~ CHAPTER 10 ~
Edition 9 of March 2010 (
Updated Oct. 2010 and Sept. 2011)


(10-A) ~ Laws ~ Federal ~ [A1]~US Laws Passed Prior to 1985, [A2]~US Laws After 1984, [A3]~Laws Outside the U.S., ~
(10-B) ~
Laws ~ State and Local ~
~ Politics ~ [C1]~Miscellaneous, [C2]~Protecting Farmland from Urbanization, [C3]~Politicization of the Soil Conservation Service, [C4]~Feudalism, ~
~ History ~ [D1]~United States, [D2]~Europe, [D3]~Other Regions, [D4]~Transition to Agriculture, ~
(10-E) ~
Economics ~
~ (10-E-a) ~
Water-Related Erosion Costs ~
~ (10-E-b) ~
Erosion Costs ~ [Eb1]~Global, [Eb2]~U.S. Government Expenditures on Erosion Protection, [Eb3]~Erosion-Prevention Costs, [Eb4]~Off-Site Erosion Costs (USA), [Eb5]~On-Site U.S. Erosion-Related Losses, [Eb6]~Australia, [Eb7]~Canada, [Eb8]~New Mexico, [Eb9]~Java, ~
~ (10-E-c) ~
Energy Costs ~
~ (10-E-d) ~
Imports/ Exports ~ [Ed1]~Global Data, [Ed2]~U.S. Data, [Ed3]~Africa (sub-Saharan), [Ed4]~North Africa, [Ed5]~Asia, [Ed6]~Canada, [Ed7]~Far East, [Ed8]~Southeast Asia, [Ed9]~Latin America, [Ed10]~Mid-East, [Ed11]~Asian Sub-Continent, [Ed12]~Europe. ~
~ (10-E-e) ~
Organic Farming ~
~ (10-E-f) ~
Discounting Future Harvests ~
~ (10-E-g) ~
Conservation Capital ~
~ (10-E-h) ~
Subsidies ~
~ (10-E-i) ~
Food Prices ~ [Ei1]~Comments, [Ei2]~Global, [Ei3]~U.S., [Ei4]~Middle East, [Ei5]~Central Asia, ~
~ (10-E-j) ~
Farm Economics ~
~ (10-E-k) ~
Agriculture Economics ~
~ (10-E-l) ~
Conversion of Labor-Intensive Agriculture to Capital-Intensive Agriculture in Developing Nations ~

NOTE: The notation (su1) means that the data is used in the document analyzing the sustainability of the productivity of the world's food, fiber and water supply systems. (See elsewhere in this website.)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - se10

SECTION (10-A) ~ Laws ~ Federal ~ [A1]~U.S. Laws Passed Prior to 1985, [A2]~U.S. Laws Passed After 1984, [A3]~Laws Outside the U.S., ~

Part [A1] ~ U.S. Laws Prior to 1985 ~

The U.S. Soil Conservation Service was established in 1935. The act provided that, in return for furnishing technical and financial assistance on private lands, states were required to enact and enforce laws imposing permanent restrictions on the use of erosive lands. State laws that were passed made passage and enforcement of controls on the use of erosive lands difficult. Few, if any, instances are recalled in which the regulatory powers granted to state conservation districts have actually been used to conserve soil for long-term public benefit. Thus, one of the basic intents of national conservation policy, local controls on use-of-land problems, has been lost ((81B1), p. 85).

There is little by way of laws requiring farmers to prevent soil erosion. Most (all?) soil erosion legislation relevant to agriculture appears to take the form of bribes and financial aid to encourage soil conservation. Refs. (78U1) and (81U1) describe one such bribe (aid) measure - the Agriculture Conservation Program (ACP).

The Agriculture Adjustment Act (AAA) of the early New Deal was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1936. Its replacement was the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act. Both acts are described and evaluated in Ref. (83C1). Chapter 2 of (83C1) is a history of public attitudes, policies and laws regarding soil erosion: "Erosion controls would be achieved by voluntary means or not at all". Conservation laws and the "taking" issue are discussed in Ref. (87W3).

In 1977, Congress passed the Soil and Water Resource Conservation Act reflecting the national concern over erosion in the 1970s ((83C1), p. 14).

Among other things, the Food and Agriculture Act of 1981 authorized creation of a special-areas conservation program to compensate farmers for using less erosive cropping systems (82O2).

Part [A2] ~ U.S. Laws Passed After 1984 ~

Better Environmental News (2/4/09), Contact: Steve Bertjens, 608-732-0847,  Brett Hulsey, 608-334-4994,

Brett Hulsey, MNS, President, Better Environmental Solutions, 110 Merrill Crest Drive, Madison, WI  53705, Phone: 608-238-6070, Email: Brett@BetterEnviro.Com, Website: www.BetterEnviro.Com

Wisconsin Lost One-Third of Conservation Reserve Lands in the Last 2 Years, More than Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota: Program Needs Change to Protect Land, Water, Habitat, Flood Control

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Acreage Trends, 2006-2008 (USDA data)


FY 2006 CRP Acres

Dec. 2008 CRP Acres



Compared to MW Regional Average

























MW Total






One of the most successful conservation programs in history, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was created in the 1985 Farm Bill to pay farmers for conservation practices. CRP protected 33.6 million acres of highly erodible lands and wetlands in December 2008, an area equal to 15 Yellowstone National Parks.

The analysis also looked at CRP acres expiring in the next two years in western Wisconsin counties and estimated that 165,079 more acres could lose protection. Grant, Iowa, Trempealeau and Dane Counties could lose the most if farmers don't renew their contracts, as the data below show. 


CRP Acres Expiring
in 2009 and 2010























Eau Claire






La Crosse






The Conservation Reserve Program provides:

Data (by state) on Conservation Reserve Program land areas in 2006 and in December of 2008 can be found in the website http://www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/dec2008.pdf, page 21 (There is a disturbing trend toward smaller numbers of acres in the Program over the years. This might reflect higher food prices and the production of bio-fuels from crops like corn. Recent (2008-09) declines in oil prices are significantly decreasing the demand for biofuels and many biofuel manufacturers are going bankrupt.)

Press release from American Corn Growers Association in response to the Farm Bureau recently voting to support eliminating sign ups for CRP (9/7/06) "Elimination of Conservation Reserve Program Would Increase Farm Program Costs by $33 Billion"

"While it seems logical to assume that eliminating a government program would save money, such is not the case with the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)," said Dr. Daniel De La Torre Ugarte, Associate Director of The University of Tennessee's Agriculture Policy Analysis Center (APAC). According to De La Torre Ugarte, "The full elimination of the CRP program would save the government over $12 billion in CRP payments across the period, 2007-2015. However, increased production and lower prices caused by former CRP acreage returning to production causes an increase in government payments of $45 billion over the same 9-year period. The net additional cost to the government of eliminating the CRP is $33 billion." These conclusions come from a new APAC research study titled, "Analysis of the Economic Impacts on the Agricultural Sector of the Elimination of the Conservation Reserve Program." This study examines the impact of the non-renewal or non-extension of Conservation Reserve Payments (CRP) contracts, as they expire, on crop prices, net farm income and government payments. The study, co-authored by De La Torre Ugarte and Chad Hellwinckel, also estimates that in 2015, corn prices would be 31 cents per bushel below USDA's current projected baseline price of $2.60. (Continued below)

"With additional CRP acres coming into production, wheat prices would be 63 cents per bushel below current expectations and soybean prices would suffer from a 90-cent per bushel drop" said De La Torre Ugarte. "These lower prices are the trigger that brings about the $33 billion increase in farm program spending," De La Torre Ugarte continued. (Continued below)

According to De La Torre Ugarte, "As of 4/1/06, 34.7 million acres of farmland had been converted from crop production to soil, water and wildlife conservation uses under the Conservation Reserve Program. In addition to protecting highly erodible watersheds, protecting and providing new habitat, and reducing pollution, the CRP has reduced supplies of crops that would have been produced on that land if it had not been placed in the CRP. APAC simulations indicate that significant reductions in CRP acreage will have major impacts on crop production crop prices, net market income for producers, and government payments." (Continued below)

The APAC study estimates that if CRP contracts are eliminated as they expire, 37% of today's 34.7 million CRP acres, (12.6 million acres), will return to crop production by 2015. 71% of returning acres (9 million) will grow corn, soybeans and wheat. (Continued below)

Professor Daryll E. Ray, Blasingame Chair of Excellence in Agricultural Policy and APAC Director said "The study estimates the three major crops will lose at least $6 billion in net market returns in 2015 if CRP acres flow back into crop production." On the other hand, the APAC model predicts that increasing the CRP program will have significant positive effects on net farm income and reduce government farm payments. The analysis reveals that increasing the CRP to 39.2 million acres (statutory limit) by 2015 raises net farm income by $600 million, and if the CRP were increased to 45 million acres by 2015, net farm income would be increased by $1.7 billion. (Continued below)

"These CRP expansions would result in net savings to the federal treasury over the 2006-2015 study period of $6.3 billion and $12.7 billion, respectively, in farm program spending," said De La Torre Ugarte. The study time frame for the elimination of the CRP was 2006-2015. The authors believe that while recent extensions and renewals would change the time frame, the general magnitude of the results and the nature of the conclusions would remain the same if the CRP were to be eliminated at some future date. (Continued below)

The CRP was established in 1985 as a voluntary program that allowed farmers to retire highly erodible land from production and also ensure a secure income during times of low commodity pricing. As the program grew farmers were able to retire land to reduce degradation of other environmentally sensitive areas of their land. Some of these environmental aspects include wetland acreage, runoff into waterways, and wildlife habitat. Currently the USDA pays $1.6 billion in annual CRP rental payments to land owners and operators. During their 5-10 year contracts, CRP participants practice a number of conservation methods including grass and tree planting and wildlife cover. The continuation of the CRP program is at risk due to budgetary pressures.

Some 85% of U.S. conservation payments, including the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) that pays farmers to protect erosion-prone land, are for lands not in production (Dave Serfling, Land Stewardship Project, testimony to Hearing on Conservation on Working Lands, Agriculture Committee, US Senate, Washington DC (8/2/01)).

The non-market benefits from soil erosion reduction and the provision of habitat by the CRP during 1985-2000 are estimated to exceed $1.4 billion (Economic Research Service, "Agro-environmental Policy at the Crossroads: Guideposts on a Changing Landscape", Agricultural Economic Report No. 794 (Washington DC (January 2001)).

In 1997, over 2.1 million acres of U.S. cropland were devoted to some type of wind erosion or runoff control buffer conservation practice (herbaceous wind barrier, grassed waterway, etc.). This is an increase of 74.6 thousand acres from 1996. Although the NRI estimates are based on measurements of acres, assuming buffers average 30 feet in width, these acreage figures translate to 607.2 thousand miles total with 20.7 thousand miles added in 1997 (97B4).

Acres of cropland devoted to wind erosion control buffers (windbreak/ shelter belt, herbaceous wind barrier, and cross-wind trap strips) increased in 1997 from 272.2 thousand acres (75.6 thousand miles) to 320.9 thousand acres (89.1 thousand miles) (Figure 2). This improvement along with better residue management contributed to the reduction of soil loss due to wind (97B4).

Average U.S. soil loss due to wind: 2.3 tons/ acre in 1996; 2.2 tons/ acre in 1997 (97B4). One of the most widely used buffer type conservation practices is the grassed waterway. In 1997, the number of acres of cropland devoted to the installation of new grassed waterways installed was 59.0 thousand (16.4 thousand miles) (Figure 3). However, at the same time, 39.9 thousand acres of waterways were removed resulting in a net gain 19.1 thousand acres. In addition, 1.6 thousand acres of new waterways were installed on new cropland (non-cropland in 1996) for a total of 20.7 thousand acres of new-grassed waterways. This contributes to a total of 1.6 million acres (462.6 thousand miles) of waterways (97B4).

Field border and filter strip installations in 1997 also contributed to increases in acres of buffers. An increase of 5.1 thousand acres (1.4 thousand miles) resulted in a total of 199.6 thousand acres (55.4 thousand miles) of these practices in 1997 (Figure 2). Although not true buffer strips, terraces are linear conservation practices that perform similar functions (water diversion, trap sediment, etc.). For this report, terraces include terraces, diversions, water and sediment control basins, and hillside ditches. In 1997, 28.0 million acres were treated/affected by terraces, an increase of 72.3 thousand acres treated from 1996 (97B4).

The Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (FAIRA) allowed farmers more production flexibility. Thus, land set aside to conserve soil could once again be placed in production to take advantage of high commodity prices. Therefore, soil could be susceptible to high erosion rates. The USDA projected that 10-15 million acres of land might be brought into production during the 7-year life of the FAIRA. Quality of the land that might be brought into production and the effects on conservation practices were of concern. The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conducted special NRIs in 1996 and 1997 to evaluate these potential impacts (97B4).

The 1997 Special NRI found that in 1997, 4.2 million acres of U.S. land were brought into crop production while 2.4 million acres of cropland were converted to other land uses, resulting in a net gain of 1.8 million acres. Approximately 0.4 million acres (21%) of this net total were cultivated cropland, and the remaining 1.4 million acres (79%) were non-cultivated cropland (mostly hay land) (97B4).

Until recently, up to 240,000 km2 have lain fallow in the U.S. as a result of payment-in-kind programs, set-aside requirements, and mandatory conservation (94L1).

Trends in government control of erosion and sedimentation in urban developments are discussed in Ref. (89M1).

U.S. croplands idled under Commodity Programs (1000 km2)(___) (Reference lost)
Area| 174| 102| 203| 137| 68 | ~0 | ~0 | 74 | 0~ | 45 | 109

Area| 175| 201

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman announced in October that payments of over $1.3 billion are being made to eligible farmers under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) - an average of $5000/ farm and $45.15/ acre. "The CRP is tremendously beneficial for producers and the general public," said Glickman. "It has reduced soil erosion and expanded wildlife habitat while improving air and water quality, restoring wetlands, and encouraging tree planting." Under CRP, producers voluntarily retire environmentally sensitive land for 10-15 years. In return, USDA makes annual rental payments to farmers and shares the cost of establishing approved conservation practices. Enrolled land must be highly erodible, contribute to a serious water quality problem, or provide substantial environmental benefits if devoted to certain specific conservation uses. (Watershed Currents, 3(4), 12/23/99) More USDA CRP information can be obtained on www.fsa.usda.gov/dafp/cepd/crpinfo.htm

The USDA announced (1/29/98) that it will accept 5.9 million acres (24,000 km2) of environmentally sensitive farmland into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). 31% of this land is acreage subject to current CRP contracts due to expire on 9/30/98. The new enrollment will bring total area in the CRP to 29.9 million acres (121,000 km2) on 10/1/98. This compares to 28.7 million acres (116,000 km2) currently enrolled, of which 4.8 million acres are subject to contracts expiring 9/30/98 (See (http://www.usda.gov) or (http://www.fsa.usda.gov))

The US Food Security Act, revised in 1990, mandates that, by 1/1/95, farmers must use the RUSLE (Revised Universal Soil-Loss Equation) to develop and implement soil conservation plans in order to continue to receive federal subsidies (94G1). The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) began to develop RUSLE over a decade ago. By 1970 the model known as USLE was widely used by U.S. soil conservationists to help define agricultural practices on highly erodible land (94G1).

The costs of the "conservation compliance" provisions of the 1985 Food Security Act to U.S. farmers are discussed in Ref. (89H3). 231,000 km2 of highly erodible Great Plains land are subject to "conservation compliance" (89H2). That land generated 0.814 Gt./ year of soil erosion - half of the U.S. total. 429,000 km2 of other highly erodible land are subject to "sod-buster" provisions of the 1985 law (89H2). 198,000 km2 of the 231,000 km2 of highly erodible land in the Great Plains are eligible for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) (89H2). Public concern over heavy soil losses produced overwhelming bipartisan support for the 1985 Food Security Act (88B5). Only land eroding at 3 times the rate of natural soil formation is eligible for the CRP. The costs of establishing grass cover ($80/ acre) and tree-cover ($76/ acre) are defrayed 50% by the USDA, in addition to payments which average just under $50/ acre/ year during the first 2 years of signups under the CRP (88B5). A study by Norman Berg found that erosion on the 8 million acres signed up in 1986 (CRP) was reduced from 29 to 2 tons/ acre/ year, for a total topsoil savings of over 0.2 Gt./ year. The USDA reported that acreage added to the CRP in 1987 saved 0.3 Gt./ year. Other soil conservation practices adopted in 1987 (rotation, terracing, etc.) saved another 0.16 Gt./ year (88B5).

