Publications

Sort by: Title | Date
  • Science, Technology, and Prospects for Growth in U.S. Corn Yields

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2009

    Recent increases in inflation-adjusted crop prices have sparked renewed interest in the potential for continued increases in crop yields. Investment in scientific research is key for boosting corn yields, making productivity, environmental, and bioenergy goals easier to attain.

  • Ethanol and a Changing Agricultural Landscape

    ERR-86, November 18, 2009

    The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 established specific targets for the production of biofuel in the United States. Until advanced technologies become commercially viable, meeting these targets will increase demand for traditional agricultural commodities used to produce ethanol, resulting in land-use, production, and price changes throughout the farm sector. This report summarizes the estimated effects of meeting the EISA targets for 2015 on regional agricultural production and the environment. Meeting EISA targets for ethanol production is estimated to expand U.S. cropped acreage by nearly 5 million acres by 2015, an increase of 1.6 percent over what would otherwise be expected. Much of the growth comes from corn acreage, which increases by 3.5 percent over baseline projections. Water quality and soil carbon will also be affected, in some cases by greater percentages than suggested by changes in the amount of cropped land. The economic and environmental implications of displacing a portion of corn ethanol production with ethanol produced from crop residues are also estimated.

  • Full Throttle U.S. Ethanol Expansion Faces Challenges Down the Road

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2009

    The large gains in the scale of the U.S. ethanol industry over the past decade were achieved by “picking the low-hanging fruit” on both the supply and demand sides of the market. Achieving further large-scale gains will depend on whether the industry can overcome challenges in producing ethanol through cellulosic technologies and on expanding use of ethanol in automobiles.

  • 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.

  • Manure Use for Fertilizer and for Energy: Report to Congress

    AP-037, June 25, 2009

    The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to evaluate the role of animal manure as a source of fertilizer, and its other uses. About 5 percent of all U.S. cropland is currently fertilized with livestock manure, and corn accounts for over half of the acreage to which manure is applied. Expanded environmental regulation through nutrient management plans will likely lead to wider use of manure on cropland, at higher production costs, but with only modest impacts on production costs, commodity demand, or farm structure. There is widespread interest in using manure as a feedstock for energy production. While current use is quite limited, expanded government support, either direct or indirectly, could lead to a substantial increase in manure use as a feedstock. However, current energy processes are unlikely to compete with fertilizer uses of manure, because they leave fertilizer nutrients as residues, in more marketable form, and because manure-to-energy projects will be most profitable in regions where raw manure is in excess supply, with the least value as fertilizer.

  • 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.

  • NAFTA at 15: Building on Free Trade

    WRS-09-03, March 31, 2009

    Implementation of the agricultural provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has drawn to a close. In 2008, the last of NAFTA's transitional restrictions governing U.S.-Mexico and Canada-Mexico agricultural trade were removed, concluding a 14-year project in which the member countries systematically dismantled numerous barriers to regional agricultural trade. During the implementation period, the agricultural sectors of Canada, Mexico, and the United States have become much more integrated. Agricultural trade within the free-trade area has grown dramatically, and Canadian and Mexican industries that rely on U.S. agricultural inputs have expanded. U.S. feedstuffs have facilitated a marked increase in Mexican meat production and consumption, and the importance of Canadian and Mexican produce to U.S. fruit and vegetable consumption is growing.

  • 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.

  • Global Agricultural Supply and Demand: Factors Contributing to the Recent Increase in Food Commodity Prices

    WRS-0801, July 23, 2008

    World market prices for major food commodities such as grains and vegetable oils have risen sharply to historic highs of more than 60 percent above levels just 2 years ago. Many factors have contributed to the runup in food commodity prices. Some factors reflect trends of slower growth in production and more rapid growth in demand, which have contributed to a tightening of world balances of grains and oilseeds over the last decade. Recent factors that have further tightened world markets include increased global demand for biofuels feedstocks and adverse weather conditions in 2006 and 2007 in some major grain and oilseed producing areas. Other factors that have added to global food commodity price inflation include the declining value of the U.S. dollar, rising energy prices, increasing agricultural costs of production, growing foreign exchange holdings by major food importing countries, and policies adopted recently by some exporting and importing countries to mitigate their own food price inflation.

  • The 2002 Farm Bill: Provisions and Economic Implications

    AP-022, January 23, 2008

    The Farm Security Act of 2002, which governs Federal farm programs for 2002-07, was signed into law on May 13, 2002. This publication presents an overview of the Act and a side-by-side comparison of 1996-2001 farm legislation and the 2002 Act. For selected programs, information is provided to additional analyses of key changes, program overview, and economic implications.

