Publications

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  • History of Agricultural Price-Support and Adjustment Programs, 1933-84

    AIB-485, December 03, 1984

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture's concern with price-support and adjustment legislation is carried out under a series of interrelated laws passed by Congress from 1933 to 1984. Beginning with the major proposals of the 1920s for handling and marketing farm surpluses, this history records the establishment of price-support and adjustment programs with the Federal Farm Board in 1929 and the Agricultural Adjustment Acts of 1933 and 1938, and then traces their evolution through 1984. This half century of development is important because it forms the foundation for implementing current and future farm legislation.

  • Weights, Measures, and Conversion Factors for Agricultural Commodities and Their Products

    AH-697, June 01, 1992

    This handbook is a compilation of weights, measures, and conversion factors used for agricultural commodities and their products. Several of the conversion factors and values shown in this handbook can be applied to many commodities. Some factors and values relate to specific commodities or products. This handbook supersedes Statistical Bulletin No. 616, Conversion Factors and Weights and Measures for Agricultural Commodities and Their Products (1979). When feasible, general purpose tables were updated to reflect changes in agricultural production and marketing. Considerable emphasis was given to metric measures.

  • Industrial Uses of Agricultural Materials Situation and Outlook Report (1)

    IUS-1, June 01, 1993

    Recent scientific advances are reducing the costs of producing and processing renewable resources into industrial products. These include advances that make agricultural production techniques more environmentally benign. And the advances in processing engineering-especially in destructive distillation, steam explosion, ultracentrifuges, and membranes-are making agriculturally based products more competitive. The scientific gains, along with Federal and State environmental regulations and growing consumer preferences for "green" products, are increasing the industrial demand for agricultural materials.

  • Industrial Uses of Agricultural Materials Situation and Outlook Report (2)

    IUS-2, December 01, 1993

    U.S. agriculture likely will have excess capacity for the foreseeable future. However, technological breakthroughs, heightened environmental awareness, and tougher environmental regulations are creating opportunities to use this capacity to produce industrial products. Although cornstarch dominates the industrial starch market, wheat starch is also used to manufacture industrial products. Because of widely fluctuating world supplies, major castor oil buyers have expressed an interest in U.S. production. In addition, a consortium of industrial, university, and government organizations has come together to commercialize lesquerella. Castor and lesquerella are sources of hydroxy fatty acids used by industry in a variety of applications, including cosmetics, waxes, nylons, plastics, coatings, and lubricants. The 1993 kenaf harvest has been completed in Louisiana and is underway in California, Mississippi, and Texas. In the United States, flax is the most extensively used nonwood fiber employed in papermaking, except for cotton. Animal byproducts are used to manufacture pharmaceuticals with a wide range of applications. A special article examines a simulation model that evaluates the feasibility of a community-based 500,000-gallon biodiesel plant in the United States. Soybeans were found to be the most cost-effective feedstock, mainly because the meal is a useful coproduct.

  • Industrial Uses of Agricultural Materials Situation and Outlook Report (3)

    IUS-3, June 01, 1994

    Strong economic growth and environmental regulation boost industrial uses of agricultural materials. One use of cornstarch is in the production of citric acid, the main acidifier (by volume) used by the food and pharmaceutical industries. About 15 percent of the plasticizers produced in the United States is derived from plant matter, mostly vegetable oils, and the market is growing 3 to 5 percent a year. The market for epoxidized soybean oil may expand tremendously if it can be incorporated into paints and coatings to replace volatile solvents. A study found that the energetic and economic feasibility of converting beef tallow to biodiesel was generally positive. The cost of producing tallow-based biodiesel ranged from 92 cents to $1.67 per gallon, depending on the price of the tallow feedstock, the price received for the glycerine coproduct, and the type and size of the transesterification unit.

  • Atrazine: Environmental Characteristics and Economics of Management

    AER-699, September 09, 1994

    Restricting or eliminating the use of atrazine in the Midwest would have important economic consequences for farmers and consumers. Atrazine is an important herbicide in the production of corn and other crops in the United States. Since atrazine is such an important herbicide, mandatory changes in application strategies are likely to generate sizable costs for producers and consumers. However, recent findings indicate that elevated amounts of atrazine are running off fields and entering surface water resources. This report presents the costs and benefits of an atrazine ban, a ban on pre-plant and pre-emergent applications, and a targeted ban to achieve a surface water standard. A complete atrazine ban is hypothesized to be the costliest strategy, while the targeted strategy is the least costly.

  • Industrial Uses of Agricultural Materials Situation and Outlook Report (4)

    IUS-4, December 01, 1994

    Market conditions and research increase industrial use of agricultural materials. Industrial uses of corn in 1994/95 are forecast up 12 percent from 1993/94. Most of the increase is expected to be used to make ethanol. Corn also is used to produce sorbitol, a polyol widely used in personal-care products. Meadowfoam, a new oilseed crop grown in Oregon, contains a unique oil that is used in cosmetics and has potential in other applications. As supplies of virgin timber tighten, nonwood biomass fibers, such as straw, and recycled fiber products, such as paper and wood wastes, are being used as raw materials for composite products. Livestock producers who operate large-scale confinement operations, such as dairies and hog farms, are looking for ways to handle and dispose of animal wastes that are cost effective and meet odor and pollution regulations. Farm-level production of biogas (using anaerobic digesters) is one solution that also will help control methane emissions into the atmosphere. Lignin, a common material in trees and woody plants, currently is a byproduct of pulp and paper production. However, research is underway to broaden commercial uses of lignin. One project is assessing the potential for converting lignin into pulping catalysts.

