Publications

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  • The Size and Scope of Locally Marketed Food Production

    Amber Waves, February 02, 2015

    In 2012, 163,675 farmers sold an estimated $6.1 billion in local foods. "Local foods" includes food for human consumption sold via direct-to-consumer (e.g., farmers’ markets, on-farm stores, farm stands, pick-your-own activities, and other farmer-to-consumer venues) and intermediated marketing channels (sales directly to restaurants, grocers, schools, universities and other institutions).

  • Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress

    AP-068, January 29, 2015

    ERS details current economic information on local food producers, consumers, and policies, based on findings from several national surveys and a synthesis of recent literature.

  • The Importance of Farmer-Owned Nonfarm Businesses in the Rural Economy

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2013

    Farm households that also operate nonfarm businesses have accounted for about 18 percent of U.S. farm households since the 1990s. In 2007, farmer-owned nonfarm businesses employed over 800,000 nonfarm workers and contributed an estimated $55 billion to their local communities’ gross county product.

  • Multi-Enterprising Farm Households: The Importance of Their Alternative Business Ventures in the Rural Economy

    EIB-101, October 31, 2012

    Nearly a third of U.S. farm households generate income by engaging in business ventures independent of commodity production, creating $26.7 billion in household income in 2007, from both on- and off-farm enterprises.

  • Agricultural Income and Finance Outlook, 2011 Edition

    AIS-91, December 14, 2011

    Net farm income is forecast at $100.9 billion in 2011, up 28 percent from 2010 and 50 percent higher than the 10-year average of $67.4 billion for 2001-2010. Net cash income at $109.8 billion would be a nominal record, 19 percent above the prior record attained in 2010. Net value added is expected to increase by almost $24 billion in 2011 to $153.7 billion. Production expenses are forecast to jump substantially in 2011 to a record nominal high exceeding $300 billion. Prices paid indexes drive the forecast increase. Inflation-adjusted 2011 production expenses will exceed the previous peak reached in 1979. The values of farm business sector assets and equity (assets minus debt) are forecast to rise in 2011, while farm debt is forecast to decline from 2010 levels. Farm sector asset values are expected to rise by 6.8 percent in 2011 as the values of land and farm buildings, crop inventories, purchased inputs, machinery and equipment and financial assets are all expected to rise in 2011. Farm sector debt is expected to fall from about $247 billion in 2010 to about $243 billion in 2011. The decline in real estate debt is expected to be about $4 billion (-3.0 percent). The farm business sector's debt-to-asset ratio is expected to decline to 10.4 percent and debt-to-equity is expected to decline to 11.6 percent in 2011, indicating that the farm sector's solvency position remains strong. Average net cash income for farm businesses is expected to increase throughout most of the country in 2011, although income growth is not as high as experienced in 2010. High commodity prices for both crops and livestock are driving these increases, despite increasing expenses in all categories other than labor. Except for poultry, high prices in 2011 have helped the livestock sector to continue the strong performance of 2010 despite an environment of increasing feed expenses. Driven by the gains in most crop and livestock farms, all regions other than the Southern Seaboard are expected to experience at least a 7-percent improvement in average net cash income over 2010. Median farm household income increased by 3.7 percent in 2010 to $54,162 and is forecast to be higher in 2011. Bolstered by higher farm asset values, the balance sheet of farm households improved in 2010, with median net worth increasing by 6.5 percent to $576,745.

  • Local Foods Marketing Channels Encompass a Wide Range of Producers

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2011

    Local food marketing channels vary with farm size, with smaller farms dominating direct-to-consumer sales and larger farms dominating sales through grocers and other intermediaries.

  • Direct and Intermediated Marketing of Local Foods in the United States

    ERR-128, November 04, 2011

    ERS explores farmers' use of both direct-to-consumer marketing (such as farmers markets) and intermediated channels (such as grocers and restaurants) to sell food to consumers in their local areas.

