Current Activities

Are Food Safety and International Trade Compatible?

Global trade in meats, grain, fruit and vegetables, and seafood is increasing, but each of those sectors has experienced food safety episodes that have, at least temporarily, impeded trade and resulted in economic loss. ERS is studying the nexus between international food trade and food safety, focusing on how different approaches to regulating food safety affect trade, and how the private and public sectors have responded to enhance the compatibility of trade and food safety. The ERS study will include an economic framework for understanding linkages between trade and food safety, commodity case studies to demonstrate the effects of food safety issues in international markets, an overview of global trends in food safety regulation, and an assessment of the role of international institutions in mitigating trade disputes.

Environmental Review of Free Trade Agreements

U.S. Executive Order 13141 as well as the Trade Act of 2002 mandate a review of the environmental impacts of new free trade agreements. ERS economists Joseph Cooper and Roy Darwin are working with the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) on conducting a quantitative analysis of the potential environmental effects of free trade agreements. If the interagency process is approved, ERS will be one of two U.S. Government agencies to provide the USTR with such a quantitative analysis. The initial targets of analysis are the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas and a free trade agreement among member countries of the World Trade Organization.

How a Nation’s Income Growth Affects Its Food Consumption Patterns

ERS research corroborates that lower income countries spend a larger share of their additional income on food than wealthier countries do. ERS economist Anita Regmi and Professor James Seale at the University of Florida have examined food expenditure responses to income and price changes across 110 low-, middle-, and high-income countries. Their findings also demonstrate that income growth leads to larger increases in expenditures on higher valued food products (such as meats and dairy products) than on staple food products (such as cereals). Food expenditures in poorer countries are also more responsive to price changes. The results from the study are being used in ERS and Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) models to analyze the impacts of various policy changes on food demand and trade, as well as to forecast future food demand.

How Rural Areas Differ

ERS is constructing new county classifications to capture current aspects of the broad economic and social diversity among rural areas. Some earlier typologies developed by ERS have been widely used by policy analysts and public officials to determine eligibility for and effectiveness of Federal programs to assist rural America. Others have served research needs in and outside of USDA. Rapid advancements in technology, changes in population growth patterns, and devolution of government services during the 1990s have led ERS to take a fresh look at rural diversity.

The Market for Commodity-Based Agricultural Information

ERS, the World Agricultural Outlook Board, and other USDA agencies are working with Booz Allen Hamilton to explore the potential for a one-stop shopping portal for commodity-related information on the USDA website. The Booz Allen Hamilton analysts have been examining the costs and benefits of such an effort, and have had extensive interactions with private sector users and generators of commodity-related data and information within USDA. In addition to this effort, ERS is developing a comprehensive report on the market for commodity market information, which will draw on a 2000 survey of private sector information users, several cooperative agreements with researchers at the University of Illinois, the University of California-Berkeley, and other universities, and the Booz Allen Hamilton findings.