Publications

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  • In the Long Run: Growth in Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops Continues in U.S.

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2009

    U.S. farmers have rapidly adopted genetically engineered soybeans, cotton, and corn since their commercial introduction in 1996 because of their economic benefits.

  • Vegetables and Melons Outlook: August 2009

    VGS-333-01, August 19, 2009

    Growth over time in the demand for fresh vegetables for at-home consumption may slow because of differences in the behavior of younger and older birth cohorts. A birth cohort includes people born in the same year and is similar in concept to a generation. People born around the same point in history may share common behaviors that they carry throughout their lives independent of age. People born more recently are found to spend less money for fresh vegetables than older Americans do. Changes in how people purchase and consume food may help to explain these effects.

  • U.S. Food Import Patterns, 1998-2007

    FAU-125, August 06, 2009

    Using import data from the U.S. Census Bureau, this study examines patterns of U.S. food imports for fiscal years 1998-2007. Results indicate faster import growth trends for consumer-ready foods, such as fruit, vegetables, meats, seafood, and processed food products. Although the United States imported most bulk food commodities and perishable consumer-ready products, such as fruit and vegetables, from neighboring countries in the Western Hemisphere, it imported processed foods, spices, and other tropical products from more global sources, with rising import shares for many countries in Asia.

  • Issues and Prospects in Corn, Soybeans, and Wheat Futures Markets

    FDS-09G-01, August 05, 2009

    The past 5 years have seen large increases in trading of corn, soybean, and wheat futures contracts by nontraditional traders, a trend that coincided with historic price increases for these commodities. These events have raised questions about whether changes in the composition of traders participating have contributed to movements in commodity prices beyond the effects of market fundamentals. Evidence suggests the link between futures and cash prices for some commodity markets may have weakened (poor convergence), making it more difficult for traditional traders to use futures markets to manage risk. This report discusses the role and objective of new futures traders compared with those of traditional futures traders and seeks to determine if the composition of traders in futures markets has contributed to convergence problems. Market activity is analyzed by focusing on positions of both traditional and new market traders, price levels, price volatility, and volume and open interest trends. Convergence of futures and cash prices is examined, along with implications and prospects for risk management by market participants. The report also discusses the implications for market performance and the regulatory response of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

  • Trends In U.S. Cotton Basis Since 2001

    CWS-09D01, June 25, 2009

    Price volatility in 2008 generated interest in underlying cotton cash and futures markets and highlighted the importance of market participants' expectations about basis changes over time in production, marketing, and hedging decisions. This analysis examines trends in average U.S. cotton basis and changes in the convergence of cash and futures prices as cotton futures contract expiration dates near between 2001 and 2009 to provide perspective for the average basis movements experienced in 2008. Though this analysis does not identify the factors leading to differences in average convergence paths since 2001, it finds that, while average cotton cash and futures prices converged in all years, the pattern in 2008 was significantly different from the other sample years.

  • Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook: June 2009

    FTS-337-01, June 03, 2009

    Specialized fruit and tree nut farms represent a substantial segment of the U.S. fruit and tree nut industry. By nature of the commodities produced and the markets targeted, these specialized farms require substantial investments in production inputs. Using data from USDA's Agricultural Resource and Management Survey (ARMS), this report investigates the major expense components of specialized fruit and tree nut farms in the United States from 1998 to 2006. Based on 3-year averages, the analysis compares farm expenses by farm size and across regions. Total cash expenses were highest in the West where the highest concentration of specialized fruit and tree nut farms are located, including a majority of the largest and most highly specialized farm operations. Labor was the largest cash expense for fruit and tree nut farms, followed by fertilizer and other agricultural chemical inputs.

  • Factors Behind the Rise in Global Rice Prices in 2008

    RCS-09D01, May 07, 2009

    Global rice prices rose to record highs in the spring of 2008, with trading prices tripling from November 2007 to late April 2008. The price increase was not due to crop failure or a particularly tight global rice supply situation. Instead, trade restrictions by major suppliers, panic buying by several large importers, a weak dollar, and record oil prices were the immediate cause of the rise in rice prices. Because rice is critical to the diet of about half the world's population, the rapid increase in global rice prices in late 2007 and early 2008 had a detrimental impact on those rice consumers' well-being. Although rice prices have dropped more than 40 percent from their April 2008 highs, they remain well above pre-2007 levels.

  • Economic Aspects of Revenue-Based Commodity Support

    ERR-72, April 07, 2009

    ERS examines the economic effects of two theoretical scenarios in which commodity support is determined by shortfalls in farm revenue, unlike current price-based programs or yield-based assistance.

  • The 2008/2009 World Economic Crisis: What It Means for U.S. Agriculture

    WRS-09-02, March 30, 2009

    The world economic crisis that began in 2008 has major consequences for U.S. agriculture. The weakening of global demand because of emerging recessions and declining economic growth result in reduced export demand and lower agricultural commodity prices, compared with those in 2008. These, in turn, reduce U.S. farm income and place downward pressures on farm real estate values. So far, the overall impact on U.S. agriculture is not as severe as on the broader U.S. economy because the record-high agricultural exports, prices, and farm income in 2007 and 2008 put U.S. farmers on solid financial ground. Moreover, the debt equity ratios in agriculture tend to be more conservative than those in most other sectors of the economy. There is much uncertainty concerning the depth and extent of the crisis. The outcomes for U.S. agriculture are dependent on whether or not there is a global realignment of exchange rates to correct current macroeconomic imbalances.

