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Mary Ahearn

Mary Ahearn

Agricultural Economist


Mary Clare Ahearn is an Agricultural Economist with the Economic Research Service. Her primary areas of expertise are the economic well-being of farm operators and their households, the structure and the performance of the agricultural sector, and policies affecting structure and well-being. She also has experience in valuation of nonmarket goods and services and rural health care.


Mary has spent her professional career at ERS in a variety of research and research management positions, in addition to details at the Western Rural Development Center at Oregon State University and the Office of Budget Planning and Analysis of USDA. Her initial research at ERS focused on rural poverty and access of rural residents to health care. Later areas of focus included: development of USDA's indicators of farm operator household income, labor allocations of farm operator households, standardization of methods for estimating costs of production, environmental indicators of the impact of agricultural production, and estimation of the nonmarket benefits of conservation programs and farmland amenities. She has 12 years of management experience as a Section Leader, Branch Chief, or Assistant to the Administrator, and has significant experience in designing and managing the various economic surveys, such as the Farm Costs and Returns Survey, Costs of Production Survey, Cropping Practices Survey, and the current ARMS.


B.S. in Food and Resource Economics from the University of Florida, M.S. in Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology from Pennsylvania State University, and Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from Oregon State University.

Professional Affiliations:

American Agricultural Economics Association, Southern Agricultural Economics Association, Western Agricultural Economics Association, International Association of Agricultural Economists, and Conference on Research in Income and Wealth. Economic Statistics Committee Chair, AAEA.

Selected Publications:

Ahearn, Mary Clare, Hisham El-Osta, and Joe Dewbre. "The Impact of Coupled and Decoupled Government Subsidies on Off-farm Labor Participation of U.S. Farm Operators." American Journal of Agricultural Economics 88(2) May 2006: 393-408.

Ahearn, M., David Harrington, Robert Hoppe, and Penelope Korb. "Decoupled and Coupled Payments Alter Household Labor Allocations," Chapter 3 in Burfisher and Hopkins (eds.), Decoupled Payments in a Changing Policy Setting, November 2004.

El-Osta, H., A. Mishra, and M. Ahearn. "Labor Supply by Farm Operators Under 'Decoupled' Farm Program Payments." Rev. of Economics of the Household, Vol. 2, Issue 4, December 2004, pp.: 367-385.

El-Osta, H. and M. Ahearn. Estimating the Opportunity Cost of Unpaid Farm Labor for U.S. Farm Operators, TB-1848, USDA, ERS, March 1996.

Whittaker, Gerald and Mary Ahearn. The Distribution of Direct Government Payments, AIB 664-37, ERS, USDA, April 1993.

Ahearn, Mary and Janet Perry. "Change Proposed for Farm Payment Limits," Agricultural Outlook, ERS, USDA pp. 25-27, April 1993.

Ahearn, Mary, Janet Perry, and Hisham El-Osta. The Economic Well-Being of Farm Operator Households, 1988-90, AER-666, ERS, USDA, January 1993.

Perry, Janet and Mary Ahearn. Limited Opportunity Farm Households, AIB-662, ERS, USDA, February 1993.

Ahearn, M. and J. E. Lee, Jr. "Multiple Job Holding Among Farm Operator Households in the U.S.: Historical Perspective and Future Prospect," book chapter in Multiple Job Holding Among Farm Families, Milton Hallberg, Jill Findies, and Daniel Lass, editors, Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1991.

Ahearn, M. "The Role of the Farm Household in the Agricultural Economy," Agricultural Income and Finance Situation and Outlook, AFO-37, ERS, USDA, May 1990.

Ahearn, M., J. Johnson, and R. Strickland. "The Distribution of Income and Wealth of Farm Operator Households," Amer. J. of Agric. Econ., Vol 67, No. 5, December 1986.

Ahearn, M. "An Income Comparison of Farm and Nonfarm People," in New Dimensions in Rural Policy: Building Upon Our Heritage, Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress, 99th Congress, 2d Session, S. Prt. 99-153, June 5, 1986.

Ahearn, M. The Financial Well-Being of Farm Operators and their Households, AER-563, ERS, USDA, September 1986.

Selected Publications in Farm Structure and Performance

Ahearn, Mary Clare, Jet Yee, and Penni Korb. "Effects of Differing Farm Policies on Farm Structure and Dynamics." Amer. J. of Agric. Econ. 87 (number 5, 2005): 1182-1189.

Yee, J. and M.C. Ahearn. "Government Policies and Farm Size: Does the Size Concept Matter?" Applied Economics, Volume 37, Number 19, 20 Oct 2005, pp. 2231 2238.

