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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.

  • 2014 Farm Act Continues Most Previous Trends In Conservation

    Amber Waves, May 05, 2014

    The Agricultural Act of 2014 continues a strong overall commitment to conservation, with an emphasis on working land conservation. Many conservation programs are consolidated into new programs or merged into existing programs. Crop insurance premium subsidies are re-linked to Conservation Compliance (conservation of highly erodible land and wetlands) for the first time since 1996.

  • A Multitude of Design Decisions Influence Conservation Program Performance

    Amber Waves, July 01, 2006

    Designing a voluntary conservation program requires several types of decision criteria to encourage farmers to apply and to determine who can participate in the program. These decisions act as a winnowing process, starting with all farmers and ranchers and resulting in a pool of program participants.

  • A Multitude of Design Decisions Influence Conservation Program Performance

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2005

    Designing a voluntary conservation program requires several types of decision criteria to encourage farmers to apply and to determine who can participate in the program. These decisions act as a winnowing process, starting with all farmers and ranchers and resulting in a pool of program participants.

  • A Visual Primer for the Food and Agricultural Sectors

    Amber Waves, December 16, 2013

    Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, released in September 2013, is a collection of charts and maps covering fundamental statistics and trends related to the U.S. agricultural and food sectors. This data feature highlights a few of the questions that can be answered by the Essentials.

  • 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.

  • Adoption of Agricultural Production Practices: Lessons Learned from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Area Studies Project

    AER-792, January 01, 2001

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture Area Studies Project was designed to characterize the extent of adoption of nutrient, pest, soil, and water management practices and to assess the factors that affect adoption for a wide range of management strategies across different natural resource regions. The project entailed the administration of a detailed field-level survey to farmers in 12 watersheds in the Nation to gather data on agricultural practices, input use, and natural resource characteristics associated with farming activities. The data were analyzed by the Economic Research Service using a consistent methodological approach with the full set of data to study the constraints associated with the adoption of micronutrients, N-testing, split nitrogen applications, green manure, biological pest controls, pest-resistant varieties, crop rotations, pheromones, scouting, conservation tillage, contour farming, strip cropping, grassed waterways, and irrigation. In addition to the combined-areas analyses, selected areas were chosen for analysis to illustrate the difference in results between aggregate and area-specific models. The unique sample design for the survey was used to explore the importance of field-level natural resource data for evaluating adoption at both the aggregate and watershed levels. Further analyses of the data illustrated how the adoption of specific management practices affects chemical use and crop yields.

  • Agri-Environmental Policy at the Crossroads: Guideposts on a Changing Landscape

    AER-794, January 25, 2001

    Agri-environmental policy is at a crossroads. Over the past 20 years, a wide range of policies addressing the environmental implications of agricultural production have been implemented at the Federal level. Those policies have played an important role in reducing soil erosion, protecting and restoring wetlands, and creating wildlife habitat. However, emerging agri-environmental issues, evolution of farm income support policies, and limits imposed by trade agreements may point toward a rethinking of agri-environmental policy. This report identifies the types of policy tools available and the design features that have improved the effectiveness of current programs. It provides an indepth analysis of one policy tool that may be an important component of a future policy package-agri-environmental payments. The analysis focuses on issues and tradeoffs that policymakers would face in designing a program of agri-environmental payments.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • America’s Diverse Family Farms: 2017 Edition

    EIB-185, December 15, 2017

    99% of U.S. farms are family farms, accounting for 90% of production. Small family farms make up 90% of all farms and operate over half of farmland. Still, large family farms accounted for the largest share of farm production, 45%, in 2016.

  • An Economic Assessment of Policy Options To Reduce Agricultural Pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay

    ERR-166, June 04, 2014

    ERS researchers use data on agriculture in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to assess the effectiveness of different policies for achieving nutrient and sediment reduction goals, ranging from voluntary financial incentives to regulation.

  • An Economic Perspective on Soil Health

    Amber Waves, September 06, 2016

    Soil health builds upon soil conservation by encouraging farmers to manage soil as a living ecosystem, in addition to reducing soil erosion. Healthy soils can have benefits to society and to farmers. USDA incentivizes farmers to adopt soil health practices through programs such as EQIP and CSP.

  • Balancing the Multiple Objectives of Conservation Programs

    ERR-19, May 31, 2006

    Many of the Nation's conservation programs use an index approach to prioritize environmental and cost objectives. In an index, objectives are weighted by relative importance. This report provides empirical evidence on the cost and environmental benefit tradeoffs of different weighting schemes in USDA's Conservation Reserve Program and considers how different weighting schemes encourage different sets of landowners to offer land for enrollment. The report finds that while small changes in index weights do not markedly affect levels of environmental benefits that can be achieved at a national level, larger changes can have a moderate impact.

  • Beginning Farmers and Ranchers and the Agricultural Act of 2014

    Amber Waves, June 02, 2014

    The Agricultural Act of 2014 continues the trend of assisting beginning farmers, and includes increased funding for beginning farmer development. Read about it in the June issue of Amber Waves magazine.

  • Behind The Data

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2006

    USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) uses the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) to evaluate and rank land offered for enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The EBI aggregates different environmental objectives and a cost objective into a single number.

  • Beyond Environmental Compliance: Stewardship as Good Business

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2004

    Agricultural producers can benefit economically by voluntarily adopting environmentally beneficial practices. An efficient farm would minimize unnecessary applications of pesticides and fertilizer, enhancing the bottom line as well as minimizing environmental impacts. But additional incentives may exist for farms to invest in environmental management.

  • Bidding Enhances Conservation Program Cost Effectiveness

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2007

    To manage Conservation Program dollars cost-effectively, program managers must motivate farmers to offer to participate and then select those applicants who offer the greatest environmental benefit per dollar spent. Bidding is one way to do that; allowing farmers to "bid" for the activity they will undertake and the level of payment they would receive for it provides program managers with the information they need to compare the costs and benefits of contract offers. This could ensure that final program participants are those who will maximize taxpayers' investment in conservation effort.