  • Benefits of Protecting Rural Water Quality: An Empirical Analysis

    AER-701, January 02, 1995

    Concerns about the impact of farm production on the quality of the Nation's drinking and recreational water resources have risen over the past 10 years. Because point sources of pollution were controlled first, agricultural nonpoint sources have become the Nation's largest remaining single water-quality problem. Both public and private costs of policies that address the conflict between agricultural production and water quality are relevant, but measuring the off-farm benefits and costs of changing water quality is difficult. Many of the values placed on these resources are not measured in traditional ways through market prices. This report explores the use of nonmarket valuation methods to estimate the benefits of protecting or improving rural water quality from agricultural sources of pollution. Two case studies show how these valuation methods can be used to include water-quality benefits estimates in economic analyses of specific policies to prevent or reduce water pollution.

  • Industrial Uses of Agricultural Materials Situation and Outlook Report (5)

    IUS-5, September 01, 1995

    Research and market demand are opening new opportunities for agriculturally based industrial materials. If biodiesel is approved as a certified technology for the Urban Bus Retrofit Rebuild Program, U.S. transit operations would be able to use it to meet air-quality regulations without any change in operability and maintenance. Ethanol sales in the reformulated gasoline market have been strong, despite the court-ordered elimination of the renewable oxygenate requirement. Cornstarch is used to make xanthan gum, a popular ingredient in food, pharmaceuticals, and industrial products. In 1994, an estimated supply of 10.8 billion pounds of cotton lint, linters, motes, and textile wastes were available for industrial purposes. Essential oils and their derivatives are widely used as flavors and fragrances, a market estimated to be worth $9 billion. A special article examines the expected costs of operating a bus fleet on three different alternative fuels-biodiesel, compressed natural gas (CNG), and methanol-with petroleum diesel as the base fuel.

  • 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.

  • Industrial Uses of Agricultural Materials Situation and Outlook Report (6)

    IUS-6, October 16, 1996

    With U.S. farmers now facing few restrictions on what they can plant, industrial crops will need to stay competitive-economically and agronomically-with other crops to ensure their continued viability. The 1996 Farm Act, which provides expanded planting flexibility, makes expected market returns and crop rotation needs or desires important factors as farmers decide which commodities to produce. In 1995/96, industrial uses of corn are expected to total 622 million bushels, down 18 percent from the previous year, mainly due to lower use for ethanol. Ethanol producers are in the midst of a financial squeeze, resulting from rapidly rising corn prices, only moderate gains in coproduct prices, and relatively stable ethanol prices. Tung oil is being produced in the United States for the first time since 1973. Crambe is again being grown in North Dakota after a year of no commercial production. Biodiesel commercialization faces a number of regulatory and market challenges in the United States. Approximately 37 million metric tons of paper and wood materials were recovered for recycling in 1994, providing a renewable source of inputs to manufacturers. Phytoremediation, the systematic use of plants to treat environmental contamination, is a potential low-cost technology that is being investigated to help meet environmental regulations. A special article examines possible biodiesel demand in three niche fuel markets-Federal fleets, mining, and marine/estuary areas-and estimates the potential impact on U.S. agriculture if soybean oil was used as the raw material for the biodiesel.

  • Industrial Uses of Agricultural Materials Situation and Outlook Report (7)

    IUS-7, July 01, 1997

    An estimated $110 billion worth of agricultural and forestry products were used as raw materials in the manufacture of industrial (nonfood, nonfeed) products in 1992. Wood and paper products accounted for $96 billion, more than 87 percent of the total. Other fibrous materials, animal products, natural rubber, and vegetable oils were among the other agricultural materials used in the manufacture of nonfood items. Markets are growing for citric and lactic acids, two organic chemicals usually derived from starch and sugar feedstocks. Soybean meal is being used to make adhesives and composites. Soybean oil is finding its way into plastics, inks, and solvents. Special articles examine two specialty oilseeds-crambe production and processing in North Dakota and lesquerella production in the Southwestern United States.

  • U.S. Agricultural Growth and Productivity: An Economywide Perspective

    AER-758, January 01, 1998

    Growth of U.S. agriculture is dependent on increases in productivity, three-fourths of which is accounted for by public investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) and infrastructure, according to this research. Productivity growth in U.S. agriculture benefits consumers by putting downward pressure on real primary and processed food prices. Moreover, maintaining export growth in international markets relies on relative productivity growth against major competitors. Public investments in agricultural R&D have stagnated since the mid-1970's, raising questions about sustained productivity growth in U.S. agriculture.

