The Future of the American Agricultural Sector – What are the principal challenges faced by it?
The United States is the world’s largest industrial power. It relies heavily on its high-tech and services industries, but is at the same time the world largest producer of agricultural products. With the impending environmental effects of global warming, making the scenario of a global food crisis more likely than ever, it becomes obvious that the agricultural sector will play a key role in the foreseeable future of the United States. The nation’s ability to provide its ever-growing population with adequate nutrition can be defined as a prerequisite for an efficient and independent American economy. Hence, the essay will address the future of American agriculture by firstly casting a glance at the current facts, followed by an examination of the series of challenges this very sector is facing before coming to a short conclusion.
What is the relative significance of the U.S. agricultural sector? With an estimated gross domestic product (GDP) of US$ 14.62 trillion in 2010 and a real GDP growth rate of 2.7 percent, the USA ranks as the largest economy in the world, according to the Central Intelligence Agency (2009). While the industrial sector accounted for 22.2 percent of the nation’s GDP and services contributed the largest portion of 76.7 percent, the agricultural sector only generated 1.2 percent of the U.S. GDP in 2010. Currently, the agricultural sector accounts for approximately 2.4 percent of total employment (Central Intelligence Agency, 2009). The American agricultural sector might seem relatively small when compared with the other sectors of the economy, yet it can be classified as highly diverse and well developed. The geographic differences across the country, such as climate or soil, allow for the cultivation of a wide variety of crops. The main crops are wheat, corn, fruits, vegetables and cotton; livestock products are beef, pork, poultry, turkey and dairy products. Although most of these commodities are used for domestic consumption, the USA exports about 19 percent of its annual agricultural output to foreign countries including China, Mexico and Japan. Furthermore, the productivity of U.S. agriculture is legendary; the value of its agricultural commodities exceeds US$ 191 billion at the farm level (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2010).
What does the future of American agriculture look like?
Joel Kotkin, an internationally recognized author on global, economic and social trends, predicts that American agriculture will be a growth industry in the upcoming four decades. Kotkin’s theory is based on the assumption that the growing U.S. population, the availability of arable land combined with the entrepreneurial spirit and younger population are advantages that will give the USA a competitive edge over other developed nations. The argument is supported by research data that suggests a positive change in people`s attitude towards rural life. Thus, nowadays 35 percent of Americans would like to live in the country, which is also reflected by an immigration trend that agricultural states, such as Texas or North Carolina, are registering (Ramkumar, 2010). Nevertheless, the challenges ahead of the agricultural sector are significant ones: Issues related to the global food shortage, a rising concern for climate change, the decline in supplies of fossil energy, and the entailed quest for more sustainability as well as the deployment of biotechnological practices can all ultimately be classified as issues of national and global food security, and shall therefore be explored in the following. The United States will play a key role in the prevention of a global food crisis. As developing countries such as China continue expanding, they are boosting the global demand for agricultural products. The fact that China, with an increase in shipments by 34 percent to $17.5 billion, became the largest market for U.S. farm...
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