Agricultural Inputs Stay Flat, Output Soars

Ever since the late 1940s, agricultural output has grown slowly but steadily at an average annual rate of about  1.5%, while input usage has only increased by about 0.05% per year during the same time period. Mapped out over seven decades, those changes have really added up.

USDA-ERS tracked the changes and published the results from 1948 to 2013. During that time period, U.S. ag productivity has increased by 170%, with ag inputs nearly flat that entire time.

According to ERS, the average annual total output was 1.52%. Subtract the 0.05% increase in ag inputs, and that leaves a 1.47% average annual “total factor productivity” (TFP).

ERS sites several innovations that have fueled this steady growth, including:

  • Animal / crop genetics
  • Chemicals
  • Equipment
  • Farm organization
  • Public and private R&D

This chart is from the ERS publication Selected Charts from Ag and Food Statistics, Charting the Essentials, 2017.


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