Publications

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  • Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 2003

    AH-722, February 28, 2003

    This report identifies trends in land, water, and biological resources and commercial input use, reports on the condition of natural resources used in the agricultural sector, and describes and assesses public policies that affect conservation and environmental quality in agriculture. Combining data and information, this report examines the complex connections among farming practices, conservation, and the environment, which are increasingly important components in U.S. agriculture and farm policy. The report also examines the economic factors that affect resource use and estimates costs and benefits to farmers, consumers, and the government of meeting conservation and environmental goals. The report takes stock of how natural resources (land, water and biological resources) and commercial inputs (nutrients, pesticides, seed and machinery) are used in the agricultural sector; shows how they contribute to environmental quality; and links use and quality to technological change, production practices, and farm programs. The report is available only in electronic format.

  • Farm Payments: Decoupled Payments Increase Households' Well-Being, Not Production

    Amber Waves, February 03, 2003

    Although decoupled payments do not distort price incentives for producers, they can still alter production decisions because payments increase farm operators' income, and the expectation of fixed, future payments increases their wealth. Increased income and wealth from decoupled payments, as from any other source of income, has lasting effects on households' decisions about how much to spend, save, and work.

  • The 2002 Farm Act: Provisions and Implications for Commodity Markets

    AIB-778, November 14, 2002

    The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (2002 Farm Act), which governs agricultural programs through 2007, was signed into law in May 2002. This report presents an initial evaluation of the new legislation's effects on agricultural commodity markets, based on sectorwide model simulations under alternative policy assumptions. The analysis shows that loan rate changes under the marketing assistance loan program of the 2002 Farm Act initially result in an increase in total planted acreage of eight major program crops. This increase in plantings, however, is relatively small (less than 1 percent), partly due to the inelasticity of acreage response in the sector. In the longer run, the simulations indicate that overall plantings of the eight program crops studied are lower under the 2002 Farm Act than under a continuation of the 1996 Farm Act. This result mostly reflects larger enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program and increased plantings of dry peas and lentils, although planted acreage for the eight program crops is reduced by less than 0.6 percent. The effects of the 2002 Farm Act on the livestock sector and retail food prices are relatively small. Farm income is increased, mostly due to higher government payments to the sector under the new law.

  • Income, Wealth, and the Economic Well-Being of Farm Households

    AER-812, July 01, 2002

    Agricultural policy is rooted in the 1930's notion that providing transfers of money to the farm sector translates into increased economic well-being of farm families. This report shows that neither change in income for the farm sector nor for any particular group of farm business can be presumed to reflect changes confronting farm households. Farm households draw income from various sources, including off-farm work, other businesses operated and, increasingly, nonfarm investments. Likewise, focus on a single indicator of well-being, such as income, overlooks other indicators such as the wealth held by the household and the level of consumption expenditures for health care, food, housing, and other items. Using an expanded definition of economic well-being, we show that farm households as a whole are better off than the average U.S. household, but that 6 percent remain economically disadvantaged.

  • Private Investment in Agricultural Research and International Technology Transfer in Asia

    AER-805, November 06, 2001

    This report provides original estimates of private sector agricultural research and development efforts in Asia during the 1990s. The report examines seven Asia countries (India, Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and China). The examination provides an assessment of the trends in private sector R&D developments in the agricultural inputs industries in each country.

  • Structural and Financial Characteristics of U.S. Farms: 2001 Family Farm Report

    AIB-768, May 25, 2001

    Family farms vary widely in size and other characteristics, ranging from very small retirement and residential farms to establishments with sales in the millions of dollars. The farm typology developed by the Economic Research Service (ERS) categorizes farms into groups based primarily on occupation of the operator and sales class of the farm. The typology groups reflect operators' expectations from farming, position in the life cycle, and dependence on agriculture. The groups differ in their importance to the farm sector, product specialization, program participation, and dependence on farm income. These (and other) differences are discussed in this report.

  • Economic Issues in Agricultural Biotechnology

    AIB-762, March 19, 2001

    This report analyzes the economic aspects of several key areas--agricultural research policy, industry structure, production and marketing, consumer issues, and future world food demand--where agricultural biotechnology is dramatically affecting the public policy agenda.

  • Profile of Hired Farmworkers, 1998 Annual Averages

    AER-790, November 28, 2000

    An average of 875,000 persons 15 years of age and older did hired farmwork each week as their primary job in 1998. An additional 63,000 people did hired farmwork each week as their secondary job. Hired farmworkers were more likely than the typical U.S. wage and salary worker to be male, Hispanic, younger, less educated, never married, and not U.S. citizens. The West (42 percent) and South (31.4 percent) census regions accounted for almost three-fourths of the hired farmworkers. The rate of unemployment in the hired farm labor force (11.8 percent) was more than double that (4.5 percent) for all wage and salary workers. Hired farmworkers were also more likely to be paid less than the minimum wage, and to be low-wage workers. Consequently, their median weekly earnings continued to be much lower than those of all wage and salary workers. However, hired farmworkers' real median weekly earnings increased 4 percent between 1990 and 1998, while earnings for all wage and salary workers increased only 2 percent. This report examines regional and structural patterns of farm labor use, and demographic and employment characteristics of hired farmworkers, using data from the 1997 Census of Agriculture and the 1998 Current Population Survey (CPS) earnings microdata file.

