Agriculture has been a major component of the United States economy ever since colonial days, when 9 out of 10 working persons were employed on a farm. Produclivity of American agriculture has tripled since then, and today only 3 percent of our labor force produces enough food and fiber to meet domestic needs as well as supplying about 10 percent of total overseas consumption. This huge increase in efficiency has been the result of many factors, including use of fertilizer, and pesticides, introduction of farm machinery, development of hybrid strains, and increased knowledge about farm management practices. As agriculture has become more intensive, farmers have become capable of producing higher yields using less labor and less land. Intensification of agriculture has not, however, been an unmixed blessing. Environmental impacts have increased, including potential degradation of the soil and water resources vital to both farm productivity and human health. Such environmental problems can best be understood by tracing their evolution through the history of farming in this country. (more...)
Herb Webb (left), NRCS Resource Conservationist, Flathead Indian Reservation Tribal Complex, Pablo, MT, and Joel Clairmont, tribal member, local extension agent, grain, hay, and cattle producer, discuss the quality of alfalfa he is about to bale.