As of 1990, almost 140,000 km2 have entered the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to be planted in grass or trees for 10 years. Excessive soil erosion nation-wide has been cut from 1.45 to 1.0 Gt./ year (Ref.37 of (91P1)). The natural resource benefits from the CRP are estimated at $9.6 billion ($213/ acre) (89R1). (Farmers receive $120/ha/ year in annual rental payments.) Some problems in the CRP are discussed in Ref. (88B2). The CRP will convert 40-45 million acres of highly erodible cropland to perennial vegetation, and will become one of the most important conservation- and commodity-supply-control programs in U.S. history. Its overall impact will depend largely on the fate of the land after the 10-year contracts expire (88C1). 12% of the CRP lands are to be planted in trees. After 8 signup periods, 30.6 million acres (124,000 km2) have been accepted into the CRP (89M2). (34 million acres by 1989 (89U1)).

Status of CRP (Signups 1-12) (93O1)
Contracts~ ~ ~ ~ | 377,000
Enrollment ~ ~ ~ | 36.5 million acres (148,000 km2)
Erosion Reduction| 700 million tons/ year (=19 tons/ acre/ year)
Total Rental Cost| $1.8 billion/ year ($50/ acre/ year)
Planted to Trees | 6%
Base Reduction ~ | 23.3 million acres

CRP Signups (Economic Research Service, USDA (88B5)
Period|3/86|5/86|8/86|2/87|7/87| Units
Signup|0.75|2.77|4.70|9.48|5.29| Million (total = 22.99)
Rental| $42|$44 |$47 |$51 | $48| /acre/ year (average= $48.)

The U.S. government will pay $636 million/ year (nearly $40/ acre/ year) to idle 16.1 million acres and enroll the land in the CRP under 10-15-year contracts. Nearly 33 million acres are enrolled in the CRP but contracts will soon expire on 21.2 million acres, so the net acreage in the CRP will be 27.8 million. (Congress has authorized 36 million acres.) (Wall Street Journal, 5/23/97). It has been argued (Howard G. Buffett, Wall Street Journal, 5/22/97) that some CRP lands are of good quality, and that each of these acres idled will require 3-4 acres elsewhere in the world to be bought into production.

The CRP encompasses 34 million acres. Under CRP, farmers receive $49/ acre/ year to plant their most erosive land in grass and trees for 10 years. In 4 years CRP has reduced erosion on its land from 21 to 2 tons/acre/ year (90W3). As a result of the 1985 Farm Bill (The Food Security Act), excess topsoil loss has been cut from 1.6 Gt./ year to 1.0 Gt./ year (Soil formation = 4 tons/ acre/ year) (90W3).

The U.S. spends $1.7 billion/ year in the CRP to save 584 million tons of soil/ year, i.e. $2.91/ ton (Ref. 108 of (95P1)). The analysis in Refs. 30, 105 and 107 of (95P1) give a cost of $2.10/ ton of topsoil saved.

Over 60% of the soil savings on U.S. croplands since 1985 is credited to the CRP (Ref. 61 of (97G1)).

Over 60% of soil savings on U.S. croplands since 1985 are credited to the CRP (Ref. 78 of (96G2)). Conservation practices of all kinds contributed to a 25% reduction in U.S. soil erosion rate during 1982-1992 (Ref. 79 of (96G2)).

Part [A3] ~ Laws Outside the US ~

Sub-Part [A3a] ~ Laws Outside the US ~ Australia ~
Law contains considerable coercive authority for achieving conservation goals. These laws are generally ineffective because they are not administratively pursued (91L2). New South Wales also has strong penalty legislation. As in U.S., continuing conflict exists between public interest and private rights (91L2).

SECTION (10-B) ~ Laws ~ State and Local ~
Erosion- and sediment-control legislation has been enacted in 10 states. Model legislation has been developed by National Association of Conservation Districts (Ref. 87 of (76P2)).

Iowa landowners who do not practice responsible soil conservation can be fined and even jailed ((78B1), p. 264).

Iowa's Conservancy District Law of 1971 limits erosion on agricultural, horticultural, non-agricultural land and construction sites to 1-5 tons/ acre/ year (73F1).

Various local government programs in the U.S. to protect farmland against urban encroachment are described in Ref. (79T1).

Various state legislation to protect farmland from urbanization is reviewed in Ref. (79C4).

State regulation of soil erosion is virtually non-existent (89R2). Some 12 states have statewide erosion- and sediment control laws. In 8 of these 12 states these laws apply to some, or all, agricultural activities (81B1).

Winona County MN became the third county in Minnesota to pass a soil erosion control ordinance. Other counties are Fillmore and Olmstead. Penalty: $500/ day or jail (89U3). A description of Minnesota's "Reinvest in Minnesota Relief Act of 1986" is in Ref. (86K1).

Go to Top of this Section-Laws-State and Local
Go to
Top of Section above-Laws-Federal
Go to
Top of this Chapter-Laws, Politics, History, Economics
Go to
Top of this Review's Appendices (units, conversions, definitions)
Go to
Top of this Review's Reference List
Go to
Topsoil Loss-Causes, Effects, Implications (Table of Contents)
Go to
Home Page of this entire web site
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - se10

SECTION (10-C) ~ Politics ~ [C1]~Miscellaneous, [C2]~Protecting Farmland from Urbanization, [C3]~Politicization of the Soil Conservation Service, [C4]~Feudalism, ~

Part [C1] ~ Politics ~ Miscellaneous ~

China's economic reforms in 1978 replaced agricultural collectives with family farms. China's farmers were given long-term leases on land. The result was a 50% increase in grain harvests between 1977 and 1986 (09B6).

American Farmland Trust Poll on Farmers, Subsidies, the Environment, and Public Perception (somewhat before 7/23/01) A full summary of the poll is available from Grace Chen at American Farmland Trust, 1200 18th Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20036 202-331-7300x3060 http://www.farmland.org

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was signed by the U.S. in 1994 but has yet to be ratified by the U.S. Senate. The treaty contains measures to slow the loss of farmland due to climate variability and unsustainable human activities. Over 250 million people are directly affected by desertification, and one billion are at risk. (See UNCCD web site http://www.unccd.ch) (98S2).

Europe's Common Agricultural Program (CAP) is claimed to be rife with corruption as farmers take advantage of the system. The CAP costs EU taxpayers $50 billion/ year - over 50% of EU's budget. The OECD estimates that farm subsidies cost consumers in its 25 member countries (the world's richest) $348.6 billion in 1994 - down 2% from 1993 (George Melloan, Wall Street Journal, 6/12/95).

In 1983, bills were introduced in Congress (S633 by W. Armstrong, (CO, R) and HR 1077 by H. Brown, (CO, D)) to deny government price supports, crop insurance, disaster payments, FHA loans, and Farm Storage Facility Loans for crops grown on newly plowed, erosion-prone land (83U1).

Authorities who believe the world's food supply can dramatically be expanded include the late Herman Kahn, Walter R. Brown, L. Martel, the late Roger Revelle, Vaclav Smil, and Julian L. Simon (94B5).

Public policies capable of reducing soil loss by 50% are examined:

  1. a ban on fall plowing;
  2. a soil-loss tax (10-20 cents/ ton) and a subsidy for minimum tillage;
  3. a ban on straight-row cultivation on slopes

The most cost-effective policy appears to be a combination of (1) and (3) (80W3).

Some political controversies over the 1985 Farm bill are discussed in Ref. (87S1). The battle over the 1985 Farm bill saw the welding of 30 conservation groups into a strong conservation coalition (including the Sierra Club). Congress and the administration were made well aware that the public viewed soil erosion as a national problem (88M2).

President Clinton's 1995 budget proposals do not include funding for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Under the current CRP, 37 million acres are devoted to soil-, water-, and wildlife preservation. CRP saved $1.6 billion in reduced soil erosion, saved $500 million in reduced wind erosion, produced $3.6 billion in water-quality benefits, reduced topsoil loss by 700 billion tons, and reduced crop subsidies by $2 billion/ year (94W1).

Part [C2] ~ Politics ~ Protecting Farmland from Urbanization ~
Land ethics as they relate to farmland protection are discussed in Ref. (79S1).

Strategies for preserving U.S. farmland are described in Ref. (80F2). Strategies being attempted in states to preserve agricultural land are described in Ref. (79C1). States are involved in each of 12 different types of programs are listed (79C1).

An account of past attempts in Oregon to protect farmland from encroaching urban developments is given in Ref. (79M1).

An annotated bibliography of publications on zoning- and land-use planning approached to farmland preservation is found in Ref. (81U5) (150 references). Another document on the issue of protecting croplands from urbanization and similar developments is Ref. (81G1) (pp. 63-100). The history of various actions of the federal government to protect farmland against urban encroachment is outlined in Ref. (79F1). The history of activities of the USDA in land-use policy (mainly protecting prime farmland from urbanization) is in Ref. (79B2). A variety of land-use-planning, zoning, development rights purchase, etc. - approaches to protecting farmland from urban developments -is described in Ref. (80C1). It describes the status of efforts in various states. Preservation of U.S. farmland is discussed in Ref. (79L1).

The ways Europe deals with the protection of agricultural lands from urban encroachment are described in Ref. (79M2).

Part [C3] ~ Politics ~ Politicization of the Soil Conservation Service ~
David Stockman (Former President Reagan's Budget Director) proposed, in 1984, to abolish the S.C.S. (85R1). When Peter Myers was appointed to head the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) replacing Norman A. Berg in March, 1982, it was the first political appointment to the post in the history of the SCS (See Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 37 (1982) p. 158.)

The Reagan budget (Jan. 1985) proposed to halt the Agriculture Conservation Program immediately, and eliminate the SCS by 1988 (See SCSA Conservogram 17 (3/85) p.1).

In 1980, Anson R. Bertrand, senior USDA official said (of the USA) "The economic pressures to generate export earnings, to strengthen the balance of payments and thus the dollar, - has been transmitted more or less directly to our natural resource base. As a result, soil erosion today can be described as epidemic in proportions" ((84B2), p. 53).

Part [C4] ~ Politics ~ Feudalism ~
Ref. (76F1) relates the structure of land tenure in El Salvador to the population density, and the erosion and deforestation and the human migrations that make El Salvador such a disaster area (76E1).

Land ownership in the Inter-Andean corridor: 20% of the population controls 80% of the land (91N1).

Crop rotation, manuring, liming, and other soil-building procedures became common only after feudalism and communal agriculture disappeared in Europe (74C1), p. 160).

SECTION (10-D) ~ History ~ [D1]~US, [D2]~Europe, [D3]~Other Regions, [D4]~Transition to Agriculture, ~

Part [D1] ~ History ~ United States ~
When the Turks closed the Dardanelles during WWI, it contributed to stripping of topsoil off vast portions of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas. The closing cut Europe off from Russian grain, which increased demand for U.S. wheat. When the U.S. entered WWI Washington exhorted U.S. farmers to produce more wheat, and guaranteed a price of $2/ bushel, more than double the 1910 price. After WWI, wheat prices plunged and farmers, increasingly equipped with tractors, responded by breaking up more prairie, plowing even more grassland in desperate attempts to compensate for falling wheat prices with increasing volume. This, however, put additional pressure on the price. By 1930, wheat prices were 40 cents/ bushel. The late 1920s had been wet, and people assumed that the wetness would continue. In the 1920s, 5.2 million acres were added to the 20 million acres previously cultivated. In the 1930s the drought and the dust storms came to Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas. At the end of 1931, a survey found that, of the 16 million acres cultivated in Oklahoma, 13 million acres were seriously eroded.
(George F. Will (columnist for the Washington Post), "When the skies filled with dust," Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 4/30/07, p. B8. (Based on a book titled "The Worst Hard Times: The Untold Story of Those Who survived the Great American Dust bowl," by Timothy Egan.))

U.S. farmers numbered 1.4 million in 1974, and 0.9 million in 1997 (Worldwatch March/April 2000) (USDA "Census of Agriculture", www.usda.nass.gov.

Plowing native grasslands in the southern Great Plains began in the 1880s, but most sod busting occurred in the early 1900s when tractors came into common use and WWI created a great demand for wheat (Ref. 18 of (85D1)). Extended drought, clean tillage practices, over-grazing and high seasonal winds produced the great dust storms of the 1930s (85D1).

A description and history of the shelterbelt tree-windbreak across the Plain States of the U.S. in the 1930s are in Ref. (76G2).

The Soil Conservation Act of 1935 (Public Law 46) created tension and conflict in Missouri and other states. People felt a strong federal approach to soil conservation represented too much intervention in the solution to state and local problems (which previously had been addressed by state colleges of agriculture and extension services). (The Feds felt that extension service efforts were not accomplishing the soil conservation work that was needed (82C1).)

Serious soil-erosion problems in the Upper South resulted from plantation crops - tobacco, indigo, cotton and coffee, particularly tobacco. The effects are evident to this day (56S1).

A bibliography of Walter Clay Lowdermilk and his involvement in soil conservation is given in Ref. (88H1).

A history of the Soil Conservation Service and the Agricultural Conservation Program is on p. 85-89 of Ref. (81B1). The fundamental problem with these concepts is also discussed.

Nearly the entire shift from horse to tractor in the U.S. occurred during 1930-50 (80W4).

The change from draft animals to motors had many harmful long-term effects on soil. These are described in Ref. (56S1). Comments: The main effects were the loss of organic nutrients (manure) and soil compaction due to increasingly heavy tractors.

Part [D2] ~ History ~ Europe ~
In Ireland's nineteenth-century famine, the number of famine deaths was 1.3 million, whereas the number of lost births was 0.4 million. (
Peter Goodchild, "The Imminent Collapse Of Industrial Society," http://www.countercurrents.org/goodchild090510.htm. (5/9/10))

Erosion rates near Rome increased from 2-3 mm/ century before 2nd century BC to 20-40 mm/ century in next 1000 years (82H1). (For data, see Sheldon Jones, Science 160 (1968) pp. 1444-1446).

Land-use patterns in Denmark and northern Germany, from earliest times, have been highly conservative of soil fertility. The animal husbandry maintained so effective a ground cover that northern Europe has known very little soil erosion. Animal manure and compost provide adequate return of fertility to the soil. Man has pretty well established a closed ecological cycle (56S1). A lot of insights into the history of agriculture in Europe are given in Ref. (56E1). Maps of Europe give average size of farm holdings and percent of tenanted land in agricultural enterprises. A map of types of legal inheritance in Central Europe is found on p. 257 of Ref. (56P1). This reference gives an excellent history of European Agriculture.

A history of western European agriculture and its interaction with the political history of the area is given in Ref. (74C1) Chapter 10.

Modern crop rotation probably originated in the Low Countries of Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries. By the 16th century, most Flemish and Dutch farmers were using it ((74C1), p.167). Most land in Western Europe recuperated during the Dark Ages from the abuses of Roman times. By 1050, most land north and west of the Alps was nearly as productive as before civilization came. During the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, the amount of cultivated land doubled, tripled or quadrupled over most of Europe - colonized by feudal lords and bishops ((74C1), p.163). In the middle of the 11th century, 12-15% of the land in today's Germany, Holland, Belgium, Denmark and northern France was being cultivated, but only 6-7% was being planted to crops each year. For southern France and northern Spain, the figures are 20-25% and 10-12% respectively. ((74C1), p. 162).

In Ireland in the middle of the 11th century, probably no more than 15-20% of the land was under cultivation ((74C1), p. 162).

Less than 20% of England was being farmed at the middle of the 11th century. Probably 50% was in pasture or meadow, so only about 10% of the total area was being cultivated. A 2-field system was used, so only 5% of the land grew cultivated crops in any one year ((74C1), p.162).

The Scottish Highlands had acute erosion problems in the later part of the 18th century, but they checked it by planting the steepest slopes to grass, practicing crop rotation, contour farming, strip-cropping and terracing ((74C1), p.187).

