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James MacDonald

ERS Publications by this Author

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Branch Chief


Jim MacDonald is chief of the Structure, Technology, and Productivity branch. The branch’s work focuses on the measurement and analysis of agricultural productivity; the economics of scientific research, and the development of new biological and physical technologies, for use in agriculture; the application of new and existing production practices, management systems, and technologies on farms; and the changing organization and structure of farms and the farm sector. The branch also bears major responsibility for the annual Agricultural Research Management Survey, USDA’s primary source of data and farm and farm household finances and field-level production practices.

Jim’s area of specialization lies in industrial organization, with a focus on empirical research on the topics of competition, firm organization, innovation, and industry consolidation.  In this position, he has sought to apply that focus to U.S. agriculture, with work focusing on consolidation of agricultural production, competition in markets for agricultural commodities, the use of contracts in agriculture, and the organization of farms.


Prior to assuming his present position in 2001, Jim was senior economist in the Food Economics Division at ERS. Jim has also been associate professor of Economics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1987-1994), and adjunct professor at Rensselaer’s School of Management (1994-2010). He started his career at ERS in 1980.



Jim received a Ph.D in economics from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He also received an M.A. from SUNY Buffalo and a B.S. in economics from Siena College.


Professional Affiliations:

Jim is a member of the American Economic Association, the American Agricultural Economics Association, and the Industrial Organization Society.

Selected Publications:

Selected Recent Articles in Journals

"Market Power in Poultry Production Contracting? Evidence from a Farm Survey" (with Nigel Key). Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, 44 (November 2012): 477-490.

"Foregoing Subtherapeutic Antibiotics: the Impact on Broiler Grow-out Operations" (with Sun Ling Wang). Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, 33 (Spring, 2011): 79-99.

"Adoption of Technology, Management Practices, and Production Systems in U.S. Milk Production" (with Aditya R. Khanal and Jeffrey Gillespie). Journal of Dairy Science, 93 (December, 2010): 612-622.

"The Minimum Wage, Restaurant Prices, and Labor Market Structure" (with Daniel Aaronson and Eric French). Journal of Human Resources, 43 (Summer, 2008): 688-720.

"How Firms Construct Price Increases: Responses to Minimum Wage Increases" (with Daniel Aaronson). American Journal of Agricultural Economics88 (May 2006): 292-307.

"Technology, Labor Wars, and Producer Dynamics: Explaining Consolidation in Beefpacking" (with Michael Ollinger). American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 87 (November 2005): 1020-1033.

"Tracing the Effects of Agricultural Commodity Prices on Food Costs" (with Catherine Morrison Paul). American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 85 (August 2003): 633-646.

Selected Recent Book Chapters

"Reshaping Agricultural Production: Geography, Farm Structure, and Finances" (with Robert Hoppe and Eric O'Donoghue), in Farming, Finance, and the Global Marketplace. Alan Barkema and Jason Henderson, eds. Kansas City, MO: Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. 2010.

"The Agriculture Industry" (with Bruce M. Marion), in The Structure of American Industry, 12th edition. James Brock, ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008.

"Structural Change in U.S. Agriculture" (with Robert Hoppe and David Banker), in Policy Reform and Adjustment in the Agricultural Sectors of Developed Countries. David Blandford and Berkeley Hill, eds. London: CABI Publishing. June, 2006.

Bulletins and Reports

Small Farms in the United States: Persistence Under Pressure (with Robert A. Hoppe and Penni Korb). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Economic Information Bulletin No. 63. February, 2010.

The Transformation of U.S. Livestock Agriculture: Scale, Efficiency and Risks (with William D. McBride). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Economic Information Bulletin No. 43. January, 2009.

The Economic Organization of U.S. Broiler Production. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Economic Information Bulletin No. 38. June, 2008.

Agricultural Contracting Update: Contracts in 2005 (with Penni Korb). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Economic Information Bulletin No. 35. April, 2008.

Profits, Costs, and the Changing Structure of Dairy Farming (with Erik O'Donoghue, William McBride, Richard Nehring, Carmen Sandretto, and Roberto Mosheim). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Economic Research Report No. ERR-47. September, 2007.


Last updated: Tuesday, June 10, 2014

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