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Intellectual property rights for new plant varieties have expanded

Monday, January 8, 2018

Intellectual property rights are intended to offer incentives for innovation by protecting new inventions from imitation and competition. When the modern U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was established in 1836, new plant varieties were considered products of nature and, therefore, not eligible for protection under any form of intellectual property. In 1930, asexually reproducing plants were the first to receive protection through plant patents, which have been issued primarily for fruits, tree nuts, and horticultural species. The remainder of the plant kingdom, including a broad range of commercial crops, became eligible for protection in 1970 with the introduction of plant variety protection certificates (PVPCs). However, PVPCs had exemptions for farmers to save seeds and for research uses. Full patent protection (without these exemptions) arrived in 1980 with the U.S. Supreme Court decision Diamond v. Chakrabarty. This ruling extended utility patent protection—the type of protection provided to most inventions in other areas—to plants. Despite being available for the least amount of time, annual utility patent grants for plant cultivars and lines have rapidly overtaken PVPCs and reached similar levels as plant patents. The rapid rise of utility patents mirrored the rapid rise in private research and development in the seed and agricultural biotech sector over a similar period. This chart updates data found in the ERS report Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 2006 Edition.

Productivity has driven the growth in U.S. agricultural output

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Technological developments in agriculture have been influential in driving changes in the farm sector. Innovations in animal and crop genetics, chemicals, equipment, and farm organization have enabled continuing output growth while using less inputs. As a result, even as the amount of land and labor used in farming declined, total agricultural output more than doubled between 1948 and 2015. During this period, agricultural output grew at an average annual rate of 1.48 percent, compared to 0.1 percent for total farm inputs (including land, labor, machinery, and intermediate goods). The major source of output growth is the increase in agricultural productivity, as measured by total factor productivity (TFP)—the difference between the growth of aggregate output and growth of aggregate inputs. Between 1948 and 2015, TFP grew at an average annual rate of 1.38 percent, accounting for more than 90 percent of output growth over that period. This chart appears in the ERS data product Agricultural Productivity in the U.S., updated October 2017.

Technological innovations have increased corn yields

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

With less labor and land being used in production over time, U.S. agriculture depends on raising the productivity of these resources for growth. Average national corn yield (a productivity measure) rose from around 30 bushels per acre in the 1930s (where it stood since USDA began measuring them in the 1860s) to nearly 180 bushels per acre in the present decade. This sustained growth in productivity was driven by the development and rapid adoption of a series of successive biological, chemical, and mechanical innovations. Every few years farmers adopt the latest hybrid seed variety, for example. These seeds are likely to have multiple genetically modified (GM) traits designed to protect the crop against pests and diseases or infer other valuable qualities—such as resistance to the corn borer, a major insect pest of the crop. Recently, the rapid adoption of tractor guidance systems has greatly improved the speed and efficiency of tillage and planting operations and the precision of seed, fertilizer, and pesticide applications. By 2010, such systems were used on 45 percent of corn planted acres. This chart updates data found in the ERS report, The Seed Industry in U.S. Agriculture: An Exploration of Data and Information on Crop Seed Markets, Regulation, Industry Structure, and Research and Development, released February 2004.

Public sector spending on agricultural research declining in the United States and Western Europe, but rising in China, India, and Brazil

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

U.S. public sector funding for agricultural R&D is falling, both in absolute terms and relative to major countries and regions. Between 1990 and 2013, the U.S. share of spending among nations with major public agricultural R&D investments fell from about 23 to 13 percent. This decline was driven by a combination of falling U.S. spending (lately mirrored in Western Europe) and rapidly rising spending in developing countries such as India and, especially, China. Chinese government spending on agricultural R&D rose nearly eightfold in real (inflation-adjusted) terms between 1990 and 2013, surpassing U.S. spending in 2008 and more than doubling it in 2013. In simple dollar terms, the decline in U.S. public sector funding has been more than offset by a rise in U.S. private research spending, but the two are not substitutes, as each tends to specialize in different kinds of R&D. This chart appears in the November 2016 Amber Waves feature, "U.S. Agricultural R&D in an Era of Falling Public Funding."

Gains in productivity have fueled the growth in U.S. agricultural output

Thursday, May 11, 2017

From 1948 to 2013, U.S. farm sector output grew by 170 percent with about the same level of farm input use over the period. This output growth resulted mainly from gains in productivity, as measured by total factor productivity (TFP)—the difference between the growth of aggregate output and growth of aggregate inputs (such as land and labor). Between 1948 and 2013, total output grew at an average annual rate of 1.52 percent, agricultural TFP at 1.47 percent, and input use at only 0.05 percent. Long-term agricultural productivity is fueled by innovations in animal/crop genetics, chemicals, equipment, and farm organization that result from public and private research and development. This chart appears in the ERS publication Selected charts from Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, 2017, released April 28, 2017.

