Publications

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  • Possible Economic Consequences of Reverting to Permanent Legislation or Eliminating Price and Income Supports

    AER-526, January 01, 1985

    If the agricultural legislation expiring in 1985 is not replaced, farm price and income supports will revert from the programs provided for in the Agriculture and Food Act of 1981 and subsequent legislation to the programs provided for in the permanent support statutes. Reverting to the permanent support programs, dating back in some cases to the 1930s, would raise price and income support levels significantly and greatly reduce the role of market forces in determining farm returns. Conversely, if all price and income supports were eliminated in 1985, Government intervention in the market would end and supply and demand forces would determine farm returns. Adopting either of these two outerbound policy alternatives would have significant and far-reaching impacts on farm operations, the agribusiness sector, the general economy, and ultimately the world market for farm products.

  • Fibers: Background for 1990 Farm Legislation

    AIB-591, March 01, 1990

    This report provides an overview of the cotton, wool, and mohair sectors and addresses considerations in the 1990 farm bill debate, including market conditions, policy proposals, trade agreements, and the interactions between policy and markets for selected commodities. Cotton acreage, production, and prices have been influenced by Government programs since the 1930s in an attempt to meet market needs, with varying degrees of success. The Food Security Act of 1985 is generally considered successful in dealing with the cotton sector despite several problems. While the general preference for 1990 legislation for cotton will likely be for stability, the combination of budget, trade, environment, and flexibility issues may result in more than fine tuning of the current act. Wool and mohair have been declining industries. Sheep inventories are a fifth of their World War II level; goat numbers are a third of their mid-1960s level. Policymakers have had limited control over wool program costs given the formula-based Government support price, the trend of declining textile market share, rising raw wool textile imports, stagnant lamb and mutton consumption, and the dominance of Australia and New Zealand in the world wool market. Issues for 1990 include whether to continue the program and, if so, the level and method of determining support prices.

  • Program Provisions for Program Crops: A Database for 1961-90

    AGES-9010, March 01, 1990

    This report opens with a look at legislation which provided the foundation for commodity support programs and highlights legislation which revised and supplemented the basic structure of these programs. However, the main body of this report is devoted to program provisions for 1961-90 crops of corn, sorghum, barley, oats, wheat, rice, upland cotton, and extra-long staple cotton which are presented in tables with extensive footnotes clarifying the program specifics.

  • Agricultural Export Programs: Background for 1990 Farm Legislation

    AGES-9033, May 01, 1990

    Lawmakers authorized several new export programs under the Food Security Act of 1985 in an attempt to increase agricultural exports. U.S. agricultural exports began to recover in fiscal 1987 and, in fiscal 1989, climbed to $39.6 billion, their highest level since 1981. Since 1986, U.S. agricultural export programs, a depreciating dollar, lower domestic commodity prices relative to world prices, and increased demand from importers have contributed to improved agricultural export sales. However, competition for world agricultural markets also has increased. Export programs help U.S. exporters meet subsidized competition, provide humanitarian relief, assist credit-seeking importers, and may help develop new overseas markets for U.S. agricultural products. Issues which could affect export programs in 1990 legislation include tightened U.S. and global grain stocks, potential budget exposure for increased loan guarantees, and the outcome of trade negotiations under the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

  • Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 1994

    AH-705, December 01, 1994

    This report identifies trends in land, water, and commercial input use, reports on the condition of natural resources used in the agricultural sector, and describes and assesses public policies that affect conservation and environmental quality in agriculture. Combining data and information, this report examines the complex connections among farming practices, conservation, and the environment, which are increasingly important components in U.S. agriculture and farm policy. The report examines the economic factors that affect resource use and, when data permit, estimates the costs and benefits (to farmers, consumers, and the government) of meeting conservation and environmental goals. The report takes stock of how natural resources (land and water) and commercial inputs (energy, nutrients, pesticides, and machinery) are used in the agricultural sector; shows how they contribute to environmental quality; and links use and quality to technological change, production practices, and farm programs.

  • Agricultural Research and Development: Public and Private Investments Under Alternative Markets and Institutions

    AER-735, May 01, 1996

    Empirical studies indicate high economic returns from the public's investment in agricultural research. Yet, even as society is placing broader demands on the research system, taxpayer support for public agricultural research is unlikely to increase. Stronger ownership rights for intellectual property have increased incentives for private investment in agricultural research, but key elements still require direct public support. The USDA is developing new mechanisms to build a more effective public-private partnership in agricultural research.

  • Economic Implications of Cleaning Barley in the United States

    AER-745, November 01, 1996

    The costs of cleaning barley beyond the current level of cleanliness would outweigh the potential benefits. There is little commercial interest in the cleaning of barley moving into domestic malting and feed barley markets. The export market demand is primarily for feed barley.