  • Agricultural Income and Finance Outlook, 2010 Edition

    AIS-90, December 15, 2010

    Net farm income is forecast at $81.6 billion in 2010, up 31 percent from 2009 and 26 percent higher than the 10-year average of $64.8 billion for 2000 to 2009. Net cash income at $92.5 billion would be a nominal record, 2.3 percent above the prior record attained in 2008. Net value added is expected to increase by almost $20 billion in 2010 to $132.0 billion. Production expenses are forecast to rise moderately, reversing the significant declines seen in 2009. However, nominal total production expenses in 2010 and 2009 still constitute the second- and third-highest totals ever. Farm business equity (assets minus debt) is expected to rise nearly 4 percent, largely due to an expected 3-percent increase in the value of farm business real estate and a 2-percent decline in farm business debt. The farm business sector's debt-to-asset ratio is expected to decline to 11.3 percent and the debt-to-equity ratio is expected to decline to 12.8 percent in 2010, indicating that the farm sector's solvency position remains strong. Average net cash income for farm businesses is expected to increase throughout much of the country in 2010. The expected strong recovery in dairy, hog, and cattle receipts will result in much higher average net cash incomes for farm businesses in the Northern Crescent, Basin and Range, and Prairie Gateway. In the Northern Crescent, where dairy is a prominent commodity, average net cash income for farm businesses is forecast to increase by over 58 percent. Incomes are expected to be almost 50 percent higher in 2010 for farm businesses in the Basin and Range region where cattle are an important commodity, a region that showed the Average farm household income of principal farm operators-from farm and off-farm sources-is forecast to be $83,194 in 2010, up 7.8 percent from 2009. This contrasts with the change for the 2008 to 2009 period, when average farm household income declined by 3.3 percent.

  • Urban Areas Prove Profitable for Farmers Selling Directly to Consumers

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2010

    In 2007, $1.2 billion of farm products were sold directly to consumers by 136,800 farms, or 6 percent of all farms. Direct sales are highest in the urban corridors in the Northeast and on the West Coast.

  • Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues

    ERR-97, May 17, 2010

    A series of coordinated case studies compares the structure, size, and performance of local food supply chains with those of mainstream supply chains in delivering locally produced food to consumers.

  • Agricultural Income and Finance Outlook, 2009 Edition

    AIS-88, December 22, 2009

    All three measures of U.S. farm income are projected to decline in 2009-net farm income is projected to decline by 34.5 percent, net cash income by 28.4 percent, and net value added by 20 percent. Considerable uncertainty surrounds the forecasts of farm assets, debt, and equity in 2009, given the volatility of commodity, energy/input, and financial markets. The overall level of farm-business equity capital is expected to fall in 2009, as farm-sector asset values decline by 3.5 percent. Farm debt is expected to remain steady at $239 billion in 2009. Farm financial ratios monitoring liquidity, efficiency, solvency, and profitability show that the sector's financial performance in 2008-09, while slightly worse than in 2007, is quite favorable overall when compared to the 1980s and 1990s. Average net cash income for farm businesses (intermediate and commercial operations, including non-family farms) is projected to be $61,578 in 2009. This would be 10.6 percent below the 2008 estimate of $68,876. The projected change in income prospects for farm businesses will not affect all farm operations in the same manner or to the same degree. In 2009, the largest declines in farm-business income are forecast for livestock farms, particularly dairy. Farm-operator household income is forecast to be $76,065, down 3.5 percent from 2008. Household earnings from off-farm sources are projected to be similar to 2008.

  • Broadband Internet's Value for Rural America

    ERR-78, August 17, 2009

    Broadband access is necessary to fully utilize Internet potential, and rural areas without broadband access may be disadvantaged. ERS examines recent growth in broadband access in rural areas and the impacts of broadband on their economies.

  • Forecasting Farm Income: Documenting USDA's Forecast Model

    TB-1924, February 12, 2009

    The Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) develops and publishes estimates and forecasts of three primary measures of income and returns for the U.S. farm economy: (1) net value added, or total value of the farm sector's production of goods and services less purchases of inputs and services from other sectors of the economy; (2) net farm income, the portion of net value added earned by farm operators and others who share the risks of production, and (3) net cash income, the cash earned from sales of production and conversion of assets into cash. The USDA short-term income forecast model generates forecasts of receipts for individual commodities, Government payments for each program commodity or activity, and expenses for inputs such as fertilizer, fuel, feed, rent, and labor. The report describes the components and equations in the model, showing how components can be recombined to produce the three main measures of income.

