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The Almighty Buck News

After 10,000 Years, Farming No Longer Dominates 332

Posted by kdawson
from the long-row-to-hoe dept.
Peter S. Magnusson writes "As reported widely in business and mainstream press, the ILO recently released world market employment statistics. Most outlets focused on US economic competitiveness vs. China and Europe. Few noticed the gem hidden away in the ILO report: for the first time since the invention of agriculture, farming is not the biggest sector of the global economy — services is. (Aggregate employment numbers often divide the economy into agriculture, industry, and services.) Workers are now moving directly from agriculture to services, bypassing the traditional route of manufacturing."
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After 10,000 Years, Farming No Longer Dominates

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  • by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdotNO@SPAMexit0.us> on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @01:07PM (#20481657) Homepage
    ...once you take land out of agricultural use, it is never used for agriculture again. By that I mean the growing of crops. Once a building is there, that's it.
    • by AuMatar (183847)
      So? We only need to increase the food supply if the population grows. Something we need to stop anyway- western lifestyles aren't sustainable to 6 billion, much less 10.
    • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @01:21PM (#20481879) Homepage Journal
      Not necessarily. You can always put a green roof on the building. You can also use corner offices for greenhouses. Especially Southwest and Southeast corners.

      What really disturbs me though is that we've gone from a race of creators, creating goods with agriculture or manufacturing, to a world wide economy of McJobs that pay minimum wage and create NOTHING.
      • No, you've missed the transition. It now takes such a small portion of human output to feed, clothe, and house said humans that entire industries have been created from scatch to "enhance" our lives. Don't think of it as so many useless things we consume, but that it takes so little effort to provide the basic necessities.

        Over the course of human history, it has been the same tale of minimum wages - those at the top of the money ladder consume and provide jobs for those at the bottom. Many view this situat
        • No, you've missed the transition. It now takes such a small portion of human output to feed, clothe, and house said humans that entire industries have been created from scatch to "enhance" our lives. Don't think of it as so many useless things we consume, but that it takes so little effort to provide the basic necessities.

          I'd believe that if the majority of the human species wasn't struggling to survive. But I suppose, that's more of a resource allocation problem than a resource production problem is wha
      • Not necessarily. You can always put a green roof on the building. You can also use corner offices for greenhouses. Especially Southwest and Southeast corners.

        I was thinking of green roofs, but corner office green houses had not occurred to me. I would like to add the backyard victory gardens of World War 2 as well.
      • by paladinwannabe2 (889776) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @02:19PM (#20482853)
        Our entertainers, doctors and teachers all count as 'service' jobs. So are the graphic artists who design our toys and the advertisers who sell them to us. So are the truckers that bring us our food, the McMinions that cook it for us, and the lawyers that sue for us when we eat too much of it. Just because someone's in a 'service' job doesn't mean they aren't useful, valued, and improve the human condition. It also certainly doesn't mean they make minimum wage. (Sure, the McMinions will make minimum wage, but it's not like the assembly line workers or grunt farmers are doing any better for themselves).
        • Our entertainers, doctors and teachers all count as 'service' jobs. So are the graphic artists who design our toys and the advertisers who sell them to us. So are the truckers that bring us our food, the McMinions that cook it for us, and the lawyers that sue for us when we eat too much of it.

          None of which actually CREATE goods- they just mess up the market with unproductive activities that are better done by government.

          Just because someone's in a 'service' job doesn't mean they aren't useful, valued,
          • by j-pimp (177072)

            Our entertainers, doctors and teachers all count as 'service' jobs. So are the graphic artists who design our toys and the advertisers who sell them to us. So are the truckers that bring us our food, the McMinions that cook it for us, and the lawyers that sue for us when we eat too much of it.

            None of which actually CREATE goods- they just mess up the market with unproductive activities that are better done by government.

            So you want the government driving trucks? And getting the corn from the farm to NYC is not productive? There not doing such a great job with Amtrak. Put aside the lawyers for a minute, all of these people provide real value.

            • So you want the government driving trucks?

