Productivity The Major Driver of U.S. Agricultural Growth

Technological developments in agriculture have enabled continued output growth without requiring much additional inputs, according to a new USDA Economic Research Service report. Innovations in animal and crop genetics, chemicals, equipment, and farm organization have made it possible for total agricultural output to nearly triple between 1948 and 2021.

During that period, the amount of inputs used in farming declined slightly over time, meaning that the growth in agricultural output over the long term has depended on increases in total factor productivity. Total factor productivity measures the amount of agricultural output produced from the combined inputs in farm production. Growth in total factor productivity indicates positive changes in the efficiency with which inputs are transformed into outputs.

In the most recent calculation period spanning 2020–21, agricultural output grew, which was due entirely to total factor productivity growth, even as the amount of inputs used in farming fell.