  • Farmland Retirement's Impact on Rural Growth

    Amber Waves, July 01, 2006

    This article addresses an unintended consequences of high levels of enrollment in the CRP, that of farmland retirement's impact of rural growth. To examine this issue, this article examines the local socioeconomic changes that accompanied CRP enrollment in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and discusses ERS analysis of the potential employment and output changes if all land currently enrolled in the program could be put to other uses, given the current distribution of land, prevailing commodity market conditions, and public policies.

  • Farmland Retirement's Impact on Rural Growth

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2004

    The Feature "Farmland Retirement's Impact on Rural Growth" addresses an unintended consequences of high levels of enrollment in the CRP, that of farmland retirement's impact of rural growth. To examine this issue, this article examines the local socioeconomic changes that accompanied CRP enrollment in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and discusses ERS analysis of the potential employment and output changes if all land currently enrolled in the program could be put to other uses, given the current distribution of land, prevailing commodity market conditions, and public policies.

  • The Conservation Reserve Program: Economic Implications for Rural America

    AER-834, October 08, 2004

    This report estimates the impact that high levels of enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) have had on economic trends in rural counties since the program's inception in 1985 until today. The results of a growth model and quasi-experimental control group analysis indicate no discernible impact by the CRP on aggregate county population trends. Aggregate employment growth may have slowed in some high-CRP counties, but only temporarily. High levels of CRP enrollment appear to have affected farm-related businesses over the long run, but growth in the number of other nonfarm businesses moderated CRP's impact on total employment. If CRP contracts had ended in 2001, simulation models suggest that roughly 51 percent of CRP land would have returned to crop production, and that spending on outdoor recreation would decrease by as much as $300 million per year in rural areas. The resulting impacts on employment and income vary widely among regions having similar CRP enrollments, depending upon local economic conditions.

  • Tracing the Impacts of Food Assistance Programs on Agriculture and Consumers: A Computable General Equilibrium Model

    FANRR-18, May 20, 2002

    Changes in food assistance policy can have impacts on economic activity and household income across the economy. Using a Computable General Equilibrium model focusing on food assistance, we found that both a hypothetical cut in food stamp benefits and a hypothetical cash-out of the Food Stamp Program led to reductions in food demand and farm production. In addition, this hypothetical cut in food stamp benefits resulted in a decline in transfer income for low-income households that was not compensated for by increased labor income. The cash-out triggered general equilibrium effects that led to higher taxes and reductions in labor income, chiefly for high-income households. The Food Assistance Computable General Equilibrium model includes modeling innovations that make it particularly useful for investigating the potential economic impact of changes in food assistance policy. These innovations include allowing household consumption patterns to vary by income and food stamp benefits, letting labor supply and demand vary by skill level and occupation, and using considerable industry detail for key agricultural and food processing sectors.

  • Tracing the Costs and Benefits of Improvements in Food Safety

    AER-791, November 16, 2000

    The level and distribution of the costs and benefits of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulatory program for meat and poultry change dramatically once economywide effects are included in the analysis. Using a Social Accounting Matrix Model, we find that reduced premature deaths had a strong positive effect on household income, with economywide benefits almost double initial benefits. Contrary to expectations, reduced medical expenses resulted in a decrease in household income, while HACCP costs resulted in an increase. Net economywide benefits were slightly larger than initial net benefits, with poor households receiving a proportionally smaller share of the increased benefits than nonpoor because of their weak ties to the economy. Our SAM analysis provides policymakers useful information about who ultimately benefits from reduced foodborne illnesses and who ultimately pays the costs of food safety regulation. This analysis also sheds light on a number of issues central to cost-benefit analysis involving health, highlighting the danger of equating changes in income with changes in well-being.