Publications

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  • A Primer on Land Use in the United States

    Amber Waves, December 04, 2017

    Land use and land-use change have important economic and environmental implications for commodity production and trade, soil and water conservation, and other policy issues. The ERS Major Land Uses (MLU) series is the longest running, most comprehensive accounting of all major uses of public and private land in the United States. The U.S. land area totals just under 2.3 billion acres.

  • Additionality in U.S. Agricultural Conservation and Regulatory Offset Programs

    ERR-170, July 28, 2014

    "Additionality," achieved when a voluntary payment to farmers causes a change in conservation practice leading to an improvement in environmental quality, varies by type of practice.

  • Agricultural Land Tenure and Carbon Offsets

    EB-14, September 23, 2009

    Agricultural Land Tenure and Carbon Offsets examines the potential role that land ownership might play in determining the agricultural sector's involvement in carbon sequestration programs. By estimating the carbon sequestration potential of agricultural producers who own most of the land they operate, this report finds that land ownership should not be a constraining factor in agriculture's ability to provide carbon offsets.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.

  • Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 2006 Edition

    EIB-16, July 21, 2006

    These chapters describe trends in resources used in and affected by agricultural production, as well as the economic conditions and policies that influence agricultural resource use and its environmental impacts. Each of the 28 chapters provides a concise overview of a specific topic with links to sources of additional information. Chapters are available in HTML and pdf formats.

  • 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.

  • Agriculture's Supply and Demand for Energy and Energy Products

    EIB-112, May 13, 2013

    Farmers have adapted to rising energy prices and evolving policies by adjusting their use of energy-based agricultural inputs, altering energy-intensive production practices, and growing more energy-feedstock crops.

  • Brazil's Agricultural Land Use and Trade: Effects of Changes in Oil Prices and Ethanol Demand

    ERR-210, June 29, 2016

    ERS examines the extent to which changes in oil prices could affect Brazil's ethanol sector and the agricultural land-use decisions on production of sugarcane-Brazil's main ethanol feedstock-versus other crop and livestock activities.

  • California’s Irrigation Varies by Crop

    Amber Waves, July 06, 2015

    Farmers in California grow a wide variety of crops using off-farm surface water, groundwater, and to a limited extent, on-farm surface water. Differences in the source of irrigation water play a major role in how vulnerable different crops are to shortfalls in surface water supplies due to drought. Farmers of different crops also have differing levels of investment in irrigation technologies.

  • Changing Farmland Values Affect Renters and Landowners Differently

    Amber Waves, February 21, 2018

    Farm real estate (including land and the structures on the land) accounts for over 80 percent of farm sector assets. Farmland values have appreciated substantially since 2000, more than doubling from $1,483 per acre in 2000 to $3,060 per acre in 2015. Cropland appreciated faster than pastureland, while farmland in the Midwest appreciated faster than other areas of the country.

  • Conservation-Practice Adoption Rates Vary Widely by Crop and Region

    EIB-147, December 21, 2015

    U.S. farmers' adoption of no till, strip till, cover crops and nutrient management varies by crop and region. In addition, many farmers are "partial" adopters, implementing conservation practices on some but not all acres of their farms.

  • Contrasting Working-Land and Land Retirement Programs

    EB-4, March 14, 2006

    A multitude of design decisions influence the performance of voluntary conservation programs. This Economic Brief is one of a set of five exploring the implications of decisions policymakers and program managers must make about who is eligible to receive payments, how much can be received, for what action, and the means by which applicants are selected. In particular, this Brief focuses on potential tradeoffs in balancing land retirement with conservation on working lands.

  • Debt Use by U.S. Farm Businesses, 1992-2011

    EIB-122, April 08, 2014

    While farm business debt use varies widely, large farms, farms with younger operators, and dairy and poultry farms have the highest levels of debt use.

  • Development at the Urban Fringe and Beyond: Impacts on Agriculture and Rural Land

    AER-803, June 30, 2001

    Land development in the United States is following two routes: expansion of urban areas and large-lot development (greater than 1 acre per house) in rural areas. Urban expansion claimed more than 1 million acres per year between 1960 and 1990, yet is not seen as a threat to most farming, although it may reduce production of some high-value or specialty crops. The consequences of continued large-lot development may be less sanguine, since it consumes much more land per unit of housing than the typical suburb. Controlling growth and planning for it are the domains of State and local governments. The Federal Government may be able to help them in such areas as building capacity to plan and control growth, providing financial incentives for channeling growth in desirable directions, or coordinating local, regional, and State efforts.

  • Double Cropping by U.S. Farmers Varies Over Time and Regionally

    Amber Waves, June 02, 2014

    Growing demand for agricultural commodities over the last decade has created incentives for farm operators to increase production. While some farmers responded to these incentives by expanding their cropland acreage, an alternative is to use existing cropland more intensively. Double cropping—the harvest of two crops from the same field in a given year—is one form of intensification.

  • Environmental Effects of Agricultural Land-Use Change: The Role of Economics and Policy

    ERR-25, August 31, 2006

    This report examines evidence on the relationship between agricultural land-use changes, soil productivity, and indicators of environmental sensitivity. If cropland that shifts in and out of production is less productive and more environmentally sensitive than other cropland, policy-induced changes in land use could have production effects that are smaller-and environmental impacts that are greater-than anticipated. To illustrate this possibility, this report examines environmental outcomes stemming from land-use conversion caused by two agricultural programs that others have identified as potentially having important influences on land use and environmental quality: Federal crop insurance subsidies and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Nation's largest cropland retirement program.

  • Ethanol and a Changing Agricultural Landscape

    ERR-86, November 18, 2009

    The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 established specific targets for the production of biofuel in the United States. Until advanced technologies become commercially viable, meeting these targets will increase demand for traditional agricultural commodities used to produce ethanol, resulting in land-use, production, and price changes throughout the farm sector. This report summarizes the estimated effects of meeting the EISA targets for 2015 on regional agricultural production and the environment. Meeting EISA targets for ethanol production is estimated to expand U.S. cropped acreage by nearly 5 million acres by 2015, an increase of 1.6 percent over what would otherwise be expected. Much of the growth comes from corn acreage, which increases by 3.5 percent over baseline projections. Water quality and soil carbon will also be affected, in some cases by greater percentages than suggested by changes in the amount of cropped land. The economic and environmental implications of displacing a portion of corn ethanol production with ethanol produced from crop residues are also estimated.

  • Farmland Values on the Rise: 2000-2010

    Amber Waves, September 20, 2012

    Farm real estate values increased considerably in recent years, with some States experiencing double-digit growth.