New Releases

Conservation on Working Lands Web updated September 2005

In the 2002 Farm Bill, Congress sharply increased conservation funding and allotted most of the increase to working-land payment programs. A new ERS report, Flexible Conservation Measures on Working Land (ERR-5), explores the implications of program design on the extent to which environmental goals are cost-effectively achieved. Through simulation analysis, potential environmental gains and adjustments in agricultural production, price, and income are estimated for various working land payment program designs to illustrate tradeoffs that policymakers may face in selecting one design over another. Results suggest that allowing farmers to bid for financial assistance and selecting participants based on a ranking of farmers’ bids using benefit-cost criteria can substantially increase the level of environmental gain achieved from a given program budget. Payments that reward producers who are already good stewards may divert funds from achieving new environmental benefits, but may also encourage stronger maintenance of conservation effort and yield long-term benefits. Roger Claassen and Robert Johansson.

On the Shoulders of Giants

Between 1949 and 1994, ERS and its predecessor agencies published the quarterly Journal of Agricultural Economics Research to disseminate technical discussion of economic issues, analyses, and measurement. ERS recently released a bibliography of all the articles and reviews that appeared in the Journal, compiled by Gene Wunderlich, one of the Journal's editors. A number of distinguished scholars graced the Journal's pages over its 45 years. You can form your own Who's Who list by scanning the index of contributors, as Don Paarlberg did in a 1988 article, citing Fred Waugh, Marc Nerlove, and Karl Fox on statistical methods; George Walter and Ray Anderson on soil and water conservation; Harry Norcross and Clark Edwards on macroeconomics; Allen Paul on agribusiness; Harold Breimyer on livestock; Calvin Beale on demographics; Sherman Johnson and D. Gale Johnson on foreign development; Alex McCalla on trade; and the list goes on. Thomas McDonald.

Comprehensive China Database

is the world's most comprehensive English-language online collection of agriculturally related statistics for China. ERS has assembled in a single database 250 data items at the national level and 45 items at the provincial level, which can be downloaded in various formats. Included are statistics on agricultural production, food consumption, macroeconomics, prices, and industrial output in China, one of the world's most important agricultural economies. Many series go back as far as 1949, and the most recent data currently available are for 2003. Fred Gale.

Many Factors Influence Overweight and Obesity

In 'Dietary Habits, Demographics, and the Development of Overweight and Obesity among Children in the United States' (Food Policy, 30(April 2005):115-128), researchers from ERS, Southern Arkansas University, the University of Georgia, and the University of Florida examined the factors that influence overweight and obesity among school-age U.S. children using data from USDA's 1994-96 and 1998 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals. Black and Hispanic children seem more likely to be at risk for being overweight. Poverty is also associated with the likelihood of overweight among school-age children. Frequency of physical exercise was positively associated with normal weight. Sedentary behavior was negatively associated with normal weight and positively associated with overweight among children ages 12-18. The consumption of low-fat milk, other dairy products, fruits, and legumes is negatively associated with risk for overweight and obese. In contrast, increasing consumption of soft drinks, fats and oils, and sodium appears to be the major dietary factors that are positively associated with childhood overweight. Biing-Hwan Lin.

New Environmental Quality Incentives Program Data

USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides technical, financial, and educational assistance to producers for a wide range of agri-environmental activities. ERS's EQIP database, updated in June 2005, presents an overview of which conservation practices are being funded, preliminary estimates of unit costs for the most commonly contracted conservation practices, and a comparison of unit costs for different contract sizes to determine the extent to which economies of scale exist practice by practice. All results are presented at the national level, for ERS Farm Resource Regions, and for ERS Farm Production Regions. Allocation of EQIP funds is also broken down by State. Rob Johansson.

Commodity Markets and Trade

ERS Outlook reports provide timely analysis of major commodity markets and trade, including special reports on hot topics. All reports are available electronically and can be found at, along with a calendar of future releases. Joy Harwood.