Deforestation and over-grazing in the Alps was acute by the 15th century. Around 1800 a series of torrents drowned so many livestock, piled so much rocky debris onto fields and destroyed so much property that the French government took steps to get at the source of the problem. Herders resisted, but an 1856 storm forced the government to reforest over all objections (and build check dams, levies, etc.) This work began in 1882. It is being extended to the Pyrenees ((74C1), p. 185).

Part [D3] ~ History ~ Other Regions ~
The number of famine deaths during China's Great Leap Forward (1958-1961) was perhaps 30 million, and the number of lost births was perhaps 33 million.
(Peter Goodchild, "The Imminent Collapse Of Industrial Society," http://www.countercurrents.org/goodchild090510.htm. (5/9/10))

A history of Australia's soil erosion and related laws is in Ref. (87H2).

A history of Canadian soil erosion and conservation is in Ref. (86D1).

A history of Zimbabwe's soil erosion and conservation is in Ref. (88W1).

Part [D4] ~ History ~ Transition to Agriculture ~
Since about 1750 human populations almost everywhere grew rapidly, closing out the option of fallowing for long periods and putting pressures on food supplies and creating misery (

Ancient texts from China and the Mediterranean recommended green manuring, in the form of crop residues, seaweed, kitchen ash and more, from at least the third century B.C.E. (04M1) (F. Bray, "Science and Civilization in China" Vol. 6: Biology and Biological Control. Part 2: Agriculture, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1984)).

The earliest farmers practiced shifting agriculture with long fallow periods (20-30 years) using mobility to deal with nutrient depletion problems. As mobilities decreased and urban areas evolved, nutrients quickly depleted. Wherever populations relied on animal manure or human "night soil" they suffered heavily from infectious diseases contracted by handling excrement (04M1).

Terrace building apparently occurred first in Arabia by at least 2000 B.C.E. In circumstances of labor shortages, terraces often deteriorated quickly (04M1) (T. Beach, S. Luzzader-Beach, N. Dunning, J. Hageman, J.Lohse, Geogr. Rev. 92 (2002) p. 372) (J. R. McNeill, "The Mountains of the Mediterranean World: An environmental History", Cambridge University Press, New York, (1992)).

Effective soil conservation technologies (e.g. no-till) have spread since the 1930s, especially in North America and Europe. However, in global terms, the past 60 years have bought human-induced soil erosion and destruction of soil ecosystems to unprecedented levels (04M1) (J. R. McNeill, "Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the 20th Century World", Norton & Co., New York (2002)).

On a global scale, soil erosion occurred in 3 main waves (04M1).

The transition to agriculture probably happened independently at least 7 times beginning about 10,000 years ago (04M1).

Go to Top of this Section-History
Go to
Top of this Chapter-Laws, Politics, History, Economics
Go to
Topsoil Loss-Causes, Effects, Implications (Table of Contents)
Go to
Home Page of this entire web site
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - se10

SECTION (10-E) ~ Economics ~ [Ea]~Water-Related Erosion Costs, [Eb]~Erosion Costs, [Ec]~Energy costs, [Ed]~Imports/ Exports, [Ee]~Organic Farming, [Ef]~Discounting Future Harvests, [Eg]~Conservation Capital, [Eh]~Subsidies, [Ei]~Food Prices, [Ej]~Farm Economics, [Ek]~Agriculture Economics, ~

Private philanthropic efforts (which started the Green Revolution) in the area of agricultural productivity have been nowhere near large enough to offset the flight of public funding from intensive farming (99A1).

In 1994, the Third World agricultural research network (CGIAR - Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) was going bankrupt, with donor nations unwilling to pledge the $300 million needed (99A1).

U.S. government farm research funding has dropped by 30% in real terms since 1960 (99A1).

Official development assistance for agriculture has been steadily declining since the late 1980s, $7.5 billion between 1995-1997, vs. nearly $15 billion in 1986-1988 (FAO data). (Slow Progress Towards Sustainable Agriculture Since Rio, FAO Warns, FAO, 4/24/00).

Amount spent to produce the food consumed in the U.S. in 1996 (farm cost): $126 billion. Amount spent marketing this food: $421 billion (USDA data) (WorldWatch 11(2) (1998)).

Ref. (97C1) defends the premise that topsoil losses due to erosion and other forms of land degradation do not pose a threat to the capacity of the global agricultural system, and that the primary obstacle to achieving the necessary crop yield increases is the current system's capacity to generate agriculturally relevant knowledge.

In the past 50 years, federal, state, and local government agencies have spent over $15 billion of public funds to control soil erosion (83C1) (89C2).

Total federal outlays from the mid-1930s to 1980 on soil conservation programs were $60 billion (in 1980 $) - $1.3 billion/ year as compared to total farm production expenses in 1980 of $119 billion (USDA data, 1980) ((83C1), p. 60).

The U.S. federal government spends over $1 billion on soil conservation programs (around 1980?). State, county, and local governments spend an added $152 million on soil conservation programs ((81B1), p. 85). Public and private spending on soil- and water conservation was $3.8 billion in 1988 and $2.9 billion in 1987 (88I1).

Rental paid for land in the U.S. Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is $51/ acre (89U1). The issue of who should pay for soil conservation is discussed in Ref. (80L1).

About 20% of the U.S. work force is involved in supplying food in the American system (81W1). About 80% of the people of China work on the farm to produce food ((74C1), p. 200).

Financial problems associated with the 1985 Farm Act (an effort to preserve U.S. soils) and some of its components (Conservation Reserve Program, Sodbuster, Swampbuster, and Conservation Compliance) are discussed in Ref. (87N1).

Part [Ea] ~ Economics ~ Water-Related Erosion Costs ~
In central China, 5000 km2 of wetlands have been reclaimed for crop production since 1950, contributing to a reduction of floodwater storage capacity of 50 billion m3 (50 km3) (99C2). There is strong evidence that wetland reclamation is responsible for about two-thirds of this loss in storage capacity, and thus for about two thirds of the US$20 billion flood damage in 1998 (
01N2) (03N1).

Some $10 billion/ year are spent on planning, development, management and use of water resources by the U.S. federal government alone, yet U.S. flood damage increases, water quality keeps dropping, in-stream uses compete more intensely for withdrawals, and water shortages occur more often ((81B1), p. 85).

A 1941 survey found that 39% of U.S. reservoirs had a useful life of less than 50 years due to sediment (76E1?). Total U.S. economic loss from reservoir sedimentation was estimated at $50 million/ year as of 1962 (76E1). $125 million/ year are spent in the U.S. dredging 38 million cubic yards of sediment from harbors and waterways (USGS report) (73O1). $100 million worth of reservoir capacity is lost annually from stream-born sediment (73O1). New U.S. reservoir capacity costs $300 to $700/ acre-foot (87C1). Dredging costs 3-8 times more than the cost of building replacement capacity, excluding disposal costs (87C1). Cropland sediment costs $197.2 million/ year in reservoir capacity (87C1). Sediments eroding from agricultural land into rivers, lakes, drainage ditches and other surface waters cause damages of $6 billion/ year in 1980 $ (89C1).

In-stream damages (U.S.) about $4.1 billion in 1980. Off-stream damages (US) $1.9 billion in 1980. Total: $6 billion/ year. Those directly related to sediment cost $3-3.5 billion for all sources of sediment, and $1-1.2 billion for cropland erosion. Benefits of sediment control less than costs (e.g., less silt causes more stream bank erosion) (85C6).

EPIC shows that if management, tillage, and conservation practices inventoried in 1982 National Resources Inventory (NRI) continued for 100 years, sheet/rill- and wind erosion would exceed the T values on 127 million acres and 64 million acres, respectively. This rate of soil loss will reduce productivity in the 100th year by an estimated 2.3%, the equivalent of taking 7.4 million acres of cropland out of production. The present value of this 100-year national loss is $22 billion. Productivity losses from water erosion will average 0.018%/ year. Productivity losses from wind erosion will average 0.005%/ year. This is an irreversible loss of $1.19/ acre/ year ($294/ km2/ year) in gross revenue. Total loss (productivity+ nutrients) estimated at $2.15/ acre/ year ($531/ km2/ year) (nearly $1 billion for U.S.) (88P5).

On-site costs of erosion in U.S. exceed $1 billion/ year, but off-site costs several times greater. 25% of farmland (all non-federal land) produces 85% of erosion. 185 million of 420 million cropland acres are eroding fast enough to eventually impair productivity. ERS estimates that if present erosion rates continue for 100 years, productivity loss might be only about 4%. For all agricultural lands (including present land with low erosion rates) decline would be under 3%. Northeast and Appalachia face losses of 8 and 7%, respectively, in next 100 years (87A2).

Economic losses from declining productivity on problem soils may total $1.3 billion/ year. Total U.S. agricultural production in 1987 will have market value of $130 billion. Off-site damage estimated at $2.9-12 billion/ year, with point estimate of $5.2 billion. Of this, $1.9 billion is attributed to cropland erosion (87A2).

Total off-farm costs of soil erosion: $6.1 billion/ year (85C4)
In-Stream Costs: ($billions)
Recreational damages ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ |$2.00
Damage to water-storage facilities | 0.69
Damage to navigation facilities~ ~ | 0.56
Other in-stream damages~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ | 0.90
Total~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ |$4.20
Off-Stream Costs: ($billions)
Sediment-related flood damage~ ~ ~ | 0.77
Cost to water-conveyance facilities| 0.2
Cost to water treatment facilities | 0.1
Other off-stream damages ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ | 0.8
Total~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ |$1.9

Part [Eb] ~ Economics ~ Erosion Costs ~ [Eb1]~Global, [Eb2]~US Government Expenditures on Erosion Protection, [Eb3]~Erosion-Prevention Costs, [Eb4]~Off-Site Erosion Costs (USA), [Eb5]~On-Site US Erosion-Related Losses, [Eb6]~Australia, [Eb7]~Canada, [Eb8]~New Mexico, [Eb9]~Java, ~

Sub-Part [Eb1] ~ Erosion Costs ~ Global ~
The discounted economic cost of soil erosion, deforestation, water resources degradation and fisheries amounted to over 10% of Malawi's GDP by 1994 (
99U6). The costs of replacing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in South Africa's soils have been estimated to run to R1.5 billion annually. Possibly more important is that the loss of soil organic matter and clay minerals during erosion reduces the water-holding capacity of soil, exacerbating drought conditions substantially (93L1). Downstream effects of erosion such as reservoir siltation may reduce the capacity for water storage, making sub-Saharan Africa more susceptible to water shortages in times of drought. Eutrophication of surface waters by nutrient-rich silt adversely affects water quality. These impacts on dams are estimated to cost in the order of R200 million annually (89B9).

Minimum tillage (which reduces costs) and water conservation (which increases yields) have been adopted widely in the U.S. Soil conservation is an incidental benefit, not the cause for adoption of these measures (85D2).

Total cost of on-site- and off-site damages (such as health costs, dredging waterways and water treatment (but neglecting damage to aquatic life) from agricultural erosion is roughly $400 billion/ year (97A1). Comments: This analysis apparently places no value on the lost soil.

National action plans (in Africa) to improve soil fertility and move toward full food production would require an estimated investment of at least $100-$500 million/ country/ year over 10 years (99U1).

Sub-Part [Eb2] ~ Erosion Costs ~ U.S. Government Expenditures on Erosion Protection ~
U.S. Federal government spent $15 billion on conservation practices since 1930s (89C4).

If and when the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) reaches its enrollment target of 40-45 million acres, it will produce a net program benefit of $3.4 to $11 billion and save 0.73 Gt. of topsoil/ year (90E1).

Sub-Part [Eb3] ~ Erosion Costs ~ Erosion-Prevention Costs ~
It costs 25 cents/ ton of erosion prevention to treat land eroding at more than 30 tons/ acre/ year. It costs over $4/ ton of erosion prevention to treat land eroding at less than 5 tons/ acre/ year (Ref. 8 of (82O2)).

It would cost $4000/ km2/ year to reduce U.S. cropland erosion rates from 1700 to 100 tonnes/ km2/ year. It would cost $500/ km2/ year to reduce U.S. grazing land erosion rates to the same value. Total = $8.4 billion - about 20% of the annual cost of erosion (Ref. 30, 105, 107 of (95P1)).

Sub-Part [Eb4] ~ Erosion Costs ~ Off-Site Erosion Costs (US) ~
Total cost of on-site- and off-site damages (such as health costs, dredging waterways and water treatment (but neglecting damage to aquatic life) from U.S. agricultural erosion is about $44 billion/ year (97A1).

Current U.S. topsoil losses of 3.6 Gt./ year represent a financial loss of $1 billion/ year (EPA estimate, 1980) ((82S1), p. 36). Peripheral damages due to wind erosion (cleaning costs, recreational costs, health costs, etc.) in the western U.S. are estimated in Ref. (89P1). 26 papers on economic effects of soil erosion are collected in Ref. (84U1). Comments: Is this cost on-site or off-site?

Economic costs associated with soil erosion are analyzed in Ref. (95P1). Total off-site and on-site cost in the U.S. = $44 billion/ year (95P1).

Off-site damages from soil erosion in the U.S. are estimated to be $7.1 billion/ year in 1983 (Ref. 6 of (89R3)).

Total damage costs due to soil erosion in the U.S. are estimated to be $6.1 billion (1980) ($4.2 billion of in-stream effects; $1.9 billion of off-stream effects) (89C2).

Off-site household costs of wind erosion on all land in Western U.S. was $4-$12 billion/ year. Best estimate is likely to be closer to $4 than $12 billion. More than 75% of costs occurred in Central- and Southern Plains Region and in Western Range and Irrigated Region. Preliminary estimates of production losses due to wind erosion (sand blasting, etc.) are $188 million/ year, 99% in West, 65% in Montana, Colorado, and Texas (89P6).

In the U.S. around 1980, the off-farm costs of erosion from all sources was $3-13 billion (Ref. 5 of (97C1)). Ref. (97C1) believes that these costs are several-times to an order-of-magnitude larger than on-farm costs of erosion in terms of lost productivity (Ref.6 of (97C1)). Ref. (97C1) notes anecdotal evidence suggesting that, in less-developed countries, off-farm costs of erosion are high in terms of increased flood damage and reservoir siltation, but that no reliable estimates of those costs have been produced.

The 1983 loss is from crop-production losses ($420 million), fertilizer losses ($105-168 million) and erosion control costs ($1200 million) (89C2).

Sub-Part [Eb5] ~ Erosion Costs ~ On-Site U.S. Erosion-Related Losses ~
Desertification may cost (the U.S.??) up to $16 billion/ year in lost agricultural production (on-site costs). $9 billion/ year of this is losses of crops and forest products; the rest is range- and pastureland deterioration (82S1). A list of 19 on-site costs of excess soil erosion is given in Ref. (88N1).

The cost of replacing nitrogen, phosphorous, and 25% of the potassium in U.S. agricultural soils (to augment soil erosion losses) would be $7.75 to $6.8 billion/ year ((76P2), p. 152). It would cost $4 billion/ year to replace nitrogen and phosphorous lost to erosion (in the U.S.) ((82S1), p.12).

On-farm damaged caused by sheet-, rill- and wind erosion in the U.S. in 1982 are estimated to be $1.2 billion (89R3).

Total on-farm damages are $1.2 billion/ year by sheet, rill, and wind erosion. Off-farm damage from cropland erosion: $2.2 billion/ year. (1982 data). Estimated on-farm and off-farm damages are about equal in Mountain- and Southern Plains regions, only. Off-farm damages are higher in other regions (89C4).

Iowa State University soil scientists put the loss to U.S. farmers of nutrient losses via soil erosion at $20 billion/ year (Ref.1 of (97P3)). Comments: This is contrasted to a statement by Crosson in a 1995 Science article contending that U.S. farmers lose $500-$600 million/ year due to nutrient losses and other adverse effects (97P3).

Pierre Crosson, Charles Benbrook and Peter Myers have estimated U.S. losses to farmers (on-site losses) from sheet- and rill erosion of 0.5 to $1 billion/ year (89C2). Crosson estimates the total cost of erosion to be $1.7-1.8 billion/ year, which included erosion-control costs.

