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Labor quality change, especially educational attainment, contributes positively to U.S. agricultural growth

Monday, April 18, 2022

Agricultural output in the United States nearly tripled between 1948 and 2017, with average annual output growth at 1.53 percent. While reduction of labor hours worked has contributed negatively, changes in labor quality have contributed positively to output growth over the years. Labor quality includes shifts in composition of demographic attributes, such as gender, age, educational attainment, employment type and other factors. ERS researchers group the study period into 12 sub-periods in accordance with U.S. economic business cycles (from peak to peak). Most of the contraction in total hours worked occurred between 1948 and 1969, during the expansionary period after World War II. By the 2007–17 economic business cycle, the decline in labor hours had its lowest negative effect on output growth, -0.16 percentage points. ERS researchers found that total labor quality had a positive effect on output growth in all economic business cycles except the 1979-81 period. The effects of labor quality on agricultural output growth were especially prominent before 1969. It accounted for nearly 25 percent of total output growth per year in the 1948–53, 1953–57, and 1960–66 subperiods, and 14 percent of annual output growth in the 1966-69 subperiod. Except for the period immediately after WWII, the major source of labor quality changes was an increase in educational attainment among farmworkers. On average, the increase in educational attainment accounted for more than 90 percent of the changes in labor quality between 1948 and 2017. Nevertheless, since 1969, the rise in educational attainment has slowed, and the overall influence of labor quality on output growth has diminished. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service report “Farm Labor, Human Capital, and Agricultural Productivity in the United States,” published Feb. 15, 2022.

U.S. labor productivity per hours worked grew from 1948 to 2017 in part because of changes in quality of labor, study finds

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Agricultural output in the United States nearly tripled between 1948 and 2017 even as the amount of labor hours-worked declined by more than 80 percent. These opposing trends resulted in an increase in labor productivity growth in the U.S. farm sector. Labor productivity—calculated as average output per unit of labor input—is a popular measure for understanding economic growth. According to USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) estimates, agricultural output per worker grew by 16 times from 1948 through 2017. At the same time, agricultural output per hour worked grew even faster, by 17 times, implying that average hours worked per worker declined. Labor productivity estimates can vary based on different ways labor is measured. One factor in the increased labor productivity is the quality of labor, measured by attributes such as age, gender, and the highest level of education a worker has reached. Because these attributes may affect worker performance, ERS researchers accounted for labor quality changes in analyzing farm labor productivity. When labor quality changes since 1948 were accounted for, labor productivity grew at a slower rate than those based simply on hours worked or employment. The reason is because labor quality is treated as a part of labor input instead of productivity. This implies that changes in labor quality, such as improvements in education, account for much of the change in labor productivity over the last seven decades. ERS researchers estimate that changes to farm worker attributes accounted for about 13 percent of growth in hourly based annual labor productivity during the time studied. This chart in included in the ERS report Farm Labor, Human Capital, and Agricultural Productivity in the United States, published Feb. 15, 2022.

Farm sector profits to remain above long-term averages in 2022

Friday, February 4, 2022

USDA’s Economic Research Service forecasts inflation-adjusted U.S. net cash farm income (NCFI)—gross cash income minus cash expenses—to increase by $12.6 billion (9.9 percent) to $139.0 billion in 2021 and then decrease by $2.9 billion (2.1 percent) to $136.1 billion in 2022. U.S. net farm income (NFI) is forecast to increase by $20.7 billion (20.1 percent) to $123.4 billion in 2021 and then decrease by $9.7 billion (7.9 percent) to $113.7 billion in 2022. Net farm income is a broader measure of farm sector profitability that incorporates noncash items, including changes in inventories, economic depreciation, and gross imputed rental income. If these forecasts are realized, both NCFI and NFI would remain above their respective 2001–20 averages in 2022. Underlying these forecasts, cash receipts for farm commodities are projected to rise by $13.7 billion (3.1 percent) to $461.9 billion in 2022, their highest level since 2014. During the same period, production expenses are expected to increase by $5.9 billion (1.5 percent) to $411.6 billion in 2022, offsetting some of this income growth. Additionally, direct Government payments to farmers are projected to fall by $16.4 billion (58.5 percent) from 2021 levels to $11.7 billion in 2022, largely due to lower anticipated USDA and non-USDA payments for Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic assistance. Find additional information and analysis on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s topic page for Farm Sector Income and Finances, reflecting data released on February 4, 2022.