Rising agricultural productivity offsets declining input use in developed countries

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Boosting agricultural productivity—producing more output from fewer inputs—is key to meeting expanding global food needs. Total Factor Productivity (TPF) offers a complete measure of agricultural performance, accounting for all of the land, labor, capital, and material resources used in the production process. Since the 1960s, agricultural TFP in developed countries has compensated for declining input use as output growth slowed. In more years, between 2001 and 2013, input growth in these countries declined across all factors of production for the first time. ERS estimates TFP growth using data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This chart uses data from the ERS International Agricultural Productivity dataset.

Gains in productivity drive growth in U.S. agricultural output

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

U.S. agricultural output more than doubled between 1948 and 2013, growing on average at 1.52 percent annually. Total input use (for example, land, labor and materials such as seed and feed) grew at only 0.05 percent per year on average. Improvements in how efficiently inputs are transformed into outputs, known as Total Factor Productivity (TFP), fueled almost all of the output growth. Advancements in technology—such as improvements to machinery, seeds, and farm structures—enabled agricultural TFP to grow an average of 1.47 percent annually. This rate exceeded the productivity growth of most U.S. industries, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In recent years, between 2007 and 2013, TFP growth has kept up with its historic rate. This strong productivity growth has offset the decline in the use of agricultural inputs, allowing agricultural output to continue to grow by 0.91 percent annually. A version of this chart is found in the September 2016 Amber Waves feature, "Productivity Growth Is Still the Major Driver in Growing U.S. Agricultural Output".

Agricultural productivity advances across all global regions

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Continued progress in improving agricultural productivity?producing more output from a unit of aggregate inputs?is key to meeting expanding global food needs. Total factor productivity (TFP) in agriculture is an indicator of the rate of technical change based on a comprehensive measure of the amount of output attained from all of the land, labor, capital, and material resources employed in production. Over the 2002-2011 decade, agricultural TFP rose in every region of the world. In all regions except Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, gains in TFP accounted for most of the increase in agricultural output.? In regions like Europe, Oceania, and North America, positive TFP growth compensated for declining input use to keep output growth positive in all cases except Europe.? While Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa achieved the most rapid expansion in agricultural output over the decade, the former Soviet Union, Asia, and West Asia/North Africa regions recorded the most rapid gains in TFP.? Estimates of TFP growth are derived by ERS using data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This chart is based on data found in ERS's International Agricultural Productivity dataset.

Stacked GE varieties of corn have become commonplace

Thursday, September 1, 2016

U.S. farmers have embraced genetically engineered (GE) seeds in the 20 years since their commercial introduction. Herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops, developed to survive application of specific herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds, provide farmers with a broader variety of options for effective weed control. Insect-resistant crops contain a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that produces a protein that is toxic to specific insects, protecting the plant over its entire life. Seeds that have both herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant traits are referred to as ?stacked.? Based on USDA survey data, adoption of stacked GE corn varieties has increased sharply, reaching 77 percent of planted corn acres in 2015. Conversely, use of Bt-only corn dropped from 27 percent of planted corn acreage in 2004 to 4 percent in 2015, while HT-only corn dropped from 24 percent of planted corn acreage in 2007 to 12 percent in 2015. Generally, stacked seeds (seeds with more than one GE trait) tend to have higher yields than conventional seeds or seeds with only one GE trait. This chart is based on the ERS data product,?Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., updated July 2015.

Genetically engineered seeds planted on over 90 percent of U.S. corn, cotton and soybean acres

Thursday, September 1, 2016

U.S. farmers have adopted genetically engineered (GE) seeds in the 19 years since their commercial introduction, despite their typically higher seed prices. Herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops, developed to survive the application of specific herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds, provide farmers with a broader variety of options for weed control. Insect-resistant crops contain a gene from the soil bacterium Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that produces a protein toxic to specific insects, protecting the plant over its entire life. ?Stacked? seed varieties carry both HT and Bt traits and now account for a large majority of GE corn and cotton seeds. In 2014, adoption of? GE varieties, including those with herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, or stacked traits, reached 96 percent of cotton acreage, 94 percent of soybean acreage (soybeans have only HT varieties), and 93 percent of corn acreage planted in the United States. This chart comes from the ERS data product, Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., updated July 2014.

