Current Activities

Do Changing Retail Markets Mean Higher Food Prices?

ERS has begun to use micro-level household and store scanner data to measure the effect of changing retail store formats on food prices. Increasingly, retail food markets are consolidating, leading to concerns that reduced competition will cause prices to rise. Counterbalancing this effect is the increased market share of warehouse and supercenter-type stores that often compete with standard supermarkets by offering lower prices and volume discounts. This project will also examine if, and to what extent, the changing landscape of retail outlets influences the CPI for food. Ephraim Leibtag

How Does Fast Food Fare in Urban Areas?

ERS is examining whether access to fast food and fast food prices depend on where one lives. Some have argued that residents of 'poor' or 'minority' neighborhoods in urban areas pay higher prices and do not have reasonable access to food retailers. ERS researchers have collected prices of representative meals in the Washington, DC, metro area and are analyzing how cost and demand differences across the area affect the number of outlets and prices. Hayden Stewart

Five a Day?

ERS is working with the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the economic and demographic determinants of fruit and vegetable consumption. The collaboration will use data from USDA and CDC to classify fruits and vegetables by their nutritional profile, by how they are prepared, and by where and when they are consumed. The study will also identify the characteristics of individuals who are more or less likely to follow their physicians' recommendations for increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, leading to better design and targeting of diet and health information campaigns. Biing-Hwan Lin

Why Are Contracts Increasing?

The growth in contracting between agricultural processors and producers has been contentious. Some have argued that these arrangements enhance market power of processors at the expense of independent farmers, while others argue that consumer demand can be targeted more efficiently. ERS is examining potential efficiency-enhancing motives for contracts in pork industries. In those markets characterized by investments in branding programs requiring specific genetics, complex carcass-merit grading programs, unobservable product quality attributes, and team production of quality attributes, contracting arrangements may be an efficient organizing tool. Steve Martinez

Can We Protect Against Invasive Species?

Expanded international trade and travel is beneficial to the U.S. and global economies, but also facilitates movement of invasive, alien crop pests that threaten U.S. agricultural production and exports. ERS is cooperating with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to incorporate economics in decisionmaking and risk assessment for invasive pest issues.

What Impacts From Diverting Water From Agriculture?

ERS is analyzing the effects on irrigated agriculture in the western river basins of Federal decisions to reallocate water to protect endangered species. This work is being done in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation, and nine universities, including the University of California-Davis, Willamette University, University of Nebraska, Oregon State University, New Mexico State University, Washington State University, Colorado State University, Iowa State University, and George Mason University. USDA's Risk Management Agency funds the project.

Economics in the Farm Bill Conservation Title?

ERS economists are playing an integral role in shaping several key provisions of the Conservation Title. Roger Claassen is helping craft the new Conservation Security Program (CSP), a form of the program he analyzed in Agri-Environmental Policy at the Crossroads: Guideposts on a Changing Landscape (AER-794). Andrea Cattaneo is a key architect of the cost/benefit analysis for the new rule implementing the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), revised and expanded in this Bill. Marlow Vesterby is playing a similar role in the cost/benefit analysis of the Technical Service Provider rule, which governs how third parties can help farmers plan and implement conservation practices paid for by USDA conservation programs.