  • Tobacco and the Economy: Farms, Jobs, and Communities

    AER-789, November 03, 2000

    Public health policies intended to reduce the incidence of smoking-related disease adversely affect thousands of tobacco farmers, manufacturers, and other businesses that produce, distribute, and sell tobacco products. This report assesses the likely impacts of declining tobacco demand, and identifies the types of workers, farms, businesses, and communities that are most vulnerable to loss of tobacco income and jobs. The dollar impact on the farm sector of a reduction in cigarette demand will be smaller than that experienced by manufacturing, wholesale, retail, and transportation businesses, but tobacco farms and their communities may have the most difficulty adjusting. Many tobacco farmers lack good alternatives to tobacco, and they have tobacco-specific equipment, buildings, and experience. Most communities will make the transition to a smaller tobacco industry with little difficulty, because tobacco accounts for a small share of the local economy. However, a number of counties depend on tobacco for a significant share of local income.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Economics of Water Quality Protection From Nonpoint Sources: Theory and Practice

    AER-782, November 30, 1999

    Water quality is a major environmental issue. Pollution from nonpoint sources is the single largest remaining source of water quality impairments in the United States. Agriculture is a major source of several nonpoint-source pollutants, including nutrients, sediment, pesticides, and salts. Agricultural nonpoint pollution reduction policies can be designed to induce producers to change their production practices in ways that improve the environmental and related economic consequences of production. The information necessary to design economically efficient pollution control policies is almost always lacking. Instead, policies can be designed to achieve specific environmental or other similarly related goals at least cost, given transaction costs and any other political, legal, or informational constraints that may exist. This report outlines the economic characteristics of five instruments that can be used to reduce agricultural nonpoint source pollution (economic incentives, standards, education, liability, and research) and discusses empirical research related to the use of these instruments.

  • Structural and Financial Characteristics of U.S. Farms, 1995: 20th Annual Family Farm Report to Congress

    AIB-746, December 01, 1998

    National average statistics related to farm production mask the diversity in the Nation's 2 million farms and the people who operate them. Farms in the United States differ not only by size (sales and acres) and type of production, but also by organizational characteristics (land ownership, legal organization, contracting arrangements) and financial characteristics (debt, assets, income, expenditures). Farm operators and their households vary with respect to demographic characteristics (occupation, age, education), financial characteristics (dependence on farm income, operator/spouse labor allocation), and management characteristics (information sources, business goals).

  • The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997: Provisions for Farmers and Rural Communities

    AER-764, July 31, 1998

    Under the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, most farmers will pay less Federal income tax, and farm families will find it easier to transfer the family farm across generations. The new law--the tax portion of 1997 legislation to balance the Federal budget by 2002--emerges from years of debate on proposals for tax simplification, broad tax reduction, and targeted relief for capital gains and estate taxes. The legislation is expected to generate a net tax reduction of $95 billion over 5 years for all taxpayers. A number of general and targeted tax relief provisions will reduce Federal taxes significantly for farmers and other rural residents, but also will increase the complexity of both Federal income and estate taxes. Farmers are expected to save more than $1.6 billion per year in Federal income taxes and $150-200 million in Federal estate taxes.

  • Change in U.S. Livestock Production, 1969-92

    AER-754, July 01, 1997

    This report examines geographic changes in U.S. livestock production during 1969-92 from the standpoint of industry concentration and structure. Farm numbers declined 30 percent from 1969 to 1992, but hog and dairy operations were down 70 percent, farms producing eggs dropped 85 percent, and broiler operations declined 35 percent. Operations feeding cattle declined 40 percent from 1978 to 1992. Despite fewer farms, production was generally stable for most commodities with changes that reflected shifts in consumer demand for livestock products. With fewer farms producing more product, structural change in the production of most major livestock commodities was substantial. However, the magnitude and geography of change varied by commodity.

  • Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 1996-97

    AH-712, July 01, 1997

    This report identifies trends in land, water, and commercial input use, reports on the condition of natural resources used in the agricultural sector, and describes and assesses public policies that affect conservation and environmental quality in agriculture. Combining data and information, this report examines the complex connections among farming practices, conservation, and the environment, which are increasingly important components in U.S. agriculture and farm policy. The report also examines the economic factors that affect resource use and, when data permit, estimates the costs and benefits (to farmers, consumers, and the government) of meeting conservation and environmental goals. The report takes stock of how natural resources (land and water) and commercial inputs (energy, nutrients, pesticides, and machinery) are used in the agricultural sector; shows how they contribute to environmental quality; and links use and quality to technological change, production practices, and farm programs.

  • Financial Performance of U.S. Commercial Farms, 1991-94

    AER-751, June 01, 1997

    Commercial farms represent only 27 percent of farms in the United States, yet produce just over 75 percent of the value of agricultural products. These commercial farm businesses vary greatly by size, commodities produced, financial status, and operator demographics. Overall financial performance shows that the proportion of farms experiencing extreme financial stress remained stable over the last few years, and is considerably less than in the 1980s. Even as record levels of gross farm income are earned in this sector, expenses have increased as well, leaving farms in 1994 with average net farm income relatively stable in nominal terms over the previous 4 years.