International agricultural productivity growth remains uneven across countries

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Agricultural total factor productivity (TFP) is the difference between the aggregate total output of crop/livestock commodities and the combined use of land, labor, capital and material inputs employed in farm production. Growth in TFP implies that the adoption of new technology or improved management of farm resources is increasing average productivity or efficiency of input use. Worldwide, agricultural TFP grew at an average annual rate of 1.7 percent during of 2002-11, the latest decade for which figures are available. However, not all countries are achieving growth in agricultural TFP. Among developing countries, some large countries like China and Brazil are improving their agricultural TFP rapidly, but many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are lagging behind. Most developed countries are continuing to achieve moderate rates of agricultural TFP growth, but some, such as the UK and Australia, have experienced a slowdown in TFP growth. Maintaining growth in agricultural TFP is necessary for achieving global food security goals and could help preserve natural resources. This map is based on data from ERS? International Agricultural Productivity accounts.

U.S. poultry and eggs output has grown more rapidly than dairy and meat animals

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Total U.S. livestock output grew 130 percent from 1948 to 2011, with the poultry and eggs subcategory growing much faster than meat animals (including cattle, hogs, and lamb) and dairy products. In 2011, the real value of total poultry and egg production was more than seven times its level in 1948, with an average annual growth rate exceeding 3 percent. The rapid growth of poultry production is due largely to changes in technology?advances in genetics, feed formulations, housing, and practices?and increased consumer demand. Retail prices of poultry fell in the late 1970?s and 1980?s, relative to beef and pork prices, leading to expanded poultry consumption in that period. Increased domestic consumption and exports were also driven by consumer response to an expanding range of new poultry products, as the industry moved away from a reliance on whole birds and produc?tion shifted to cut-up parts and processed products such as boneless chicken, breaded nuggets/tenders, and chicken sausages. This chart is found in the ERS report, Agricultural Productivity Growth in the United States: Measurement, Trends, and Drivers, July 2015.

Productivity growth in food manufacturing is low relative to manufacturing in general

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Productivity growth in food manufacturing has been far below growth rates for agriculture and manufacturing as a whole in the world?s major economies over the past three decades. Total factor productivity (TFP) measures the value added per combined unit of labor and capital employed in an industry. From 1980 to 2006, TFP growth in food manufacturing was substantially below that for total manufacturing and agriculture in the United States, the United Kingdom (UK), the ?Eurozone,? and Japan. Only in the UK did food manufacturing productivity increase more than minimally; in Japan, productivity growth in food manufacturing was negative over this period. The TFP changes shown in the graph indicate the rate of capital- and labor-saving technical change in each industry, and reveal that relatively little of this innovation occurred in food manufacturing. This chart is based on data found in table 9.3 of? Research Investments and Market Structure in the Food? Processing, Agricultural Input, and Biofuel Industries Worldwide, ERR-130, December 2011.

Insect resistant GE crops may have area-wide insect suppression benefits

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Since their first successful commercial introduction in the United States in 1996, genetically engineered (GE) seeds have been widely adopted by U.S. corn, cotton, and soybean farmers. In 2013, 169 million acres of GE corn, cotton, and soybean were planted, accounting for about half of U.S. land used for crops.? One trait engineered into GE corn and cotton is resistance to certain insects (by introducing a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)), protecting the plant over its entire life cycle.? Bt corn was planted on 19 percent of corn acres in 2000, 35 percent in 2005, and 76 percent in 2013. Over this period, insecticide use on corn has declined for both Bt adopters and nonadopters. These trends are consistent with research findings that area-wide suppression of certain insects is associated with Bt crop use, benefiting not only Bt adopters but non-adopters as well.? However, there are some recent indications that insect resistance is developing to some Bt traits in some areas, which may increase insecticide use compared to the 2010 low levels. This chart can be found in Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States, ERR-162, February 2014.

Increased productivity now the primary source of growth in world agricultural output

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The average annual rate of global agricultural output growth slowed in the 1970s and 1980s, then accelerated in the 1990s and 2000s. In the latest period estimated (2001-12), global output of total crop and livestock commodities was expanding at an average rate of 2.5 percent per year. In the decades prior to 1990, most output growth came about from intensification of input use (i.e., using more labor, capital, and material inputs per acre of agricultural land). Bringing new land into agriculture production and extending irrigation to existing agricultural land were also important sources of growth. This changed over the last two decades, as input growth slowed. In 2001-12, improvements in productivity?getting more output from existing resources?accounted for about two-thirds of the total growth in agricultural output worldwide, reflecting the use of new technology and changes in management practices by agricultural producers around the world. This chart is based on the ERS data product, International Agricultural Productivity, updated October 2015.

