The world's topsoil - upon which food production depends - is being rapidly ruined. Nations large and small, including the United States, are repeating a mistake that destroyed a number of ancient civilizations.

The reason: soaring populations. Farmlands are being overwhelmed by the demands being placed on them.

Against this backdrop, experts are watching the US, the world's leading food supplier. Can US farms continue to produce more and more? What will be the impact of Reagan farm policies of less federal spending and intervention? Could soil erosion eventually threaten even America's ability to feed itself? If the rich US cannot cope with this threat, will others fare even worse?

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Today the Monitor begins a four-part series to examine the challenge. Staff correspondent Jonathan Harsch reports what the experts say might be done. One possibility: the Reagan White House may find itself under pressure to impose tougher government rules that force good soil management practices on US farms.

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