Agricultural Productivity and the Environment

Agricultural productivity and the environment was the focus of a March 11-12, 2015, workshop organized by Farm Foundation, NFP, Global Harvest Initiative and USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS).

This workshop featured researchers from around the world who are working on issues of agricultural productivity, and specifically, how technological changes that result in the growth of agricultural productivity may influence the environment and natural resources.

Technological changes which drive agricultural productivity growth may affect the environment in both positive and negative ways. For example, technological change that requires more intensive use of fertilizer and chemical inputs may generate more pollution of water bodies or greater loss of biodiversity. On the other hand, technological change that raises crop yields may improve efficiency of nutrient and water use and save non-agricultural land from conversion to farmland.  Much of the ongoing debate over the sustainability of agriculture revolves around divergent beliefs about the implications of productivity growth for the environment. Yet there is limited understanding of how technological change and productivity growth in agriculture affect environmental outcomes.

At the workshop, leading economic researchers examined the latest research on how productivity growth and technological change affect environmental resources.
Papers and presentations are posted here as authors permit.

Welcome/Opening Remarks: Mary Bohman, Administrator, USDA Economic Research Service

Session 1 – Accounting for the Environment in Metrics of Agricultural Productivity
Measuring agricultural impacts using multiple measures: A meta-analysis
Tim Benton, United Kingdom’s Global Food Security Programme, and the University of Leeds

Valuing the effects of agricultural practices on ecosystem services
Stephen Polasky, University of Minnesota

Agri-environmental indicators and environmentally-adjusted agricultural tool factors productivity: Evidence from OECD countries
Julien Hardelin, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris

Social, economic and environmental value of agricultural productivity in the European Union
Harald Von Witzke, Humboldt University, Berlin

Session II – Environmental Implications of the Rising Global Demand for Animal Protein
Future of global livestock systems and the environment
Hugo Valin, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria

Adding aquaculture to the global food portfolio: Implications for the environment and resources
Max Troell, Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm

Session III – Land Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Effects of agricultural technological progress on deforestation: What do we really know?
Nelson Villaria, Purdue University

Impact of agricultural productivity gains on land use and greenhouse gas emissions
Ron Sands, USDA Economic Research Service

Session IV – Nutrient Balances
Agricultural N and P balances: What do they tell us?
Mark B. David, University of Illinois

Benefits and costs of reducing excess nutrients from agriculture
Marc Ribaudo, USDA Economic Research Service

Session V – Water
Crop water productivity and water gaps: Quantifying benefits of increasing crop per drop in global agriculture
Kate Brauman, Institute for the Environment, University of Minnesota

Climate change and water sue efficiency in field crops: Implications for agricultural adaptation in the United States
Liz Marshall, USDA Economic Research Service 

Session VI – Soil Health
Measuring and evaluating soil health in Africa
Ermias Betemariam Aynekulu, World Agrofroestry Centre, Nairobi

Agricultural productivity and carbon balances
Carlo Azzarri and Ho-Young Kwon, International Food Policy Research Institute

Wrap-up Session: Tim Benton, University of Leeds


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