Publications

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  • Younger Beginning Farmers Tend To Operate Larger Farms

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2013

    In 2011, 11 percent of beginning farm operators under age 35 had gross farm sales of $250,000 or more, compared with 6 percent of beginning operators age 35-49 and 1 percent of those age 50 and older. As a result, young beginning farm households tend to earn more on their farm and less off their farm than other beginning farm households.

  • Potential Farm-Level Effects of Eliminating Direct Payments

    EIB-103, November 16, 2012

    A number of Farm Act proposals call for ending the direct payment program. ERS analysis suggests that for the majority of farms receiving direct payments, this would not result in substantial decline in financial well-being.

  • Farmland Values on the Rise: 2000-2010

    Amber Waves, September 20, 2012

    Farm real estate values increased considerably in recent years, with some States experiencing double-digit growth.

  • 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.

  • How Is Land in the United States Used? A Focus on Agricultural Land

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2012

    The ERS Major Land Uses series provides over 50 years of estimates of land in various uses, including cropland, pasture and range, and forest. These State and national estimates provide insights into changes in land use over time.

  • Trends in U.S. Farmland Values and Ownership

    EIB-92, February 22, 2012

    In the last few years, U.S. farmland values have been supported by strong farm earnings, helping the farm sector withstand the residential housing downturn. Regarding ownership, non-operating landowners play a significant role.

  • Major Uses of Land in the United States, 2007

    EIB-89, December 19, 2011

    ERS complies the only accounting of all major uses of public and private land in the United States. The report compares national and regional trends in land use with earlier estimates.

  • The Changing Organization of U.S. Farming

    EIB-88, December 02, 2011

    Using survey and census data, ERS examines how changes in farm input use, business arrangements, structure, and production practices since the 1980s combined to expand output without increasing the total use of inputs.

  • Tax-Deferred Exchanges of Farmland Provide Valuable Savings to Some Farmers

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2011

    Despite their limited use, tax-deferred exchanges can be important for some farmland owners. Over a 5-year period, landowners making like-kind exchanges of farmland for farmland deferred $43,300, on average, in capital gains taxes.

  • The Ethanol Decade: An Expansion of U.S. Corn Production, 2000-09

    EIB-79, August 18, 2011

    ERS examines how the farm sector reacted to increased demand for corn needed to fuel a 9-billion-gallon rise in ethanol production in the past decade. In the United States, corn is the primary ethanol feedstock.

  • Grassland to Cropland Conversion in the Northern Plains: The Role of Crop Insurance, Commodity, and Disaster Programs

    ERR-120, June 30, 2011

    ERS examined how quickly landowners were converting grasslands to cropland in the Northern Plains and the role of crop insurance and other farm programs in their decisions.

  • The Influence of Rising Commodity Prices on the Conservation Reserve Program

    ERR-110, February 11, 2011

    This report considers how increased commodity prices might influence enrollment in and benefits from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) using two complementary models: a likely-to-bid model that uses National Resources Inventory data to simulate offers to the general signup portion of the CRP and an opt-out model that simulates retention of current CRP contracts. Under several higher crop price scenarios, including one that incorporates 15 billion gallons of crop-based biofuels production, maintaining the CRP as currently configured will lead to significant expenditure increases. If constraints are placed on increasing rental rates, it might be possible to meet enrollment goals with moderate increases in CRP rental rates-but this will mean accepting lower average Environmental Benefits Index scores as landowners with profitable but environmentally sensitive lands choose not to enroll.

  • Measuring the Indirect Land-Use Change Associated With Increased Biofuel Feedstock Production: A Review of Modeling Efforts: Report to Congress

    AP-054, February 10, 2011

    The House Report 111-181 accompanying H.R. 2997, the 2010 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, requested the USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) in conjunction with the Office of the Chief Economist, to conduct a study of land-use changes for renewable fuels and feedstocks used to produce them. This report summarizes the current state of knowledge of the drivers of land-use change and describes the analytic methods used to estimate the impact of biofuel feedstock production on land use. The models used to assess policy impacts have incorporated some of the major uncertainties inherent in making projections of future conditions, but some uncertainties will continue exist. The larger the impact of domestic biofuels feedstock production on commodity prices and the availability of exports, the larger the international land-use effects of likely to be. The amount of pressure placed on land internationally will depend in part on how much of the land needed for biofuel production is met through an expansion of agricultural land in the United States. If crop yield per acre increases through more intensive management or new crop varieties, then less land is needed to grow a particular amount of that crop.

  • Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: Family Farm Report, 2010 Edition

    EIB-66, July 26, 2010

    Most U.S. farms-98 percent in 2007-are family operations, and even the largest farms are predominantly family run. Large-scale family farms and nonfamily farms account for 12 percent of U.S farms but 84 percent of the value of production. In contrast, small family farms make up most of the U.S. farm count but produce a modest share of farm output. Small farms are less profitable than large-scale farms, on average, and their operator households tend to rely on off-farm income for their livelihood. Generally speaking, farm operator households cannot be characterized as low-income when both farm and off-farm income are considered. Nevertheless, limited-resource farms still exist and account for 3 to 12 percent of family farms, depending on how "limited-resource" is defined.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • U.S. Ethanol Expansion Driving Changes Throughout the Agricultural Sector

    Amber Waves, September 03, 2007

    A large expansion in ethanol production is underway in the United States, spurred by high oil prices and energy policies. Although corn is the primary feedstock used to produce ethanol in the United States, market adjustments to the ethanol expansion extend well beyond the corn sector to supply and demand for other crops, as well as to the livestock sector, farm income, government payments, and food prices. Adjustments in the agricultural sector to increased demand for biofuels will continue as interest grows in renewable sources of energy to lessen dependence on foreign oil.

  • Lowering the Income Cap for Farm Payments Would Affect Few Farmers

    Amber Waves, September 03, 2007

    Policymakers have proposed lowering the $2.5-million income eligibility cap for farm program payments. An ERS analysis of a $200,000 adjusted gross income cap, the lowest proposed cap, shows that about 1.5 percent of all farms potentially would be affected by a $200,000 cap.

  • Environmental Effects of Agricultural Land-Use Change: The Role of Economics and Policy

    ERR-25, August 31, 2006

    This report examines evidence on the relationship between agricultural land-use changes, soil productivity, and indicators of environmental sensitivity. If cropland that shifts in and out of production is less productive and more environmentally sensitive than other cropland, policy-induced changes in land use could have production effects that are smaller-and environmental impacts that are greater-than anticipated. To illustrate this possibility, this report examines environmental outcomes stemming from land-use conversion caused by two agricultural programs that others have identified as potentially having important influences on land use and environmental quality: Federal crop insurance subsidies and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Nation's largest cropland retirement program.

  • 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.