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.

  • 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.

  • Managing Risk in Farming: Concepts, Research, and Analysis

    AER-774, March 01, 1999

    The risks confronted by grain and cotton farmers are of particular interest, given the changing role of the Government after passage of the 1996 Farm Act. With the shift toward less government intervention in the post-1996 Farm Act environment, a more sophisticated understanding of risk and risk management is important to help producers make better decisions in risky situations and to assist policymakers in assessing the effectiveness of different types of risk protection tools. In response, this report provides a rigorous, yet accessible, description of risk and risk management tools and strategies at the farm level. It also provides never-before-published data on farmers' assessments of the risks they face, their use of alternative risk management strategies, and the changes they would make if faced with financial difficulty. It also compares price risk across crops and time periods, and provides detailed information on yield variability.

  • 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.

  • Genetically Engineered Crops for Pest Management in U.S. Agriculture

    AER-786, May 01, 2000

    Adoption of genetically engineered crops with traits for pest management has risen dramatically since their commercial introduction in the mid-1990's. The farm-level impacts of such crops on pesticide use, yields, and net returns vary with the crop and technology examined. Adoption of herbicide-tolerant cotton led to significant increases in yields and net returns, but was not associated with significant changes in herbicide use. On the other hand, increases in adoption of herbicide-tolerant soybeans led to small but significant increases in yields, no changes in net returns, and significant decreases in herbicide use. Adoption of Bt cotton in the Southeast significantly increased yields and net returns and significantly reduced insecticide use.

  • Production Practices for Major Crops in U.S. Agriculture, 1990-97

    SB-969, September 20, 2000

    This report presents information on nutrient and pest management practices, crop residue management, and other general crop management practices in use on U.S. farms. The public has expressed concerns about the possible undesirable effects of contemporary agricultural practices on human health and natural resources. Partly as a response to these concerns, the U.S. Department of Agriculture began collecting information from farmers on their agricultural production practices in 1964. In 1990, through the President's Water Quality Initiative, the USDA expanded its data collection efforts. The information presented in this report is largely for the 1990's. Although the information cannot contribute to the science underlying the debate about the effects of agriculture on human health and environmental risk, it can provide information on the use of relevant inputs and production practices that are likely to abate, or to exacerbate, undesirable effects.

  • Concentration and Technology in Agricultural Input Industries

    AIB-763, March 19, 2001

    Consolidation in the agricultural biotechnology industry can both enhance and dampen market competition. This report examines the causes and consequences of industry consolidation and its effect on market efficiency. In some cases, concentration realizes economies of scale, which can improve market efficiency by driving down production costs. The protection of intellectual property rights is integral to the agricultural biotechnology marketplace, stimulating research and development, investment, and the development of substitute markets. However, excessively broad intellectual property rights can hinder the market for innovation. Recent data on mergers, acquisitions, and strategic collaborations in the agricultural biotechnology industry, as well as the emergence of life science conglomerates, indicate some level of consolidation. However, the move by some companies to divest their seed operations calls into question the long-term viability of these conglomerates.

  • Confined Animal Production and Manure Nutrients

    AIB-771, June 15, 2001

    Census of agriculture data were used to estimate manure nutrient production and the capacity of cropland and pastureland to assimilate nutrients. Most farms (78 percent for nitrogen and 69 percent for phosphorus) have adequate land on which it is physically feasible to apply the manure produced onfarm at agronomic rates. (The costs of applying manure at these rates have not been assessed). Even so, manure that is produced on operations that cannot fully apply it to their own land at agronomic rates accounts for 60 percent of the Nation's manure nitrogen and 70 percent of the manure phosphorus. In these cases, most counties with farms that produce ""excess"" nutrients have adequate crop acres not associated with animal operations, but within the county, on which it is feasible to spread the manure at agronomic rates. However, barriers to moving manure to other farms need to be studied. About 20 percent of the Nation's onfarm excess manure nitrogen is produced in counties that have insufficient cropland for its application at agronomic rates (23 percent for phosphorus). For areas without adequate land, alternatives to local land application--such as energy production--will need to be developed.

