Production Farming as an Industry

In highly developed countries, farming ranks with manufacturing, construction, transportation, and the service industries as a major component of the economy. Improvements in farming have been basic to the progression of industrial growth. Efficiency in farming saves labor and permits a modern industrial nation to produce an adequate food supply using only a small part of the total labor force. The greatest industrial growth has occurred in those countries where agriculture is most progressive and efficient (most of North America, Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and smaller parts of Latin America, Asia, and Africa). Exports of farm products are a significant source of strength in the economies of most advanced countries. The United States is, by far, the largest exporter of farm products, totaling 20% to 25% of all exports.

In less developed countries, labor use is less efficient, and farms are generally smaller and less well-organized. Mechanization of agriculture should increase the amount of food that can be produced by each agricultural worker, reducing the need for on-farm jobs. In many poor nations where labor is plentiful and rural incomes are extremely low, reducing farm employment is not a desired outcome. As a result, appropriate technologies, scaled to the small farm and improving labor efficiency without eliminating agricultural jobs are being sought, rather than simply applying modern, large-scale agricultural technology to subsistence agricultural systems. Agricultural industries, both those supplying services to farmers and those marketing crops, are not as well-organized or sophisticated as in highly developed countries, making it more difficult in less developed countries to make use of these advances in agricultural techniques and to benefit from outside trade.

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