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The years ahead may see U.S. agriculture more closely tied to other sectors of the economy at home and abroad and become even more closely linked to agricultural developments in other countries around the world. Greater interdependence and more intense competition for global agricultural markets may be spurred by world-wide adoption of new productivity-expanding technology. Agriculture's prosperity is likely to continue to depend on the productivity of the American farmer. To achieve productivity gains, farmers are expected to turn even further to other sectors of the economy to purchase production inputs and finance land purchases--increasing their dependence on areas where interest rates and inflation levels are beyond their control. Also, farmers are likely to depend Increasingly on markets abroad for prosperity--markets that may become smaller for U.S. farmers as policies of other countries encourage their farmers to expand production while restricting imports from the United States. Thus, the U.S. farmer is likely to see slow growth in global agricultural markets and face increasing competition from agricultural products of other countries. This increasingly intense competition for agricultural markets suggests that U.S. farmers will make every effort to be competitive, to adopt new and improved technologies for achieving productivity gains. Many questions surround where, when, and in what form these advances in efficiency will occur. Congress will be considering 1985 farm legislation in an environment that already promises large global agricultural supply capacity and slow demand growth. Yet the future holds much uncertainty. Technological breakthroughs into the 1990's could bring very significant changes in production and marketing of farm commodities, and important shifts in consumer purchases among foods and fibers. Congress will be faced with the challenge of designing flexible programs for an uncertain future. While it Is not possible to forecast all the uncertainties surrounding the agricultural outlook for the years ahead, a better understanding of some of the factors contributing to change is vital. Historically, farm legislation provides for policy parameters and programs well into the future. For example, before the 1985 farm bill's provisions expire, some of the production, processing, and marketing technologies now In the research stage will be working realities, with the potential to significantly change the outlook for several commodities. Thus, a better understanding of the variety and impact of some of these possible changes and the effect they could have, both directly on agriculture as a whole and indirectly on the whole spectrum of farm policy, is important.


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