Crosson (cited) estimated total cost of erosion at $1.7-1.8 billion/ year as of 1983. $420 million for crop yield loss, $105-168 million for fertilizer loss due to erosion, for total of $525-$588 million/ year. Erosion control would cost $1.2 billion/ year. Average damage: $0.50/ ton of soil (SCS estimate) (89C4).

Estimates of national loss to farmers by current rate of sheet and rill erosion: $0.5-1 billion/ year (89C4). Calculated yield-reduction due to erosion in U.S. for next 100 years: corn, 4.6%; cotton, 4.5%; soybeans, 3.5%; wheat, 1.6%; and legume hay, 0.8% (if current erosion rates continue). The calculations used EPIC yield- and fertilizer effects from the 1982 NRI. They assume no yield loss if T not exceeded. Almost 2/3 of U.S. cropland will suffer no yield loss (89C4).

RCA (1980) estimated U.S. crop yields have been reduced by 8% after 50 years due to erosion. Pierce et al. (1984) estimated loss of 5-10% after 100 years due to erosion. RFF (1983) estimated loss of 2-3% after 30 years of erosion. Crosson's estimate for corn and soybeans loss is $4 billion over 100 years when discounted at 10% (first year loss about $40 million) or $17 billion at 5% discount. Soil conservation policy may be centered on reducing erosion damage, not on reducing erosion per se (84C1). Off-site erosion damages are probably much greater than on-site damages (costs) - perhaps 15 or more times greater (84C1).

A soil loss of 5 tons/ acre/ year represents a replacement cost of about $24/ acre/ year for the three main nutrients (N (0.15%), P2O5 (0.12%) and K2O (2.2%)) at current fertilizer prices (77W1). The value of average yield and input (N, P, lime) losses due to erosion ($/ ton) is given in a table of p. 37 of Ref. (89C2) ($0.29/ ton for yield; $0.07/ ton for N loss; $0.11/ ton for P loss, $0.03/ ton for lime loss, $0.49/ ton for total loss).

Ref. (88N2) challenges traditional assumptions that conservation does not pay in the U.S.. Says that assumption is based on calculations that do not accurately capture all the costs of excessive erosion. Among these on-farm losses are those due to lost nutrients, lost pesticides, non-uniform distribution of pesticides, added replanting costs, greater costs for machinery wear, labor costs to repair machinery, deposition of sediment, increased energy costs, increased irrigation costs, etc. No data on magnitude of these costs. Still, it may not be profitable to install conservation practices in some cases, even when these costs are known (88N2).

Sub-Part [Eb6] ~ Erosion Costs ~ Australia ~
The average cost to farmers of land degradation is estimated to be $3,600/ year/ farmer (Ref. 2 of (90S2)). (90 million tons of soil is lost annually in Australia (90S2).)

Sub-Part [Eb7] ~ Erosion Costs ~ Canada ~
Public expenditures for irrigation and drainage in Canada are more than 10 times those for soil degradation control (86D1).

In Canada's 3 prairie provinces, on-farm costs of soil degradation in 1984 = C$468 million for water/ wind erosion, C$105 million for salinity, C$49 million for acidification (90G2).

Sub-Part [Eb8] ~ Erosion Costs ~ New Mexico ~
About $10 million/ year direct cost due to wind erosion based on a statewide survey of farmers (85D3).

Wind erosion, Total off-site damage costs $466 million. Practically all due to household damage ($457 million). Major source: rangeland ($402 million). Croplands contributed $28 million (85H4).

Off-site wind-erosion costs were estimated to average $466 million/ year in New Mexico (86H1). (Wind erosion damaged 857,800 acres (3473 km2) in New Mexico between November of 1983 and May of 1984. Some 12.3 million acres (50,000 km2) were damaged in 10 states of the Great Plains during 1983-1984. (86H1)) Off-site costs of wind erosion are evaluated in Ref. (89H1).

Sub-Part [Eb9] ~ Erosion Costs ~ Java ~
The cost of soil erosion on Java has been estimated at $350-420 million/ year, with 80% attributed to on-farm productivity losses and the rest to siltation of rivers, dams and canals downstream (World Bank, 1989) (96M1).

Go to Top of this Section-Economics
Go to
Top of this Chapter-Laws, Politics, History, Economics
Go to
Top of this Review's Reference List
Go to
Topsoil Loss-Causes, Effects, Implications (Table of Contents)
Go to
Home Page of this entire web site
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - se10

Part (Ec) ~ Energy Costs ~ [Ec1]~Global, [Ec2]~US ~
Human labor is the most significant power source throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The human contribution is most pronounced in Central and western Africa where it accounts for 85 and 70% of harvested area, respectively (

Sub-Part [Ec1] ~ Energy Costs ~ Global ~
Corn harvests require huge amounts a diesel fuel to run the combines, trucks, wagons, elevators, bins and more. But combined (shelled) corn is typically 25% moisture when harvested. 25% moisture corn will rot so it has to be dried using natural gas. Propane (LNG) today costs $1.55/ gallon. It takes about 0.5 gallon of propane to dry one bushel of corn down from 25% moisture to 15% moisture so it will not rot when stored. A dry bushel of corn @ 15% moisture weighs 56 pounds. About 44 homes in America can be heated by 22,000 gallons of propane (

One study in the 1980s indicated that 5% of the world's natural gas supply was used to produce nitrogen fertilizer (06R1).

Global crop production now relies on chemical fertilizers to replace soil nutrients, and therefore on the oil needed to mine, manufacture, and transport these fertilizers around the world (05M1). Comments: In the section of this document on fertilizer the risks of using increasing amounts of chemical fertilizers without a concurrent increase in use of organic fertilizers (e.g. manure) are noted.

Fruits and vegetables in western industrial countries often log 2,500-4,000 kilometers from farm to store. Trucking accounts for the majority of food transport, though it is nearly 10 times more energy-intensive than moving goods by rail or barge. Refrigerated jumbo jets are 60 times more energy-intensive than sea transport (05M1).

Processed foods now make up 75% of total world food sales. One pound (0.45 kg) of frozen fruits or vegetables requires 825 kilocalories of energy for processing and 559 kilocalories for packaging, plus energy for refrigeration during transport, at the store, and in homes. Processing a one-pound can of fruits or vegetables takes an average 261 kilocalories, and packaging adds 1006 kilocalories, thanks to the high energy-intensity of mining and manufacturing steel. Processing breakfast cereals requires 7125 kilocalories per pound - 5 times as much energy as is contained in the cereal itself (05M1).

Developing countries use over 60% of their energy (including wood) for their food system (Ref. 102 of (76P2)). On a global basis, nearly 25% of all energy (including wood) goes into the food system (Ref. 103 of (76P2)).

If the world used petroleum energy in agriculture as farmers in the U.S. do, the world's known petroleum reserves would last 13 years ((78B4) p. 133).

Estimates are given of the ratio of energy-input/ food-energy-output for a wide variety of agricultural systems, e.g. 10.5 for shifting cultivation and traditional rice cultivation; 0.2 for livestock production; 0.1 for commercial marine fishing, 0.02 for greenhouse crops ((80W2), p. 226). Trade-offs between labor, energy and land in agricultural systems about the Globe are analyzed in Ref. (80W1).

Sub-Part [Ec2] ~ Energy Costs ~ United States ~
Corn cribs were used to let nature (the sun) dry corn in the U.S., and they were in use for that purpose up until 1970 or so (

Direct farmer-to-consumer marketing, such as farmers' markets, bypasses centralized distribution systems, cut out unnecessary food travel and reduce packaging needs while improving local food security. Farmers' markets are expanding across the U.S., growing from 1755 markets in 1993 to 3100 in 2002, but still represent only 0.3% of U.S. food sales (05M1).

About 20% of all oil and gas used in the U.S. is used by industrial agriculture. No fuel tax is paid by industrial agriculture. That is a 20% loss in revenue on the overall oil gas consumption in the U.S. (05W1).

In the U.S., people consume 20-30 times more fossil fuel energy per capita than people in developing nations. Agriculture directly accounts for 17% of all the energy used in the U.S. (94P4).

In the United States, 400 gallons of oil equivalent are expended annually to feed each American (as of data provided in 1994) (94P4). Agricultural energy consumption is broken down as follows (94P4):
31% for manufacture of inorganic fertilizer;
19% for operation of field machinery,
16% for transportation
13% for irrigation
8% for raising livestock (not including livestock feed,)
5% for crop drying
5% for pesticide production
8% for miscellaneous
Energy costs for packaging, refrigeration, transportation to retail outlets and household cooking are not considered in the figures.

The U.S. food system uses over 10 quadrillion Btu (10,551 quadrillion Joules) of energy each year, as much as France's total annual energy consumption. Growing food accounts for 20% of this U.S. food system energy consumption. The other 80% is used to move, process, package, sell, and store food after it leaves the farm. Some 28% of energy used in U.S. agriculture goes to fertilizer manufacturing, 7% goes to irrigation, and 34% is consumed as diesel and gasoline by farm vehicles used to plant, till, and harvest crops. The rest goes to pesticide production, grain drying, and facility operations. (http://www.earth-policy.org/Updates/2005/Update48_data.htm ) (05M1).

While 21% of overall (U.S?) food system energy is used in agricultural production, another 14% goes to food transport, 16% to processing, 7% to packaging, 4% to food retailing, 7% to restaurants and caterers, and 32% to home refrigeration and preparation (05M1).

The input of fossil energy for U.S. crop production is about 3 million Kcal/ acre (740 million Kcal/ km2) (Ref. 93 of (76P2)). About 50% of these inputs are to increase crop productivity, and the other half is to reduce labor (Ref. 93 of (76P2)).

Agriculture's consumption of primary energy is 3-5% of the U.S. total (92N1).

Some 17% of U.S. fossil energy goes for production, processing, shipping and preparation of food (81W1).

A chart is given of 1974 U.S. agriculture energy use. Energy consumed in fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides (7 trillion BTU) was 34% of the total energy used in agriculture ((81B2), p. 87). Irrigation uses 10% (81B2).

Energy inputs to U.S. agriculture are discussed in Ref. (79C3). In 1973, energy costs in corn-production were 35% of the value of corn produced (20% for soybeans) (79C3).

Contour planting increases farming time and fuel use by 5-7% ((76P2), p. 151).

Part [Ed] ~ Imports/ Exports ~ [Ed1]~Global Data, [Ed2]~US Data, [Ed3]~Africa (sub-Saharan), [Ed4]~North Africa, [Ed5]~Asia, [Ed6]~Canada, [Ed7]~Far East, [Ed8]~Southeast Asia, [Ed9]~Latin America, [Ed10]~Mid-East, [Ed11]~Asian Sub-Continent, [Ed12]~Europe, ~

See Chapter 11, Section (F) for a compilation of large databases on net fuel imports in 2001.

See Chapter 11, Section (F) for a compilation of large databases on trade in fish and fisheries products during 2000-2002.

See Chapter 11, Section (F) for a compilation of large databases on net cereal imports as a percent of cereal consumption in 2002.

Sub-Part [Ed1] ~ Imports/Exports ~ Global Data ~
Against this background, FAO's 1995 study, World Agriculture: Towards 2010, estimated net cereal import requirements increasing during 1995-2010 from:

8 to 19 million tonnes for sub-Saharan Africa;

38 to 71 million tonnes for the Near East and North Africa;

27 to 35 million tonnes for East Asia (excluding China);

5 to 10 million tonnes for South Asia (primarily as a result of shortages of arable land).

In recent years, Canada, Australia, the EU and Russia have imposed constraints on food exports (06D1). (su1)

The present food needs of developing countries are maintained by importing 80 million tonnes of cereals, nearly all from the temperate zone (99Y1).

India, China, Cambodia, and Vietnam have restricted exports of rice (08U1).

India, China, Cambodia and others, have imposed strict export restrictions on food, harming countries like Malaysia and the Philippines (08U1).

Largest Exporters of wheat for market years 2008-2009 in units of millions of metric tonnes. (Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture) (08P1)





European Union












All others




The world's biggest importers of wheat (in millions of metric tonnes) Source: USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service. Data are for July 2004 through June of 2005. (Patrick Barta, "Australia Wheat Trade Squeezed by Iraq Scandal," Wall Street Journal (3/27/06) p. A6.)

Iraq |3.01|E.U. |7.39|Japan ~|5.74|Brazil ~ |5.31|Mexico~|3.72|

Comments: Egypt pays for its wheat imports from the huge subsidies it receives annually from the U.S. as part of the peace accord between Egypt and Israel brokered by the U.S.. Comments: Other countries not listed must import a total of about 54.4 million tonnes. (See export data below.) Comments: China became a net exporter of wheat within the past decade and is apparently back to being a net importer.

The world's biggest exporters of wheat (in millions of tonnes) Source: USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service. Data are for July 2004 through June of 2005. (Patrick Barta, "Australia Wheat Trade Squeezed by Iraq Scandal," Wall Street Journal (3/27/06) p. A6.)

U.S. | 28.5| Australia|15.8| Canada|15.0| E.U.|13.5| Argentina|13.5| All others|24.8| Total| 111.1

Comments: In 2004 the U.S. was a net importer of food (in $ terms).

Comments: Australia's wheat fields (mainly in western Australia are threatened by growing salinity problems. Australia's soils tend to be old and poor. Canada's grain lands are losing organic matter and have lost half of what it once had since 1900. Loss of organic matter reduces fertility and decreases erosion resistance.

Exports of raw sugar by major exporters in 2001 in millions of tons (02T1).
Brazil ~ | 11.2
EU ~ ~ ~ | ~6.1
Australia| ~3.5
Thailand | ~3.4
Cuba ~ ~ | ~2.9
S. Africa| ~1.5
Guatemala| ~1.4
India~ ~ | ~1.2
Turkey ~ | ~1.0

In the period from the mid-1970s to 1997/1999, net imports of developing nation importers (developing countries not including the net exporters Argentina, Uruguay, Thailand and Viet Nam), plus those of the transition economies and industrial importers (industrial countries minus EU, North America and Australia) went from 89 million tonnes to 167 million tonnes (Subtotal 2 in Table 3.8) (03A1).

Major Grain Exporters: (USDA, "Grain: World Markets and Trade", Washington DC (September 2000) p. 19).

~ Net Cereal Imports of Developing Countries (03A1) (Converted from a graph) (mmt. = million metric tonnes)
Mmt.| 22 | 26 | 38 | 35 | 48 | 74 | 70 | 75 | 63 | 82
Mmt.| 90 | 84 | 92 | 113| 95 | 106| 116| - -| - -| - -

Net cereal imports by developing countries will almost triple over the next 30 years while net meat imports might increase by a factor of almost five (03B1).

Major Net Cereal Importers and Exporters, 1987 (in millions of tonnes/ year) (90W1)
Importers: ~ ~ |Exporters
USSR~ ~ ~ ~ |29|USA~ ~ ~ ~ |83
Japan ~ ~ ~ |27|Canada ~ ~ |28
China ~ ~ ~ |16|France ~ ~ |26
Egypt ~ ~ ~ | 9|Australia~ |18
Korea ~ ~ ~ | 9|Argentina~ | 9
Saudi Arabia| 8|Thailand ~ | 6
Iran~ ~ ~ ~ | 6|UK ~ ~ ~ ~ | 4
Italy ~ ~ ~ | 5|S. Africa~ | 2
Mexico~ ~ ~ | 5|Denmark~ ~ | 1
Iraq~ ~ ~ ~ | 4|New Zealand|0.2
Total~ ~ ~ |118|Total~ ~ ~ |177.

Grain Exports (million tons/ year) (USDA data)
(from plot in Lester R. Brown, Brian Halweil, "China's Water Shortage Could Shake World Food Security", Worldwatch, July/ Aug. 1998)
Year - |1960|1965|1970|1975|1980|1985|1990|1995|1997
Exports| 60 | 80 | 100| 140| 180| 200| 200| 200| 200

(Exporting nations (85% of the world's grain exports): Argentina, Australia, Canada, EU, U.S.)
Note 1: Numbers are from a smoothed curve through fluctuating data.
Note 2: The U.S. has returned to production all cropland idled under its farm commodity programs. The EU, which briefly held some land out of use in the mid-1990s, had returned most of it to use by 1997.