Increased efficiency has replaced input intensification as primary source of growth in global agricultural output

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Since the 1960s, global agricultural output by volume has increased at an average annual rate of 2.3 percent, fluctuating between 2 and 3 percent on a decade-to-decade basis. In the latest decade (2011–19), the global output of total crop, animal, and aquaculture commodities grew an average rate of 2.08 percent per year. Several factors contribute to output growth, including expansion of agricultural land, extension of irrigation to existing cropland, the intensification of input use (more labor, capital, and material inputs per acre), and total factor productivity (TFP), a measure of the contribution of technological and efficiency improvements in the farm sector. Before the 1990s, most output growth came from increases in input use, including expansion of land, irrigation, and intensification of other inputs. Since the 1990s, growth in TFP, rather than growth in inputs, accounted for most of the growth in world agriculture output. From 2011 to 2019, TFP globally grew at an annual rate of 1.31 percent, accounting for nearly two-thirds of output growth. This chart comes from the USDA, Economic Research Service data product International Agricultural Productivity, updated in October 2021.

Long-term productivity growth in agriculture varies across countries

Friday, December 10, 2021

Total factor productivity (TFP) growth reflects the rate of technological and efficiency improvements in the agricultural sector and productivity growth varies across countries. TFP measures the amount of agricultural output produced from the combined set of land, labor, capital, and material resources employed in the production process. Agricultural TFP grew most rapidly (at more than 2 percent on average) in the dark green-colored countries and most slowly (or not at all) in the light green-colored countries. National policies and institutions, especially those that promote innovation and technical change, play a significant role in driving TFP growth in agriculture. Strengthening the capacity of national agricultural research and extension systems to develop and deliver new agricultural technologies to farmers has been a critical factor in raising agricultural productivity. Information from the International Agricultural Productivity data product and related ERS research show that that Brazil and India’s TFP growth can be attributed to long-term investments in agricultural research. China’s TFP growth can be attributed to investments in research and institutional and economic reforms. In contrast, Russia’s low rate of agricultural TFP growth is attributed to inefficiencies under a planned economy (until 1991) followed by economic disruptions that accompanied its transition to a market economy. Under-investment in agricultural research and extension and poor market infrastructure remain important barriers to stimulating agricultural productivity growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. This data can be found in the International Agricultural Productivity data product, last updated in October 2021.

U.S. farm sector profits forecast to increase in 2021

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) forecasts inflation-adjusted net cash farm income (NCFI)—gross cash income minus cash expenses—to increase by $12.6 billion (10.5 percent) from 2020 to $133.0 billion in 2021. U.S. net farm income (NFI) is forecast to increase by $18.4 billion (18.7 percent) from 2020 to $116.8 billion in 2021. Net farm income is a broader measure of farm sector profitability that incorporates noncash items, including changes in inventories, economic depreciation, and gross imputed rental income. If this forecast is realized, NFI would be 24.2 percent above its 2000–20 average of $94.0 billion and the highest since 2013. NCFI would be 16.9 percent above its 2000–20 average of $113.8 billion and the highest since 2014. Driving these increases are cash receipts from farm commodities, which are projected to rise by $51.0 billion (13.5 percent) from 2020 to 2021, their highest level since 2014. Production expenses are expected to grow by $16.3 billion (4.4 percent) during the same period, somewhat moderating income growth. Additionally, direct Government payments to farmers are projected to fall by $20.2 billion (42.6 percent) in 2021. This decline follows record payments in 2020 and is largely due to lower anticipated payments from supplemental and ad hoc disaster assistance for Coronavirus (COVID-19) relief. Find additional information and analysis on ERS’s topic page for Farm Sector Income and Finances, reflecting data released December 1, 2021.

Unseasonably low October wholesale egg prices reported in advance of 2021 holiday season

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Demand for table eggs tends to increase when holiday gatherings and cold weather encourage home baking and cooking. In accordance, wholesale table egg prices—the prices retailers pay to producers for eggs—tend to increase ahead of holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Leading up to the 2021 holiday season, however, wholesale prices of table eggs in the United States have fallen as effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19)-linked flock adjustments linger. In normal years, producers anticipate seasonal demand by adjusting the size of the table-egg laying flocks and the rate at which they produce eggs. In 2020, COVID-19-related disruptions in the demand for eggs led producers to reduce flock sizes. Flock sizes have slowly rebuilt since the summer of 2020 but remain smaller than the same time in 2019. However, the younger flocks produce more eggs per hen. The higher productivity can offset the effects of the small flock size and support increased production. At the beginning of October 2021 the size of the U.S. laying flock was just above the October 2020 levels and the rate of lay was 1.1 percent higher. This productivity bump is predicted to support about a 1 percent increase in October 2021 table egg production compared with a year ago, leading to a 9.6 percent price reduction compared to October 2020. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Monthly Outlook, published November 2021.

