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  • 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.

  • Research Investments and Market Structure in the Food Processing, Agricultural Input, and Biofuel Industries Worldwide

    ERR-130, December 30, 2011

    ERS quantifies investment trends by for-profit companies in food manufacturing, biofuels, and agricultural input R&D and explores how the trends are affected by changes in industry structure.

  • Research Investments and Market Structure in the Food Processing, Agricultural Input, and Biofuel Industries Worldwide: Executive Summary

    EIB-90, December 30, 2011

    Meeting growing global demand for food, fiber, and biofuel requires robust investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) from both public and private sectors. This report highlights the major findings of a study examining global R&D spending by private industry in seven agricultural input sectors, food manufacturing, and biofuel and describes the changing structure of these industries. For the full report, see Research Investments and Market Structure in the Food Processing, Agricultural Input, and Biofuel Industries Worldwide, ERR-130. In 2007 (the latest year for which comprehensive estimates are available), the private sector spent $19.7 billion on food and agricultural research (56 percent in food manufacturing and 44 percent in agricultural input sectors) and accounted for about half of total public and private spending on food and agricultural R&D in high-income countries. In R&D related to biofuel, annual private-sector investments are estimated to have reached $1.47 billion worldwide by 2009. Incentives to invest in R&D are influenced by market structure and other factors. Agricultural input industries have undergone significant structural change over the past two decades, with industry concentration on the rise. A relatively small number of large, multinational firms with global R&D and marketing networks account for most R&D in each input industry. Rising market concentration has not generally been associated with increased R&D investment as a percentage of industry sales.

  • Nitrogen in Agricultural Systems: Implications for Conservation Policy

    ERR-127, September 22, 2011

    Nitrogen is an important agricultural input that is critical for crop production. However, the introduction of large amounts of nitrogen into the environment has a number of undesirable impacts on water, terrestrial, and atmospheric resources. This report explores the use of nitrogen in U.S. agriculture and assesses changes in nutrient management by farmers that may improve nitrogen use efficiency. It also reviews a number of policy approaches for improving nitrogen management and identifies issues affecting their potential performance. Findings reveal that about two-thirds of U.S. cropland is not meeting three criteria for good nitrogen management related to the rate, timing, and method of application. Several policy approaches, including financial incentives, nitrogen management as a condition of farm program eligibility, and regulation, could induce farmers to improve their nitrogen management and reduce nitrogen losses to the environment.

  • Reducing Agriculture’s Nitrogen Footprint: Are New Policy Approaches Needed?

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2011

    Agriculture is the single largest source of nitrogen compounds that can help or harm ecosystems. A range of policy instruments could be used to address different facets of nitrogen management and specific environmental problems.

  • Impacts of Higher Energy Prices on Agriculture and Rural Economies

    ERR-123, August 18, 2011

    ERS looks at direct and indirect impacts of higher energy prices on the agricultural and rural sectors, with scenarios developed for specific energy price changes.

  • 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.

  • Recent Volatility in U.S. Fertilizer Prices

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2009

    Strong domestic and global demand, coupled with tight supplies and low inventories, contributed to record fertilizer prices in early 2008. Softening global fertilizer demand, disruptions in U.S. farmer application of fertilizers, an increase in fertilizer imports, and tighter credit for purchasing inputs contributed to the decline in fertilizer prices in late 2008. Fertilizer price volatility affects the profitability of corn and small grains, where fertilizer accounts for a relatively large share of production costs, compared to that for soybeans and cotton.

  • 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.

  • Tight Supply and Strong Demand May Raise U.S. Fertilizer Prices

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2007

    Strong demand for nitrogen fertilizers is expected to raise U.S. fertilizer prices. With limited ammonia supplies and production capacity in the U.S., more of the domestic demand is likely to be met through imports.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Beyond Environmental Compliance: Stewardship as Good Business

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2004

    Agricultural producers can benefit economically by voluntarily adopting environmentally beneficial practices. An efficient farm would minimize unnecessary applications of pesticides and fertilizer, enhancing the bottom line as well as minimizing environmental impacts. But additional incentives may exist for farms to invest in environmental management.

  • U.S. Increasingly Imports Nitrogen and Potash Fertilizer

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2004

    Today the U.S. imports over half of the nitrogen and 80 percent of the potash fertilizer used on its farms. Domestic production of nitrogen fertilizer (made from natural gas) declined during the 1990s as increased demand for natural gas in the U.S. drove up its price. A new database on the ERS website shows that the U.S. remains the world's largest exporter of phosphate fertilizer, though exports have declined 25 percent since 1997.

  • Methyl Bromide Phaseout Proceeds: Users Request Exemptions

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2003

    Methyl bromide, a widely used fumigant in agriculture, is one of a number of chemicals-including refrigerants such as freon-being phased out of use worldwide under the Montreal Protocol signed by the U.S. and 182 other countries. The Protocol is an international treaty aimed at reducing or eliminating use of chemicals that contribute to the depletion of the atmosphere's ozone layer, which protects the Earth from ultraviolet radiation (UV). Higher levels of UV can increase the incidence of skin cancer and cataracts, suppress the immune system, and damage crops. The phaseout of methyl bromide could mitigate some of these harmful effects, but because methyl bromide is so important to agricultural production, the phaseout could also have some negative effects for producers and consumers.

  • 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.

  • Voluntary Incentives for Reducing Agricultural Nonpoint Source Water Pollution

    AIB-716, May 01, 1995

    Agricultural chemicals and sediment from cropland may reduce the quality of America's surface and ground water resources. The Clean Water Act stipulates that individual States are responsible for controlling agricultural nonpoint source pollution. Most State plans rely chiefly on education and technical assistance to promote the adoption of less polluting practices. Because profitability drives production decisions, these programs tend to be most successful when they promote inexpensive changes in existing practices. This report presents research findings on the success of incentive programs to control agricultural nonpoint source pollution.