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.

  • Partial Interests in Land: Policy Tools for Resource Use and Conservation

    AER-744, November 29, 1996

    Property rights arise out of law, custom, and the operation of private markets, with important implications for how land and other natural resources are used and conserved. Over the past several years, debate about the nature and scope of property rights has combined with budget concerns and reauthorization of the Farm Bill, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act to focus public attention on Federal natural resource policy. This report examines the nature of land ownership and the evolving Federal role in land use and conservation, with particular attention to the voluntary acquisition and conveyance of conservation easements and other partial interests in land.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • U.S. Organic Farming in 2000-2001: Adoption of Certified Systems

    AIB-780, April 01, 2003

    U.S. farmland managed under organic systems expanded rapidly throughout the 1990s, and that pace has continued as farmers strive to meet consumer demand in both local and national markets. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) implemented national organic standards on organic production and processing in October 2002, following more than a decade of development. The new uniform standards are expected to facilitate further growth in the organic farm sector. This report updates USDA estimates of land farmed with organic practices for 2000 and 2001, and provides new estimates on the number of certified organic operations in each State.

  • Trends in Extension Resources

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2003

    Communities, businesses, and individuals alike benefit from the programs, services, and projects provided by the Cooperative Extension Service. Its four programs-agriculture and natural resources, 4-H and youth development, home economics and human nutrition, and community resource development—disseminate various types of information and tools that the general public can apply in daily life.

  • Will Land Degradation Prove Malthus Right After All?

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2003

    ERS research suggests that land degradation does not threaten food security at a global scale, but impacts vary by location. Yield losses due to land degradation do pose problems in areas where soils are shallow, fields are steeply sloped, property rights are insecure, and farmers have limited access to inputs, information, and markets. Any further slowing of yield growth in the future would increase the importance of measures to address these challenges.

  • 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.

  • Economics of Sequestering Carbon in the U.S. Agricultural Sector

    TB-1909, March 31, 2004

    Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases can be reduced by withdrawing carbon from the atmosphere and sequestering it in soils and biomass. This report analyzes the performance of alternative incentive designs and payment levels if farmers were paid to adopt land uses and management practices that raise soil carbon levels. At payment levels below $10 per metric ton for permanently sequestered carbon, analysis suggests landowners would find it more cost effective to adopt changes in rotations and tillage practices. At higher payment levels, afforestation dominates sequestration activities, mostly through conversion of pastureland. Across payment levels, the economic potential to sequester carbon is much lower than the technical potential reported in soil science studies. The most cost-effective payment design adjusts payment levels to account both for the length of time farmers are willing to commit to sequestration activities and for net sequestration. A 50-percent cost-share for cropland conversion to forestry or grasslands would increase sequestration at low carbon payment levels but not at high payment levels.

  • Research Areas

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2004

    Research Areas page from the June 2004 issue of Amber Waves

  • The Conservation Reserve Program: Economic Implications for Rural America

    AER-834, October 08, 2004

    This report estimates the impact that high levels of enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) have had on economic trends in rural counties since the program's inception in 1985 until today. The results of a growth model and quasi-experimental control group analysis indicate no discernible impact by the CRP on aggregate county population trends. Aggregate employment growth may have slowed in some high-CRP counties, but only temporarily. High levels of CRP enrollment appear to have affected farm-related businesses over the long run, but growth in the number of other nonfarm businesses moderated CRP's impact on total employment. If CRP contracts had ended in 2001, simulation models suggest that roughly 51 percent of CRP land would have returned to crop production, and that spending on outdoor recreation would decrease by as much as $300 million per year in rural areas. The resulting impacts on employment and income vary widely among regions having similar CRP enrollments, depending upon local economic conditions.

  • Farmland Retirement's Impact on Rural Growth

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2004

    The Feature "Farmland Retirement's Impact on Rural Growth" addresses an unintended consequences of high levels of enrollment in the CRP, that of farmland retirement's impact of rural growth. To examine this issue, this article examines the local socioeconomic changes that accompanied CRP enrollment in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and discusses ERS analysis of the potential employment and output changes if all land currently enrolled in the program could be put to other uses, given the current distribution of land, prevailing commodity market conditions, and public policies.

  • Technical Documentation of the Regional Manure Management Model for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

    TB-1913, March 18, 2005

    As part of a broader ERS assessment of the costs of manure management, a regional modeling framework was developed to evaluate the effect of Federal guidelines for farmland application of manure on the costs of hauling and spreading manure. This report presents technical details of the regional modeling system, applied to the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The report includes an overview of the model's scope and structure, data sources, and modeling assumptions. Results from an initial application of the modeling system are featured in the ERS publication Manure Management for Water Quality: Costs to Animal Feeding Operations of Applying Manure Nutrients to Land (AER-824, June 2003).

  • Farmland Protection: The Role of Public Preferences for Rural Amenities

    AER-815, April 28, 2005

    Investigates the relative importance of preserving different amenities conserved by farmland protection programs. Examines farmland protection program enabling legislation in the 48 contiguous States, and implementation of these programs in five Northeastern States.

  • Improving Air and Water Quality Can Be Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2005

    Agricultural production practices have generated a variety of substances that enter the atmosphere and have the potential of creating health and environmental problems. Two challenges for reducing air emissions from agriculture are potential inter-relationships with water quality, and a lack of information on farm-level emissions needed for effective regulation and management.

  • Research Areas

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2005

    Indicators: Markets and Trade, Diet and Health, Resources and Environment and Rural America - November 2005

  • Environmental Credit Trading: Can Farming Benefit?

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2006

    Environmental credit trading is a market-based approach to complying with regulations with the potential to achieve pollution abatement goals at least cost to society. Agriculture can contribute to credit trading programs by generating pollution-reduction credits through the adoption of environmentally preferred practices and selling the credits to regulated firms.

  • Indicators

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2006

    Farm, Rural, Natural Resources and Food and Fiber Sector Indicators section - February 2006