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  • Next-Generation Biofuels: Near-Term Challenges and Implications for Agriculture

    BIO-01-01, May 14, 2010

    This report assesses the short-term outlook for production of next-generation biofuels and the near-term challenges facing the sector. Next-generation U.S. biofuel capacity should reach about 88 million gallons in 2010, thanks in large measure to one plant becoming commercially operational in 2010, using noncellulosic animal fat to produce green diesel. U.S. production capacity for cellulosic biofuels is estimated to be 10 million gallons for 2010, much less than the 100 million gallons originally mandated by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. Near-term sector challenges include reducing high capital and production costs, acquiring financial resources for precommercial development, developing new biomass supply arrangements, many of which will be with U.S. farmers, and overcoming the constraints of ethanol's current 10-percent blending limit with gasoline.

  • Assessing the Benefits of Public Research Within an Economic Framework: The Case of USDA's Agricultural Research Service

    ERR-95, May 07, 2010

    Evaluation of publicly funded research can help provide accountability and prioritize programs. In addition, Federal intramural research planning generally involves an institutional assessment of the appropriate Federal role, if any, and whether the research should be left to others, such as universities or the private sector. Many methods of evaluation are available, peer review-used primarily for establishing scientific merit-being the most common. Economic analysis focuses on quantifying ultimate research outcomes, whether measured in goods with market prices or in nonmarket goods such as environmental quality or human health. However, standard economic techniques may not be amenable for evaluating some important public research priorities or for institutional assessments. This report reviews quantitative methods and applies qualitative economic reasoning and stakeholder interviewing methods to the evaluation of economic benefits of Federal intramural research using three case studies of research conducted by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Differences among the case studies highlight the need to select suitable assessment techniques from available methodologies, the limited scope for comparing assessment results across programs, and the inherent difficulty in quantifying benefits in some research areas. When measurement and attribution issues make it difficult to quantify these benefits, the report discusses how qualitative insights based on economic concepts can help research prioritization.

  • 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.

  • Economic Returns to Public Agricultural Research

    EB-10, September 04, 2007

    Over the last several decades, the U.S. agricultural sector has sustained impressive productivity growth. The Nation's agricultural research system, including Federal-State public research as well as private-sector research, has been a key driver of this growth. Economic analysis finds strong and consistent evidence that investment in agricultural research has yielded high returns per dollar spent. These returns include benefits not only to the farm sector but also to the food industry and consumers in the form of more abundant commodities at lower prices.

  • Off-Farm Income, Technology Adoption, and Farm Economic Performance

    ERR-36, February 01, 2007

    ERS examines the relationship between off-farm work, farmers' technology choices, and the economic performance of farms and farm households.

  • Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops Continues To Increase

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2006

    Biotechnology-derived crops were commercially introduced a decade ago, and the adoption of herbicide tolerant and insect resistant varieties grew rapidly. In the U.S. herbicide tolerant soybean adoption expanded more rapidly and widely than other biotech crops. The U.S. acreage share of insect resistant corn flattened in recent years because farmers with the greatest need to protect against the target pest had already adopted the biotech variety.

  • The First Decade of Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States

    EIB-11, April 19, 2006

    Ten years after the first generation of genetically engineered (GE) varieties became commercially available, adoption of these varieties by U.S. farmers is widespread for major crops. Driven by farmers' expectations of higher yields, savings in management time, and lower pesticide costs, the adoption of corn, soybean, and cotton GE varieties has increased rapidly. Despite the benefits, however, environmental and consumer concerns may have limited acceptance of GE crops, particularly in Europe. This report focuses on GE crops and their adoption in the United States over the past 10 years. It examines the three major stakeholders of agricultural biotechnology and finds that (1) the pace of R&D activity by producers of GE seed (the seed firms and technology providers) has been rapid, (2) farmers have adopted some GE varieties widely and at a rapid rate and benefited from such adoption, and (3) the level of consumer concerns about foods that contain GE ingredients varies by country, with European consumers being most concerned.

  • Use of Genetically Engineered Crops Rising Steadily During First Decade

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2005

    The adoption of genetically engineered soybeans, corn, and cotton in the U.S. expanded rapidly since these crops were introduced 10 years ago. U.S. farmers are realizing tangible economic benefits from adopting these crops through higher yields, lower pesticide costs, and savings in management time.

  • Crop Genetic Diversity Boosts Production But Faces Threats

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2005

    Crop yields have risen steadily over the last century due in part to sustained research, improvements to seeds, and access to diverse genetic resources. Crop genetic diversity, however, is threatened by habitat loss, conversion from farmer-developed varieties to scientifically bred varieties, and genetic uniformity in scientifically bred varieties.