  • Agricultural Productivity in the United States

    AIB-740, January 01, 1998

    Increased productivity is a key to a healthy and thriving economy. Consequently, the trend in productivity, economywide, is one of the most closely watched of our common economic performance indicators. Agriculture, in particular, has been a very successful sector of the U.S. economy in terms of productivity growth. The U.S. farm sector has provided an abundance of output while using inputs efficiently. Agricultural productivity growth has been an important source of U.S. economic growth throughout the century, but the years since 1940 have seen an even faster growth in agricultural productivity. The annual average increase in productivity from 1948 to 1994 was 1.94 percent. This reflects an annual growth in output of 1.88 percent per year and an actual decline in agricultural inputs of 0.06 percent per year. This report describes changes in U.S. agricultural productivity, and its output and input components, for 1948-94. The report also discusses factors that have affected productivity trends and provides detailed, technical information about the USDA system for calculating productivity.

  • Economic Assessment of the 1999 Drought: Agricultural Impacts Are Severe Locally, but Limited Nationally

    AIB-755, November 01, 1999

    While the 1999 drought has had severe financial impacts on agricultural producers in the drought regions, its impact on U.S. agricultural production has been limited. The drought will reduce commodity receipts relative to 1998 by an estimated $1.29 billion. Estimated farm net income losses, including expected yield losses, increases in expenses, and insurance indemnities, will total $1.35 billion, about 3 percent of expected 1999 U.S. net farm income. Drought impacts in areas of the Northeast designated as extreme and severe drought are expected to reduce farmers' net income by nearly $840 million. The regions affected, the crops grown in those regions, the increased use of irrigation, and crop insurance coverage limited the drought's impacts on agriculture nationally. Drought also affects the rural population by reducing water supplies available for human and livestock consumption.

  • Adoption of Agricultural Production Practices: Lessons Learned from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Area Studies Project

    AER-792, January 01, 2001

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture Area Studies Project was designed to characterize the extent of adoption of nutrient, pest, soil, and water management practices and to assess the factors that affect adoption for a wide range of management strategies across different natural resource regions. The project entailed the administration of a detailed field-level survey to farmers in 12 watersheds in the Nation to gather data on agricultural practices, input use, and natural resource characteristics associated with farming activities. The data were analyzed by the Economic Research Service using a consistent methodological approach with the full set of data to study the constraints associated with the adoption of micronutrients, N-testing, split nitrogen applications, green manure, biological pest controls, pest-resistant varieties, crop rotations, pheromones, scouting, conservation tillage, contour farming, strip cropping, grassed waterways, and irrigation. In addition to the combined-areas analyses, selected areas were chosen for analysis to illustrate the difference in results between aggregate and area-specific models. The unique sample design for the survey was used to explore the importance of field-level natural resource data for evaluating adoption at both the aggregate and watershed levels. Further analyses of the data illustrated how the adoption of specific management practices affects chemical use and crop yields.

  • Natural Resources, Agricultural Productivity, and Food Security

    AIB-765-3, April 26, 2001

    This issue brief describes ERS research on international differences in the quality of natural resources and their effects on agricultural productivity and food security.

  • U.S. Agriculture, 1960-96: A Multilateral Comparison of Total Factor Productivity

    TB-1895, May 21, 2001

    This study provides estimates of the growth and relative levels of agricultural productivity for the 48 contiguous States for the period 1960 to 1996. For the full 1960-96 period, every State exhibits a positive and generally substantial average annual rate of productivity growth. There is considerable variance, however. The wide disparity in growth rates resulted in substantial changes in the ranking order of States by productivity. For each year, we calculate the coefficient of variation of productivity levels. We use these coefficients to show that the range of levels of productivity has narrowed over time, although the pattern of convergence was far from uniform. The fact that in some States, productivity grew faster than others and yet the cross-section dispersion decreased, implies that the States whose productivity grew most rapidly were those with lower initial levels of productivity. This result is consistent with Gerschenkron's notion of the advantage of relative backwardness. The States that were particularly far behind the productivity leaders had the most to gain from the diffusion of technical knowledge and proceeded to grow most rapidly. We also observe a positive relation between capital accumulation and productivity growth, implying embodiment of technology in capital.

  • In the Long Run: Productivity Continues To Be the Engine of Growth in Agriculture

    Amber Waves, February 03, 2003

    Agricultural productivity growth averaged 1.68 percent from 1948 to 1999. However, the net contribution of all inputs to growth in output was less than one-tenth of 1 percentage point per year.

  • Regional Trends in Extension System Resources

    AIB-781, April 07, 2003

    In 1914, when the Cooperative Extension Service was founded, about 30 percent of U.S. workers were in agriculture-related occupations; by the late 1990s, that share had declined to about 1 percent. The Extension System ("Extension") has changed along with its audience. The number of full-time-equivalent Extension personnel dropped by 12 percent from 1977 to 1997. Regional personnel FTE allocation patterns were mostly similar to the national ones, with the largest declines found in community resource development and 4-H youth programs. Staff years dedicated to agriculture and natural resources increased modestly, as did staff years dedicated to home economics and nutrition.