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
- 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.