Publications

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  • 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.

  • Structural and Financial Characteristics of U.S. Farms, 1993: 18th Annual Family Farm Report to Congress

    AIB-728, January 17, 1997

    In 1993, the 2.1 million farms in the contiguous United States operated an average of 436 acres and produced an average of $73,700 in agricultural products, as measured by gross sales. Characteristics of individual farms--including their level of production--varied widely, however. Most production occurred on relatively few commercial farms. Commercial farms (sales of $50,000 or more) were only 27 percent of U.S. farms, but accounted for about 90 percent of sales. Households with noncommercial farms (sales less than $50,000) relied on off-farm sources for virtually all of their income. U.S. farms are diverse, and variation within the industry is hidden by U.S. averages.

  • 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.

  • Broiler Farms' Organization, Management, and Performance

    AIB-748, March 01, 1999

    This study provides a comprehensive view of the organization, management, and financial performance of U.S. broiler farms. Using data from USDA's Agricultural Resource Management Study (ARMS, formerly known as the Farm Costs and Returns Survey), we examine farm size, financial structure, household income, management practices, and spousal participation in decisionmaking. We compare broiler operations with other farming enterprises and their earnings with that of the average U.S. household. Because most of the 7 billion broilers produced in the United States in 1995 were raised under contract, we also explore the use of contracts and the effects of contracting on the broiler sector.

  • Tobacco and the Economy: Farms, Jobs, and Communities

    AER-789, November 03, 2000

    Public health policies intended to reduce the incidence of smoking-related disease adversely affect thousands of tobacco farmers, manufacturers, and other businesses that produce, distribute, and sell tobacco products. This report assesses the likely impacts of declining tobacco demand, and identifies the types of workers, farms, businesses, and communities that are most vulnerable to loss of tobacco income and jobs. The dollar impact on the farm sector of a reduction in cigarette demand will be smaller than that experienced by manufacturing, wholesale, retail, and transportation businesses, but tobacco farms and their communities may have the most difficulty adjusting. Many tobacco farmers lack good alternatives to tobacco, and they have tobacco-specific equipment, buildings, and experience. Most communities will make the transition to a smaller tobacco industry with little difficulty, because tobacco accounts for a small share of the local economy. However, a number of counties depend on tobacco for a significant share of local income.

  • America's Diverse Family Farms: Assorted Sizes, Types, and Situations

    AIB-769, May 25, 2001

    This report describes a farm typology developed by the Economic Research Service (ERS), which categorizes farms into more homogeneous groups than classifications based on sales volume alone, producing a more effective policy development tool. The typology is used to describe U.S. farm structure.

  • Structural and Financial Characteristics of U.S. Farms: 2001 Family Farm Report

    AIB-768, May 25, 2001

    Family farms vary widely in size and other characteristics, ranging from very small retirement and residential farms to establishments with sales in the millions of dollars. The farm typology developed by the Economic Research Service (ERS) categorizes farms into groups based primarily on occupation of the operator and sales class of the farm. The typology groups reflect operators' expectations from farming, position in the life cycle, and dependence on agriculture. The groups differ in their importance to the farm sector, product specialization, program participation, and dependence on farm income. These (and other) differences are discussed in this report.

  • Adoption of Bioengineered Crops

    AER-810, May 01, 2002

    This report uses USDA survey data to examine the extent to which US farmers have adopted bioengineered crops, factors affecting adoption of these crops, and the impacts of bioengineered crops on input use and farm-level net returns.

  • Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 2003

    AH-722, February 28, 2003

    This report identifies trends in land, water, and biological resources 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 estimates costs and benefits to farmers, consumers, and the government of meeting conservation and environmental goals. The report takes stock of how natural resources (land, water and biological resources) and commercial inputs (nutrients, pesticides, seed 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 report is available only in electronic format.

