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Social and Economic Interactions and the Structure of U.S. Agriculture

‎"Consolidation" and "concentration" are perhaps the most apt words to characterize the structural ‎change in American agricultural production over the past three decades. This change continues ‎today. In 2012 the total number of farms in the US decreased by 11,630 from 2011 and the total land ‎in farms, at 914 million acres, decreased 3 million acres from 2011 (USDA Farms, Land in Farms, and Livestock Operations ‎‎2012 Summary). ‎

The number of farms with hogs in the United States declined from almost 700,000 in 1980 to ‎approximately 68,300 in 2012. At the same time, the percentage of hogs produced by the largest ‎sized farms (greater than 5,000 head inventory) rose from 20 percent of total U.S. production in ‎‎1992 to approximately 62 percent in 2012. Similar statistics also exist for poultry and crop ‎production in the U.S. ‎
Number of Hog Operations
This shift toward larger production units and the substitution of chemical and mechanical inputs for ‎labor have raised a variety of social and economic issues. For example, there are questions ‎concerning the environmental sustainability of modern agricultural production systems. Low ‎product prices, larger government payments to farmers, and increased use of alternative business ‎arrangements such as contracting also have brought into question the economic and social ‎sustainability of the current agricultural industry structure.‎

State governments have traditionally promulgated and enforced environmental policies with ‎respect to farm level production. However, varying political forces across state lines have led to ‎different degrees of regulation and enforcement. There is anecdotal evidence suggesting that ‎such differences are responsible for shifts in livestock production to non-traditional areas (and less ‎regulated) with less stringent regulation and often where there is little or no crop base to utilize ‎the manure nutrients. Such shifts in economic activity may have social and environmental ‎consequences that are not always in society's best interest.‎

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US. USDA. National Agricultural Statistics Service. Farms, Land in Farms, and Livestock Operations ‎‎2012 Summary. N.p., 19 Feb. 2013. Web. ‎‎<http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/current/FarmLandIn/FarmLandIn-02-19-2013.pdf>.‎Exit EPA

Number of Hog Operations. Digital image. USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service., n.d. Web. ‎‎<http://www.nass.usda.gov/Charts_and_Maps/Hogs_and_Pigs/hgoper_e.asp>.‎Exit EPA

‎"Hogs & Pork." USDA, Economic Research Service, n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2013. <http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/animal-‎products/hogs-pork.aspx>.‎
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