Stay Connected

Follow ERS on Twitter
Subscribe to RSS feeds
Sign up for e-mail updates
Listen to ERS podcasts
Read ERS blogs at USDA

Natural Resources & Environment

  • Finding

    Confined Livestock Operations Account For a Majority of the Chesapeake Bay Area’s Farmland With Applied Manure

    Excessive flows of nutrients into the Chesapeake Bay can damage the bay’s environment, yielding coastal dead zones, fish kills, and impaired drinking water supplies. Agriculture is a main contributor to nutrient run-off, responsible for 38 percent of the bay’s nitrogen and 45 percent of phosphorus loadings.
  • Feature

    Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops by U.S. Farmers Has Increased Steadily for Over 15 Years

    Farmers planted about 170 million acres of GE crops in 2013—principally corn, cotton, and soybeans—representing about half of the U.S. farmland used to grow crops. Pest management traits are the main feature engineered into GE crops grown, but over time, traits providing protection against additional pests and seeds combining several traits have been introduced and quickly adopted by farmers.
  • Statistic

    Onshore Oil and Gas Development in the Lower 48 States: Introducing a County-Level Database of Production for 2000-2011

    Until now, there has been no publicly available nationwide data on oil and gas production at the county level. County-level data from oil and/or natural gas producing States were compiled on a State-by-State basis. Most States have production statistics available by field, county, or well, and these data were compiled at the county level to create a database of county-level production, 2000-11.
  • Feature

    Energy Development’s Impacts on Rural Employment Growth

    Research indicates that the expansion of emerging energy industries—such as shale gas, wind power, and ethanol production—during the last decade created jobs in rural economies, but the employment impacts varied widely based on the industry.
  • Statistic

    Western Irrigated Agriculture: Production Value, Water Use, Costs, and Technology Vary by Farm Size

    In 2007, irrigated agriculture made a significant contribution to the value of U.S. agricultural production, with farms having at least some irrigated cropland accounting for roughly 40 percent of U.S. agricultural market sales. The 17 contiguous Western States accounted for nearly three-quarters of U.S. irrigated farmland during the period.
  • Feature

    The Role of Conservation Program Design in Drought-Risk Adaptation

    Since USDA conservation programs are voluntary, farmers base their participation decisions on local conditions, among other factors, and those decisions are influenced by the level of local drought risk. This is a form of climate adaptation.
  • Feature

    Adaptation Can Help U.S. Crop Producers Confront Climate Change

    While the impact that climate change will have on future growing conditions in specific areas of the country remains uncertain, the ability of farmers to adapt to climate change—through planting decisions, farming practices, and use of technology—can reduce its impact on production, farm commodity prices, and farmer returns.
  • Finding

    Effects of U.S. Wind Power Development on County-Level Income and Employment

    A recent study measured the effects of wind power development on county-level income and employment in 12 States of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions. Findings reveal an aggregate increase in county-level personal income and employment of approximately $11,000 and 0.5 jobs per megawatt of wind power capacity installed over the study period 2000 to 2008.
  • Finding

    Natural Gas Extraction Creates Local Jobs in the Short Term

    ERS analysis of the effects of natural gas extraction on local counties captures increases in local employment and income and median household income occurring primarily in the gas development phase when infrastructure is laid and wells are drilled. The long-term local economic effects are likely smaller.
  • Finding

    Water Constraints Shape Long-Term Prospects for Wheat Production in Afghanistan

    Wheat production in Afghanistan is extremely sensitive to variations in precipitation. During the main growing months, rainfall is scarce and farmers depend on irrigation. And decades of war and conflict have left much of the country’s irrigation system in a state of disrepair.
  • Finding

    Baselines--Key to the Costs and Benefits of Environmental Markets

    Recently, markets have been developed that could allow farmers to generate and sell environmental credits when they adopt farming practices that improve the environment. Environmental markets use baselines to determine whether proposed improvements qualify for marketable credits, and setting baseline emissions levels is often a contentious element of market design.
  • Finding

    Farm Program Changes Could Affect Environmental Compliance Incentives

    Federal farm program payments help encourage good stewardship of natural resources through environmental compliance requirements. But the future effectiveness of environmental compliance requirements may be affected by the evolution of farm programs in the next farm bill.
  • Finding

    Recent Conservation Reserve Program Enrollments Signal Changing Priorities

    Over time, the CRP's goals have changed from an early emphasis on limiting soil erosion to include wildlife, water and air quality, and other conservation goals. Driven by changes in legislative mandates, commodity markets, and environmental concerns, the CRP continues to evolve.
  • Statistic

    On the Map: Can Crop Insurance Encourage Environmental Compliance?

    In many areas where crop production is risky, crop insurance could provide a conservation incentive that is equal to or even larger than direct payments. In other areas, compliance incentives could decline.
  • Finding

    Green Payments: Can Conservation and Commodity Programs Be Combined?

    Existing conservation and commodity programs have very little in common, and attempting to meld them into a single program raises questions about to whom and under what conditions payments would be extended.
  • Finding

    Farm Act’s Regional Equity Provision May Entail Conservation Tradeoffs

    Analysis of data from 2004-06 (when the 2002 Farm Act was in effect) on USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program—the largest program covered by the Regional Equity provision—reveals that the funding shift reduced the number of acres receiving treatment for many resource problems.
  • Finding

    U.S. Farmers Increasingly Adopt “No-Till” for Major Crops

    Widespread adoption of less intensive tillage practices could enable U.S. agriculture to sequester substantial amounts of carbon and contribute to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Less intensive tillage would also reduce water sedimentation and chemical pollution as well as atmospheric dust and haze.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Indicators tables from the September 2010 issue of Amber Waves magazine.
  • Finding

    Targeted Farmers in EQIP Operate More Environmentally Sensitive Land, But Address Different Environmental Needs

    If EQIP-targeted farmers address different environmental needs or operate acreage that is more or less environmentally sensitive than land operated by other EQIP farmers, the EQIP provisions favorable to targeted farmers could change the economic and environmental outcomes of the program.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America.
  • Statistic

    Indicators- Amber Waves - June 2009

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America from June 2009.
  • Finding

    Agriculture and Water Quality Trading: Exploring the Possibilities

    Water quality trading is a market-based approach intended to reduce pollution at a lower cost than through traditional regulatory action. The Environmental Protection Agency and USDA are actively promoting water quality trading programs in watersheds impaired by pollutants, such as nutrients, produced by both regulated and unregulated sources, such as agriculture. Polluted runoff from agricultural fields is not regulated under the Clean Water Act, and greater use of trading might increase the number of farms willing and able to change their farming practices to reduce nutrient runoff.
  • Statistic

    Research Areas

    This page contains research area charts from the March 2009 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Feature

    Creating Markets for Environmental Stewardship: Potential Benefits and Problems

    Farmers and other landowners typically under-provide environmental services such as clean air and water, carbon sequestration, and improved wildlife habitat. Markets for environmental services could increase farmer investments in environmental stewardship, thereby expanding the supply of environmental services. Impediments to the formation of fully functioning markets for agricultural environmental services may be difficult or costly to overcome.
  • Finding

    Fee Hunting May Boost Farm Income, Wildlife Habitat

    ERS recently examined the implications of expanded fee hunting on land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The study found that hunting fees can motivate landowners to install wildlife friendly land use practices, which both improve wildlife habitat and increase the likelihood of being accepted into the program.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Indicators tables from the April 2008 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Indicators tables from the September 2007 issue of Amber Waves.