              Better than that- I want the government running railroads! Actually, the government might not drive the truck, but they spent over $2 million/mile to give that truck a road to run on....

              And getting the corn from the farm to NYC is not productive?

              For two reasons- one is that it's usually more efficient to put the people where the food is rather than trucking it hundreds of miles, and the other questioning whether ANYTHING goes on in NYC that is actually produc
              • Better than that- I want the government running railroads! Actually, the government might not drive the truck, but they spent over $2 million/mile to give that truck a road to run on....

                That's an interesting statistic. That would mean the government spent 8 Trillion on our highways alone, which is probably what you are referring to. The rest of our road system doesn't cost nearly as much. You can pave a road pretty cheaply.

                And getting the corn from the farm to NYC is not productive?
                For two re
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by FooAtWFU (699187)

        What really disturbs me though is that we've gone from a race of creators, creating goods with agriculture or manufacturing, to a world wide economy of McJobs that pay minimum wage and create NOTHING.

        I don't think subsistence agriculture is all that grand of an exercise in Creation. Likewise, the industrial factory job, 9-to-5 shift, doing the same thing over and over again, that would make up the bulk of an assembly line.... is more mind-numbing than "creative". The engineers behind these things may have been great Creators, but not the workers. As such, I'm hard-pressed to find something intrinsically wrong (for the workers) with the typical job moving from the one set to the other. Perhaps you can

    • by Gospodin (547743)

      ...once you take land out of agricultural use, it is never used for agriculture again.

      What the heck are you talking about? This may be true in practice, but that's only because we're vastly more efficient growing crops than we've ever been before... which is what this article is about. This isn't bad news, for crying out loud!

      It certainly isn't true in principle that once a building goes up, that's it for agriculture for that city block. So what's the problem?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Not completely true...

      The glorious thing about having an economy is that the value of using that land as building space versus using it as farmland is openly weighed. One may tend to think that once a building is up, it's there to stay because in our economy, plant output has been getting progressively more efficient so the demand for farmland is slowly decreasing. This is why buildings that are put up tend to stay up. If we lived in a society where the demand for veggies was increasing and the only way t
      • Except that the value of things is not, unlike some Libertarians like to think, totally contemplated within the market. You think if farmland's expensive, buildings will be torn down? I'd say, forests and other natural ecosystems will be torn down WAY before buildings are! Have you looked at the Amazon recently?

        The fact remains, continued growth of the population will result in the destruction of fragile ecosystems long before it makes an impact (at least in the short term) to city dwellers. It's not like

    • by be951 (772934)
      To me, the sad thing is that the article is about the number of people working in the different categories (agriculture, industry, services) and says nothing about land use. Yet you've spawned a whole thread of people bemoaning (mostly) the loss of agricultural land and diminished food production, neither of which is supported by the article -- and may not even be accurate (a quick google search didn't turn up anything to that effect).
    • by nurb432 (527695)
      That doesn't hold true if you give it enough time. A lot of cities fall to ruin over time and are returned to the land, in time.

      I also bet that once we start running out of food due to 'progress', buildings will be coming down anyway. More 'land' will be available for farming after the revolution, and building burnings.
    • by Surt (22457)
      Which is sad because there is nothing better to do with land than growing crops?
      And it's also not strictly true. There are places in the world that have been built on, and had the buildings torn down later to make room for farming and other uses.
    • Certain areas of New Orleans are a counter-example.

      Seriously, most buildings deteriorate into nothing with 100 years of inattention.
  • Iceage (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sragonal (1141621)
    Over 10.000 years there wil be an iceage... no, farming will not dominate then.
  • by EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @01:21PM (#20481881)
    Here's the important info, from the actual report: Here (PDF) [ilo.org]

    You'll note, from this article:

    Caution should be used, however, where the information refers only to employees or only to urban areas. For some years in certain countries, the sectoral information relates only to urban areas, so that little or no agricultural work is recorded.
    Also, there is no data culled for the vast majority of African nations, where the sector of choice would be agriculture. So, to sum it up - your blog about the rise of services vs. agriculture could only be considered partially correct, at best.
  • by unfunk (804468)
    bu bu bu... God only created the earth 6,000 years ago!
  • By definition, we all still need food. Agriculture may have fallen behind but the decline has been happening since mechanisation but we are still eating. The cost of food at the farm gate has fallen, the value added bit of the chain moving more and more to the processing and manufacture of food items. I can't find an easy way of looking at the food sector as a whole from farm (or vat for that matter) through to supermarket but it must remain massive.
    • by Gospodin (547743)

      Agriculture may have fallen behind...

