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United States Environmental Protection Agency
Ag 101
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Economic Overview

U.S. agriculture is a complex system that simultaneously produces unprecedented bounty and unparalleled social concerns. Can the unique institution of the American family farm survive the economic realities of the 21st century? Can the United States continue to have the most abundant and the safest food system in the world? These questions and the unfolding answers will have impacts that will be felt for generations to come. What we know for certain is that:
  • The U.S. farmer is the most productive in the history of the world.
  • Food is more affordable in the United States than in any other developed country in the world.
  • There is a definite trend toward fewer farms producing an increasing share of agricultural products in this country.
  • In spite of many challenges, U.S. agriculture is uniquely positioned to provide for the food and fiber needs of a growing world community.

Agricultural production in the United States is a business that requires very high capital investments in land, facilities, and machines and most often produces undifferentiated products (commodities) of generally low unit value. Thin profit margins have forced producers to seek efficiencies in all aspects of production. There are efficiencies of scale that favor large producers who can make the most effective use of large, expensive machines. In crops such as corn and soybeans, and in poultry and animal production commercially viability is usually based on producing "in volume."


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