Publications

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  • 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.

  • Characteristics of U.S. Wheat Farming: A Snapshot

    SB-968, June 07, 2000

    Wheat growers' choice of production practices and geographic location were the major determinants of their costs of production, according to the findings of a 1994 survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One-fourth of surveyed farms reported using some form of conservation tillage, especially farms in the North Central, Northern Plains, and Southeast regions. On a per-bushel basis, low-cost farms tended to be small in terms of wheat acreage and total farm acreage. Differences in capitalization, tenure, and the use of custom services accounted for nearly 81 percent of the variation in the cost of producing wheat. Most size economies were realized at around 200 to 300 wheat acres.

  • Retail Food Price Forecasting at ERS

    TB-1885, June 08, 2000

    Forecasting retail food prices has become increasingly important to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This is due to the changing structure of food and agricultural economies and the important signals the forecasts provide to farmers, processors, wholesalers, consumers, and policymakers. The American food system is going through fundamental structural changes. It is unclear how these changes will affect the cyclical variation of food price markups and translate into changes in retail food prices. The only government entity that systematically examines food prices and provides food price forecasts (on an annual basis) is the Economic Research Service, an agency of USDA. This report explains the ERS procedures in forecasting food prices and assesses how changes in the current procedures would improve the quality of the forecasts.

  • Cross-Commodity Analysis of China's Grain Sector: Sources of Growth and Supply Response

    TB-1884, June 12, 2000

    We investigate sources of output growth and supply response in rice, wheat, corn, and soybeans, the four most important crops in China's grain sector, during 1978-97. Using a growth accounting methodology, we found large total factor productivity (TFP) contributions to growth in grain production immediately following China's rural economic reform (1978-85). In 1995-97, the TFP contribution dropped to only 16 percent of growth in grain production, as greater use of inputs increasingly drove growth. In the supply response analysis, the results of the econometrically estimated restricted profit function confirm a joint and nonseparable multiproduct technology for China's grain sector. Complementarity prevails in the grain sector among different outputs and inputs, meaning that an increase in the price of intermediate inputs/capital or wages would result not only in an absolute reduction in all outputs but also in a change in the composition of these outputs. The expansion (or scale) effects subsided during 1986-97, implying a relatively slow outward shift of the production frontier during this period. If the current government policy environment remains unchanged, China's grain production will become more costly, constraining its future growth and competitiveness in world markets.

  • Local Bank Office Ownership, Deposit Control, Market Structure, and Economic Growth

    TB-1886, June 12, 2000

    The restructuring of commercial banking has heightened interest in its economic consequences both for the economy as a whole and for those most likely to bear adverse consequences: small businesses, small banks, and rural areas. Most previous research on bank restructuring focuses on changes in bank behavior. In contrast, this paper focuses on the empirical association between local economic performance and changes in local bank market regulation and structure. Findings suggest that mergers or acquisitions of local banks by nonlocal banks need not impair local economic growth, and may even have beneficial effects in rural markets, with the possible exception of farm-dependent areas. These findings are derived from empirical models that relate both shortrun and longrun growth in real per-capita personal income to geographic restrictions on bank activity, local bank (deposit) market concentration, local or nonlocal ownership of local bank offices, and local or nonlocal control of local bank deposits.

  • The Decline in Food Stamp Program Participation in the 1990's

    FANRR-7, June 26, 2000

    The Food Stamp Program saw an unprecedented decline in participation from 27.5 million participants in 1994 to 18.2 million participants in 1999. A strong economy and changes in social welfare programs drove this change. An econometric model with State-level data calculated that 35 percent of the caseload decline from 1994 to 1998 was associated with changing economic conditions and 12 percent with program reform and political variables. Household-level data from the Current Population Survey lead to the conclusion that 28 percent of the total change in participation was associated with a decrease in the number of people with low income (below 130 percent of the poverty line) and 55 percent was due to a decline in the proportion of low-income people who participate.

  • Summary of Federal Laws and Regulations Affecting Agricultural Employers, 2000

    AH-719, July 01, 2000

    About 34 percent of U.S. farms in 1997 used hired labor, and 12 percent used contract labor. Hired labor costs averaged 12 percent of total farm production expenses in 1997, but amounted to as much as 44 percent of production expenses for horticultural specialty crop producers, 40 percent for fruit and tree nut producers, and 32 percent for vegetable and melon producers. Hired farmworkers have accounted for about 31 percent of the farm workforce in the 1990's. Hired labor's importance of to U.S. farm production requires agricultural employers to understand Federal laws and regulations governing employment, taxes, wages, and working conditions. This single-source publication summarizes these laws and regulations. This updated version of a 1992 report contains expanded sections on agricultural employers' Federal safety requirements, migrant and seasonal farmworker provisions, and tax requirements for agricultural employers, as well as new sections on employer responsibilities under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.

