Technological Progress in US Agriculture: Implications for Biofuel Production

  •  Farzad Taheripour    
  •  Don Scott    
  •  Cristopher A. Hurt    
  •  Wallace E. Tyner    


This paper evaluates in a holistic way major trends in US production of food, feed, and biofuel commodities over the period 1961-2014. It is motivated by literature that examines parts of the changes but does not integrate them. We develop a comprehensive data set and then conduct analysis of the major trends that emerge. We identify eight major trends and then combine them to four major themes. The first theme is the huge gain in agricultural productivity over this period. An important component of this theme is that the productivity gain was sufficient to achieve substantial total production growth as agricultural land declined over the period. Second, there has been a major transformation of the livestock sector as less efficient and more expensive beef has been replaced by more efficient and less expensive poultry. As this change has happened, the livestock sector has become more land efficient, less land used in livestock. The third major change is that US calorie production is now substantially more than the needs for food and feed. Finally, the first three major themes have enabled the fourth, which is growth of US renewable fuel production, while agricultural land declined over time.

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