According to the 1950 census, 18.3% of the population was employed in agricultural activities (including forests and fishing), 33.5% in industries (including construction), 18.8% in transport, communications, etc., 1.7% in extractive industries, 21.4% in commerce, public services, etc. In January 1959 the Census Bureau calculated the labor force at 70,027,000 individuals, of which 67,430,000 employed in civil services: of these 7% were temporarily unemployed.
The soil cultivated in various ways amounts to 24.7% of the total surface (excluding Alaska), forests to 33.1%, meadows and pastures to 37%; the rest is represented by unproductive uncultivated, by urban areas, by roads. The increase in the rate of cultivated areas is remarkable (in 1945: 21.2%), also due to the vigorous measures against soil erosion and the diffusion of irrigation works, which made it possible to cultivate vast desert areas or however unusable, especially in the West. However, four-fifths or slightly less of the cultivated land is still in the part of the country east of the 100th meridian, despite the fact that in the Northeast, between the Atlantic and the Great Lakes, the grandiose industrial development has led to a reduction in cultivated areas and there is also a tendency to extend artificial lawns for the breeding of livestock and for the related dairy industry. A greater extension of the spaces for crops – also as compensation for the very extensive areas deteriorated by soil erosion – was obtained both with the application of dry farming (dry farming), and above all with a grandiose development of irrigation works, connected with the creation of large reservoirs, as we will discuss later.
According to the agricultural census of 1954, the farms (farms) were 4,782,416 (in 1958: 4,749,000), a decrease of 12.5% compared to 1950, but the total area had only suffered a minimal reduction. The average area of the farm was consequently increased from 70.5 ha to 85 ha; the total population of the farms was 31,560,000 in 1950 compared to 29,047,000 in 1940. It can be concluded that the small farms tend to decrease compared to the larger ones. Texas is at the head of all the states both for the number of farms and for the area they occupy; at a great distance, North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, etc. follow in terms of number of farms, but in all these states medium and small farms prevail.
In recent years, the agricultural policy of the USA has continued to pursue the objective of extending the crops that most serve the country’s ever-increasing internal consumption, and the industrial ones with the highest income.
About 12 million hectares belonging to farms are irrigated: half of them belong to the states of the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific. About 4,200,000 farms, or 88%, are provided; about 2.5 million of electricity are equipped with tractors; motorized vehicles (including mechanical milking machines, etc.) are just under 10 million.
Overall, cereal crops occupy more than half of the arable land. For the four largest, the following table gives the production figures for the years 1957 and 1958.
Among industrial plants, cotton continues to have the greatest importance (1954-57 average: 6,600,000 ha and 28,560,000 q), but both the cultivated area and the production tend to decrease, especially due to the lower demand from foreign markets.. And the same trend, much more pronounced, shows tobacco (average 1954-57: 570,000 ha and 9,250,000 q; but 675,000 ha and 10,178,000 q in 1954; 436,000 ha and 7,875,000 q in 1958). Of the sugar-producing plants, the cane tends to decrease (5,250,000 q in 1958) and to increase, also through various oscillations, the beet (19,980,000 q).
The last decade has seen a further development of horticultural and fruit crops in the USA: for the former the tendency towards specialization is accentuated (spinach in Virginia, tomatoes in Maryland, Delaware, Florida, etc.), among the latter – those of fruit – citrus fruits are in great momentum, although they are limited to Florida and California: this has taken over for lemons and oranges (respectively four-fifths and two-thirds of total production); Florida retains the record for grapefruit.
Viticulture, on the other hand, shows a tendency to decrease.
Forests occupy over 259 million hectares, that is a third of the total area: the precious mantle is always better protected by means of national and state parks, reserves, and other measures. However, soil erosion and frequent fires are still worrying dangers.
Alaska and the northern regions facing the Pacific still retain the most intact areas, true reserves for the future: from here come precious woods such as Douglas and redwood ; from the countries of the Gulf of Mexico instead the pitch pine. Various qualities of softer woods common in the forests of the West, but also elsewhere, feed the pulp and pulp industry, etc. in colossal establishments.
As far as livestock breeding is concerned, the figures for 1958 are: approximately 94 million cattle, a quantity not exceeded by India, 51 million pigs, 31 million sheep, 2,800,000 goats, 2 and a half million horses.
The balance greatly disturbed by the world war has now been restored: cattle are on the rise (85.5 million in 1945); pigs and sheep have not yet reached their pre-war figures, but they are also on the rise; on the contrary, horses are rapidly decreasing (8,840,000 in 1945), as in all countries where mechanical means of transport are becoming more and more widespread. For cattle breeding, it is worth noting the increasingly decisive orientation, in the NE states and in the lakes region, towards the selection of dairy cows to feed the dairy industry. For sheep, there is an ever greater reduction in the grazing areas available in the East, offset only in part by rational intensive forms of farming.
For fishing, taking into account the rich Alaskan districts, the USA now has the second place in the world after Japan: in recent years the production has been around 2,750,000-3,000,000 tons. The Pacific (salmon, sardine, mackerel) and Atlantic (cod, herring, mackerel in the north; muggle, tuna, and sardine and mackerel in the south) districts are balanced in terms of quantity, but Atlantic fishing is balanced by value. now comes to the fore. However, when comparing with Japan or even with Norway, it must not be forgotten that in the USA fishing activities have a far less importance in the general economy; the real fishermen are just over 100,000.