Farm energy use reflects recent energy price increases

A chart showing the onfarm energy use and energy price index in years 2001 to 2011.

Energy is used for agricultural production both directly, in the form of fuels and electricity to run farm machinery, and indirectly, through the use of energy-intensive inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides employed to grow crops. From 2001 to 2011, direct energy use consistently accounted for most of the energy used in farming (63 percent in 2011). Fuel usage is the largest individual component of onfarm energy use, followed by indirect use through the energy embodied in fertilizers and pesticides. Fuel energy use increased slowly through the early 2000s before spiking in 2009 as fuel prices dropped from the previous year’s levels. In 2011, higher prices led to a decline in fuel use. As energy prices rose during the last decade, farm operators adjusted their practices to reduce both direct and indirect energy use where possible. Effective measures taken by farmers to offset higher costs include applying fewer inputs, using more efficient machinery, and reducing field operations. Indeed, during a period in which U.S. agricultural output increased by roughly 10 percent, total onfarm energy use rose only 6 percent. This chart is found in the June 2013 issue of Amber Waves magazine.

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