a1 Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS, Box 459, Mandan, ND 58554, USA.
a2 Application and Production Technology Research Unit, Jamie Whitten Delta States Research Center, 141 Experiment Station Road, Stoneville, MS 38776, USA.
a3 North Central Soil Conservation Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS, 803 Iowa Avenue, Morris, MN 56267, USA.
a4 New England Plant, Soil and Water Research Laboratory USDA-ARS, Room 21, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA.
During the 20th century, American agriculture underwent dramatic changes. At the beginning, farms were more diverse, dependent on animal traction, on-farm inputs and income and, after initial land grants, nearly independent of government policy. However, external issues, such as government policies, mechanization, fossil fuel costs, increased consolidation and vertical integration of markets and increased societal awareness of the environment and concern with farming practices, have substantially altered the structure of agriculture. These external issues are significant drivers of agriculture and we grouped them into social/political, economic, environmental and technological drivers. Previous papers have examined specific effects of these drivers. Our objective is to examine how these drivers interact and influence today's agricultural systems. We developed four categories: (1) Commodity Crop Production, (2) Supply Chain Livestock Production, (3) Organic Production and (4) Extensive Livestock Production, to describe major current agricultural systems. These categories were developed as major and contrasting systems but do not represent all of American agriculture. Although it is not possible to predict the future, interactions among the various drivers will affect these systems differently. By examining multiple scenarios, we conclude the highly specialized systems (Nos. 1 and 2) are highly vulnerable to future changes, and that developing adaptive capacity is critical for dealing with new uncertainty. Sustainable agricultural systems will need balance among various domains to be able to adapt and survive. We suggest that the concept of dynamic-integrated agricultural systems may be the best way to meet this goal because of its ability to consider multiple goals and flexible producer decision-making.
(Accepted July 13 2007)
(Online publication July 04 2008)