The Changing Face of Agriculture

Research and advancements in biotechnology are now in the marketplace with tastier fruits and vegetables that stay fresh longer and are not damaged by insects.

A new technique called "precision farming" boosts crop yields and reduces waste by using satellite maps and computers to match seed, fertilizer and crop protection applications to local soil conditions.

Farm equipment has evolved dramatically from the team of horses used in the early 1900s. Today's four-wheel drive tractors have the power of 40- 300 horses. This makes for a large capital investment, as farmers pay anywhere from $97,000 for an average 160 horsepower tractor to $170,000 for a four-wheel drive model.

As the amount of mechanization and horsepower in farm machinery has increased, the time needed to complete tasks has decreased. Combines, huge machines used to harvest grains such as corn, soybeans and wheat, have dramatically changed agriculture. In the 1930s, before the machines were available, a farmer could harvest an average of 100 bushels of corn by hand in a nine-hour day. Today's combines can harvest 900 bushels of corn per hour-or 100 bushels of corn in under seven minutes!

The efficiency of U.S. farmers benefits the United States consumer in the pocketbook. Americans spend less on food than any other developed nation in the world. On average in 2004, Americans spent only 2% of their disposable income on meat and poultry, compared to 4.1 percent in 1970.

Used with permission of Agriculture Council of America.