Agriculture has experienced two recent periods of prosperity—the grain export boom of the 1970s and the post-2008 period. During both periods, the livestock sector generally expanded meat, milk and poultry production, despite high feed costs.

Ohio State University economist Carl Zulauf analyzed production of U.S. meat and livestock products, comparing the current period of high crop prices with the period of high prices in the 1970s. Zulauf says the reasons for this increased stability in livestock production aren’t known, but a factor could be the large decline in number of livestock producers. The farmers who remained in livestock production likely reflect, in part, a strong commitment to livestock production. Plus, current livestock farms average a larger number of animals, which implies a greater financial commitment to livestock production. The net result is that current livestock producers are probably less likely to stop or reduce production when profits face pressure, he says.

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