  • Ag Biotech Patents on the Move

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2005

    Although small agbiotech companies and seed companies originated 37 percent of a sample of patents issued between 1976 and 2000, large chemical, multinational, and European companies owned 99 percent of the total by 2002. Mergers and acquisitions will probably continue to affect intellectual property ownership and industry structure.

  • Genetically Engineered Crop Varieties Gain Further Acreage Share in 2004

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2004

    GE varieties of soybeans, corn, and cotton have been available commercially since 1996. Since then, their rate of use by U.S. farmers has climbed most years, including 2004.

  • Current Issues in Economics of Food Markets

    AIB-747, August 13, 2004

    These reports synthesize economic analyses of the complex relationships in food markets of interest to officials responsible for public policy, decisionmakers in the industry, and researchers. Topics addressed so far include the economizing practices of low-income households in making food purchases, the increasing vertical coordination and integration of the industry, the link between consolidation of retailers and orange juice prices, the effects of a higher minimum wage on food prices, how taxes affect food markets, and lessons learned from the use of rbST in dairy production.

  • Traceability in the U.S. Food Supply: Economic Theory and Industry Studies

    AER-830, March 18, 2004

    This investigation into the traceability baseline in the United States finds that private sector food firms have developed a substantial capacity to trace.

  • Have Seed Industry Changes Affected Research Effort?

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2004

    The unprecedented growth in U.S. agricultural productivity over the past 70 years owes much to a series of biological innovations embodied in major crop seeds, in particular, cotton, corn, soybeans, and wheat. These innovations are the result of the investment of considerable time and money into plant breeding research and development (R&D). However, the seed sector has changed: seed R&D has moved from being predominately public to predominately private, innovation protection is now pervasive, and the private seed industry has become highly concentrated. This article examines the extent of this shift in R&D from the public to the private domain and whether or not the shift is positively or negatively affecting research effort, and potentially agricultural productivity growth.

  • Size and Distribution of Market Benefits From Adopting Biotech Crops

    TB-1906, November 03, 2003

    This study estimates the size and distribution of benefits from adopting Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton, herbicide-tolerant cotton, and herbicide-tolerant soybeans in 1997. The stakeholders considered are U.S. farmers, U.S. consumers, biotechnology developers, germplasm suppliers, and producers and consumers in the rest of the world.

  • Consumers and the Future of Biotech Foods in the United States

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2003

    When consumers are made aware that food products are biotech, how will they react? As the largest market for U.S. producers, American consumers will render the ultimate verdict on the future of agricultural biotechnology in the United States.

  • Ag Biotech Patents: Who Is Doing What?

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2003

    To better analyze the economic effects of the upward trend in ag biotech patents, ERS researchers and collaborators have assembled comprehensive data on patents and other intellectual property.

  • Plant Genetic Resources: New Rules for International Exchange

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2003

    To make crops more resistant to pests and diseases and to improve food supply quality, quantity, and variety, modern plant breeders continually seek genetic resources from outside the stocks with which they routinely work. Since no nation has within its borders the desired spectrum of genetic resources, international collection and exchange occurs. Not all participants in this exchange, however, view the benefits as fairly balanced between donors and recipients.

  • Information Sways Consumers' Attitudes Towards Biotech Foods

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2003

    Labeling of biotech foods has been a contentious issue in the U.S. and between the U.S. and its trading partners. Proponents of mandatory biotech food labeling argue that consumers have a right to know how their food has been produced. Opponents argue that such labeling will confuse and, in many cases, unnecessarily alarm consumers. In the U.S., when biotechnology introduces a known allergen or substantially changes a food’s nutritional content or composition, Federal regulations require that the label indicate this change. So far, no biotech foods on the market have required labeling.

  • The Effects of Information on Consumer Demand for Biotech Foods: Evidence from Experimental Auctions

    TB-1903, April 04, 2003

    Consumers' willingness to pay for food products decreases when the food label indicates that a food product is produced with the aid of modern biotechnology. This bulletin presents empirical evidence on consumers' willingness to pay for biotech foods based on the presence or absence of labels advising that the food was prepared with the aid of biotechnology. The authors designed and conducted an experimental auction to elicit consumers' willingness to pay for "genetically modified" (GM)-labeled and standard-labeled foods under different information regimes. The evidence gathered for vegetable oil, tortilla chips, and potatoes shows that labels matter. In particular, under all information treatments, consumers discounted food items labeled "GM" by an average of 14 percent. While gender, income, and other demographic characteristics appeared to have only a slight impact on consumers' willingness to pay for biotech foods, information from interested parties and third-party (independent) sources was found to have a strong impact.