What are the trends in agricultural production and natural resource consumption over recent decades?

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Agricultural production and output in the United States has doubled since 1948, but it has slowed over the last several decades. One reason for this could be that world population growth has also been slowing—now at its slowest growth rate since the 1950s. Another contributing factor could be changing dietary trends, which have shifted significantly over the past several years.

Although some crops are declining, others are beginning to thrive, owing to demand both domestically and internationally. For example, soybeans have become a highly profitable export crop of the American agricultural industry. Since 1990, it has grown in size by roughly 20 million acres. Corn is also growing, but at a much slower rate. Wheat, on the other hand, has declined at about the same rate as soybeans have grown.

The United States's agricultural export sector is a great place to look to see who is buying crops. As of 2017, China, Canada, and Mexico are the three top importers of American crops. China buys 19.6 billion, Canada buys around 20.5 billion, and Mexico buys about 18.6 billion. The rest of the world accounts for 79.7 billion.

The last few decades have also seen dramatic changes in the United States's consumption of natural resources. The shift in demand for certain natural resources is evident in the production and consumption of coal. Coal production was on the rise from the 1970s to the 1990s, but it has declined greatly over the last two decades. The US Energy Information Administration projects coal production will shrink to a 40-year low by 2020, owing to coal's inability to gain a foothold in a market dominated by natural gas.

Another important issue to note is the rise in another form of resource in recent years: renewables. Renewable resources are characterized by materials that have already been bought and consumed but can be recycled and reused. In the last decade and a half, renewable resources have seen a greater increase than any other resource. This is a result of increased efforts to reduce the negative effects that trends in the production and consumption of resources has had on the environment.

There are different countries that import different kinds of American natural resources. Coal, for instance, is imported primarily by Asian nations. India accounts for 12% of coal exports in the US and Japan accounts for 8%. As of 2017, the United States became a net exporter in natural gas as well, with the majority of this resource going to Canada and Mexico. It is projected that Mexico will increase its natural gas consumption by 50%, due to the pipelines currently being built throughout the United States.

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