Publications

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  • "No-Till" Farming Is a Growing Practice

    EIB-70, November 02, 2010

    ERS summarizes U.S. trends in the use of reduced-tillage practices on cropland planted to eight major crops--barley, corn, cotton, oats, rice, sorghum, soybeans, and wheat -- from 2000 to 2007, and provides estimates of acreage under no-till in 2009.

  • Adaptation Can Help U.S. Crop Producers Confront Climate Change

    Amber Waves, February 21, 2013

    Adaptive behaviors such as adjusting crop choices and production practices may help farmers mitigate the negative effects of climate change and enable some producers to capitalize on new opportunities.

  • Additionality in Agricultural Conservation Programs

    Amber Waves, September 08, 2014

    Additionality measures the extent to which conservation program payments actually encourage adoption of practices that farmers would not otherwise adopt. Estimates of additionality are high for some practices, particularly installation of soil conservation structures (e.g., terraces) and buffers (e.g., field-edge filter strips), but not as high for others (e.g., conservation tillage).

  • 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 Adaptation to Climate Change: Issues of Longrun Sustainability

    AER-740, June 01, 1996

    Early evaluations of the effects of climate change on agriculture, which did not account for economic adjustments or consider the broader economic and environmental implications of such changes, overestimated the negative effects of climate change. This report, which highlights ERS research, focuses on economic adaptation and concludes there is considerably more sectoral flexibility and adaptability than found in other analyses. The report frames the discussion of economic adjustments within the context of global agricultural environmental sustainability.

  • Agricultural Adaptation to a Changing Climate: Economic and Environmental Implications Vary by U.S. Region

    ERR-136, July 06, 2012

    ERS models the farm sector's ability to adapt to a changing climate with current practices and technology, and explores economic and environmental implications of adaptation under a range of climate change scenarios.

  • Agricultural Energy Use and the Proposed Clean Power Plan

    Amber Waves, September 08, 2014

    The EPA’s Clean Power Plan aims to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants, the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States, by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. To better understand how the agricultural sector might be affected, its current direct use of electric power, as well as the sector’s direct and indirect use of natural gas—is examined.

  • 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, 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.

  • Baselines in Environmental Markets: Tradeoffs Between Cost and Additionality

    EB-18, February 14, 2012

    Markets for farm-based environmental services are designed to allow farmers to sell "credits" for environmental improvements in water quality, carbon sequestration, wetlands restoration, and other areas. These markets use an environmental baseline to help determine whether proposed improvements qualify for market credits, and, if so, the number that should be awarded. Selection of a baseline is often a critical and contentious element in the design of environmental service markets. Due to the complexity and costs associated with defining, measuring, and verifying environmental baseline levels across heterogeneous landscapes, program managers may face a tradeoff between the precision with which changes in environmental performance can be estimated and the cost of refining those estimates. This brief focuses on the issues involved in measuring baselines, the strengths and weaknesses of alternative types of baselines, and the tradeoffs involved when selecting a baseline to measure environmental improvement.

  • Climate Change, Heat Stress, and U.S. Dairy Production

    ERR-175, September 30, 2014

    In 2010, heat stress lowered annual milk production for the average dairy by about $39,000, or $1.2 billion for the sector. In 2030, additional heat stress from climate change may lower milk production by an estimated 0.6 to 1.35 percent.

  • Climate Change, Water Scarcity, and Adaptation

    Amber Waves, November 25, 2015

    Irrigation is widely viewed as an important adaptation to shifting production conditions under climate change. This analysis projects, however, that irrigated fieldcrop acreage will decline as a result of climate change over the 2020 to 2080 study period. Factors driving the shifting relative profitability of irrigation under climate change vary by region.

  • Climate Change, Water Scarcity, and Adaptation in the U.S. Fieldcrop Sector

    ERR-201, November 25, 2015

    U.S. irrigated fieldcrop acreage, and water used, are projected to decline with long-term climate change, due to factors including changes in precipitation, shifts in surface-water availability, and temperature-stressed crop growth.

  • 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.

  • Dedicated Energy Crops and Competition for Agricultural Land

    ERR-223, January 04, 2017

    Markets do not currently exist for large-scale use of renewable feedstocks for bioelectricity. ERS examines three policy scenarios that could create a market for bioelectricity using dedicated energy crops, such as switchgrass.

  • Economic Research Service: Program of Work Addressing Global Climate Change

    AP-052, December 09, 2010

    The Economic Research Service conducts research to estimate the market effects of climate change and adaptation in the agricultural sector and to assess the implications of alternative climate and energy policies. A fact sheet outlines the agency's program of work.

  • Economic Responses Offset Potential Climate Change Impacts on Global Agriculture

    Amber Waves, October 06, 2014

    Research indicates that a decrease in agricultural productivity due to climate change could be largely mitigated by increasing nonland inputs such as fertilizer and irrigation, increasing cropland area, and expanding international trade.

  • Economic Returns to Public Agricultural Research

    EB-10, September 04, 2007

    Over the last several decades, the U.S. agricultural sector has sustained impressive productivity growth. The Nation's agricultural research system, including Federal-State public research as well as private-sector research, has been a key driver of this growth. Economic analysis finds strong and consistent evidence that investment in agricultural research has yielded high returns per dollar spent. These returns include benefits not only to the farm sector but also to the food industry and consumers in the form of more abundant commodities at lower prices.

  • 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.

  • Global Drivers of Agricultural Demand and Supply

    ERR-174, September 18, 2014

    ERS examines hypothetical economic and agricultural sector responses to changes in key drivers of supply and demand in the future-agricultural productivity, population, and per capita income.