      The cost of food at the farm gate has fallen...

      Do you not see the inconsistency here? If prices have fallen, it's because supply is becoming ever more efficient and is outstripping demand. So in what sense has agriculture "fallen behind"?

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Do you not see the inconsistency here? If prices have fallen, it's because supply is becoming ever more efficient and is outstripping demand. So in what sense has agriculture "fallen behind"?

        Supply is becoming efficient in a limited way, but not on a wide scale. Most of these savings are economies of scale, or cheap imported produce.

        Large scale industrial farming generates a large amount of food available relatively cheaply. But, it's effectively off-shoring of your agriculture. It's cheap because a coun

        • by Gospodin (547743)

          Large scale industrial farming generates a large amount of food available relatively cheaply. But, it's effectively off-shoring of your agriculture. It's cheap because a country with lower labour costs is producing it for you.

          If this were true, how would it explain the fact that countries with among the highest labor costs in the world (USA and Canada, to name two) are enormous exporters of food, while lots of countries with low labor costs (the African countries, for example) are net importers?

          It's cer

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gurps_npc (621217)
      Part of what is going on by the way is a 'redefining' into Service.

      What is the difference between cleaning a shirt and sewing a shirt. Both take raw material ("cloth") and turn it into the same product (clean shirt). But because the sewing typically involved purchasing the shirt and reselling it instead of simply 'taking possesion' of it and returning it, it is considered 'industry' while the cleaning is considered 'service'.

      Similarly, there are a whole lot of "service" industries related to agricultu

  • by curmudgeous (710771) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @01:28PM (#20482017)
    Yes, I did RTFA, and I think the following is only one example in the blog of why one should proofread one's works or at least get an editor to do so.

    (sic) "If you licked this posting, then please click here..."

    I don't know about the rest of you, but I've never felt the urge to lick someone's blog.
    • by svendsen (1029716)
      I dunno when I see Bill O'reily's blog I want to lick it all over like a lolly pop....

      I just threw up...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @01:34PM (#20482097)
    As long as games like WoW exist.

    Farming will always be there.
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @01:41PM (#20482237) Journal
    Sure - we have the luxury of a service economy because we have a huge amount of oil that permits things like fertiliser and pesticides and trucks to move food and all that crap.

    Once we start sliding down the back end of the depletion curve, fertiliser will become increasingly expensive, as will pesticides. Farming will become more labour intensive, and farming will, again, dominate the economy, as it always has and always will.

    Enjoy living in Atlantis, while you can.

    RS

  • by abb3w (696381) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @01:42PM (#20482247) Journal
    Semi-seriously. I'm not sure the services-dominant model is sustainable.
    • "Semi-seriously. I'm not sure the services-dominant model is sustainable."

      Well you could find out on your own, but for a moderate fee I could find out for you!
    • by Empiric (675968)
      And for good reason. "Services" produces no significant value multiplier to time. Money (actual monetary value, not fiat paper) comes from value multipliers to time.

      Nation of industry = wealth, nation of services = bankruptcy.

      • by abb3w (696381)

        "Services" produces no significant value multiplier to time. Money (actual monetary value, not fiat paper) comes from value multipliers to time.

        Mmmm... even ignoring the secondary assertion (I've yet to hear an explanation of money that rings completely true), it can sometimes. Engineering design work is a form of service good, which results in development of items that can give considerable time savings. Develop a better mousetrap, spend less time chasing mice. Even if I don't build any mousetraps myse

    • by Dunbal (464142)
      Also for a modest sum I can contradict whatever decipher_saint says. In court, if needed.
    • by Colin Smith (2679)

      Semi-seriously. I'm not sure the services-dominant model is sustainable.
      It's not. It's a temporary solution until the dollar devalues to a reasonable level. Then it'll be reasonable to hire Americans again.