Agriculture and related industries provide 10.3 percent of U.S. employment

Friday, November 26, 2021

In 2020, 19.7 million full- and part-time jobs were related to the agricultural and food sectors,10.3 percent of total U.S. employment. Direct on-farm employment accounted for about 2.6 million of these jobs, or 1.4 percent of U.S. employment. Employment in agriculture- and food-related industries supported another 17.1 million jobs. Of this, food service, eating and drinking places accounted for the largest share at 10.5 million jobs. Food and beverage stores supported 3.3 million jobs. The remaining agriculture-related industries together added another 3.3 million jobs. This chart appears in the collection Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials on the ERS website.

Over the next decade, crop prices are projected to decline while livestock prices generally rise

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Recently released USDA projections reveal expectations for U.S. crop prices to decrease over the next 10 years while prices for major animal products, except hogs, are forecast to increase. Expected declines for crops follow a period of generally higher prices that have peaked during the current marketing year. The price-bolstering effects of economic recovery, renewed export demand, and logistical problems in supply chains are forecast to subside after the recent peak during the 2021/22 marketing year, and crop prices are forecast subsequently to return to the earlier pattern of generally lower prices through 2031. Hog prices are projected to follow a similar pattern to crops and to move toward levels that reflect normal weather and an absence of major market shocks including policy changes. Beef cattle and broiler prices are expected to demonstrate a modest increase in the early years of the projection period before leveling off to slower growth, resulting in an average price increase of 8 to 17 percent over the decade. Similar to most animal products prices, prices that farmers are expected to receive for their eggs are forecast to rise steadily throughout the projection period, partly based on increased demand for cage-free eggs and regulatory changes that are projected to increase costs of production. This chart is based upon forecasts and projections using data available as of October 12, 2021, and long-term projections to 2031 released on November 5, 2021. Current projections are shown in the Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Agricultural Baseline Database. For 2020’s farm price projections, see the ERS Chart of Note from November 9, 2020.

Family farm households received an estimated $2,167 on average from Economic Impact Payments in 2020

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

In 2020, U.S. family farm households received $4.3 billion in Federal assistance during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic from Economic Impact Payments (EIP) (also known as stimulus payments). USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers used data from the most recent available 2019 Agricultural Resource Management Survey on farm households’ adjusted gross income and household composition to estimate the average EIP disbursed. The estimated average was $924, $2,408, and $2,466 for single, head of household, and joint filers, respectively. This disparity partly reflects the lower income thresholds for single households, which resulted in some not receiving the maximum EIP and others not receiving EIP at all. Additionally, since unmarried people with dependents were assumed to file as head of household, these households were estimated to have received an additional $500 per dependent. Among family farm households, ERS researchers estimated that 18 percent of single filers did not receive EIP, compared with 17 percent of head of household filers, and 13 percent of joint filers in 2020. In April and May 2020, U.S. households of all types—farm or otherwise—received more than $266 billion from the EIP program. This chart appears in the Amber Waves feature “U.S. Agriculture Sector Received an Estimated $35 Billion in COVID-19 Related Assistance in 2020,” released September 2021.

In 2020, crops sector received 65 percent of Paycheck Protection Program loans for agriculture

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Errata: On November 9, 2021, the chart and text were revised to clarify that the Paycheck Protection Program eligibility simulation was carried out on both commercial and intermediate farm operations. No other data or findings are changed.

As part of its response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the U.S. Federal Government implemented the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Agricultural producers could use forgivable loans from this program to help keep employees on payroll and offset some of their operating costs. The maximum PPP loan amount was 2.5 times the monthly average profit plus payroll and eligible overhead expenses, such as the employer’s share of insurance payments and unemployment taxes. If used on eligible expenses within the first 24 weeks of disbursement, PPP loans were fully forgiven. According to data from USDA’s 2019 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), 72 percent of all farm businesses (operations with gross cash farm income of more than $350,000 or smaller operations where farming is reported as the operator's primary occupation) had either positive net income or positive payroll, which met the two most important eligibility requirements to apply for PPP loans. Individual Small Business Administration (SBA) loan data indicated that almost 121,000 farm operations applied for a total of $6.0 billion in PPP loans in 2020. That accounted for 17 percent of presumed-eligible farm businesses based on the 2019 ARMS. Out of the total PPP loans that was disbursed to farm operations in 2020, $3.9 billion (65 percent) went to crop operations, and the remaining $2.1 billion (35 percent) went to livestock operations. This chart appears in the Amber Waves finding “U.S. Producers Received Almost $6.0 Billion From the Paycheck Protection Program in 2020,” released October 2021.