Crop value/ ha. of cropland (1995-1997) is plotted on a global map in Ref. (00W1), p. 61.

The food, fiber and animal feed that the world's agro-ecosystem produces is worth $1.3 trillion/ year (00W2). Western Europe and North America produce 79% of this value (00W2).

World grain exports: 200 million tons/ year (181 million tonnes/ year). (World Watch: "Populations Outrunning Water Supply as World Hits 6 Billion" (9/23/99)).

During the past decade, world grain exports totaled roughly 200 million tons/ year, with nearly 50% from the U.S. The rest came from Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, South Africa and Thailand (94B1). Comments: In 2005, the U.S. was a net importer of food (04G1) (in dollar units).

Developing countries will need to double cereal imports, 60% of the developing world's cereal imports will probably have to come from the U.S. (International Food Policy Research Institute report) (Washington Post, 11/27/99).

Since 1980, world grain exports averaged 200 million tons/ year - nearly 50% from the U.S. (11 million tons/ year from Argentina) (94B3).

Grain Exports from the Seven Largest Exporters (1995) (USDA, "Production, Supply and Distribution", (1996))
(The numbers are apparently percent of total grain production in that country.)
Australia| 67% |France~ | 44% |Viet Nam |12%
Argentina| 46% |US~ ~ ~ | 37% |
Canada ~ | 45% |Thailand| 31% |

Dependence of Net Grain Imports (as Share of Consumption) on water Runoff (1994-1996 data)
(See Sandra Postel, Pillar of Sand, World Watch Institute (1999) p. 130)
(Internal Water Runoff data (Column 2) is in m3/ year/ capita; 1995 data)
Country - -|Runoff|Net Imports (%)
Jordan~ ~ ~ | 249 |91
Israel~ ~ ~ | 309 |87
Libya ~ ~ ~ | 115 |85
South Korea |1473 |77
Algeria ~ ~ | 489 |70
Yemen ~ ~ ~ | 189 |66
Tunisia ~ ~ | 393 |55
Saudi Arabia| 119 |50
Uzbekistan~ | 418 |42
Egypt ~ ~ ~ | ~29 |40
Azerbaijan~ |1066 |34
Turkmenistan| 251 |27
Morocco ~ ~ |1027 |26
Somalia ~ ~ | 645 |26
Rwanda~ ~ ~ | 808 |20
Iraq~ ~ ~ ~ |1650 |19
Kenya ~ ~ ~ | 714 |15
Sudan ~ ~ ~ |1246 | 4
Burkina Faso|1683 | 2
Burundi ~ ~ | 563 | 2
Zimbabwe~ ~ |1248 | 2
Niger ~ ~ ~ | 380 | 1
South Africa|1030 |-3
Syria ~ ~ ~ | 517 |-4

During 1950-1985, world food production increased by a factor of 2.4, while world food trade increased by a factor of 4.2 (85O1).

World vegetable-oil exports = 23 million tonnes/ year (Ref. 21 of (95B2)). Comments: This amounts to 4 kg/ capita/ year. This can be compared to a consumption rate of 6 (China), 12 (Japan) and 23 (United States) (95B2).

Share of Harvested Land used for Export Crops (1987-89) (92N1)
Burkina Faso| 5% | Uganda| 7%| India ~ | 1%
Ivory Coast |44% | Kenya | 8%| Ethiopia| 4%
Indonesia ~ |18% | Malawi| 5%| Rwanda~ | 5%
Honduras~ ~ |22% |

Data are from World Bank's 1991 World Development Report, and from FAO.

In 1994, Japan+ South Korea+ Taiwan collectively imported 71% of their grain (95B2).

Combined Japan/ South Korea/ Taiwan Grain-Trade Data (in millions of tonnes/ year) (from a plot) (95B2)
Year ~ ~ ~ |1950|1960|1970|1980|1990|1994
Consumption| 20 | 28 | 38 | 52 | 63 | 65
Production | 18 | 22 | 20 | 16 | 20 | 20
Net Imports| ~2 | ~6 | 18 | 36 | 43 | 45

Sub-Part [Ed2] ~ Imports/Exports ~ U.S. Data ~
The U.S. supplies more than 2/3 of the world's grain imports (07H1).

U.S. agricultural trade, fiscal years 2000-05, (for the year ending 9/30) (in billions of $US)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | Forecast
Item ~ |2000|2001|2002|2003|2004|FY2005|FY2005
- - - -| - -| - -| - -| - -| - -| Nov. | Feb.
Exports|50.7|52.7|53.3|56.2|62.3| 56.0 | 59.0
Imports|38.9|39.0|41.0|45.7|52.7| 56.0 | 58.0
Balance|11.9|13.7|12.3|10.5| 9.6|~ 0.0 |~ 1.0

Reflects forecasts in the 2/9/05, World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report and revised beef import forecast issued 2/22/05 by the Office of the Chief Economist. Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture and Bureau of Census, U.S. Department of Commerce. AES-45 (2/24/05) (04G1)

Department of Agriculture www.ers.usda.gov www.fas.usda.gov

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service estimates released 11/22/04, 2005 will be the first year in nearly 50 that America will not turn an agricultural trade surplus (04G1). USDA's Ann Veneman has no explanation of how Bush administration economic and trade policies have taken American agriculture from a $13.6 billion trade surplus in 2001 to a flat line in 4 years. Ironically, the very thing farmers have been told for years would be their savior - a cheaper dollar - is worsening the agriculture trade balance. Despite the dollar now falling to new lows against most of the world's major currencies, 2005 agriculture exports will be $6.3 billion less than in 2004. ERS said the 2005 "import volume (will be) unchanged," but "their higher prices will continue to push the total U.S. import bill up." (04G1).

After growing rapidly in the 1970s, U.S. agricultural exports reached a high of $43.8 billion in FY1981, to $26.3 billion by FY1986. By FY1995, U.S. agricultural exports reached a new peak of $54.6 billion. Agricultural exports reached nearly $60 billion in FY1996, but declined to $57.3 billion in FY1997. U.S. agricultural exports declined further in FY1998 to $53.6 billion (01H1).

Around 25% of gross U.S. farm income comes from exports (01H1).

Production from more than a third of the U.S. harvested acreage is exported, including an estimated 32% of wheat, 42% of rice, 33% of soybeans, 16% of corn, and 26% of cotton. About 15% of the value of U.S. agricultural production is exported (01H1).

The USDA forecasts FY2001 agricultural exports of $53 billion, while projected imports of $40 billion will result in an export surplus of $13 billion, $1 billion over FY2000 (01H1).

The projected U.S. population growth (24% over the next 25 years) would eliminate current agricultural exports ($21 billion) if U.S. food production remains constant ((76P2), p. 154).

Some 26% of U.S. agriculture production is for export. U.S. farm exports are projected at $49.5 billion for year ending 9/30/00 - 26% of total farm income. (LanceOlsen@aol.com (4/23/00)) Comments: The U.S. also imports lots of food, so net exports are closer to half the above figure - in a nation with population growing 1%/ year.

The U.S. is the world's largest food exporter (Ref. 30 of (80P2)). Comments: But in 2005, U.S. food imports exceeded food exports (04G1).

About 25% of U.S.-produced food is exported, but the U.S. imports half of that amount in other food items, resulting in a net U.S. food export of 12% of production (80P2).

The U.S. food export market grew 500% in the 1970s, followed by a decline during the 1980s (Ref. 7 of (89S2)).

U.S. exports of feed grain, soybeans, feed, cotton and tobacco averaged $16.8 billion/ year during 1976-1980 (Ref. 10 of (83P1)).

Since 1950, North America has increased its grain exports from 23 million tons/ year to 119 million tons/ year (88B4).

U.S. Farm Exports ($billion) (from a 3/13/00 Wall Street Journal chart)
Year - |1994|1995|1996|1997|1998|1999
Exports| 43 | 55 | 60 | 57 | 53 | 50

U.S. Agricultural trade with the EU ($billion/ year) (From a Wall Street Journal plot) (USDA data)
Year - - - - - |1986|1988|1990|1992|1994|1996
Exports to EU- | 6.5| 7.3| 7.1| 7.4| 7.0| 9.2
Imports from EU| 5.0| 4.8| 4.7| 5.0| 5.2| 6.4

The U.S. exports 20% of the food it produces, generating $40 billion in trade income (97P1).

The U.S. will lose food self-sufficiency by 2040. (Seattle Times, 11/19/99) Comments: In 40 years, U.S. population will have increased by around 50%, but current net U.S. food exports are roughly 20% of current consumption, so this statement seems grossly optimistic.

The USDA forecasts a fiscal 1995 U.S. agricultural exports of a record $48.5 billion - an agricultural trade surplus of $20 billion -highest since 1982. Agricultural export volume was projected to reach 156.6 million tons - up over 29 million tons from fiscal 1994 (Wall Street. Journal (2/23/95)).

In 1974-5, the U.S. exported $21 billion of grain and other agricultural products. U.S. agriculture in 1975 had a positive trade balance of $12.7 billion (76P2).

U.S. Trade Deficit in Goods and Services
from charts) (Wall Street Journal (3/2/99) 3/11/04 and others from U.S. Commerce Dept. data)
Year - - |1992|1994|1996|1998|1999|2000|2001|2002|2003
$Billions| 40 | 100| 105| 165| 260| 379| 358| 435| 490

U.S. Grain Production, Consumption, and Exportable Surplus (in millions of tonnes/ year) (88B4)
Year - - - |1984|1985|1986|1987|1988
Production | 313| 345| 314| 277| 190
Consumption| 197| 201| 216| 211| 202
Surplus~ ~ | 116| 144| ~97| ~66| -12

Wheat Exports (million tonnes/ year) (John Kilman, Wall Street Journal (6/21/95)).
Year -|1975|1980|1985|1990|1995
US - -| 32 | 43 | 26 | 30 | (33)
Canada| 13 | 18 | 18 | 20 | 18

1994 U.S. Agricultural Exports (Wall Street Journal (4/5/95)) ($ Billion)
Japan |9.2|EU12 |6.5|Canada - |5.2|Mexico|4.1|S.Korea| 2.1
Taiwan|2.1|Egypt|0.6|Hong Kong|1.1|Brazil|0.2|China -| 0.9

U.S. Agricultural Foreign Trade ($ Billion/ year) (Wall Street Journal (4/5/95))
Year - |1972|1974|1976|1978|1980|1982|1984|1986|1988|1990
Exports| 8.5| 21.| 23.| 26.| 41.| 40.| 37.| 27.| 37.| 40.
Imports| 8.0| 10.| 10.| 13.| 17.| 17.| 19.| 20.| 21.| 22.

Year ~ |1992|1994
Exports| 43.| 44.
Imports| 24.| 28.

Sub-Part [Ed3] ~ Imports/Exports ~ Africa (sub-Saharan) ~
South Korea's Daewoo Logistics negotiated a 99-year lease on 3.2 million acres of farmland on the dirt-poor tropical island of Madagascar. The lease takes up nearly half of Madagascar's arable land. Some 75% of the leased land will be put into corn and 25% into palm oil - to be used as biofuel. Daewoo said that the crops would "ensure our food security" and would use "totally undeveloped land which had been left untouched." South Korea is the world's third-largest importer of corn. Some 70% of the Madagascar's 20 million people live below the poverty line. The idea of a corporate giant growing food to be consumed by people and animals in Korea raises "ethical concerns," says the head of the FAO'S Trade Policy Service in Rome. Daewoo plans to invest about $6 billion to build the port facilities, roads, power-plants and irrigation systems necessary to support its agribusiness there, which will create thousands of jobs for Madagascar's unemployed. And jobs will help the people of Madagascar earn money to buy their own food - even if it is imported (Author Unknown, "The Breadbasket of South Korea: Madagascar," (11/08) Time)

Africa imports 45% of its rice and 85% of its wheat (08U3).

The cost of Africa's food imports increased from $10.5 billion in 2005 to $49.4 billion in 2008 according to the UNFAO (08S2).

In sub-Saharan Africa, with the world's highest rate of population growth, food imports are expected to double between 2008 and 2030 (08B2) (In food.html in this website).

Food imports in sub-Saharan Africa rose from $1.1 billion in 1970 to $5.3 billion in 1985 (Ref. 40 of (88L1)).

The external debt for sub-Saharan Africa increased from $5.4 to $58.8 billion during 1970-1985 (Ref. 2 of (88L1)).

Nigeria imported over 2 million tons of grain in 1990. 1996 imports may have exceeded 15 million tons (Worldwatch, 10(2) (1997)).

Sub-Part [Ed4] ~ Imports/ Exports ~ Africa (north) ~
World's fastest growing grain market: the region from Morocco to Iran. In 1997, this region (5% of the world's population) accounted for 25% of global grain imports. (Lester R. Brown, Brian Halweil, "China's Water Shortage Could Shake World Food Security", Worldwatch (July/August 1998)).

Each nation in Africa's northern tier imports 33-50+% of its grain (97B2).

Egypt imports 40% of the wheat for its 65 million people (98B1). Comments: Money for this comes largely from U.S. aid as part of the Egypt/ Israel peace accord.

Sub-Part [Ed5] ~ Imports/Exports ~ Asia ~
Asia buys 40% of U.S. agricultural exports. (Wall Street Journal (7/16/98)).

Asia's grain imports (in millions of tons): 6 in 1950; over 90 in 1995 (97B2), (97B3).

By some estimates, 60% of Russia's food is imported (Betsy McKay, Wall Street Journal (9/15/97)). Comments: This may be obsolete. Russia currently (2008) is a net exporter of food, although it is now limiting these exports.

Russia now imports 25% of its food ~ a 10% increase since the collapse of the Soviet Union (Wall Street Journal (1/12/98)).

Sub-Part [Ed6] ~ Imports/ Exports ~ Canada ~
Canadian durhum wheat shipments to U.S. (in thousands of tonnes)
(Wall Street Journal chart, 4/26/99) (for the year ending July 31)
Year - - |1991|1992|1993|1994|1995|1996|1997|1998
Shipments| 370| 410| 400| 460| 295| 185| 360| 420

Canada's share of the wheat-export market: 20%. U.S. share: 35% (Wall Street Journal, 5/1/96).

Sub-Part [Ed7] ~ Imports/ Exports ~ Far East ~
Grain Imports by China, 1960-2010 (From a bar graph) smoothed USDA data (in units of millions of tonnes) (

























If China were to import only 20% of its grain, it would need 80 million tons, an amount only slightly less than the 90 million tons of grain the US exports to all countries each year. But in dealing with China, the US now faces a very different situation. When the U.S. Treasury Department auctions off securities every month to finance the U.S. fiscal deficit, China has been a major buyer. It holds over $900 billion worth of U.S. Treasury securities. China is our banker. In another time, another age, the US could restrict access to U.S. grain as it did in the 1970s, but with China today this may not be possible (11B2).

In April 2005 The World Food Program and the Chinese government jointly announced that food aid shipments to China would stop at the end of the year. China soon became the world's third-largest food aid donor (09B6). Comments: Be careful not to confuse food exporter with food aid donor.

[Ed7a] ~ Imports/ Exports ~ Far East ~ China ~
In 2003, China consumed 55 million tons of grain more than it produced, the shortfall covered through reserves and imports
("China's Arable Land Shrank 2% in 2003, Hurting Grain Output", Agence France Presse (4/9/04)).

Between 1995-2000 China went from self-sufficiency in soybeans to being the world's largest buyer, importing over 40% of its supply (USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, "Oilseeds: World Markets and Trade (July 2001) p. 22).

"Expansion of China's animal feed manufacturing sector will require China to import more oilseed meals and more oilseeds for crushing. China's meal production from domestically grown soybeans is currently 6 million tonnes, far short of China's estimated demand for 20-30 million tonnes of oilseed meals annually over the next decade" (99U3).