  • NAFTA’s Liberalization of Corn Trade Approaches the Finish Line

    Amber Waves, September 03, 2007

    Implementation of NAFTA, signed in 1995 is nearly complete, and all remaining trade barriers among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico will be phased out in 2008. One of the few remaining commodities to be liberalized under NAFTA is corn, which has had a 14-year transition period. But the TRQ has become less restrictive over the period, so the final phase-out is not expected to generate much additional impact.

  • U.S. Farmers Increase Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops and Favor Multiple Traits - Amber Waves September 2007

    Amber Waves, September 03, 2007

    New 2007 USDA data show that adoption by U.S. farmers of genetically engineered (GE) soybeans, cotton, and corn with herbicide tolerance and/or insect resistance (Bt) traits has been rapid over the 12-year period following commercial introduction.

  • Impact of Rising Natural Gas Prices on U.S. Ammonia Supply

    WRS-0702, August 06, 2007

    The volatile and upward trend in U.S. natural gas prices from 2000-06 has led to a 17-percent decline in the Nation's annual aggregate supply of ammonia. During the period, U.S. ammonia production declined 44 percent, while U.S. ammonia imports increased 115 percent. Also, the share of U.S.-produced ammonia in the U.S. aggregate supply of ammonia dropped from 80 to 55 percent, while the share from imports increased from 15 percent to 42 percent. Meanwhile, ammonia prices paid by farmers increased from $227 per ton in 2000 to $521 per ton in 2006, an increase of 130 percent. Natural gas is the main input used to produce ammonia. Additional increases in U.S. natural gas prices could lead to a further decline in domestic ammonia production and an even greater rise in ammonia imports.

  • Ethanol Expansion in the United States: How Will the Agricultural Sector Adjust?

    FDS-07D-01, May 18, 2007

    A large expansion in ethanol production is underway in the United States. Cellulosic sources of feedstocks for ethanol production hold some promise for the future, but the primary feedstock in the United States currently is corn. Market adjustments to this increased demand extend well beyond the corn sector to supply and demand for other crops, such as soybeans and cotton, as well as to U.S. livestock industries. USDA's long-term projections, augmented by farmers' planting intentions for 2007, are used to illustrate anticipated changes in the agricultural sector.

  • Feed Grains Backgrounder

    FDS-07C01, March 30, 2007

    The U.S. feed grain sector, largest of the major U.S. field crops, faces unprecedented demand conditions. The size and speed of the expanding use of corn by the ethanol industry is raising widespread issues throughout U.S. agriculture. Debate is ongoing over the use of grain for fuel instead of for food or feed and the adequacy of future grain supplies. Increased productivity (yield) and additional area from land planted to competing crops, land enrolled in conservation programs, or idled land is expected to provide an increased supply of feed grains. The outlook is for higher feed grain prices, in part, as a result of renewable energy policies and high energy prices, with feed grain prices rising above farm program support levels. During the ongoing farm policy debate, the U.S. feed grain sector faces uncertainty about the future level and type of government support.

  • NAFTA at 13: Implementation Nears Completion

    WRS-0701, March 29, 2007

    Implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is drawing to a close. In 2008, the last of NAFTA's transitional restrictions governing U.S.-Mexico and Canada-Mexico agricultural trade will be removed, concluding a 14-year project in which the member countries systematically dismantled numerous barriers to regional agricultural trade. During the implementation period, the agricultural sectors of Canada, Mexico, and the United States have become much more integrated. Agricultural trade within the free-trade area has grown dramatically, and Canadian and Mexican industries that rely on U.S. agricultural inputs have expanded. U.S. feedstuffs have facilitated a marked increase in Mexican meat production and consumption, and the importance of Canadian and Mexican produce to U.S. fruit and vegetable consumption is growing.

  • The Changing Face of the U.S. Grain System

    ERR-35, February 28, 2007

    Specialty grains coming onto the market (e.g., fiber-enriched wheat) are requiring adjustments in the marketing system, including information documentation and management, in order to preserve their added value or prevent accidental commingling with standard grains.

  • Valuing Counter-Cyclical Payments: Implications for Producer Risk Management and Program Administration

    ERR-39, February 22, 2007

    Counter-cyclical payments supplement incomes of eligible producers enrolled in commodity programs. ERS developed a computer program that improved upon USDA's method of estimating payment rates and that producers and forecasters can use.

  • USDA Agricultural Projections to 2016

    OCE-2007-1, February 14, 2007

    This report provides longrun (10-year) projections for the agricultural sector through 2016. Projections cover agricultural commodities, agricultural trade, and aggregate indicators of the sector, such as farm income and food prices.

  • Ethanol Reshapes the Corn Market

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2006

    This article examines the possible market impacts of the ongoing expansion of the U.S. ethanol sector. To meet the sector's growing demand for corn, some of the corn produced in the United States is likely to be diverted from exports. In the future, corn may cease to be the main feedstock for U.S. ethanol production if cellulosic biomass is successfully developed as an alternative.