Publications

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  • A Consideration of the Devolution of Federal Agricultural Policy

    AER-836, November 01, 2004

    Diverse needs and preferences across the United States provide justification for the devolution, or decentralization, of many Federal Government programs to the State or local level. The move toward devolution, however, has not been evidenced in U.S. agricultural policy, despite significant differences across States in such areas as commodity production, production costs, income distribution, and opportunities for off-farm work. The existing structure of USDA funding and program delivery already reflects an appreciation of the gains from devolution, with some programs accommodating differences in State and regional preferences. This report considers the implications of devolving $22 billion in 2003 budget outlays, mostly for domestic commodity and natural resource programs and rural development and housing programs.

  • Accelerated Productivity Growth Offsets Decline in Resource Expansion in Global Agriculture

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2010

    The rate of growth in global agricultural productivity has accelerated in recent decades and accounts for an increasing share of expanding agricultural production.

  • 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.

  • Ag Productivity Drives Output Growth

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2005

    Productivity has been the engine of economic growth in U.S. agriculture, averaging 1.8 percent per year from 1949 to 2002. This rate (compounded annually) caused output to grow significantly so that by 2002, output was 2.6 times as high as it was in 1948.

  • Agricultural Productivity Growth in the United States: 1948-2011

    Amber Waves, February 03, 2014

    U.S. total farm production more than doubled between 1948 and 2011. Agricultural output growth was mainly driven by productivity growth, with little contribution from total agricultural inputs growth.

  • Agricultural Productivity Growth in the United States: 1948-2015

    Amber Waves, March 05, 2018

    Technological developments in agriculture have driven long-term growth in U.S. agricultural productivity. Innovations in animal and crop genetics, chemicals, equipment, and farm organization have enabled continuing output growth while using much less labor and farmland. As a result, total agricultural output nearly tripled between 1948 and 2015—even as the amount of labor and land used declined.

  • Agricultural Productivity Growth in the United States: Measurement, Trends, and Drivers

    ERR-189, July 27, 2015

    With little growth in aggregate input use over the last six decades, the extraordinary performance of the U.S. farm sector was driven mainly by productivity growth, at an average annual rate of 1.42 percent. Is the growth sustainable?

  • 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.

  • Agricultural Recovery in Russia and the Rise of Its South

    Amber Waves, April 25, 2017

    National productivity growth in Russian agriculture is largely an outcome of activities in the South, which is exploiting relative geographic, infrastructural, and institutional advantages to spearhead the country’s agricultural improvements.

  • 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.

  • Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 2012

    EIB-98, August 22, 2012

    The 2012 edition provides resource-and environment-related information including farmland area, productivity, irrigation, pesticide use, adoption of genetically engineered crops, fertilizer use, conservation practices, and land retirement.

  • Antibiotics Used For Growth Promotion Have a Small Positive Effect on Hog Farm Productivity

    Amber Waves, July 07, 2014

    Antibiotics are frequently used to treat and prevent diseases in livestock. In addition to these medical uses, a substantial share of hog producers incorporate antimicrobial drugs into their livestock’s feed or water to promote feed efficiency and weight gain. For many years, governmental and professional organizations have expressed concerns about the overuse of antimicrobial drugs in livestock.

  • Assessing the Benefits of Public Research Within an Economic Framework: The Case of USDA's Agricultural Research Service

    ERR-95, May 07, 2010

    Evaluation of publicly funded research can help provide accountability and prioritize programs. In addition, Federal intramural research planning generally involves an institutional assessment of the appropriate Federal role, if any, and whether the research should be left to others, such as universities or the private sector. Many methods of evaluation are available, peer review-used primarily for establishing scientific merit-being the most common. Economic analysis focuses on quantifying ultimate research outcomes, whether measured in goods with market prices or in nonmarket goods such as environmental quality or human health. However, standard economic techniques may not be amenable for evaluating some important public research priorities or for institutional assessments. This report reviews quantitative methods and applies qualitative economic reasoning and stakeholder interviewing methods to the evaluation of economic benefits of Federal intramural research using three case studies of research conducted by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Differences among the case studies highlight the need to select suitable assessment techniques from available methodologies, the limited scope for comparing assessment results across programs, and the inherent difficulty in quantifying benefits in some research areas. When measurement and attribution issues make it difficult to quantify these benefits, the report discusses how qualitative insights based on economic concepts can help research prioritization.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • China's Pork Imports Rise Along with Production Costs

    LDPM-271-01, January 10, 2017

    China has become the leading importer of pork, as production costs have risen. A comparison of U.S.-China farm data reveals that U.S. efficiency in feed costs and pork production provides an advantage in the China market.

  • China’s Agricultural Productivity Growth: Strong But Uneven

    Amber Waves, June 03, 2013

    The rapid growth in China’s agricultural productivity over the past few decades may not have been sustained in recent years. Annual total factor productivity growth peaked during 1996-2000 at 5.1 percent before slowing to 3.2 percent in 2000-2005. It then declined by 3.7 percent per year in 2005-07. The significance of this slowdown remains unclear.

  • Consumers and the Future of Biotech Foods in the United States

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2003

    When consumers are made aware that food products are biotech, how will they react? As the largest market for U.S. producers, American consumers will render the ultimate verdict on the future of agricultural biotechnology in the United States.

  • Cost Savings From Precision Agriculture Technologies on U.S. Corn Farms

    Amber Waves, May 02, 2016

    Information-based technologies are growing in popularity with farmers because their use can lead to closer monitoring of farm production management decisions and possible cost savings. According to USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey, four technologies are the most commonly used: yield mapping, soil mapping, auto-guidance machinery steering, and variable-rate technologies.

  • Crop Genetic Diversity Boosts Production But Faces Threats

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2005

    Crop yields have risen steadily over the last century due in part to sustained research, improvements to seeds, and access to diverse genetic resources. Crop genetic diversity, however, is threatened by habitat loss, conversion from farmer-developed varieties to scientifically bred varieties, and genetic uniformity in scientifically bred varieties.