Food [Production] for Thought: 1900 vs 1999 : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

A while back, I ran across statistics on the farm output in the US, but I've lost the documentation. Perhaps someone can help me out. The gist is that the average farmer supplied food for 8 American families in 1900. By 1998 or so, when I read the report, the average farmer was supplying over 200 families. To a large extent, this may be due to improved innovations in agriculture, irrigation systems, processing, transportation, inventory control, and information technology in general.

Unfortunately, due to major waves in the economy (Y2K aside), farm machinery sales/production has dropped off drastically. From March '98 to March '99, for example: 2WD farm equipment slipped 37%, 4WD farm equipment slipped 45%, and combines slipped 49%.

A Red Cross representative told me recently that her biggest Y2K concern is water (as in H2O), especially in the Western US.

Anyway, I'm trying to piece together a report along these lines, so please email me any documentation you might wish to contribute if it is too lengthy to post here.

-- Zach Anderson (, July 22, 1999


It was in one of Cory Hamasaki's WDC weather reports. Cory's site is at The most amusing read about civilization threatening disaster one can imagine. I don't remember the exact letter but reading them all should take you maybe an hour.

Watch six and keep your...

-- eyes_open (, July 22, 1999.

Why Infomagic is a Pollyanna by Peggy Stewart

-- a (a@a.a), July 22, 1999.

Our organization maintains a webpage on ag/rural impacts of y2k:

The American Farm Bureau Federation just published a "backgrounder" on the current ag economy at U.C. Berkeley has a college of Ag Economics: The National Ag Library site is An ag census is taken periodically. USDA had a bureau of ag statistics, but can't put my finger on the link at the moment. Here is a sniplet of information that might be helpful: AG PRODUCTIVITY: From "Farming in the United States," Stucture Issues of American Agriculture, USDA ERS Agricultural Economics Report 438, Nov. 1979, pg. 24-26:

There has been a substantial increase in tractor horsepower on farms subsequent to WWII. Currently the ratio of buildings and machinery per worker in agriculture is twice as much as that of business in general. Fertilizer use has increased more than five-fold during the same period.

Labor accounted for almost 40% of all resources used in farming in 1950, but fell below 15% by the end of the 1970s (USDA) Most of the farms today rely solely on the farm operator family as a source of labor.

Pg 26 In the early 1980s, farmers who comprise only 3% of the nations total civilian labor force were producing enough output to feed our nation's population and still have enough left over to account for 20% of the nation's total export revenue.

Pg 27 The total output of raw agricultural products per unit of input in 1982 represented an 88% increase over the level of output achieved in 1950.

Pg 26 of the USDA report: In the early 1980s, approximately 50 million acres of cropland (and some pastureland) in the US were irrigated (USDA). Almost 1/2 of the acreage irrigated with on-farm-pumped water was pumped using electricity. The rest with natural gas and diesel fuel.

Pg 26-27 Farm uses of energy accounted for approximately 2.5% of all energy used in the US in 1980. (D.L. Van Dyne, R.D. Reinsel, T.J. Lutton and J.A. Barton "Energy Use and Energy Policy" (1979) About 37% of this energy was in the form of petrochemicals and fertilizers. Another 22% in farm machinery operations. ___________________

Would really like to read what you come up with when you are finished!

-- marsh (, July 22, 1999.

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