  • Partial Interests in Land: Policy Tools for Resource Use and Conservation

    AER-744, November 29, 1996

    Property rights arise out of law, custom, and the operation of private markets, with important implications for how land and other natural resources are used and conserved. Over the past several years, debate about the nature and scope of property rights has combined with budget concerns and reauthorization of the Farm Bill, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act to focus public attention on Federal natural resource policy. This report examines the nature of land ownership and the evolving Federal role in land use and conservation, with particular attention to the voluntary acquisition and conveyance of conservation easements and other partial interests in land.

  • Characteristics and Risk Management Needs of Limited-Resource and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

    AIB-733, April 01, 1997

    Small U.S. farms and those run by socially disadvantaged minority operators tend not to purchase insurance or to participate in insurance-type programs operated by USDA. This report traces the lack of use of such risk management measures to several characteristics of such farmers, who include females, blacks, American Indians, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and operators of Spanish origin. These farmers tend, more than the typical U.S. farm, to raise livestock rather than crops, and there are no government-sponsored insurance-type programs for livestock.

  • Financial Performance of U.S. Commercial Farms, 1991-94

    AER-751, June 01, 1997

    Commercial farms represent only 27 percent of farms in the United States, yet produce just over 75 percent of the value of agricultural products. These commercial farm businesses vary greatly by size, commodities produced, financial status, and operator demographics. Overall financial performance shows that the proportion of farms experiencing extreme financial stress remained stable over the last few years, and is considerably less than in the 1980s. Even as record levels of gross farm income are earned in this sector, expenses have increased as well, leaving farms in 1994 with average net farm income relatively stable in nominal terms over the previous 4 years.

  • Change in U.S. Livestock Production, 1969-92

    AER-754, July 01, 1997

    This report examines geographic changes in U.S. livestock production during 1969-92 from the standpoint of industry concentration and structure. Farm numbers declined 30 percent from 1969 to 1992, but hog and dairy operations were down 70 percent, farms producing eggs dropped 85 percent, and broiler operations declined 35 percent. Operations feeding cattle declined 40 percent from 1978 to 1992. Despite fewer farms, production was generally stable for most commodities with changes that reflected shifts in consumer demand for livestock products. With fewer farms producing more product, structural change in the production of most major livestock commodities was substantial. However, the magnitude and geography of change varied by commodity.

  • Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 1996-97

    AH-712, July 01, 1997

    This report identifies trends in land, water, and commercial input use, reports on the condition of natural resources used in the agricultural sector, and describes and assesses public policies that affect conservation and environmental quality in agriculture. Combining data and information, this report examines the complex connections among farming practices, conservation, and the environment, which are increasingly important components in U.S. agriculture and farm policy. The report also examines the economic factors that affect resource use and, when data permit, estimates the costs and benefits (to farmers, consumers, and the government) of meeting conservation and environmental goals. The report takes stock of how natural resources (land and water) and commercial inputs (energy, nutrients, pesticides, and machinery) are used in the agricultural sector; shows how they contribute to environmental quality; and links use and quality to technological change, production practices, and farm programs.

  • The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997: Provisions for Farmers and Rural Communities

    AER-764, July 31, 1998

    Under the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, most farmers will pay less Federal income tax, and farm families will find it easier to transfer the family farm across generations. The new law--the tax portion of 1997 legislation to balance the Federal budget by 2002--emerges from years of debate on proposals for tax simplification, broad tax reduction, and targeted relief for capital gains and estate taxes. The legislation is expected to generate a net tax reduction of $95 billion over 5 years for all taxpayers. A number of general and targeted tax relief provisions will reduce Federal taxes significantly for farmers and other rural residents, but also will increase the complexity of both Federal income and estate taxes. Farmers are expected to save more than $1.6 billion per year in Federal income taxes and $150-200 million in Federal estate taxes.

  • Structural and Financial Characteristics of U.S. Farms, 1995: 20th Annual Family Farm Report to Congress

    AIB-746, December 01, 1998

    National average statistics related to farm production mask the diversity in the Nation's 2 million farms and the people who operate them. Farms in the United States differ not only by size (sales and acres) and type of production, but also by organizational characteristics (land ownership, legal organization, contracting arrangements) and financial characteristics (debt, assets, income, expenditures). Farm operators and their households vary with respect to demographic characteristics (occupation, age, education), financial characteristics (dependence on farm income, operator/spouse labor allocation), and management characteristics (information sources, business goals).

