Has the golden age of American farm productivity growth ended?

 Source: LSE Phelan US Centre, photo credit: 123RF/maxym

There is robust and compelling evidence of a structural slowing of productivity growth in U.S. agriculture, following a mid-century surge. Philip G. Pardey and Julian M. Alston come up with three possible factors that, taken together, help explain the slowdown and indicate what to expect from now on.

Farm productivity growth has been central to the development of agriculture in the United States and around the world, and continuing farm productivity growth remains crucial for enabling the sustainable production of safe, healthy, and affordable food. Many of us might think we can take all these things for granted. But recent periodical spikes in commodity prices and emerging evidence of a secular slowdown in farm productivity growth have sparked renewed concerns about the future path of agricultural productivity and its implications for the supply and price of food; especially with a changing climate and competing demands for agricultural land, water, and other resources.

Can we hope or expect to repeat in the coming decades anything like the rapid growth in measured farm productivity and hence in global agricultural abundance experienced during the second half of the twentieth century? A better understanding of the past patterns and their causes may help us to better answer these questions about the future of food.
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The South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) coordinates industry interventions and collaboratively manages risks in the value chain to enable the sustainability and profitability of pork producers in South Africa.