  • Wheat Outlook: March 2009

    WHS-09C01, March 24, 2009

    The recent historic rise in farm input costs and wheat prices has had economic effects on the U.S. wheat sector. A cumulative distribution of forecasted production costs for wheat farms shows that current high (but falling) wheat prices will allow a greater share of producers to cover their production costs in 2008 (90 percent) than in 2004 (82 percent), despite higher input costs in 2008. However, if farm-gate prices for wheat continue to fall into 2009, and if prices for inputs do not drop off similarly, many more wheat producers may find themselves unable to cover production costs and the U.S. wheat sector may see further attrition of planted area.

  • Supermarket Loss Estimates for Fresh Fruit, Vegetables, Meat, Poultry, and Seafood and Their Use in the ERS Loss-Adjusted Food Availability Data

    EIB-44, March 20, 2009

    Using new national estimates of supermarket food loss, ERS updates each fresh fruit, vegetable, meat, and poultry commodity in its Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series.

  • Fiber Use for Textiles and China's Cotton Textile Exports

    CWS-08I-01, March 03, 2009

    New information about the role of recycling in the textile industry and updated estimates of efficiency in spinning lower estimates of the volume of cotton fiber exported by China in the form of textiles from those of an earlier study. China's textile industry not only meets domestic demand of the world's most populous country but is also the world's largest exporter. Consequently, China is the world's largest consumer and importer of cotton, but information about China's cotton consumption is incomplete. This analysis of China's textile trade offers important insights into trends in China's cotton use and imports. The revised textile trade estimates have implications for the outlook for China's cotton consumption and imports, which this study demonstrates with an econometric model of China's textile trade.

  • Grain Prices Impact Entire Livestock Production Cycle

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2009

    Between 2006 and 2008, feed costs nearly doubled and are expected to result in lower meat and dairy production in 2009. Feed prices have declined since mid-2008 and are expected to be lower in 2009, but the biological timeline of livestock production means meat producers are limited in what they can do in the short run to change production. Changes in U.S. livestock-industry structure and the use of alternative feeds, such as byproducts from ethanol production, will help reduce the impact of higher input costs on livestock producers.

  • Growing Crops for Biofuels Has Spillover Effects

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2009

    Federal mandates for biofuel production promote expanded crop acreage which can shift cropping patterns and affect livestock production due to higher prices for corn and other grain crops. An increase in the extent and intensity of input use and agricultural land in production increases the potential for environmental degradation. Research on crop productivity and conversion efficiency, as well as conservation practices like no-till and buffer strips, could lessen the environmental impacts of biofuels.

  • Agricultural Commodity Price Spikes in the 1970s and 1990s: Valuable Lessons for Today

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2009

    The rapid increase in crop prices between 2006 and mid-2008, while unprecedented in magnitude, was not unique. Two other periods of major rapid runups in prices occurred in 1971-74 and 1994-96. Each price surge resulted from a combination of factors, including depreciation of the U.S. dollar, strong worldwide demand for agricultural products, supply shocks, and policy responses by major trading countries. In the past, market adjustments eventually brought prices back down. Similarly, the high prices seen in 2008 have dropped to lower levels; however, these adjustments are occurring in a more volatile environment.

  • Factors Contributing to the Recent Increase in U.S. Fertilizer Prices, 2002-08

    AR-33, February 13, 2009

    U.S. prices of fertilizer nutrients began to rise steadily in 2002 and increased sharply to historic highs in 2008 due to the combined effects of a number of domestic and global long- and shortrun supply and demand factors. From 2007 to 2008, spring nitrogen prices increased by a third, phosphate prices nearly doubled, and potash prices doubled. The price spike in 2008 reflects low inventories at the beginning of 2008 combined with the inability of the U.S. fertilizer industry to quickly adjust to surging demand or sharp declines in international supply. Declining fertilizer demand, disruption in fall applications, increased fertilizer imports (July to August), and tightening credit markets for fertilizer purchases contributed to the decline of fertilizer prices in late 2008. The prospect for strong fertilizer demand in early 2009, high raw material costs for the manufacture of fertilizers, production cutbacks, and decreasing supplies from fertilizer imports, however, could put upward pressure on U.S. fertilizer prices in spring 2009.

  • USDA Agricultural Projections to 2018

    OCE-2009-1, February 12, 2009

    This report provides longrun (10-year) projections for the agricultural sector through 2018. Projections cover agricultural commodities, agricultural trade, and aggregate indicators of the sector, such as farm income and food prices.

  • Declining Orange Consumption in Japan: Generational Changes or Something Else?

    ERR-71, February 05, 2009

    The aging of Japan's population only partially explains the downward trend in orange consumption, and the negative trend could continue.

  • The Roles of Economists in the U.S. Department of Agriculture

    AP-031, January 02, 2009

    Among the many responsibilities of USDA are implementing the Food Stamp Program and other food and nutrition assistance programs; managing Federal forest land; implementing standards of humane care and treatment of animals; providing incentives for adopting wildlife habitat enhancements and other conservation practices; participating in trade negotiations; ensuring the safety of meat, poultry, and eggs; providing funds for rural business development; and implementing farm programs legislated by Congress. The Department has a broad mandate, and virtually everything with which it is charged has economic dimensions. It is not surprising, then, that USDA employs over 800 economists across 16 of its agencies.

  • New Market Realities Affect Crop Program Choices

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2008

    Even as farmers enjoy record high commodity prices and income, they face an array of risks, including high production costs and greater price volatility. Rising crop prices mean increased Federal crop insurance program payments but reduce the likelihood commodity program payments based on fixed price targets. The new Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program offers revenue protection but participating farmers must forgo some benefits of traditional commodity programs.