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Over the last two hundred years the population of the world has increased greatly.
Agriculture and farming have gone through many changes as a result of increased population,
evolving technology, and the need for more efficient crop production. Without these changes to
the agriculture industry, the current population could not be supported. These changes have had
dramatic impacts on food production and farmers that support it.
The population of the world in 1900 was 1.6 billion. Today the population is 7.6 billion
and is estimated to be 9.7 billion by 2050. The United States had a population of 76,094,000 in
1900, excluding the population of Alaska and Hawaii. The current United States population is
325,498,801 and makes up 4.3% of the world population. Texas is the second largest state in size
behind Alaska and had a population of 3,048,710 in 1900. Texas ranks second in the United
States for population and is estimated to be at 28.3 million today.
In the early to mid 1900’s, farmers relied only on human and animal workers to run the
farm. Farmers accounted for 38% of the work force in the United States. Agriculture was
becoming a big business and was 58% of exports. By 1950, machines and technology began
making farm life more efficient. There were things like milking machines and tractors to make
daily chores easier. Due to the introduction of machinery the number of farmers dropped to less
than a fifth of all workers. Today agricultural technology is so advanced, farming is now
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primarily a corporate business and hardly resembles the 1900’s farm life. The number of farmers
today makes up less than 2% of the population. Even with the growth of population over the last
200 years the number of farmers in comparison to 1900 has declined.
The significant growth of the global population in the 20th century forced farming
practices to change to keep up with the demand. The decreasing number of family farms now
must compete with industrial farms to stay in business. Agriculture and farming machinery now
takes the place of farm workers. The way in which animals are raised has changed too.
Antibiotics are widely used for protection against loss of livestock and housing of animals is
confined for higher production with less space needed. Farmers have also had to find new ways
to avoid loss of crops. They have learned how to improve crops for productivity and developed
genetically engineered crops that have higher production with less loss risk. Farmers have
increased the amount of artificial fertilizers and chemical pesticides used to protect their crops.
These changes in farming allow an individual farmer to feed 155 people today compared to
about 7 people in 1900. These changes in farming have also opened a growing area for organic
farming. Many people now want to return to a less industrial way of consuming food that is free
of antibiotics, pesticides, fertilizers, and genetically modified products.
All the advancements in agriculture over the last century have allowed the production of
food to increase to feed the growing world population. An estimated 17% of energy in the United
States is used for agriculture purpose. It is also estimated the 70% of the world’s fresh water is
used for agriculture. Without these resources, we would not be able to support the population and
its continued growth. The changes to farming agriculture will have to continue into the future as
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we continue to solve for population growth, depleting natural resources, and potential climate
change. 

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