Gap between H-2A positions certified and H-2A visas issued grew during COVID-19 pandemic

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers Program attracts foreign farmworkers on temporary work visas to fulfill short-term labor contracts. All positions to be filled with H-2A workers are first certified by the Department of Labor, then U.S. consulates issue corresponding visas. The number of positions certified each year generally exceeds the annual number of visas issued, in part because an H-2A worker may fill multiple positions on the same visa. At the onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, temporary changes to H-2A program rules provided visa extensions to H-2A workers already in the country and allowed them to more easily switch to certified positions with other employers. In the first few months of the pandemic, the gap between positions certified and the number of visas issued grew. Position certifications typically peak in March, while visas issued peak a month later as workers begin work. In March and April 2020 combined, a record 81,000 positions were certified, and 57,000 visas were issued during the corresponding months of April and May. This difference is larger than previous years and suggests that proportionally fewer certified positions were filled with new H-2A entries in 2020. This chart first appeared in the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) report, Farm Labor Markets in the United States and Mexico Pose Challenges for U.S. Agriculture, published in November 2018, and has been updated through 2020. For more information on how H-2A visas have fulfilled seasonal labor requirements, see the ERS report Examining the Growth in Seasonal Agricultural H-2A Labor, published in August 2021, and the Amber Waves feature “Use of H-2A Guest Farm Worker Program More Than Triples in Past Decade,” published in September 2021.

Local residents living in oil-dependent counties experienced long-term effects following the oil boom and bust of the 1980s

Monday, October 18, 2021

Errata: On October 22, 2021, the map presented in this Chart of Note was revised to show the correct number of counties in the contiguous United States.

Focusing on the rapid rise and decline of oil production in the 1970s and 1980s, researchers at USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), the University of Oregon, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied the cumulative effects of oil booms (and subsequent busts) on households living in counties with the most dependence on oil extraction. The authors identified individuals living in “boom counties” in 1980, defined as those with greater than 2.5 percent employment in oil and natural gas extraction. On average, the incomes of boom households increased by $5,000 dollars annually during the early years of the 1975-1979 oil boom and $6,900 per year during the later boom of 1980-1984, compared with similar households in counties that were not producing oil. The subsequent bust, however, reduced household incomes on average by more than $8,000 annually from 1985 to 1992. These losses were driven in part by increased unemployment and the dissipation of relative wage gains during the boom. The earlier oil boom and bust appeared to have no effect on household income after 1993. The average household in a boom county saw cumulative income losses of $7,600 compared with households in non-boom counties between 1969 and 2012, the final year of the study. These income losses were experienced entirely by workers in their prime working age of 25-54. Boom household heads above 54 were also about 15 percent less likely to retire from 1989 to 1992, compared with non-boom household heads. To estimate the effects of booms and busts on employment, the researchers used annual household-level survey data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. This chart appears in the Amber Waves finding “Oil Booms Can Reduce Lifetime Earnings and Delay Retirement,” published October 2021.

Impact of changing capital gains taxation at death varies by farm size

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

A proposal to change the way capital gains are taxed at death would affect family farm estates differently according to the size of the farm. Under current law, most inherited assets receive a step-up in basis, which means the tax basis—the amount for determining gain or loss—of property transferred to an heir at death is increased to its current fair market value at the date of death, eliminating any capital gains tax liability on those inherited gains. The change, which was included in the American Families Plan (AFP), would end stepped-up basis for gains above $1 million for the estates of individuals or $2 million for married couples. Gains above these exemption amounts would be subject to tax at death. However, the transfer of a family farm to a family member who continues the operation would not result in a tax at death. Farm and business assets exceeding the exemption amounts would receive a carry-over basis deferring capital gains tax until the assets are sold, or until the farm is no longer family owned and operated. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers, using modeling to evaluate potential effects of the AFP proposal, found that as family farm size increased, the estimated share of estates owing no tax at death and receiving stepped-up basis on all assets decreased, while the estimated share of estates that would receive carry-over basis increased. For small farm estates, with gross cash farm income (GCFI) less than $350,000, 83.4 percent would owe no capital gains tax at death and would receive a stepped-up basis on all assets, resulting in no change to their capital gains tax liability. Under the ERS model, that share would drop to 34.2 percent for midsize farms (those with GCFI of $350,000 to $1 million), 20.4 percent for large farms (with GCFI of $1 million to $5 million), and 3.6 percent for very large farms (with GCFI of more than $5 million). Some estates would be taxed on nonfarm gains at death and potentially could owe deferred taxes on farm gains if the heirs stop operating the farm. For those estates, the estimated share increased from 1.1 percent for small farms to 2.5 percent for very large farms. Other estates would not have to pay tax at death but could see deferred taxes on farm gains if the heirs stop operating the farm. For that group, the estimated share increased from 15.5 percent for small farms to 93.9 percent for very large farms. This chart can be found in the ERS report The Effect on Family Farms of Changing Capital Gains Taxation at Death, published September 2021.