       
    • Semi-seriously. I'm not sure the services-dominant model is sustainable.

      Hasn't the West had a services-dominant economy for the past 40 years? In Canada [statcan.ca], Goods-producing industries: $336e9, Services-producing industries: $781e9 (Jun 2007, using 1997 CA$). If you are a university student, take a course in macroeconomics. It's very interesting stuff (unlike microeconomics).

  • by Baldrson (78598) *
    People think "the services sector" is something new in civilization, but they forget the oldest profession: prostitution.

    Almost as soon as there were cities, there were temple prostitutes who, along with grain, formed the backing for much of the early currencies. These days the temple [google.com] is returning to "services" for backing of the value of its currency, but we must ask ourselves one simple question:

    When subsistence agrarians are cut off from their lands through centralized land ownership, and wealth is

  • by cats-paw (34890) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @01:43PM (#20482275) Homepage
    fewer people making food makes the agricultural system more sensitive to disruption whether due to political upheaval, new and exciting crop pests, weather misfortunes, etc... Many folks on slashdot realize the advantages of decentralized, i.e. distributed systems, and it's an especially good thing for food production.

    Also, the argicultural "miracle" we are currently seeing, is borrowing from the future to pay for itself in terms of environmental damage. You should really be worried when growing food hurts the environment, it really shouldn't be that way.
    • by hey! (33014)

      less agricultural folks is NOT a good thing...

      ... ceteris paribus, which they never are.

      People have been raiding livestock, burning crops, and salting fields since the dawn of time. And it has certainly been "disruptive". Upheaval continues to be disruptive, but these days the disruption is limited to subsistence farmers who become refugees. The further up on the economic scale you are, the more wealth you have sitting in spreadsheet somewhere that can be exchanged for real goods like food from far aw

  • Something like three percent of the US population produces and processes enough food fo r the entire US population, when it took 70% when the country was founded. Thanks to technology, non-renewable energy, and better business organization. Farmers use GPS, Google Maps, wireless, spreadsheets, etc. to manage their operations now.
    • Something like three percent of the US population produces and processes enough food fo r the entire US population, when it took 70% when the country was founded. Thanks to technology, non-renewable energy, and better business organization. Farmers use GPS, Google Maps, wireless, spreadsheets, etc. to manage their operations now.

      Which prompts the question, what do the other 97% of the population are doing? Supervise? 'cause it doesn't appear the US ``produces'' much of anything now a days (besides...food).
  • The Third Wave (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @01:48PM (#20482337) Homepage Journal
    Read Alvin Toffler's 1980 book _The Third Wave [wikipedia.org]_ which predicted with uncanny accuracy just how this would play out. Stay ahead of the next 10,000 years.
  • by aquatone282 (905179) * on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @02:33PM (#20483083)

    Get up at 4:00 a.m., slop the pigs, milk the cows, brush the horses, feed the chickens, cook breakfast, eat breakfast, hook up a plow to the tractor, plow the north 40 acres, meet the vet to see that sick heifer, drive to town and plead for another loan, buy feed for the animals and groceries for the family, drive home, cook dinner, eat dinner, pay bills, balance the checkbook, go to bed (9:00 p.m.)

    Then get up the next day and repeat. And continue to repeat for two weeks (except Sundays - go to the church of your choice on Sunday and pray to God you survive another year). Then come back and complain.

  • With the increase in automation (read: robotics) the price of food will drop and subsequently the profit.

    Extrapolating into the future, perhaps farms will be (almost) completely automatic. Everything will drop in price when automation is put into play. This is what I see as the cause.
  • For now ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @05:51PM (#20486643)
    After 10,000 Years, Farming No Longer Dominates

    A temporary aberration. After the Great Collapse of 2027, everybody that survived was learning how to grow food again.

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