  • Farm Resource Regions

    AIB-760, August 01, 2000

    ERS recently constructed a new set of regions depicting geographic specialization in production of U.S. farm commodities. ERS will use the new regions to display results of its analyses in a broad array of venues from briefings to publications, our web site, and journal articles. This pamphlet introduces the new ERS Farm Resource Regions, explains their origin and rationale, and serves as a reference for our clients.

  • A Comparison of Food Assistance Programs in Mexico and the United States

    FANRR-6, August 04, 2000

    The social safety nets in Mexico and the United States rely heavily on food assistance programs to ensure food security and access to safe and nutritious foods. To achieve these general goals, both countries' programs are exclusively paid for out of internal funds and both target low-income households and/or individuals. Despite those similarities, economic, cultural, and demographic differences between the countries lead to differences in their abilities to ensure food security and access to safe and nutritious foods. Mexico uses geographic and household targeting to distribute benefits while the United States uses only household targeting. U.S. food assistance programs tend to be countercyclical (as the economy expands, food assistance expenditures decline and vice-versa). Mexican food assistance programs appear to be neither counter- nor procyclical. Food assistance programs have little effect on the extent of poverty in Mexico, while the opposite is true in the United States, primarily because the level of benefits as a percentage of income is much lower in Mexico and a much higher percentage of eligible households receive benefits from food assistance programs in the United States.

  • Understanding the Dynamics of Produce Markets: Consumption and Consolidation Grow

    AIB-758, August 31, 2000

    Mergers, acquisitions, and internal growth among grocery retailers, largely since 1996, have increased the share of grocery store sales accounted for by the largest 4, 8, and 20 food retailers nationwide. Similar consolidation is occurring among food wholesalers. At the same time, new packaged and branded produce items are gaining acceptance with consumers and vying for shelf space in the supermarket produce department. Growers, shippers, and their trade associations fear the possibility of fewer buyers for their products, particularly if new marketing and trade practices such as volume incentive rebates and slotting fees become widespread. This report uses data from the Censuses of Wholesale Trade and Retail Trade and industry sources to examine changes in produce markets and market channels from 1987 to 1997 in the United States. It is the first in a series of reports that will examine competitive behavior in the produce industry.

  • Consumer Acceptance of Irradiated Meat and Poultry Products

    AIB-757, August 31, 2000

    The Federal Government began allowing food manufacturers to irradiate raw meat and meat products to control pathogenic microorganisms in February 2000. Consumer acceptance of irradiated foods could affect public health because many foodborne illnesses occur when consumers handle or eat meat or poultry contaminated by microbial pathogens. However, food manufacturers have been slow to adopt irradiation, partly because of the perception that relatively few consumers are willing to buy irradiated foods. A recent survey by the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) confirmed this perception: only half of the adult residents of the FoodNet sites were willing to buy irradiated ground beef or chicken, and only a fourth were willing to pay a premium for these products, which cost more to produce than comparable nonirradiated products. These findings suggest that the impact of food irradiation on public health will be limited unless consumer preferences change, perhaps in response to educational messages about the safety and benefits of food irradiation.

  • ERS Farm Typology for a Diverse Agricultural Sector

    AIB-759, September 01, 2000

    The Economic Research Service (ERS) developed a farm typology which categorizes farms into more homogeneous groups than do classifications based on sales volume alone, producing a more effective policy development tool. The typology is used to describe U.S. farms.

  • Estimation of Food Demand and Nutrient Elasticities from Household Survey Data

    TB-1887, September 05, 2000

    A methodology for estimating a demand system from household survey data is developed and applied to the 1987-88 Nationwide Food Consumption Survey data. The empirical results are sets of estimated demand elasticities for households segmented with different income levels. In addition, we apply these demand elasticities to estimate the implied nutrient elasticities for low-income households. The estimation results are useful in evaluating some food policy and program effects related to households of a specific income level.

