It is widely agreed that increased productivity, arising from innovation and changes in technology, is the main contributor to economic growth in U.S. agriculture. ERS data, research, and analyses quantify productivity improvements, the sources of improvement, and investigate the role of the public and private sectors in fostering U.S. agricultural productivity growth through research, education, infrastructure, and technological advances. Research on global agricultural productivity focuses on quantifying comparable productivity growth measures for countries and regions worldwide.
- Though total annual use of agricultural inputs has changed little since 1948, the mix of inputs shifted significantly, with intermediate inputs (e.g., agricultural chemicals and purchased services) use increasing and labor/land input use decreasing. The output mix has changed as well, with crop production growing faster than livestock production. See the ERS report,Agricultural Productivity Growth in the United States: Measurement, Trends, and Drivers (ERR-189, July 2015) for more information.
- To estimate the likely impacts of public research and development (R&D) funding choices on productivity growth, ERS projected future productivity growth with alternative public R&D investment scenarios. This analysis found that declines in public R&D have a more pronounced effects in the longrun than in the short-term. Even if public R&D investment recovers, future productivity growth (in terms of total factor productivity) would take some time to resume due to the lag between research investment and application. See the Amber Waves feature, U.S. Agricultural Productivity Growth: The Past, Challenges, and the Future for more information.
- ERS’ productivity accounts provide estimates of productivity growth for the aggregate U.S. farm sector for the period 1948-2011, and estimates of the growth and relative levels of productivity for the individual States for the period 1960-2004. According to the statistics (see the ERS data product, Agricultural Productivity in the U.S.), growth in farm sector output was due almost entirely to productivity growth over the post-war period.
- Empirical studies indicate high economic returns from the public’s investment in agricultural research. (See the report, Economic Returns to Public Agricultural Research, EB-10, September 2007.)
- Models and data decompose the sources of growth in global agricultural output. Globally, productivity growth accounts for a rising share of the increase in agricultural production, easing pressure on natural resources to supply the rising demand for food and agricultural commodities (see the ERS data product, International Agricultural Productivity, Growth in Global Agricultural Productivity: An Update (Amber Waves magazine, November 2013), and Accelerating Productivity Growth Offsets Decline in Resource Expansion in Global Agriculture (Amber Waves, September 2010).