~ China's Net Trade of Cereals (Imports are negative) (03A1) (Converted from a graph) (Millions of metric tonnes)
Mmt.|~ -3|~ -2|~ -1|~ -6|~ -7| -11| -12| -13| -15| -13
Mmt.|~ -8| ~ 2| ~ 0| -11| -10| -12|~ -9|~ -4|~ ~1|~ 6
Mmt.|~ 2 | -19|~ -9| ~ 4| ~ 5| ~ 4|~ 11|~~ -|~~ -| ~ -

China's Net Trade in Cereals (97P2) (in millions of tonnes/ year) (+ means net import; - means net export)
Year - - |1980|1981|1982|1983|1984|1985|1986|1987|1988|1989
Net Trade| 11 | 13 | 15 | 13 |~ 8 | -3 | -2 |~ 9 |~ 8 | 10
Year - - |1990|1991|1992|1993|1994|1995|1996|1997
Net Trade| ~8 | ~2 | -2 | -7 | -5 | 18 | ~3 | 4

Although China, along with the U.S., is one of the world's leading grain producers, It is expected that by 2025-2030, China "will need to import 175-200 million tons [of grain]", an amount equal to the world's current grain exports (E. O. Wilson , "The Bottleneck Part III", Scientific American (February, 2002)).

In January 1995, China banned corn exports and started importing (95K2).

In 1988, China imported 5% of its grain consumption (roughly 15 million tons) (88B4).

In 1991, China was a net exporter of sugar. In 1994, China depended on sugar imports for 17% of consumption (95B2).

China's Vegetable-Oil Data (in millions of tonnes/ year) (95B2)
Year - - - |1970|1980|1990|1994
Consumption| 0.8| 2.0| 6.0| 9.4
Production | 0.8| 2.0| 4.8| 5.8
Imports- - | 0.0| 0.0| 1.2| 3.6

China exported 8 million tonnes of grain (net) in 1994. In 1995 it imported 16 million tonnes of grain (net) (96B1). This made China the world's second-largest grain importer after Japan (World Watch 8(5) (1995) p. 38). Comments: China's grain production is something on the order of 400 million tonnes/ year, so the change is not large, relatively.

[Ed7b] ~ Imports/ Exports ~ Far East ~ Japan ~
Between 1970 and 1998, Japan's dependency upon imported cereals increased from 55 to 75%. (Seattle Times, 11/19/99).

Japan depended on grain imports for 77% of its 1993 grain consumption ((94B3), Ref. 13 of (94B4)). In 1987, imports accounted for 71% of Japan's grain consumption (Ref.18 of (88B4)).

Consumption in Japan as a percentage of food items grown and produced in Japan (Martin Fackler, "Japanese Farmers Lose Clout", Wall Street Journal (2/20/04)) (from a graph)
Year - - - |1965|1975|1985|1995|2001
Consumption| 73%| 55 | 52 | 42 | 40

[Ed7c] ~ Imports/ Exports ~ Far East ~ South Korea ~
South Korea depends on grain imports for 68% of its 1993 grain consumption ((94B3), Ref. 13 of (94B4).

In 1987, imports accounted for 59% of South Korea's grain consumption (Ref. 18 of (88B4).

[Ed7d] ~ Imports/ Exports ~ Far East ~ Taiwan ~
Taiwan depends on grain imports for 74% of its 1993 grain consumption ((94B3), Ref. 13 of (94B4)).
In 1987, imports accounted for 72% of Taiwan's grain consumption (Ref. 18 of (88B4)).

Sub-Part [Ed8] ~ Imports/ Exports ~ Southeast Asia ~
Indonesia was the world's largest rice importer in 1974, but is now self-sufficient in rice (98R1).

Though self-sufficient in rice in the mid-1980s, Indonesia imported nearly 20% of its rice consumption in 1994 and 1995 (97G1).

The Philippines is the world's largest importer of rice (08U1). Comments: This reflects its abnormally high population growth rate. Thailand, with a far lower population growth rate, exports rice.)

Between 1980 and 1995, Philippine rice production has increased by 1.9%/ year, while consumption increased 3%/ year. In the late 1970s, sugar made up 25% of Philippine exports. Now sugar must be imported. The World Bank has warned of a return to the insurgency and social upheavals of the 1980s unless rural poverty is addressed (Jon Liden, Wall Street Journal (12/27/96)).

Sub-Part [Ed9] ~ Imports/ Exports ~ Latin America ~
Latin America became a grain-deficit region in the 1980s, with net imports of 11 million tons in 1988 (88B4).

Mexico quadrupled its grain production, but its population grew to 99.6 million by mid-2001 and Mexico is again a (net) food importer (03K1).

In 1996, Mexico probably imported 33% of its food (97R2).

Argentina, which exports 20 million tons/ year, could possibly increase exports by 50% (Lester R. Brown, Brian Halweil, "China's Water Shortage Could Shake World Food Security", Worldwatch (July/Aug. 1998)).

Sub-Part [Ed10] ~ Imports/ Exports ~ Middle-East ~
Israel imports 80% of what it eats. It sells export crops, such as citrus and flowers (
Mort Rosenblum, "Drought of Biblical Scale Worsens", Associated Press (7/6/01)).

Sub-Part [Ed11] ~ Imports/ Exports ~ Asian Sub-Continent ~
Home-grown cereal production in Bhutan in the past 6 years had fluctuated between 64-68% of total consumption. (The remainder must be imported.) Maintaining this balance will be difficult given the rapid loss of production land and the projected annual population growth rate of 2.5%/ year. In 2002, the rice growing areas of Bhutan milled 38,251 metric tonnes but another 54,000 metric tonnes had to be imported. Bhutan's rice imports are projected to increase to about 100,000 metric tonnes/ year by 2012. Taking 1999 as the base year, data shows a decline in area under cereal cultivation but an increase in the cereal production from about 60,000 metric tonnes in 1990 to 141,652 metric tonnes in 2002
("Maintaining food security", Kuensel Online (3/2/05)).

Sub-Part [Ed12] ~ Imports/ Exports ~ Europe ~
The EU is the world's largest agricultural importer (
05L1). The EU's imports from developing countries are higher than those from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand combined (05L1). The EU accounts for 80% of all agricultural exports from least developed countries (05L1).

Go to Top of this Chapter-Laws, Politics, History, Economics
Go to
Top of this Review's Reference List
Go to
Topsoil Loss-Causes, Effects, Implications (Table of Contents)
Go to
Home Page of this entire web site
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - se10

Part [Ee] ~ Economics ~ Organic Farming ~
The number of organic farms in the U.S. increased from 12,000 in 2002 to 18,200 in 2007 (

It looks like Minnesota grain farmers could make more money by switching to organic grain crops. That's the conclusion of a four-year study announced 7/10/07 at the American Agricultural Economics Association's annual meeting in Long Beach, CA. David W. Archer, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) economist, and Hillarius Kludze, an ARS soil scientist, will present a paper on this study, conducted at the Swan Lake Research Farm near Morris, MN. The study analyzed both economic risks and transition effects of switching to organic farming. (Don Comis, "Growers Can Make More Money by Going Organic," U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (ARS), 7/25/06, http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2006/060725.htm)

Organic farming can build up soil organic matter better than conventional no-till farming can, according to a long-term study by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists. Researchers made this discovery during a nine-year study at the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC), Beltsville, Md. BARC is operated by ARS, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency. Plant physiologist John Teasdale (ARS Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory in Beltsville) was surprised to find that organic farming was a better soil builder than no-till. No-till has always been thought to be the best soil builder because it eliminates plowing and minimizes even light tillage to avoid damaging organic matter and exposing the soil to erosion. Teasdale's study showed that organic farming's addition of organic matter in manure and cover crops more than offset losses from tillage. In a follow-up 3-year study, Teasdale grew corn with no-till practices on all plots to see which ones had the most-productive soils. He found that the organic plots had more carbon and nitrogen and yielded 18% more corn than the other plots did. (Don Comis, US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (ARS), "Organic Farming Beats No-Till" (7/10/07) http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2007/070710.htm)

See Chapter 11 Section (11-F) for a compilation of databases on organic cropland areas.

If the U.S., wanted to go totally organic, it would have to increase its cattle herd nine-fold to create enough manure (03U_ -Reference Lost). Comments: Organic fertilizer is very low in nitrogen (or another nutrient).

Organic farming yields only about half as much per acre as mainstream farms, after factoring in land needed to produce organic fertilizers, the need to allow fields to lay fallow, and high pest losses (99A1).

Economics of organic farming, and the role of fertilizers therein, are discussed in Ref. (90R2). A comparison of "sustainable" to conventional agriculture is in Ref. (94S1). Economics of sustainable- vs. conventional farming are examined in Ref. (93H2). Comments: Organic farming involves less dependence on fertilizers and pesticides.

Part [Ef] ~ Economics ~ Discounting Future Harvests ~
Water erosion is well-understood process, and proven practices are available to alleviate it. But these practices are difficult to implement because they are not cost-effective in the short term. Farmers rarely install terraces, for example, unless the cost is at least partially subsidized by the government (85D2).

U.S. studies on southern Iowa soils showed that short-term costs to farmers of reducing soil erosion to a level that would sustain production would be three times as great as near-term benefits ((84B2), p. 67). Comments: The cost of future crop losses resulting from current erosion is being discounted in this calculation. Carried to the ultimate conclusion, it is being argued in such analyses that all soils be destroyed, the money saved by not practicing soil conservation be put into the bank, and after the soil is gone we simply purchase food from the interest earned from our bank account!

Ref. (83C1) argues for discounting soil and hence delaying soil conservation measures until the bottom of the root zones hit non-soil. At that time, short-term losses from future soil erosion would equal or exceed costs of short-term soil conservation practices, causing all farmers to conserve soil henceforth (83C1).

Ref. (83C1) claims that SCS technicians operating by the T standard (Maximum allowed soil erosion = 5 tons/ acre/ year on deep soil; 1 ton/ acre/ year on soils with severe rooting zone limitations) find farmers reluctant to follow their advice because SCS does not adequately discount future harvests (83C1).

"Commercial agriculture liquidates capital assets and calls it taking a profit". (p. 433 of Volume 1 of "Role of Man in Changing the Face of the Earth", University of Chicago Press (1956)).

Numerous (and virtually all) economic analyses of soil erosion spread throughout the past 1.5 decades of the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation have concluded that soil conservation practices simply aren't worth it. A number of studies (reviewed in Ref. (81E1)) seem to fall predominantly on the side that soil erosion control is, in general, not economical.

Short-term effects of erosion on U.S. soil productivity due to the "A" horizon changes leading to loss of organic matter, fertility, and available water holding capacity, plus development of poor tilth and reduced infiltration rate. Long-term effects due to reduction in rooting zone. Generally, extra income from continuous corn more than offsets added crop producing value of soil saved by adopting erosion control practices. Little profit incentive for farmers to adopt conservation practices, even over long run. Prudent to control erosion to maintain rooting depth just above where productivity irreversibly declines. No need to protect soils having depth much greater than critical depth. Protecting such soils is at expense of present crop production and farmer income (80Y1).

Part [Eg] ~ Economics ~ Conservation Capital ~
From 1975-1977, 5000 U.S. landowners removed terraces, grass waterways, windbreaks, and strip-cropping systems (Ref. 7 of (83P1)).

As of 1980, about 52% of the gross capital stock, and 46% of the net value of conservation capital had been created via federal cost-sharing and watershed programs (83P1).

Cumulative gross investment (in 1977 $) in farm- and project conservation capital is plotted in Ref. (83P1) for 1935-1980. 1980 value = $43 billion. The full-cost value of facilities still in use is also plotted in 1977 dollars. This peaked in 1965 at about $29 billion. The depreciated value of facilities still in use is also plotted. It peaked in 1955 at around $16 billion (1977 $) (83P1). Conservation assets include: (a) depreciable on-farm land-treatment and management measures designed to reduce soil losses from wind- and water erosion, e.g. permanent vegetative cover, strip-cropping, terracing, diversions, shelterbelts, etc.; (b) sod waterways and various detention structures for sediment reduction and water quality control; (c) water impoundment structures for flood-prevention and erosion- and water-quality control (83P1).

Part [Eh] ~ Economics ~ Subsidies (for Agriculture) ~

Development aid by three biggest donors in 2000, compared with their total domestic support to farmers in 2001 in billions of dollars (02T1).
Nation|Support| Aid
EU~ ~ | $93.1 | $25.3
US~ ~ | $49.0 | $10.0
Japan | $47.2 | $13.5

The EU guarantees the price of EU-produced sugar at three times the world price. The result is a surplus in production of about 6 million tons per year. The U.S. also protects its sugar growers with tariffs and quota barriers, but it exports very little sugar. The EU's exported sugar represents 20% of the annual exports from all countries (02T1). Agricultural subsidies, including cheap loans and artificially high prices, total about $300 billion / year according to OECD. The UN estimates that the cost to poor nations is about $50 billion in lost export revenues, which, the UN notes, in effect negates the $50 billion in aid given annually to the developing world (02T1). The EU's 7 million farmers make up less than 2% of the EU's population, but, especially in France, they are highly organized, rich and concentrated in a few electorally sensitive districts (02T1).

The wealthy nations of the world provide about $50 billion/ year in official development assistance to the developing world (02T1).

Agricultural subsidies in industrial countries total more than $300 billion/ year (03I2).

India subsidizes agricultural inputs like water, energy and fertilizer, leading to wasteful use of these resources (03I2). Comments: Agencies like the International Monetary fund have pressured India to reduce subsidies for grain consumption while supporting crop prices, resulting in a bizarre combination of huge surpluses, hunger and starvation.

From 1982-1992, the value of domestic supports for farmers in Japan amounted to 71% of the value of Japan's agricultural production (03I2).

Japanese farmers earn nearly 60% of their income from subsidies (03I2).

European farmers earn 30% of their income from subsidies (03I2).

U.S. farmers earn 20% of their incomes from subsidies (03I2).

EU cash support and other subsidies to its dairy industry total $17 billion/ year - $2.20/ cow/ day (03I2).

Rural investment represents less than 10% of World Bank commitments in 2000 (World Bank Annual Report, Rome (2001) p. 9)

International aid to agriculture has declined 67% in real terms since the 1980s (International Fund for Agricultural Development, "Rural Poverty Report 2001, Oxford University Press, New York (2001)).

Worldwide, subsidies worth at least $650 billion, equivalent to 9% of all government revenues, support logging, mining, oil drilling, livestock grazing, farming (including irrigation), fishing, energy consumption and driving (99R1) (98R3) (94U3).

Federal subsidies and payments to Montana farmers and ranchers over the past two years surpassed the net profits of Montana's entire agricultural industry, according to figures released by the Montana Agricultural Statistics Service. The federal aid has nearly tripled since 1995, the year before Congress passed a farm program intended to eliminate subsidies gradually. The annual report by the statistics service shows that in 1998, Montana farms and ranches reported net income of $357 million. Subsidies and payments that year totaled $358 million. In 1999, net agricultural income was $482 million. Subsidies and payments totaled $488 million (00U1). Montana has about 24,000 farms and ranches. Government payments averaged $20,327/ farm or ranch in 1999, the equivalent of a full-time, year-round wage for one person at nearly $10/ hour. Average net profits in 1999 totaled $19,852 (00U1).

The rise in subsidies and payments came despite a nationwide push to reduce them. The 1996 measure commonly known as "Freedom to Farm" was intended to open foreign markets for U.S. farm products; to give farmers more flexibility to plant the crops they choose so they can respond to markets; and to eliminate subsidies gradually. There has been some success in the first two areas, but in the third, the opposite happened: Subsidies rose. In 1995, government farm payments in Montana totaled $190 million and the agricultural industry made $408 million in profits. Since then, as wheat prices have fallen, government bailouts, most directed to grain growers, have increased by $298 million. Similar patterns have occurred in other states that produce primary crops (00U1).

Much of the current agricultural economy's condition is tied to low wheat prices around the world. Shortly after Freedom to Farm became law, a financial crisis hit the Far East. That, coupled with huge wheat crops in China and other places, put grain prices in the cellar, knocking about $4 off the price of a bushel of wheat. Much of the increased federal aid in 1998-99 came in the form of "disaster" payments (00U1).

Net outlays of the USDA Commodity Credit Corp ($ Billions)
(not including Conservation Reserve) (Wall Street Journal (2/16/95))
Paid| 2.5| 4.0|11.0|18.0| 7.4|17.0|25.5|22.0|11.5|10.5
Paid| 6.5| 9.5| 9.3|15.9| 9.5

U.S. spending on farm commodity programs: $14 billion/ year during 1982-1994, $26 billion in 1986; $23 billion in 1987; $19 billion in 1983 (USDA data).

