• Steven C. Blank

    1. Blank: Extension Economist, Agricultural and Resource Economics Department, and Member, Giannini Research Foundation, University of California, Davis, CA 95616. E-mail sblank@primal.ucdavis.edu
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      This is a revision of an invited paper presented at the joint Western Economics Association Inter-national/Western Agricultural Economics Association annual meeting, Vancouver, British Columbia, July 1, 2000. The author is grateful for helpful comments by three anonymous reviewers.


This article outlines some of the biggest economic issues threatening the long-term survival of American farming and ranching. In general, the threats are derived from the intersection of global and local scales of decision making. International economic development, personal finance decisions, and political, social, and environmental issues are all part of the portfolio of threats. At the top of the list of threats is the bottom line. Profit margins are being squeezed, causing producers to diversify out of agriculture to earn sufficient returns to enable them to remain in agriculture as long as possible. American policy is expected to allow agriculture to continue shrinking because (1) the sector is losing its comparative advantage, and (2) it may become a deadweight loss to the economy.