The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service reports that productivity in U.S. agriculture has been fueled by agricultural output growth, not increased input use.

It explains the 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,” the ERS said. “From 1948 to 2013, U.S. farm sector output grew by 170% with about the same level of farm input use over the period, and thus the positive growth in farm sector production was substantially due to productivity growth.”

While aggregate input use in agriculture has been relatively stable over time, the composition of agricultural inputs has shifted. Between 1948 and 2013, labor use declined sharply by 78%, land use in agriculture dropped by 26%, reported ERS. During this time, the use of intermediate goods (such as energy, agricultural chemicals, purchased services, and seed/feed), and capital (farm machinery and buildings) expanded.

Innovations in animal/crop genetics, chemicals, equipment, technology and farm efficiencies have fueled advancements in agriculture, largely due to investments in public and private research and development.

The chart shown is the most recent update from ERS.