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by NR Editors

More Food, Fewer Farmers
Robert D. Atkinson’s piece “In Defense of Robots” (April 17) made me reflect on the great impact that advances in technology have had on my own field, agriculture. The labor requirements for crop production have been markedly reduced, and crop productivity greatly increased.

In the 1930s, some 30 percent of our population worked in agriculture. Now it is less than 2 percent. My family farmed cotton, corn, and hay, and had beef cattle and milk cows. According to Mississippi State University ag economists, in 1940, 145 hours of human labor were required to produce an acre of cotton with mules, hoes for weed control, and hand harvesting. This time was concentrated in about three months in spring to start and weed the crop and two months in autumn for harvest. A family could handle only ten to fifteen acres of cotton. Income was quite limited, although the typical farm family produced much of its food from a garden and some chickens and milk cows.

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