Agricultural production in India shifting to high-value outputs

Thursday, September 1, 2016

India?s economic growth and rising incomes have expanded consumer food demand to include higher valued foods, such as fruit, vegetables, and some meat products. Indian farmers appear to be meeting these new growth opportunities. A look at average production shares in the 1980-84 and the 2004-08 periods shows that growth in production of animal and horticulture products reduced the share of production growth attributable to grains. Accordingly, India?s real value of farm production increased an average 3 percent each year, rising from 2.6 trillion rupees in 1980 to 7.3 trillion rupees in 2008, or from $42 billion to $116 billion. This chart is based on Propellers of Agricultural Productivity in India, December 2015.

Growth in agricultural output has slowed since 2000

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The level of U.S. farm output more than doubled between 1948 and 2011, growing at an average annual rate of 1.49 percent. Aggregate input use increased at a modest 0.07 percent annually over this period, so growth in farm sector output was almost entirely due to an increase in productivity (as measured by total factor productivity, or TFP, growth).? Growth in output has not been constant?it slowed to an average annual rate of 0.78 percent during 2000-07 and was negative between 2007 and 2011, reflecting adverse growing conditions. Measured productivity growth slowed as well, averaging 0.31 percent per annum during 2000-07, but still accounted for 40 percent of the growth in output over this period.? TFP growth rebounded somewhat between 2007 and 2011, as aggregate input use dropped faster than agricultural output. This chart is found in the ERS data product Agricultural Productivity in the U.S., on the ERS website, updated September 2013.

U.S. hog operations have become increasingly specialized

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The traditional approach of farrow-to-finish hog production in the U.S.?where breeding and gestation, farrowing, nursery, and finishing to market weight are performed on one operation?is being replaced by operations that specialize in a single production phase. In 1992, more than 50 percent of U.S. hog operations used the farrow-to-finish approach. By 2009, less than 25 percent were farrow-to-finish producers. In contrast, hog operations specializing in raising feeder pigs weighing 30-80 pounds to market weights of 225-300 pounds (feeder-to-finish) accounted for less than 20 percent of hog producers in 1992, but nearly 50 percent in 2009.? Specialized operations produced more than 70 percent of U.S. finished hog output in 2009, and were more likely to be producing hogs under contract than were farrow-to-finish farms. This chart is found in the ERS report, U.S. Hog Production From 1992 to 2009: Technology, Restructuring, and Productivity Growth, ERR-158, October 2013.

Increased productivity now the primary source of growth in world agriculture

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The average annual rate of global agricultural growth slowed in the 1970s and 1980s but then accelerated in the 1990s and 2000s. In the decades prior to 1990, most output growth came about from intensification of input use (i.e., using more labor, capital, and material inputs per acre of agricultural land). Bringing new land into agriculture production and extending irrigation to existing agricultural land were also important sources of growth. Over the last two decades, however, the rate of growth in agricultural resources (land, labor, capital, etc.) slowed. In 2001-10, improvements in productivity?getting more output from existing resources?accounted for more than three-quarters of the total growth in global agricultural output, reflecting the use of new technology and changes in management by agricultural producers around the world. This chart is found in the ERS data product, International Agricultural Productivity, on the ERS website, updated November 2013.

Productivity drives agricultural output growth in most regions of the world

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Productivity growth in agriculture enables farmers to produce a greater abundance of food at lower prices, using fewer resources.? A broad measure of agricultural productivity performance is total factor productivity (TFP). Unlike other commonly used productivity indicators like yield per acre, TFP takes into account a much broader set of inputs?including land, labor, capital, and materials?used in agricultural production. ERS analysis finds that globally, agricultural TFP growth accelerated in recent decades, largely because of improving productivity in developing countries and the transition economies of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. During 2001-2010, agricultural TFP growth in North America and the transition economies offset declining input use to keep agricultural output growing.? By contrast, declining input use in Europe offset growing TFP, resulting in a slight decline in agricultural output over the decade.? In most regions of the developing world, improvements in TFP are now more important than expansion of inputs as a source of growth in agricultural production. Sub-Saharan Africa is the only major region of the world where growth in agricultural inputs accounts for a higher share of output growth than growth in TFP.? This chart is based on the table found in ?Growth in Global Agricultural Productivity: An Update,? in the November 2013 Amber Waves online magazine, and the ERS data product on International Agricultural Productivity.

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