How proposed capital gains tax changes could affect estates of family farms

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The American Families Plan (AFP) that President Joe Biden announced in April 2021 included a proposal to make accumulated gains in asset value subject to capital gains taxation when the asset owner dies. Under current law, asset value gains can be passed on to heirs without being subject to capital gains taxation because the value of the assets are reset to the fair market value at the time of inheritance. This adjustment in asset valuation, known as a “stepped-up basis,” eliminates capital gains tax liabilities on any gains incurred before the assets were transferred to the heirs. AFP also included a provision that would exempt from capital gains taxes $1 million in gains for the estates of individuals and $2 million in gains for the estates of married couples, as well as for gains on a personal residence of $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for married couples. Gains above these exemption amounts would be subject to tax at death. However, the transfer of a family farm to a family member who continues the operation would not result in a tax upon the death of the principal operator. Under the proposal, any remaining farm and business gains above the exemption amount would receive a “carry-over basis” that effectively defers any capital gains tax until the assets are sold or until the farm is no longer family-owned and operated. Using 2019 Agricultural Resource Management Survey data, USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers estimated that of the 1.97 million family farms in the United States, 32,174 estates would result from principal operator deaths in 2021. From these farm estates, the ERS model used to evaluate potential effects of the AFP proposal estimated that heirs of 80.7 percent of family farm estates would have no change to their capital gains tax liability upon death of the principal operator. Heirs of 18.2 percent of family farm estates would not owe taxes at the time of the principal operator’s death but could be subject to a future potential capital gains tax obligation on inherited farm gains if the heirs stop farming. Heirs of 1.1 percent of estates would owe tax on nonfarm gains upon death of the principal operator and have a future potential capital gains tax obligation resulting from inherited farm gains if the heirs stop farming. This chart can be found in the ERS report The Effect on Family Farms of Changing Capital Gains Taxation at Death, published September 2021.

Employment in U.S. agriculture grew 9 percent between 2010 and 2020

Friday, September 3, 2021

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) show that wage and salary employment in agriculture was stable in the 2000s. Starting in 2010, it gradually increased from 1.07 million jobs to 1.17 million jobs in 2020—a gain of 9 percent. From 2010-20, growth was fastest in the livestock sub-sector, which added 41,300 jobs, an 18 percent increase, and in crop support services, which added 38,000 jobs, a 13 percent increase. Firms in the crop and livestock support sub-sectors provide specialized services to farmers including farm labor contracting, custom harvesting, and animal breeding services. By comparison, employment of direct hires in the crop sub-sector, which has the largest number of hired farm workers, remained essentially unchanged. Data from QCEW is based on unemployment insurance records, not on surveys of farms or households. As a result, it does not cover smaller farm employers in States that exempt such employers from participation in the unemployment insurance system. However, survey data from sources such as the American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey also showed rising farm employment since the turn of the century. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service topic page for Farm Labor, updated August 2021.