  • Household Food Security in the United States, 1999

    FANRR-8, September 08, 2000

    This report provides the most recent data on the food security of American households. Preliminary estimates indicate that 89.9 percent of American households were food secure in 1999, up 0.6 percentage point from 1995. Some 31 million Americans were food insecure--they did not have assured access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. In 3 percent of all households, one or more household members were hungry, at least some time during the year, because of inadequate resources. Between 1995 and 1999, the number of food-insecure households fell by 12 percent, and the number with hunger due to inadequate resources fell by 24 percent. Households with incomes between 50 and 130 percent of the poverty line were the only household types among the 30 subgroups studied to show a higher rate of food insecurity in 1999 than in 1995.

  • The Effect on Dietary Quality of Participation in the Food Stamp and WIC Programs

    FANRR-9, September 15, 2000

    Participants in the Food Stamp Program have higher intake of meats, added sugars, and total fats, according to a regression analysis. However, food stamp use does not significantly change intake of fruits, vegetables, grains, or dairy products. Participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) have significantly lower intake of added sugars, which may reflect the substitution of WIC-supplied juices and cereals in place of higher sugar soft drinks and cereals. These findings come from a study of low-income Americans using the Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals.

  • 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.

  • Supply Response Under the 1996 Farm Act and Implications for the U.S. Field Crops Sector

    TB-1888, September 21, 2000

    The 1996 Farm Act gives farmers almost complete planting flexibility, allowing producers to respond to price changes to a greater extent than they had under previous legislation. This study measures supply responsiveness for major field crops to changes in their own prices and in prices for competing crops and indicates significant increases in responsiveness. Relative to 1986-90, the percentage increases in the responsiveness of U.S. plantings of major field crops to a 1-percent change in their own prices are: wheat (1.2 percent), corn (41.6 percent), soybeans (13.5 percent), and cotton (7.9 percent). In percentage terms, the increases in the responsiveness generally become greater with respect to competing crops' price changes. The 1996 legislation has the least effect on U.S. wheat acreage, whereas the law may lead to an average increase of 2 million acres during 1996-2005 in soybean acreage, a decline of 1-2 million acres in corn acreage, and an increase of 0.7 million acres in cotton acreage. Overall, the effect of the farm legislation on regional production patterns of major field crops appears to be modest. Corn acreage expansion in the Central and Northern Plains, a long-term trend in this important wheat production region, will slow under the 1996 legislation, while soybean acreage expansion in this region will accelerate. The authors used the Policy Analysis System-Economic Research Service (POLYSYS-ERS) model that was jointly developed by USDA's Economic Research Service and the University of Tennessee's Agricultural Policy Analysis Center to estimate the effects of the 1996 legislation.

  • Summer Feeding Design Study: Final Report

    EFAN-01004, October 01, 2000

    The executive summary and three accompanying volumes of this report describe the design of a national study of USDA's Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The SFSP was created in 1975 to provide children from low-income families with nutritious meals when school is not in session. On a typical summer day, the program provides meals to more than 2 million children. Since 1975, eligibility criteria, administrative procedures, and funding levels have changed. The study, which is currently underway, will describe program operations and assess how they contribute to participation levels and the nutritional benefits of SFSP participation. USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) contracted with Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. (MPR), to design the study to help ERS determine the appropriate sample and data collection methodologies, analytic methods, and study costs.

  • A Safety Net for Farm Households

    AER-788, October 02, 2000

    Discussions in the public arena have raised fundamental questions about the ultimate goals of farm policy and the need for establishing a safety net for farm households. This report examines four scenarios for government assistance to agriculture based on the concept of ensuring some minimum standard of living. Lower income farmers would benefit relatively more from the safety net scenarios, while farmers producing selected commodities benefit relatively more from current farm programs. Farm households in the Northern Crescent, the Eastern Uplands, the Southern Seaboard, and the Fruitful Rim all would generally receive a higher level and a greater proportion of benefits than under current programs. A clear understanding of objectives and intended beneficiaries must be the starting point for discussions of future farm policy.

  • Structure, Management, and Performance Characteristics of Specialized Dairy Farm Businesses in the United States

    AH-720, October 27, 2000

    The U.S. dairy industry faces a changing government policy environment in the year 2000. Milk producers are struggling, and will continue to struggle, to adjust to markets that are more dependent on the forces of supply and demand. Data from the 1993-95 Farm Costs and Returns Surveys and the 1996 Agricultural Resource Management Study show that dairy farm businesses in general did a fairly good job of meeting short-term debt, generating returns, and meeting long-term debt from 1993 to 1996. The analysis indicates that farm management strategies will play an important role in determining the overall profitability of a dairy farm business as Government supports decline. However, the 1996 data suggest that changes in management techniques are adopted slowly.