Nigel Key

Agricultural Economist
Google Scholar profile


Nigel Key is an Economist in the Farm Economy Branch in the Resource and Rural Economics Division. Nigel’s research evaluates how policy, climate, and other factors influence farm structure, productivity and the environment. His areas of expertise related to livestock include production contracts, climate change, heat stress, anaerobic digesters, antibiotics, hog production, manure management, and productivity analysis. His other areas of interest include risk management, farm household behavior, crop insurance, land markets, supply response, and structural change.


Nigel has been an Economist at ERS in Resource and Rural Economics Division since 2000. From 2008 to 2009 he served as a Policy Officer at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. Before joining ERS, Nigel was a Lecturer in the Program in International Policy Studies, at Stanford University.


Nigel earned a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of California at Berkeley, an M.S. in International Agricultural Development from the University of California at Davis, and a B.A. in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley.

Selected Publications

Key, N., and S. Sneeringer. 2014. "The Potential Effects of Climate Change on the Productivity of U.S. Dairies," American Journal of Agricultural Economics. Forthcoming.

Key, N., and W. McBride. 2014. “Sub-therapeutic Antibiotics and the Efficiency of U.S. Hog Farms” American Journal of Agricultural Economics. Forthcoming.

Key, N. 2013. “Production Contracts and Farm Business Growth and Survival,” Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics 45(2):277–293, May.

MacDonald, J., and N. Key. 2012. “Market Power in Poultry Production Contracting? Evidence from a Farm Survey,” Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics 44(4):477-490, November.

Key, N., and S. Sneeringer. 2012. “Carbon Emissions, Renewable Electricity and Profits: Comparing Alternative Policies to Promote Anaerobic Digesters on Dairies,” Agricultural and Resource Economics Review 41(2):139-157, August.

Weber, J., and N. Key. 2012. “How Much Do Decoupled Payments Affect Production? An Instrumental Variable Approach with Panel Data,” American Journal of Agricultural Economics 94(1):52-66.

Key, N., and G. Tallard. 2012. “Mitigating Methane Emissions from Livestock: A Global Analysis of Sectoral Policies,” Climatic Change 112(2):387-414.

Key, N., and S. Sneeringer. 2011. “Carbon Markets and Methane Digesters: Potential Implications for the Dairy Sector,” Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics 43(4):1-22, November. Available.

Sneeringer, S., and N. Key. 2011. “Effects of Size-Based Environmental Regulations: Evidence of Regulatory Avoidance.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics 93(4):1189-1211.

Key, N. 2011. “Does the Prevalence of Contract Hog Production Influence the Price Received by Independent Hog Producers?” Journal of Agricultural and Food Industrial Organization 9(1) Article 2.

Gerber, P., N. Key, F. Portet, and H. Steinfeld. 2010. “Policy Options in Addressing Livestock’s Contribution to Climate Change,” Animal 4(3):393-406, March.

Key, N., and M. Roberts. 2009. “Nonpecuniary Benefits to Farming: Implications for Supply Response to Decoupled Payments,” American Journal of Agricultural Economics 91(1):1-18, February.

O’Donoghue, E., M. Roberts, and N. Key. 2009. “Did the Federal Crop Insurance Reform Act Alter Farm Enterprise Diversification?" Journal of Agricultural Economics 60(1):80-104.

Key, N., and W. McBride. 2008. “Do Production Contracts Raise Farm Productivity? An Instrumental Variables Approach,” Agricultural and Resource Economics Review 37(2):176-187. October.

Roberts, M., and N. Key. 2008. “Agricultural Payments and Land Concentration: A Semi-Parametric Spatial Regression Analysis,” American Journal of Agricultural Economics 90(3):627-643, August.

McBride, W., N. Key, and K. Mathews. 2008. “Sub-therapeutic Antibiotics and Productivity in U.S. Hog Production,” Review of Agricultural Economics 30(2):270-288, Summer.

Key, N., W. McBride, and R. Mosheim. 2008. “Decomposition of Total Factor Productivity Change in the U.S. Hog Industry,” Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics 40(1):137-149, April.

Key, N., and M. Roberts. 2007. "Do Government Payments Influence Farm Size and Survival?" Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics 32(2):330-348, August.

Key, N., and J. Kaplan. 2007. “Multiple Environmental Externalities and Manure Management Policy,” Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics 32(1):115-134, April.

Key, N., and M. Roberts. 2006. “Government Payments and Farm Business Survival,” American Journal of Agricultural Economics 88(2):382-392, May.

Key, N., M. Roberts, and E. O’Donoghue. 2006. “Risk and Farm Operator Labor Supply,” Applied Economics 38:573-586, March.

Roberts, M., N. Key, and E. O’Donoghue. 2006. “Estimating the Extent of Moral Hazard in Crop Insurance Using Administrative Data,” Review of Agricultural Economics 28(3):381-390.