U.S. farm sector profits forecast to increase in 2021

Thursday, September 2, 2021

USDA’s Economic Research Service forecasts inflation-adjusted net cash farm income (NCFI)—gross cash income minus cash expenses—to increase by $19.8 billion (17.2 percent) from 2020 to $134.7 billion in 2021. U.S. net farm income (NFI) is forecast to increase by $15.0 billion (15.3 percent) from 2020 to $113.0 billion in 2021. Net farm income is a broader measure of farm sector profitability that incorporates noncash items, including changes in inventories, economic depreciation, and gross imputed rental income. If this forecast is realized, NFI would be 20.4 percent above its 2000–20 average and would be the highest since 2013. NCFI would be 18.9 percent above its 2000–20 average and would be the highest since 2014. Underlying these forecasts, cash receipts for farm commodities are projected to rise by $51.2 billion (13.8 percent) from 2020 to 2021, their highest level since 2015. Production expenses are expected to grow by $12.9 billion (3.5 percent) during the same period, somewhat moderating income growth. Additionally, direct Government payments to farmers are expected to fall by $19.3 billion (40.8 percent) in 2021 compared with 2020’s record high payments. This decline is largely caused by lower anticipated payments from supplemental and ad hoc disaster assistance for Coronavirus (COVID-19) relief. Find additional information and analysis on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s topic page for Farm Sector Income and Finances, reflecting data released on September 2, 2021.

Commercial farms received the highest average Government payments in 2019

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Errata: On July 28, 2021, the chart was revised to correct an error in presentation. No other data or text were affected.

Government payments to farm operator households totaled $14.8 billion in 2019, based on data from USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey. More than 30 percent of about 1.97 million U.S. farms received some Government payments that year, with an average payment of $24,623. The distribution of payments varied by farm type, which USDA’s Economic Research Service defines based on gross cash farm income (GCFI) and operator type. About 74 percent of commercial farms (those with $350,000 or more in annual GCFI) received Government payments in 2019, with an average payment of $84,775. By comparison, about 31 percent of intermediate farms (less than $350,000 in annual GCFI and a principal operator whose primary occupation is farming) received Government payments, with an average payment of $11,731. About 24 percent of all residence farms (less than $350,000 in annual GCFI and a principal operator who is retired from farming or has a primary occupation other than farming) received Government payments, with an average payment of $8,147. The distribution of payments also varied by the type of Government program. Across programs, average payments were always highest for commercial farms and typically lowest for residence farms, with intermediate farms in the middle. For example, average countercyclical payments in 2019 were $28,093 for commercial farms, compared with $5,800 and $2,660 for intermediate and residence farms, respectively. The only exception was in conservation payments, where intermediate farms had the lowest average payments. This chart appears in the July 2021 Amber Waves finding, Commercial Farms Received the Most Government Payments in 2019. For more information on the Federal programs discussed above, visit the topic page for Farm & Commodity Policy.

Research investments help many countries sustain growth in agricultural productivity

Monday, July 12, 2021

Raising the productivity of existing agricultural resources—rather than bringing new resources into production—has become the major source of growth in world agriculture. Farm productivity is measured by total factor productivity (TFP), an index that takes into account the land, labor, capital, and material resources employed in farm production and compares them with the total amount of crop and livestock output. If total output is growing faster than total inputs, then the total productivity of the factors of production (i.e., total factor productivity) is increasing. Using the latest available data through 2016, agricultural productivity has risen steadily in most industrialized countries at between 1 and 2 percent a year since at least the 1970s. Since the 1990s, many developing countries as well as transition economies that belonged to the former Soviet bloc also have increased their agricultural productivity. Long-term research investments to develop new technologies have been especially important to sustaining higher agricultural TFP growth rates in large, rapidly developing countries such as Brazil and India. Institutional and economic reforms, combined with technological changes, have led to significant benefits for Chinese agriculture. Additionally, Russian agriculture rebounded after the early 1990s economic transition from a planned to a market-based economy, and the southern region of the country achieved notable productivity improvement. In contrast, under-investment in agricultural research remains an important barrier to stimulating agricultural productivity growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. This chart appears in USDA, Economic Research Service data product for International Agricultural Productivity, updated November 2019.

Farms with higher sales had a larger share of households with positive farm income

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Farm households earn income from both farm operations and off-farm sources, such as off-farm employment, pensions, and capital gains. In 2019, more than half (51 percent) of all U.S. farm households had positive net returns, where total revenue from farming exceeded total costs. Farms with higher sales had a larger share of households with positive farm income. For example, 39 percent of farm households with annual gross sales less than $10,000 had positive farm income, compared with 85 percent of farms with sales of $1 million or more. At the same time, 56 percent of households operated the smallest farms with sales of less than $10,000, compared with 4 percent operating the largest ones with annual sales of $1 million or more. Households operating larger farms relied more on income from farming than households operating smaller farms. For instance, households that operated farms with sales of $1 million or more—and that had net positive returns—earned a median share of 87 percent of their income from farming. For those with sales less than $10,000, that median share was 5 percent. This chart is based on data from the ERS data product ARMS Farm Financial and Crop Production Practices, updated December 2020.

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