  • The Seed Industry in U.S. Agriculture: An Exploration of Data and Information on Crop Seed Markets, Regulation, Industry Structure, and Research and Development

    AIB-786, February 01, 2004

    Unprecedented growth in crop yields and agricultural total factor productivity over the past 70 years owes much to biological innovation embodied in seeds, beginning with the development of hybrid crops in the United States in the early part of the 20th century, continuing with the Green Revolution of the 1960s and early 1970s, and, more recently, modern biotechnology. Throughout this period, the seed industry has evolved. This publication explores data and information on crop seed markets, regulation, industry, and R&D relating to the U.S. seed industry.

  • Are Bankruptcies Behind the Drop in Farm Numbers?

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2004

    The number of U.S. farms declined by two-thirds between 1935 and 2002. While this decline is commonly associated with high rates of farm bankruptcy, a new study finds the link between dwindling farm numbers and farm bankruptcies to be weak.

  • Contract Use Continues to Expand

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2004

    As buyers of agricultural products increasingly seek specific attributes--such as oil content in corn or the market weight of hogs--they are turning to contracts as a means of guaranteeing those attributes. Contracts are used more widely by large farms than by smaller farms, and thus the use of contracts increases with farm consolidation. Use of contracts can reduce market risk for producers, but they also reduce volumes traded on spot markets, thus increasingly price volatility on those markets.

  • Contracts, Markets, and Prices: Organizing the Production and Use of Agricultural Commodities

    AER-837, November 01, 2004

    Demand for specific product attributes is making contracts the choice over traditional spot markets for many livestock commodities and some major crops-e.g., sugar beets, fruit, tomatoes.

  • Pork Quality and the Role of Market Organization

    AER-835, November 08, 2004

    This study addresses changes in the organization of the U.S. pork industry, most notably marketing contracts between packers and producers, by exploring their function in addressing pork quality concerns. A number of developments brought quality concerns to the forefront. These include health concerns and corresponding preferences for lean pork, growing incidence of undesirable quality attributes (e.g., pale, soft, and exudative (PSE) meat, a result of breeding for leanness), heightened concerns over food safety and related regulatory programs, and expansion into global markets. Organizational arrangements can facilitate industry efforts to address pork quality needs by reducing measuring costs, controlling quality attributes that are difficult to measure, facilitating adaptations to changing quality standards, and reducing transaction costs associated with relationship-specific investments in branding programs.

  • Data Feature

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2005

    Agricultural production is shifting to larger farms. Commodity payments under Federal farm programs are based on production. Since large farms have higher household income, one effect of structural change in agriculture is a shift in commodity program payments to higher income households, even with no change in the design of farm policy.

  • One Farm, One Operator? Not on the Largest Farms

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2005

    This article discusses the number and distribution of multiple-operator farms by sales class. It also identifies multiple-generation operations among the multiple-operator farms by sales class and age of primary operator.

  • Structural and Financial Characteristics of U.S. Farms: 2004 Family Farm Report

    AIB-797, March 09, 2005

    This report presents comprehensive information on family and nonfamily farms and important trends in farming, operator household income, farm performance, and contracting. Most farms are family farms. Even the largest farms tend to be family farms. Small family farms account for most of the farms in the U.S. but produce a modest share of farm output. Average farm household income has been at or above the average for all U.S. households in recent years, with farm households receiving most of their income from off-farm sources.

  • Greenhouse Tomatoes Change the Dynamics of the North American Fresh Tomato Industry

    ERR-2, April 01, 2005

    The North American greenhouse tomato industry has grown rapidly since the early 1990s and now plays a major role in the fresh tomato industry. ERS looked at consumption and price trends, competition from Mexico and Canada, and the rising industry's effect on the entire fresh field tomato sector.

  • Small Farms Can Grow Into Large Enterprises

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2005

    An analysis of agricultural census data covering the period 1982-1997 identified farm businesses that produced high-valued commodities and also had less than $10,000 in annual gross sales in 1982, but had more than $100,000 annual gross sales in 1997. These farm operations are labeled emergent adaptive farms (EAF). The farm and operator characteristics of these farm businesses are examined.