Ahearn, Mary Clare, Penni Korb, and David Banker. “Industrialization and Contracting in U.S. Agriculture.” J. of Agric. and Applied Econ., vol. 37 (2), August 2005.

Ahearn, M., J. Yee, and P. Korb. “Producer Dynamics in Agriculture: Empirical Evidence.” Paper presented at the Conference on Producer Dynamics: New Evidence from Micro Data. Sponsored by the Conference on Research in Income and Wealth, NBER, Bethesda, MD April 8-9, 2005.

Yee, J., M. Ahearn, and W. Huffman. “Links Among Farm Productivity, Off-farm Work, and Farm Size in the Southeast.” J. of Agric. and Applied Econ. 36,3 December 2004: 591-603.

James MacDonald, Janet Perry, Mary Ahearn, David Banker, William Chambers, Carolyn Dimitri, Nigel Key, Kenneth Nelson, and Leland Southard, "Contracts, Markets, and Prices: Organizing the Production and Use of Agricultural Commodities”, November 2004.

MacDonald, J., M. Ahearn, and D. Banker. “Organizational Economics in Agriculture Policy Analysis.” Amer. J. of Agric. Econ. 86(3) August 2004: 744-749.

Ahearn, M., Jet Yee, Eldon Ball, and Richard Nehring. Agricultural Productivity in the U.S., AIB-740, ERS, USDA, January 1998.

Ahearn, Mary. "Introduction to Economic Accounting for Commodity Costs and Returns." Book chapter in Costs and Returns for Agricultural Commodities: Advances in Concepts and Measurement. Westview Press, February 1992.

Ahearn, M., D. Culver, and R. Schoney. "Usefulness and Limitations of COP Estimates for Evaluating International Competitiveness: A Comparison of Canadian and U.S. Wheat," Amer. J. of Agric. Econ., vol. 72, no. 5, pp. 1283-91, December 1990.

Ahearn, M. et al. How Costs of Production Vary," AIB-599, ERS, USDA, May 1990.

Selected Publications in Nonmarket Valuation and Farmland


Ahearn, M. and R. Alig. A discussion of recent land-use trends, Chapter 2 in Economics of Rural Land-Use Change, edited by Kathleen P. Bell, Kevin J. Boyle and Jonathan Rubin, Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate, 2006.

Alig, R. and M. Ahearn. Effects of policy and technological change on land use, Chapter 3 in Economics of Rural Land-Use Change, edited by Kathleen P. Bell, Kevin J. Boyle and Jonathan Rubin, Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate, 2006.

Ahearn, M., K. Boyle, and Daniel Hellerstein. “Designing a Contingent Valuation Study to Estimate the Benefits of the Conservation Reserve Program,” chapter 9 in A. Alberini and J. Kahn (eds.), Handbook of Contingent Valuation, 2006, Edward Elgar Publishing.

Ahearn, Mary Clare. “Potential Contributions of Economics in Targeting Farm and Ranch Land Preservation Programs,” in What the Public Values about Farm and Ranch Land. Workshop Summary from a Baltimore, MD workshop, Nov. 13-14, 2003. NERCRD Regional Rural Development Paper No. 23, August 2004.

Paterson, Robert, K. Boyle, M. Ahearn, A. Alberini, J. Bergstrom, L. Libby, and M. Welsh. “Public Preferences for Farmland Attributes in Conservation Easement Programs”, in Land Use Problems and Conflicts: Causes, Consequences and Solutions, book chapter in Goetz, Bergstrom, and Shortle (eds.). Contemporary Land Use Problems and Conflicts. London: Routledge Publishers, 2004.

Barnard, C., G. Whittaker, D. Westenbarger, and M. Ahearn. Evidence of Capitalization of Direct Government Payments into U.S. Cropland Values, Amer. J. of Agric. Econ., December 1997.

Selected Publications in Rural Health Care

Jones A., Parker T., and M. Ahearn. Taking the Pulse of Rural Health Care. Amber Waves, August, 2009.

Ahearn, M. and M. Fryar. Physicians in Nonmetro Areas During the Seventies," RDRR-46, ERS, USDA, March 1985.

Radtke, H., N. Meyer, H. Ferguson and M. Ahearn, "Health Care for Western Rural Communities," Western Regional Extension Publication, WREP 7, June 1982.

Ahearn, M. "Health Care Needed for Rural Children," Rural Development Perspectives, RDP-3, ERS, USDA, October 1980.

Ahearn, M. Health Care in Rural America, AIB-428, ESCS, USDA, July 1979.


Last updated: Thursday, April 30, 2015

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