Pesticide subsidies in the early 1980s ranged from 19% of unsubsidized retail cost in China to 89% in Senegal (44% in Colombia, and 83% in Egypt) (Ref. 31 of (91P1)).

Canada ended its 98-year subsidy of rail shipping costs of wheat (U.S. $405 million/ year recently) (50% of cost) in 8/95. 20,000 km2 of cropland may shift to cattle pasture, and farmers will switch to oil-seed and feed-grain for livestock (John Urquart and Scott Kilman, Wall Street Journal (6/21/95)).

The Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform Act signed in April 1996 gives the following agricultural subsidies: export credit guarantees ($5.5 billion), a market-promotion program ($90 million/ year), export subsidies ($2.7 billion over 7 years) and a larger network of agricultural trade offices (Bruce Ingersoll, Wall Street Journal (4/12/96)).

U.S. Farms consume over 20 million tons of fertilizer/ year (130 lb/ acre of cropland). U.S. farmers consume 250,000 tons of pesticides/ year (2.3 lb/ acre/ year). Currently the U.S. spends $1.4 billion to control pesticide pollution, plus $600 million to control agricultural runoff. Agricultural subsidies cost taxpayers $10 billion/ year. Halving these subsidies would likely decrease per-acre chemical use by 17%, and fertilizer use by 14%. Complete elimination of subsidies would result in 35% less chemical use/ acre, and 29% less fertilizer use/ acre (Jonathan Tolman, Wall Street Journal (9/8/95)).

OECD Members spend $175 billion on subsidies to agricultural producers (e.g. direct payments for crop production, reduced prices for water and pesticides) (96G1).

Part [Ei] ~ Economics ~ Food Prices ~ [Ei1]~Comments, [Ei2]~Global, [Ei3]~United States, [Ei4]~Middle East, [Ei5]~Central Asia, ~

See Chapter 11, Section (11-F) for a compilation of large databases on annual earned income during 1991-2000 for men and women.

Sub-Part [Ei1] ~ Food Prices ~ Comments ~

Record wheat prices have led to riots in Morocco, India and Mexico (08T1). (Note: the list is currently significantly larger.)

"On balance, we do not see compelling reasons why real commodity prices should rise during the early part of the 21st century, while we see reasons why they should continue to decline. Thus, commodity prices are expected to decline relative to manufactures as has been the case for the past century" ((00W3), p. 8-29).

People in the First World tend to be unconcerned about food prices. However they should be aware that exploding economic mobilities have led to "globalization" - world trade doubling every decade, the size of cargo ships increasing by an order of magnitude every few decades, the scale of global communications growing orders of magnitude faster than ever before, multi-national corporations expanding in size and number at ever-increasing rates, and with several billion more people scheduled to join the global economy over the next few decades. Thus ratios of food- and fiber prices to labor prices, like all other economic ratios, appear certain to tend ever more rapidly toward globally constant values. The global rate of topsoil loss must therefore gradually assume much greater importance that any regional rate - even for inhabitants of soil-rich, low-loss-rate regions. Globalization of human pressures on land (through both trade and emigration) must also cause regional topsoil loss rates to tend toward global average rates. First-World residents should also note that the elasticity of food prices is very low. A slight surplus leads to collapsing prices, while a slight surplus leads to explosive increases in food prices.

Sub-Part [Ei2] ~ Food Prices ~ Global ~

"The World Food Crisis," New York Times Editorial (4/10/08)

The poorest fifth of US households spend 16% of their budget on food.

Nigerians spend 73% of their budgets on food.

Vietnamese spend 65% of their budgets on food.

Indonesians spend 50% of their budgets on food.

In 2007, the food import bill of developing countries rose by 25% as food prices rose to levels not seen in a generation. Corn doubled in price over the last two years. Wheat reached its highest price in 28 years.

Per-capita grain production peaked around 1985.

The UNFAO says world cereal stocks in 2008 will be the lowest since 1982.

The UNFAO says world cereal stocks in 2008 will be the lowest since 1982.

World wheat, rice, and corn prices tripled between mid-2006 and mid-2008 (09B2).

The price of rice, the world's most eaten food, is rising steeply -up 70% between 2001 and 2007 (U.S. agencies data) (07B2). Comments: The price increase is probably inflation-corrected. A secret World Bank report blames 75% of food price increases in recent years to the diverting of food crops to bio-fuels production.

The global price of rice dropped to a low of less than $200/ ton in 2001 from more than $550/ ton in the 1970s. Since the 1990s, India has been a major exporter of rice, shipping nearly 4.5 million tons in 2006 (07B2).

Global wheat prices in 2007 were at an 11-year high, and global rice prices have increased 50% since 2000 (07R2).

Data on sugar production, prices, etc. are available from www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/sugar/Data/data.htm/

Global dairy product prices have risen from around $2000 / tonne in 2005-2006 to roughly $4500/ tonne in late 2007-2008 (08B2). (In food.html in this website)

The price of cereals in the UK has increased 12% in the past year. The global price of milk has increased by nearly 60% during June 2006 to June 2007. The global price of corn is up 100% during June 2006 and June 2007. Butter prices in Europe increased 40% between June 2006 and June 2007. The food price India increased 11% between June 2006 and June 2007. Mexico has seen riots over a 60% increase in the price of tortillas (07H1).

In 1947, an average British family spent more than a third of its income on food. In 2007 the figure was 10% (07H1).

International Monetary Fund Statistics show that, during 1980-2000, the inflation-adjusted price of maize fell 42%, wheat 45%, cotton 48%, rice 61% and sugar 77% (03I2).

Prices of basic food and feed commodities rose in 2004. Wheat futures for May 2004 that traded as low as $2.90 a bushel within the last year on the Chicago Board of Trade have recently topped $4 a bushel. A similar calculation shows the price of corn up by 36%, rice was up 39%, and soybeans doubled from just over $5/ bushel to over $10. Rises in the price of wheat and rice (the world's two basic food staples) and corn and soybeans (the principal feedstuffs) are contributing to higher food prices worldwide, including in China and the U.S., the world's largest food producers (04B1). In China, where grain prices are 30% above those in March 2003, the National Bureau of Statistics reports that retail food prices in March 2004 were 7.9% higher than in March 2003 (04B1). The American Farm Bureau market basket survey, which monitors US retail prices of 16 basic food products in 32 states, shows a 10.5% rise in food prices during the first quarter of 2004 over the like period in 2003. (www.earth-policy.org/Updates/Update39_data.htm.)

World wheat prices ($/ bushel) are plotted vs. time (1950-1996) in Ref. (97B3). $12 in 1950; $8 in 1906; $6 in 1970; $8 in 1980; $4 in 1990 (1995 $).

In 1992-1993, the World Resources Institute reported that food prices dropped further than the prices of most non-fuel commodities. Cereal prices in the international market fell by 1/3 during 1980-1989 (94B5).

Prices (1985 $/ ton) of grain (Ref. 15 of (94B4))
Year |1950|1960|1970|1980|1990
Wheat| 280| 210| 180| 180| 120
Rice | 570| 420| 380| 350| 200

World Grain Prices (1987 $/ ton) (from a plot) (95B2)
Year |1950|1955|1960|1965|1970|1975|1980|1985|1990|1994
Wheat| 330| 280| 220| 200| 170| 290| 220| 120| 110| 120
Rice | 680| 610| 500| 500| 410| 700| 600| 220| 270| 280

During 1950-1993, world prices of wheat, corn and rice fell in real terms by 67%, 83%, and 88%. During 1993-1996, wheat, corn and rice prices rose 39%, 58% and 30% (98B1).

Percent of disposable income spent on food (76H1) in 1971: 15.7% in the U.S.; 65% in developing countries; 30% in the USSR, 26% in the European Economic Community. Comments: This data have historical value, but is obsolete.

Percent of Total Spending on Food in 42 Nations (US News and World Report, 11/24/80)
JORDAN~ ~ |52%|THAILAND ~ |47%|HONDURAS~ ~ |47%
S. KOREA~ |44%|PANAMA ~ ~ |44%|PORTUGAL~ ~ |40%
CYPRUS~ ~ |32%|POLAND ~ ~ |31%|ITALY ~ ~ ~ |31%
SPAIN ~ ~ |30%|HUNGARY~ ~ |30%|FINLAND ~ ~ |27%
IRELAND ~ |27%|MALTA~ ~ ~ |27%|HONG KONG ~ |26%
ISRAEL~ ~ |25%|S.AFRICA ~ |24%|JAPAN ~ ~ ~ |23%
FIJI~ ~ ~ |21%|BELGIUM~ ~ |21%|SWEDEN~ ~ ~ |21%
FRANCE~ ~ |20%|DENMAKR~ ~ |20%|UK~ ~ ~ ~ ~ |19%
CANADA~ ~ |15%|US ~ ~ ~ ~ |14%|

Sub-Part [Ei3] ~ Food Prices ~ United States ~

Food expenditures in the U.S. as a % of disposable income: 24% in 1929; 17% in 1961; 14% in 1970; 11.8% in 1990 (USDA data, Pittsburgh Press, 12/29/91). Farm commodities represent 25% of the U.S. retail cost of food, as compared with 33% a decade ago (95K3).

U.S. citizens aged 65+ spend $1861/ capita/ year on food; those between 25-34 spend $1468/ capita/ year on food. Low-income households spend 25% of their income on food, middle-income households spend 14% (Wall Street Journal (2/19/98)).

Personal income spent on food in the U.S.
Pct.| 23 | 23 | 22 | 20 | 18 |16.5| 18

(Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, 1975 Statistical Abstracts)
Comments: The 1975 increase resulted from the oil embargo.

Sub-Part [Ei4] ~ Food Prices ~ Middle East ~
In the summer of 1996, the government of Jordan, suffering from higher prices of imported wheat and a growing fiscal deficit, was forced to eliminate its bread subsidy. The resultant riots lasted several days and threatened to bring down the government (Ref. 9 of (97B3)). Comments: Egypt is also known to have a significant bread subsidy ~ paid by the U.S. as part of the Mideast Peace agreement.

Sub-Part [Ei5] ~ Food Prices ~ Central Asia ~
In Russia, bread shortages pushed the price of bread in February 2004 up 38% compared with February 2003. The government restricted wheat exports by imposing an export tax of 35 euros per ton (

Most Russians spend more than 50% of their family budget on food, but remain unable to afford meat and fruit (Erin B. Friar, Wall Street Journal (7/17/95)).

The Soviet Union's 1972 decision to import massive quantities of wheat after a poor harvest caused world grain prices to double (95B1). Comments: The year 1972 was the year when Hurricane Agnes and global weather patterns produced global problems with crops and prices.

World Economic Growth (%/ year/ capita) (95B2)
Growth| 3.1 | 3.2 | 1.6 | 1.1 | -0.3

Go to Top of this Chapter-Laws, Politics, History, Economics
Go to
Top of this Review's Reference List
Go to
Topsoil Loss-Causes, Effects, Implications (Table of Contents)
Go to
Home Page of this entire web site
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - se10

Part [Ej] ~ Farm Economics ~

Between the agricultural census of 2002 and that of 2007, the number of farms in the U.S. increased by 4% to roughly 2.2 million. The new farms were mostly small; many of them were operated by women, whose numbers in farming increased 30% from 238,000 in 2002 to 306,000 in 2007 (09B4).

The number of farmer's markets in the U.S. increased from 1,755 in 1994 to more than 4,700 in mid-2009 (09B4).

A survey of food consumed in Iowa showed conventional food produce traveled, on average, 1,500 miles, not including food imports from other countries. Locally grown produce traveled an average 56 miles. A study in Ontario Canada found that 58 imported foods traveled an average of 2,800 miles (09B4).

Ethiopian farmers receive 33% of the retail price, vs. 70-80% received by Asian farmers (03I2).

Farmers are 2.6% of the labor force in the U.S. and 4.4% in Europe (03I2).

Full time farmers in Japan (in millions) (Martin Fackler, "Japanese Farmers Lose Clout", Wall Street Journal (2/20/04)) (from a graph)
Year -|1970|1975|1980|1985|1990|1995|2000
Number|10.2| 7.8| 7.0| 6.2| 5.7| 4.0| 3.9

Traditional farming systems in the northwestern Himalayas are reservoirs of a huge variety of crops. The indigenous practices are interlinked with animal-forest-farm resources. Recent introduction of high yielding variety food- and fruit crops has diverted the farming systems from mixed crop cultivation to mono-crop cultivation leading to the loss of agro-biodiversity. Agro-biodiversity has traditionally provided sustainability to agriculture systems (94S2). Modern farming application, due to the 'Green Revolution' has resulted in farmers' dependency on market-oriented resources, leading to genetic erosion. In the western Himalayas traditional farming operations are a complex product of crop husbandry, animal husbandry and forest resources constituting interlinked diversified production systems. Inaccessibility, environmental heterogeneity and ecological fragility favored the evolution of subsistence production systems sustained with organic matter and nutrients. Such production systems are the reservoirs of a huge variety of crops and cultivars and are better adapted to environmental and climatic conditions and social set up as compared to modern agriculture systems. No input from outside the system is required (02S2).

Diversity has been maintained through a variety of crop compositions, cropping patterns and crop rotations (96S3). Leaving the land under fallow for replenishment of nutrients was still practiced at higher elevation. But this practice is disturbed due to introduction of HVY in the last decade or so. An enormous diversity of cultivated and wild plants, providing edible products is one of the most striking feature of maintaining traditional farming diversity and stability (96S3) (02S2).

Introduction of HYV food and fruit crops particularly wheat, rice and apple was introduced in 1970s. This change has resulted is incorporation of new farm technologies, more dependency on external yield increasing inputs (agro-chemicals and seeds), high cost and in-flux of labor and market influences. Erosion of traditional values and knowledge, loss of genetic diversity and inequity in society rapidly imperils the native landraces and overall sustainability of the agriculture systems in the western Himalayas. Lack of technical know-how and unplanned use of pesticides in farming system has remarkably accelerated the occupational health problems to the farmers (96S2). Neither traditional agriculture practices are economically suitable in present context nor high input of agro-chemicals demanding species are ecologically sustainable (02S2).

In Nebraska and Iowa, about 25% of the remaining farmers are expected to go out of business over the next two years. In Poland, 1.8 million farms could disappear in the next few years. In Sweden, 50% of the farms are expected to go out of business in the coming decade. In the Mindinao region of the Philippines, 0.5 million farms are expected to go out of business (Worldwatch (Sept./Oct., 2000)).

In the U.S., the share of the consumer's food dollar actually going to the farmer has declined from over 40 cents before 1950 to 7 cents today. (Worldwatch (September/ October 2000)).

Go to Home Page of this entire web site
Go to
top of this Part 10-E-J (Farm Economics).

Part [Ek] ~ Agriculture Economics ~

(Global Grain Reserves) When global grain reserves dropped to a historic low at the start of 2008, the resultant grain price explosion caused bread riots around the world. Also 25 countries (including some of the world's biggest grain exporters) imposed restrictions on their food exports (09K1).

(Agriculture-Related Water Pollution) Across the U.S., big dairies are coming under increased criticism for polluting the air and the water. More milk comes from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The average cow produces 6-7 gallons of milk and 18 gallons of manure daily. But none of these factory farms has a sewage-treatment plant. What happens is the muck is hosed off the concrete floor of a milking barn, and it flows into a plastic- or clay-lined lagoon where the liquid evaporates. Then waste from the feedlot is collected and used as fertilizer for grain crops. However the New Mexico Environment Department reports that two-thirds of the state's 150 dairies are contaminating groundwater with excess nitrogen from cattle excrement. Either the lagoons are leaking, or manure is being applied too heavily on farmland. Adding to the problem is the tendency of large dairies to cluster together. On one stretch of road between Interstate 10 between Las Cruces, N.M., and El Paso, Texas, more than 30,000 cows live on 11 farms, which have been repeatedly cited for violating the Clean Water Act because manure-laced storm-water was washing into tributaries of the Rio Grande River. (Continued)

(Scale of Agricultural Units) Commodity agriculture, including dairies, is trending toward fewer and larger farms, which concentrates more manure in smaller geographic areas. A dairy industry spokesman suggests, "They may have a septic tank that's leaking. That is the No. 1 reason why domestic wells in New Mexico are contaminated." Dairymen "want to make sure that their families that live on these dairies can drink that water, can bathe in that water and their animals are healthy as well." (Author unknown) "U.S.: New Mexico Dairy Pollution Sparks 'Manure War'" NPR (12/9/09).

