Technology - economic - policy change

Date of publication: June 15, 1992

Author: John J. North


This paper examines the role of some of the determinants of future changes in farming systems, production methods and agricultural land use. It draws heavily on the results of a study carried out on land use in the UK on the timescale 1985 - 2015. Assessments of the potential improvements in productivity arising from the uptake of new technologies are made, as technology is likely to continue as a catalyst and determinant of change. Consumer demands and public opinion will have an increasing influence on the choice and deployment of technologies on farms. Government legislation and policies, market requirements will reflect many of these demands. In the past, improvements in productivity have arisen from the restructuring of farming, the forecasts assume that this would occur along with the uptake of appropriate technologies due to the influence of economic forces. Policies could slow this process and delay the resulting improvements in productivity lor social, environmental or other reasons. The two land budget scenarios presented reflect the probable extremes and the resultant land use patterns for the UK. Both show a reduction in resource use and changes in the levels of inputs from 1985. The effects on costs of production have also been estimated. Resources in terms of land, labour and capital will be removed from food production in order to balance supply and demand, there will be large reductions in the number of food producing animals on farms and a reduction in the quantities of fertiliser and pesticides used. Food production is likely to be concentrated on fewer and larger farms which will tend to be specialised. An attempt to quantify some of the changes for cereals and dairying in the EC is made.

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