Characteristics and Production Costs

This series of reports presents information on how production costs vary among producers of different commodities and the possible reasons for this variation. Reports also include details on production practices and input use levels, as well as farm operator and structural characteristics.

Characteristics and Trends of U.S. Soybean Production Practices, Costs, and Returns Since 2002

In the past 20 years, U.S. soybean acreage has grown 18 percent, from 74 million to 87 million acres. Soybean yields have also increased. This study uses nationally representative survey data of U.S. soybean farmers (along with costs and returns data) to examine how production practices, export demand, public policy, and environmental factors have changed over the past 20 years.

U.S. Hog Production: Rising Output and Changing Trends in Productivity Growth

The hog sector began a major transformation in the early 1990s, and since then, it has experienced productivity growth and structural change, increased output, and expanded exports. This study examined changes in hog production from 1992 to 2017. During this period, production contracts became the most common business model in hog production, and hog farms grew larger and more specialized. Technological advancements improved productivity, though changes in production costs were mixed.

Trends in Production Practices and Costs of the U.S. Corn Sector

Corn for grain is a major field crop in the United States, with wide-ranging uses including animal feed, ethanol, food, beverages, industrial products, and exports. This report describes the technological and structural changes in U.S. corn production over 1996-2018, and describes how these changes have affected farm expenditures, net returns, productivity, yields, and production costs.

U.S. Rice Production in the New Millennium: Changes in Structure, Practices, and Costs

Farms growing rice changed significantly from 2000 to 2013 in terms of operation size and the ways in which rice is produced. The adoption of new technologies in rice farming pushed per-acre production costs higher, but rice yields and productivity also increased, offsetting the higher costs.

The Profit Potential of Certified Organic Field Crop Production

This report uses ARMS data from organic and conventional corn, wheat, and soybean producers to examine the profitability of organic field crop production. Findings show that significant economic returns are possible from organic corn and soybean production primarily due to the higher price premiums paid for organic crops that offset the additional economic costs of being organic. Organic wheat was less profitable. Despite potentially higher returns, the adoption of organic field crop production has been slow and its challenging due to such factors as achieving yields, effective weed control, and the processes involved with organic certification. Organic acreage is also constrained by climatic and market factors (July 2015).

U.S. Hog Production From 1992 to 2009: Technology, Restructuring, and Productivity Growth

This report uses 1992, 1998, 2004, and 2009 ARMS data for U.S. hog farms to study changes in U.S. hog production during 1992-2009. Findings show that U.S. hog production has evolved into an industry with larger hog enterprises, increased specialization in a single phase of production, greater reliance on purchased feed rather than feed grown on the farm, and an increased reliance on formal contracts—connecting farmers, hog owners, and packers—to coordinate production. This structural change contributed to substantial productivity gains for hog farms, likely benefiting U.S. consumers in terms of lower pork prices and enhancing the competitive position of U.S. producers in international marketsthough larger hog farms may increase environmental risks by concentrating production in areas with limited land available for manure application (October 2013).

The Diverse Structure and Organization of U.S. Beef Cow-Calf Farms

This report uses 2008 ARMS data for U.S. beef cow-calf farms to study their structure and organization. Findings suggest that many small operations are "rural residence farms" that specialize in beef cow-calf production, but their income from off-farm sources exceeds that from the farm. Most beef cow-calf production occurs on large farms, but cow-calf production is not the primary enterprise on many of these farms. Findings suggest that operators of beef cow-calf farms have a diverse set of goals for the cattle enterprise (March 2011).

Characteristics, Costs, and Issues for Organic Dairy Farming

This report uses 2005 ARMS data for U.S. dairy operations, which include a targeted sample of organic milk producers, to examine the structure, costs, and challenges of organic milk production. Findings suggest that economic forces have made organic operations more like conventional operations and that the future structure of the industry may depend on the interpretation and implementation of new organic pasture rules (November 2009).

The Changing Economics of U.S. Hog Production

This report uses 1992, 1998, and 2004 ARMS data for U.S. hog farms to study the structural and productivity changes in U.S. hog production from 1992-2004. Findings show that large operations specializing in a single phase of production are replacing farrow-to-finish operations that performed all phases of production. The use of production contracts has increased. Operations producing under contract are larger than independent operations and are more likely to specialize in a single phase of production. These structural changes have coincided with substantial gains in efficiency for hog farms and lower production costs. Most of these productivity gains are attributable to increases in the scale of production and technological innovation (December 2007).