cropland by wind and water since 1982.

Lynn Snyder 

Lynn Snyder is senior director of communications for Ohio Farm Bureau.