European beekeepers can only survive another 8-10 years. There have been big problems in southwest France for many years, and the problem has extended to Italy and Germany. In 2008, about 30% of Europe's 13.6 million hives died. Losses reached 50% of hives in Slovenia and as high as 80% in southwest Germany. About 35% of the European food crop relies on bees to pollinate them. Most beekeepers blame modern farming methods and the pesticides that are used on crops like sunflowers and rapeseed ("Canola"). French honey output has suffered in the intense sunflower-farming areas, but remains steady in mountains and chestnut forests.

The scientific coordinator cites two main factors responsible for weakening bee colonies: insecticides and the parasitic mite Varroa. Once weakened, other diseases then wipe out the hives. The EU voted in 2009 to phase out the most toxic pesticides after years of wrangling, but beekeepers still say politicians ignore them. ((Author Unknown) "Group Sounds Alarm on European Bee Industry," Reuters (4/28/09)).

(External Source Funding of Agriculture) While overall outside assistance to Africa has been rising, most of it has gone to emergency humanitarian aid; only 4% of annual development assistance to Africa is currently devoted to agriculture. That figure was 26% in the late 1980s (08U3).

(External Source Funding of Agriculture) In 2007, more than 30% of overall aid assistance went to emergencies, compared to 4% for agriculture (08U3). Comments: Aid from the U.S. to Africa?

(External Source Funding of Agriculture) The World Bank increased its lending to African agriculture to $700 million in 2008, from $420 million in 2007 (08U3).

(Subsidies for Agriculture) Malawi (in Africa) invests about 10% of its federal budget on agriculture. Probably 60-70% of that money is spent on fertilizer subsidies (08U3). Comments: Fertilizer subsidies in India proved disastrous.

(Farmers' Production Costs) Between the end of WWII and the early 1990s, production costs of U.S. farmers increased from 50% to over 80% of gross farm income (00R1).

(Agricultural Labor Productivity) U.S. farmers average 450 acres and generate more than $50,000/ worker. In China, 95% of farms are less than 5 acres and generate about $1000/ worker (UN data) (08B2).

(Energy-Intensiveness of Agriculture) In the U.S., 400 gallons of oil equivalents are expended annually to feed each American (1994 data -Current figures would probably be significantly larger) (94P4). Comments: The energy intensiveness of agriculture is increasing as a result of increased consumption of chemical fertilizers and increased mechanization (capital intensity).

Agricultural energy consumption is broken down as follows:

(Energy-Intensiveness of Agriculture) Energy costs for packaging, refrigeration, transportation to retail outlets, and household cooking are not considered in these figures (94P4).

(Energy-Intensiveness of Agriculture) Production of one kilogram of nitrogen for fertilizer requires the energy equivalent of from 1.4 to 1.8 liters of diesel fuel. This neglects the natural gas feedstock. (00M1). According to The Fertilizer Institute (http://www.tfi.org), in the year from 6/30/01 until 6/30/02 the U.S. used 12,009,300 short tons of nitrogen fertilizer ("U.S. Fertilizer Use Statistics," http://www.tfi.org/Statistics/U.S.fertuse2.asp) Using the low figure mentioned above of 1.4 liters of diesel-equivalent per kilogram of nitrogen, this equates to an energy content of 15.3 billion liters of diesel fuel, or 96.2 million barrels per year.

(Energy-Intensiveness of Agriculture) In a sense, we are eating fossil fuels (as a result of increasing energy dependence of agriculture). However, there is not a direct correspondence between energy inflow and outflow in agriculture. Along the way, there are marked energy losses. Between 1945 and 1994, energy input to agriculture increased 4-fold, while crop yields only increased 3-fold (94P5). Since then, energy input has continued to increase without a corresponding increase in crop yield. U.S. agriculture is at the point of significantly diminishing marginal returns on energy inputs. Yet, due to soil degradation, increased demands of pest management and increasing energy costs for irrigation, modern agriculture must continue increasing its energy inputs simply to maintain current crop yields (94P5).

See the database listing in Chapter 11, Section (11-F) for a compilation of large databases on tractors per 1000 ha in 2001 and agricultural Labor intensity (workers/ ha.) in 2001 and annual water withdrawals by sector in 2000.

See the database listing in Chapter 11, Section (11-F) for a compilation of large databases on energy consumption per capita.

A large database on national food and agriculture in the Asia- Pacific region is found in Ref. (05F1). It includes economic profiles of countries (total area, area of permanent crops, total population, agricultural population, Total GDP, GNI/ capita, Agricultural GDP, Imports, Exports, Per-capita food intake, Percent of animal products in food intake, Agricultural inputs (Irrigation, Fertilizer, Tractors), Cereal crops, roots and tubers, Pulses, Edible oil crops, Horticultural crops, Fiber crops, Livestock, Agricultural trade, Fisheries, Forestry, Nutrition, Organic farming.)

Approximately 70% of the world's poor live in rural areas with limited livelihood opportunities outside of agriculture (04W1). (in gl99.doc). Comments: As populations grow and lands degrade, and as agriculture grows more capital intensive (less labor-intensive), the surplus labor migrates to the massive slums that ring nearly all of the urban areas in the developing world, causing social, economic, and political instabilities.

Today, in Fillmore County Minnesota, the market price of corn is $1.30 a bushel (05W1). In 1952 corn sold for $2.20 a bushel (05W1). Today in Fillmore Co MN the average cost of producing that bushel of corn is $3.95/ bushel. Most of that $3.95 is to pay for oil and gas. So, society loses $2.65 on every bushel of corn produced (05W1).

(Agriculture's Contribution to GDP) One percent of USAID's budget for Africa went to African agriculture in 2007 (08U3).

(Agriculture's Contribution to GDP) Some 65% of Africans depend on agriculture for a living (08U3).

(Agriculture's Contribution to GDP) Agriculture contributes an estimated 30-40% to Africa's GDP (08U3).

(Agriculture's Contribution to GDP) During 1995-2000 the contribution of agriculture to the Tanzanian economy (in GDP terms) has been around 50%. The ratio of non-monetary** agriculture to all agriculture has been around 44%, underscoring the importance of agricultural production for one's own consumption. This non-monetary contribution is large because most Tanzanian farmers operate small-scale farms that contributed 70-80% to total employment and 55% to Tanzania's foreign exchange in 1998 (04M3). Most of the 3.5 million Tanzanian farming families engage in subsistence cultivation and smallholder cash cropping (04K2). **Non-monetary agriculture is probably agriculture producing food for the farmer's family or for local barter or trade that is not recorded in national economic data.

(Agriculture's Contribution to GDP) In Bangladesh the agriculture sector generates approximately 31% of the GDP, contributes to 24% of export earnings and accounts for 65% of national employment (No author given, http://www.bangladeshgateway.org/topics_bag.php (10/17/2004)).

(Agriculture's Contribution to GDP) Agriculture in Bangladesh contributes 32% to its GDP with 22% from crops ("Integrated Pest Management in Agriculture", The Daily Star (8/31/04)).

(Agriculture's Contribution to GDP) Agriculture supports almost 80% of Kenya's population (01U4).

(Agriculture's Contribution to GDP) The role of agricultural land as a resource contributing to human welfare, as the latter is conventionally measured by GDP, has been on the decline. Johnson (1997) says, "Agricultural land now accounts for no more than 1.5% of the resources of industrial nations" (03B3). Comments: If agricultural surpluses disappear, this fraction would have to increase greatly due to the very small elasticity in food demand.

(Agriculture's Contribution to GDP) The agriculture of Russia produces 30% of the national income (1996-1997). About 15% of the Russian population engaged in the national economy work in the agricultural sector. More than 2,500 agricultural enterprises, among which privately owned enterprises prevail (70%), have been registered. Currently, most of Russia's population (about 70-80%) is involved in individual gardening and trucking (Reference apparently lost - 2005 or before).

(Agriculture's Contribution to GDP) Agriculture supports almost 80% of Kenya's population (01U1). Terracing has failed in many places, including Haiti, because it is too expensive for most farmers (04K1).

A key challenge facing the agriculture sector in Bangladesh is shortage of land. Rapid growth in rural population and the resulting fragmentation of land holdings implies that farm sizes are diminishing (No author given, http://www.bangladeshgateway.org/topics_bag.php (10/17/2004)).

Quotation from The Economist (9/21/01): "A slump in the price of coffee is adding to economic misery in Latin America. In Nicaragua, coffee pickers with malnourished children beg for food at the roadside. In Peru, some families have abandoned their land, while others have switched to growing drug crops in search of cash, just as they have in Colombia. From Mexico to Brazil, tens of thousands of rural laborers have been laid off, swelling the peripheries of urban areas in a desperate search for work" (01O2).

At the same time, consumers are not getting much benefit from such price declines since retail prices in the main consuming countries have fallen by only a small fraction of the corresponding declines in the world price of coffee beans (01O2) (Figure 5). At the same time, coffee producers are getting prices below the world price and only a minuscule part of the retail price of coffee. These large gaps and difference in the behavior between world trade prices and those received by producers or paid by the consumers are said to reflect, inter alia, the dominance of the world coffee trade by a few giant multinational companies (see Chapter 10, Box 10.2 in (03A1)). The relative position of producers has worsened following the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement in 1989. In the pre-1989 period producers were getting around 20% of the total income generated by the coffee industry and importing country operators around 50%. It is estimated that after 1989 the shares shifted dramatically in favor of the latter (03A1).

(Water-Intensiveness of Agriculture) The production of 1 pound of maize requires 1400 pounds (175 gallons) of water (94P4).

(Agriculture-related Monopolies) In Canada, three companies control over 70% of fertilizer sales, 5 banks provide the vast majority of agricultural credit, 2 companies control over 70% of beef packing, 4 companies mill 80% of the wheat, and 5 companies dominate food retailing (National Farmers' Union (Canada), "The Farm Crisis, EU Subsidies, and Agribusiness Market Power", presentation to the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (2/17/00)).

An estimated 1.8 billion people in developing nations live in forests and woodlands, arid regions, steeply sloping hillsides, or other lands unsuitable for modern food production (Norman Uphoff, "Challenges Facing World Agriculture in Our New Century", in Norman Uphoff, editor, Agro-ecological Innovations: Increasing Food Production with Participatory Development, London, Earthscan (2002?). Comments: The population of the Developing World in 2000 was around 4.9 billion, so this gives us an idea on how much farther the mechanization of developing world agriculture has to go - and on how many more people need to be crowded into the slums surrounding most cities of the developing world.

In 1950, American farmers received over 50% of the average dollar than Americans spend of food. By 1997 they were getting 7%. The vast majority of the money now goes to food processors, food marketers and agriculture input supplies (Brian Halweil, "Farming in the Public Interest", in Linda Starke, editor, State of the World 2002, W.W. Norton & Co., New York (2002) pp. 51-76).

Global labor force engaged in agriculture: in 1996 2.5 billion people - 44% of the world's population were living in households dependent on agriculture. The labor force directly engaged in agriculture is 1.3 billion - 46% of the world's labor force. In North America, 2.4% of the labor force is directly engaged in agriculture. In East, South and southwest Asia and in Sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural labor accounts for 56-65% of the labor force (FAO, "Statistical Databases" Online at http://apps.fao.org (2000)) (00F1).

Go to top of this Part 10-E-k )
Go to
Home Page of this entire web site

Part [El] ~ Conversion of Labor-Intensive Agriculture to Capital-Intensive Agriculture in Developing Nations.

Percent of Global Workforce Employed in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in 2001 (FAO (2004) pp. 169-174 Table A4): (See World Resources 2005, World Resources Institute, (2005) p.10 http://pdf.wri.org/wrr05_full.pdf (14.6 MB, 228 pp.)). (This document is in D:\Sustainability\wrr05_full.pdf) (No more data than this is given)


WORLD ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ | ~44



ASIA & PACIFIC~ ~ ~ | ~60

~-~Cambodia ~ ~ ~ ~ | ~70

~-~China~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ | ~67

~-~India~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ | ~59

~-~Nepal~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ | ~93


~-~Bolivia~ ~ ~ ~ ~ | ~44

~-~Guatemala~ ~ ~ ~ | ~45

~-~Haiti~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ | ~62


~-~Afghanistan~ ~ ~ | ~67

~-~Turkey ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ | ~45

~-~Yemen~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ | ~50


~-~Burkina Faso ~ ~ | ~92

~-~Ethopia~ ~ ~ ~ ~ | ~82

~-~Niger~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ | ~88

~-~Tanzania ~ ~ ~ ~ | ~80


~-~Albania~ ~ ~ ~ ~ | ~48

~-~Tajikistan ~ ~ ~ | ~33

The largest land fund in southern Africa (financed by developed world capital) owns 1500 km2 of (crop)land, mainly in South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique. The fund pays $35,000-$50,000/ km2 in Zambia (about 10% of the price of (crop)land in Argentina or the U.S.) (09K1).

US investment management company BlackRock has established a $200 million agriculture fund and has earmarked $30 million of this fund to acquisition of farmland in capital-starved developing nations (09K1).

Renaissance Capital (a Russian investment company) has acquired more than 1,000 km2 in Ukraine (09K1).

Governments like South Korea, oil-rich Gulf States, Kuwait, Egypt and South Africa are also acquiring land in other countries - invariably capital-starved developing nations (09K1).

In Mozambique, foreign demand for cropland is more than double the existing cultivated farmland, and the Mozambique government has allocated 40,000 km2 to investors. Half of these investors are from abroad, e.g. South Korea that is capital-rich but land-poor (09K1).

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) estimates that 300,000 km2 of the world's land is at stake in the global rush by investors, hedge funds, and governments to purchase cropland. The World Bank estimates that 10 to 30% of the world's available arable land could be up for grabs (09K1).

The Ethiopian prime minister said that Ethiopia is "eager" to provide access to thousands of km2 of farmland (09K1).

The Turkish agriculture minister announced "Choose and take what you want." (09K1)

The Sudanese government leased 15,000 km2 of prime farmland to the oil-rich, water-poor Gulf States, Egypt and capital-rich, land-poor South Korea for 99 years. (Sudan is the world's largest recipient of foreign aid, with 5.6 million Sudanese dependent on food imports.) (09K1)

Northern Sudan's huge commercial farms have been blamed for fueling conflict, driving small farmers off the land and into menial jobs, environmental degradation and human rights abuses, I.e into the "informal economy," about the only sector of the economy in most developing nations that is growing (08U2). (See my ie.html document on my website for further details.) Comments: The conversion of labor-intensive agriculture to capital-intensive agriculture is one of the three main causes driving developing world farmers into the slums ringing major urban centers. There they become part of the "informal" economy where day-to-day survival is a challenge.

An American business leases 4,000 km2 of prime farmland in the southern part of capital-starved, food-deficient Sudan (09K1).

Oil-rich Kuwait has leased 1,300 km2 of rice fields in poverty-stricken Cambodia (09K1).

Egypt plans to grow wheat and corn on 8,400 km2 in Uganda (09K1).

The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo offered to lease 100,000 km2 to South Africa. (South Africa is the only sub Saharan African nation that produces a food surplus.) (09K1)

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia grows rice in hunger-stricken Ethiopia for consumption by Saudis (09K1).

The World Bank estimates that only 2 to 10% of the land in Africa is formally owned or leased, and most of that land is in urban areas. So a typical African farmer may have lived on, or occupied, a piece of land for decades without having any proof of ownership. This makes his land easy for a capital-rich nation to acquire at little or no cost. Because more than 50% of Africans are small farmers, large-scale land acquisition by wealthy foreign nations can be disastrous for the farmers over a wide area. Those who lose their fields lose everything, and can't even afford to buy the food produced by the capital-intensive agriculture on the land they were forced off of (09K1).

Go to Top of this Review's Appendices (units, conversions, definitions)
Go to
Top of this Review's Reference List
Go to
Topsoil Loss-Causes, Effects, Implications (Table of Contents)
Go to
Home Page of this entire web site