Food, Land, Population, and the U.S. Economy


At the present growth rate of 1.1% per year, the United States' population will double to about 560 million in about the next 60 years, if current immigration trends continue. Each year 3 million people are added to the U.S. population. Seventy percent of the United States' annual population growth (and 95% of California's) results from immigration.

Every person leaves an "eco-logical footprint" on the Earth, that amount of land which, assuming it is endowed with an average amount of resources, is necessary to sustain one human being indefinitely. The average American's ecological footprint is about 12 acres, an area far greater than that taken up by one's residence and place of school or work and other places where he or she is. Those 12 additional acres supply the average American with food, fiber, and other resources, as well as capacity for was assimilation and disposal.

Land and Food Production

One acre of natural habitat or farmland is converted to built-up space or highway for each person added to the U.S. population.

More then 99.5% of U.S. food comes from the land, while less than 0.5% comes from aquatic systems.

Of the nearly 470 million acres of arable land that are now in cultivation in the U.S., more than 1 million acres are lost from cultivation each year due to urbanization, multiplying transportation networks, and industrial expansion. In addition, about 2 million acres of prime cropland are lost annually by erosion, salinization, and water logging.

Iowa has lost more than half of its fertile topsoil after farming there for about 100 years. Their topsoil is being lost about 30 times faster than sustainability.

If present population growth and other trends continue, over the next 60 years, both degradation and urbanization will diminish our arable land base of 470 million acres by 120 million acres.

Only 0.6 acres of arable land per person will be available in 2050, whereas more than 1.2 acres per person are needed to provide a divers diet (currently, 1.6 acres of arable land are available).

A doubling of the American population will accelerate the need for food. For every 1% increase in food demand, the price at the farm gate increases 4.5%.

Food Exports and Oil Imports

Currently, the U.S. earns $40 billion per year as the largest food exporter in the world. About 60% of the oil used in the U.S. is imported at the cost of $75 billion per year. About 400 gallons of oil equilvalents are expended to feed each American, about 17% of all energy used, each year.


Fossil energy use int he U.S. has increased from 20 to as much as 1,000-fold in just four decades.

Currently, 92% of U.S. energy needs are provided by finite fossil fuels, with 6% of the total energy used for agricultural production.

Renewable energy sources, like hydropower and biomass, provide 8% of U.S. energy and are increasing very slowly.

Approaching 2050, most of the oil and natural gas in the United States will be exhausted, and world supplies will be ever closer to depletion.

A renewable energy source, solar energy, would require the use of about 20% of U.S. land area (about 450 million acres) to support a system that would supply only ½ of all current energy consumption, and the U.S. oil and gas reserves will have nearly run out by 2050, leaving us with environmentally problematic coal, or nuclear energy.


Water is essential for all life, including productive agriculture. Eastern agriculture consumes about 85% of fresh water, but water shortages are increasing in the West.

Rainfall is used directly by crops, is stored in diverse water bodies and in underground aquifers. Groundwater provides 31% of the water used in U.S. agriculture and are, on average, being depleted 25% in excess of recharge rates.

Even if water management is substantially improved, the 560 million Americans by 2060 will have only 700 gallons/day/capita, considered a minimum for all human needs. This assumes even distribution, which is not the case: much of our population and agricultural production is in arid and semi-arid regions.

The Economy

In America's Forgotten Majority, Ruy Teixeira and Joel Rogers write that "from 1973 to 1998, in an economy that almost doubled in real terms, the wage of the typical worker in production and nonsupervisory jobs (80% of the workforce) actually declined by 6%, from $13.61 to $12.77 an hour."

Harvard Professor George Borjas calculated that mass immigration costs American workers $133 billion per year in wage depression and job loss. The Solution: U.S. Population Stabilization and Conservation

To avoid the harsh outcomes projected for the future, we must stop U.S. population growth, and excess immigration, and conserve our land, water, and energy resources that are vital for a sustainable economy and environment.

Data derived from "Food, Land, Population, and the U.S. Economy," by Drs. David Pimentel and Mario Giampietro, and America's Forgotten Majority: Why the White Working Class Still Matters by Ruy Teixeira and Joel Rogers, Basic Books, 2000. August, 2001

Home | About CCN | Support CCN | Publications | Action Alert | Links