Population And Agricultural Change

The population of rural and agricultural areas in the United States declined during much of the 20th century, in part due to agricultural mechanization and farm consolidation reducing the number of U.S. farms and the population residing on farms. Beginning in the 1970s, the historic trend of rural and nonmetropolitan decline reversed as many rural areas in the United States began to experience population growth, especially those regions located near urban population centers.[1] Employment opportunities in nonagricultural industries, improved transportation and communications, and a growing preference of urbanites and suburbanites for open space and rural living contributed to this population growth.[2] The loss of farmland has been one of the leading concerns associated with this pattern of population change,[1] but perhaps a more serious concern for the livestock sector is the implication of increasing nonfarm development near or amidst livestock production.

Even as rural places have become attractive to nonfarm residents, the structure of agriculture has continued to evolve from a production system dominated by family farms to a system of increasingly large, market-oriented agribusinesses.1-3-1 In the case of livestock production, one outcome has been the development of technologies and marketing systems that enable much larger production facilities. The development of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in some communities and neighborhoods, the growing number of nonfarmers living in these open-country communities and neighborhoods, and the real or perceived negative impacts associated with CAFOs have all contributed to increasing conflict and debate concerning the permitting, regulating, and monitoring of livestock production facilities.

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