A century of U.S. farm productivity growth: A surge then a slowdown

Matthew A. Andersen, Julian M. Alston, Philip G. Pardey, Aaron Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

U.S. farm productivity growth has direct consequences for sustainably feeding the world's still rapidly growing population, as well as U.S. competitiveness in international markets. Using a newly expanded compilation of multifactor productivity (MFP) estimates and associated partial-factor productivity (PFP) measures, we examine changes in the pattern of U.S. agricultural productivity growth over the past century and more. Considering the evidence as a whole, we detect sizable and significant slowdowns in the rate of productivity growth in recent decades. U.S. multifactor productivity grew at an annual average rate of just 1.16% per year during 1990-2007 compared with 1.42% per year for the period 1910-2007. U.S. yields of major crops grew at an annual average rate of 1.17% per year for 1990-2009 compared with 1.81% per year for 1936-1990. More subtly, but with potentially profound implications, the relatively high rates of MFP growth during the third quarter of the century are an historical aberration relative to the long-run trend.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1072-1090
Number of pages19
JournalAmerican Journal of Agricultural Economics
Volume100
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Matthew Andersen is an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of Wyoming. Julian Alston is a distinguished professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, Davis. Philip Pardey is a professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Director of the International Science and Technology Practice and Policy (InSTePP) center, both at the University of Minnesota. Aaron Smith is a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, Davis. Alston and Andersen are research fellows at InSTePP. Alston and Smith are both members of the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics. The authors are grateful for research assistance provided by Connie Chan-Kang, and for the helpful feedback from the AJAE editor, Jim Vercammen, and from other colleagues, most notably Richard Gray and Kevin Novan. The work for this project was partly supported by the University of Minnesota’s International Science and Technology Practice and Policy (InSTePP) center, the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics, the University of California, Davis, the University of Wyoming, and the USDA’s Economic Research Service, Agricultural Research Service, and CSREES National Research Initiative. Correspondence may be sent to: mander60@uwyo.edu.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.

Keywords

  • Crop yields
  • Land and labor productivity
  • Multifactor productivity
  • U.S. agriculture

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