  • Economics of Water Quality Protection From Nonpoint Sources: Theory and Practice

    AER-782, November 30, 1999

    Water quality is a major environmental issue. Pollution from nonpoint sources is the single largest remaining source of water quality impairments in the United States. Agriculture is a major source of several nonpoint-source pollutants, including nutrients, sediment, pesticides, and salts. Agricultural nonpoint pollution reduction policies can be designed to induce producers to change their production practices in ways that improve the environmental and related economic consequences of production. The information necessary to design economically efficient pollution control policies is almost always lacking. Instead, policies can be designed to achieve specific environmental or other similarly related goals at least cost, given transaction costs and any other political, legal, or informational constraints that may exist. This report outlines the economic characteristics of five instruments that can be used to reduce agricultural nonpoint source pollution (economic incentives, standards, education, liability, and research) and discusses empirical research related to the use of these instruments.

  • Characteristics of U.S. Wheat Farming: A Snapshot

    SB-968, June 07, 2000

    Wheat growers' choice of production practices and geographic location were the major determinants of their costs of production, according to the findings of a 1994 survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One-fourth of surveyed farms reported using some form of conservation tillage, especially farms in the North Central, Northern Plains, and Southeast regions. On a per-bushel basis, low-cost farms tended to be small in terms of wheat acreage and total farm acreage. Differences in capitalization, tenure, and the use of custom services accounted for nearly 81 percent of the variation in the cost of producing wheat. Most size economies were realized at around 200 to 300 wheat acres.

  • Summary of Federal Laws and Regulations Affecting Agricultural Employers, 2000

    AH-719, July 01, 2000

    About 34 percent of U.S. farms in 1997 used hired labor, and 12 percent used contract labor. Hired labor costs averaged 12 percent of total farm production expenses in 1997, but amounted to as much as 44 percent of production expenses for horticultural specialty crop producers, 40 percent for fruit and tree nut producers, and 32 percent for vegetable and melon producers. Hired farmworkers have accounted for about 31 percent of the farm workforce in the 1990's. Hired labor's importance of to U.S. farm production requires agricultural employers to understand Federal laws and regulations governing employment, taxes, wages, and working conditions. This single-source publication summarizes these laws and regulations. This updated version of a 1992 report contains expanded sections on agricultural employers' Federal safety requirements, migrant and seasonal farmworker provisions, and tax requirements for agricultural employers, as well as new sections on employer responsibilities under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.

  • Farm Resource Regions

    AIB-760, August 01, 2000

    ERS recently constructed a new set of regions depicting geographic specialization in production of U.S. farm commodities. ERS will use the new regions to display results of its analyses in a broad array of venues from briefings to publications, our web site, and journal articles. This pamphlet introduces the new ERS Farm Resource Regions, explains their origin and rationale, and serves as a reference for our clients.

  • Supply Response Under the 1996 Farm Act and Implications for the U.S. Field Crops Sector

    TB-1888, September 21, 2000

    The 1996 Farm Act gives farmers almost complete planting flexibility, allowing producers to respond to price changes to a greater extent than they had under previous legislation. This study measures supply responsiveness for major field crops to changes in their own prices and in prices for competing crops and indicates significant increases in responsiveness. Relative to 1986-90, the percentage increases in the responsiveness of U.S. plantings of major field crops to a 1-percent change in their own prices are: wheat (1.2 percent), corn (41.6 percent), soybeans (13.5 percent), and cotton (7.9 percent). In percentage terms, the increases in the responsiveness generally become greater with respect to competing crops' price changes. The 1996 legislation has the least effect on U.S. wheat acreage, whereas the law may lead to an average increase of 2 million acres during 1996-2005 in soybean acreage, a decline of 1-2 million acres in corn acreage, and an increase of 0.7 million acres in cotton acreage. Overall, the effect of the farm legislation on regional production patterns of major field crops appears to be modest. Corn acreage expansion in the Central and Northern Plains, a long-term trend in this important wheat production region, will slow under the 1996 legislation, while soybean acreage expansion in this region will accelerate. The authors used the Policy Analysis System-Economic Research Service (POLYSYS-ERS) model that was jointly developed by USDA's Economic Research Service and the University of Tennessee's Agricultural Policy Analysis Center to estimate the effects of the 1996 legislation.

  • A Safety Net for Farm Households

    AER-788, October 02, 2000

    Discussions in the public arena have raised fundamental questions about the ultimate goals of farm policy and the need for establishing a safety net for farm households. This report examines four scenarios for government assistance to agriculture based on the concept of ensuring some minimum standard of living. Lower income farmers would benefit relatively more from the safety net scenarios, while farmers producing selected commodities benefit relatively more from current farm programs. Farm households in the Northern Crescent, the Eastern Uplands, the Southern Seaboard, and the Fruitful Rim all would generally receive a higher level and a greater proportion of benefits than under current programs. A clear understanding of objectives and intended beneficiaries must be the starting point for discussions of future farm policy.