  • Agriculture in Brazil and Argentina: Developments and Prospects for Major Field Crops

    WRS-013, December 28, 2001

    This report identifies key factors underlying the agricultural productivity growth and enhanced international competitiveness of Brazil and Argentina in the past decade. Economic and policy reforms, infrastructure development, and enhanced use of agricultural inputs that drove output growth during the 1990s are discussed. This report also compares Brazilian, Argentine, and U.S. soybean production costs and evaluates the combined impact of production, marketing, and transportation costs on the overall export competitiveness of each country's soybean producers. Finally, the outlook for continued growth in output and exports of key commodities is assessed.

  • Managing Manure: New Clean Water Act Regulations Create Imperative for Livestock Producers

    Amber Waves, February 03, 2003

    Ever-growing numbers of livestock and poultry per farm and per acre have increased the risk of water pollution, with manure being disposed of in ways not adequately addressed in the original regulations. In 2001, the EPA proposed new regulations that would compel operations with the largest number of animals to manage their manure according to a nutrient management plan.

  • 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.

  • Manure Management: A Growing Challenge in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2003

    Recent ERS analysis indicates that better manure management will likely require manure to be applied to more land than currently, raising hauling costs for many animal producers. An operator's need to access additional land for manure application will depend on the volume of manure for disposal relative to cropland area currently receiving manure and the nutrient uptake of the crops. The willingness of crop farmers to accept manure on their land - considering manure, variable nutrient content, potential odor, and handling cost - affects the amount of land available for manure application and the distance manure must be hauled. A low willingness by crop producers to accept manure may cause some manure to be hauled long distances to access sufficient land to avoid overapplication of manure nutrients. As part of the ERS study, analysts examined the feasibility and cost of applying manure in the Chesapeake Bay watershed at rates not exceeding crop uptake.

  • Manure Management for Water Quality: Costs to Animal Feeding Operations of Applying Manure Nutrients to Land

    AER-824, June 19, 2003

    Nutrients from livestock and poultry manure are key sources of water pollution. This report's farm-level analysis examines onfarm technical choice and producer costs across major U.S. production areas. A regional analysis focuses on off-farm competition for land to spread surplus manure, using the Chesapeake Bay region as a case study. Finally, a sectorwide analysis addresses potential long-term structural adjustments at the national level and ultimate costs to consumers and producers.

  • Emphasis Shifts in U.S. Agri-Environmental Policy

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2003

    With the passage of the 2002 Farm Act, policymakers have substantially increased conservation funding and made changes in program emphasis. The goals are to expand the amount of U.S. land and the number of farmers covered by conservation programs.

  • Size and Distribution of Market Benefits From Adopting Biotech Crops

    TB-1906, November 03, 2003

    This study estimates the size and distribution of benefits from adopting Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton, herbicide-tolerant cotton, and herbicide-tolerant soybeans in 1997. The stakeholders considered are U.S. farmers, U.S. consumers, biotechnology developers, germplasm suppliers, and producers and consumers in the rest of the world.

  • Current Issues in Economics of Food Markets

    AIB-747, August 13, 2004

    These reports synthesize economic analyses of the complex relationships in food markets of interest to officials responsible for public policy, decisionmakers in the industry, and researchers. Topics addressed so far include the economizing practices of low-income households in making food purchases, the increasing vertical coordination and integration of the industry, the link between consolidation of retailers and orange juice prices, the effects of a higher minimum wage on food prices, how taxes affect food markets, and lessons learned from the use of rbST in dairy production.

  • Measuring the Success of Conservation Programs

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2004

    Many factors must be accounted for to determine the portion of environmental enhancements directly attributable to program incentive-induced changes in farmers’ practices. Still, carefully designed survey and monitoring programs encompassing each of those relationships in a coordinated fashion make such evaluation not only feasible, but well within reach.

  • 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.

  • Characteristics and Production Costs of U.S. Sugarbeet Farms

    SB-974-8, November 03, 2004

    Sugarbeet production and costs varied considerably across farms and regions in the United States on both a per-acre and a per-ton basis, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey of farmers in 2000. This report summarizes production and financial information related to the 2000 sugarbeet crop.

  • Production Costs and Returns for Tobacco in 2003

    TBS-258-01, May 13, 2005

    Average net returns per acre were estimated to be negative for burley and flue-cured tobacco in 2003. Total economic costs for burley and flue-cured tobacco production likely rose in 2003 from 2002 due to higher costs for energy, labor, and quota rental rates. Cost estimates are computed using production data from the last tobacco surveys, conducted in 1995 for burley tobacco and 1996 for flue-cured tobacco, and 2003 data on prices, yields, marketing costs, and quota levels.