Publications

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  • Agricultural Biotechnology: An Economic Perspective

    AER-687, May 01, 1994

    The development of agricultural biotechnology offers the opportunity to increase crop production, lower farming costs, improve food quality and safety, and enhance environmental quality. This report describes the economic, scientific, and social factors that will influence the future of biotechnology in agriculture. The supply of biotechnology innovations and products will be affected by public policies and by expectations of producer and consumer demand for the products. The demand for biotechnology by farmers and food processors is derived from the expected profitability of using the technology as an input to production. Ultimately, the use of biotechnology in the farm sector will depend on consumer demand for the biotechnology-derived agricultural product.

  • Industrial Uses of Agricultural Materials Situation and Outlook Report (3)

    IUS-3, June 01, 1994

    Strong economic growth and environmental regulation boost industrial uses of agricultural materials. One use of cornstarch is in the production of citric acid, the main acidifier (by volume) used by the food and pharmaceutical industries. About 15 percent of the plasticizers produced in the United States is derived from plant matter, mostly vegetable oils, and the market is growing 3 to 5 percent a year. The market for epoxidized soybean oil may expand tremendously if it can be incorporated into paints and coatings to replace volatile solvents. A study found that the energetic and economic feasibility of converting beef tallow to biodiesel was generally positive. The cost of producing tallow-based biodiesel ranged from 92 cents to $1.67 per gallon, depending on the price of the tallow feedstock, the price received for the glycerine coproduct, and the type and size of the transesterification unit.

  • Issues for the 1990's

    AIB-664, September 01, 1994

    ERS has prepared a series of 2-page issue fact sheets which streamline research topics, graphically present the latest USDA data and analyses, and target the most important agricultural issues you'll face in this decade. Rural economy issues covered in this volume deal with financial market intervention, value-added agriculture, rural credit, rural enterprise zones, trends in farm structure, workforce education, population loss, and more.

  • Atrazine: Environmental Characteristics and Economics of Management

    AER-699, September 09, 1994

    Restricting or eliminating the use of atrazine in the Midwest would have important economic consequences for farmers and consumers. Atrazine is an important herbicide in the production of corn and other crops in the United States. Since atrazine is such an important herbicide, mandatory changes in application strategies are likely to generate sizable costs for producers and consumers. However, recent findings indicate that elevated amounts of atrazine are running off fields and entering surface water resources. This report presents the costs and benefits of an atrazine ban, a ban on pre-plant and pre-emergent applications, and a targeted ban to achieve a surface water standard. A complete atrazine ban is hypothesized to be the costliest strategy, while the targeted strategy is the least costly.

  • The Revised ERS County Typology: An Overview

    RDRR-89, December 01, 1994

    Describes an expanded and revised version of ERS' 1979 classification of nonmetro counties, commonly called the ERS typology. The classification has been widely used by researchers, policy analysts, and public officials as a source of information about the economic and social diversity characterizing rural America. Classifies nonmetro counties into one of six types: farming-dependent, mining-dependent, manufacturing-dependent, government-dependent, services-dependent, and nonspecialized.

  • Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 1994

    AH-705, December 01, 1994

    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 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.

  • Industrial Uses of Agricultural Materials Situation and Outlook Report (4)

    IUS-4, December 01, 1994

    Market conditions and research increase industrial use of agricultural materials. Industrial uses of corn in 1994/95 are forecast up 12 percent from 1993/94. Most of the increase is expected to be used to make ethanol. Corn also is used to produce sorbitol, a polyol widely used in personal-care products. Meadowfoam, a new oilseed crop grown in Oregon, contains a unique oil that is used in cosmetics and has potential in other applications. As supplies of virgin timber tighten, nonwood biomass fibers, such as straw, and recycled fiber products, such as paper and wood wastes, are being used as raw materials for composite products. Livestock producers who operate large-scale confinement operations, such as dairies and hog farms, are looking for ways to handle and dispose of animal wastes that are cost effective and meet odor and pollution regulations. Farm-level production of biogas (using anaerobic digesters) is one solution that also will help control methane emissions into the atmosphere. Lignin, a common material in trees and woody plants, currently is a byproduct of pulp and paper production. However, research is underway to broaden commercial uses of lignin. One project is assessing the potential for converting lignin into pulping catalysts.

  • Benefits of Protecting Rural Water Quality: An Empirical Analysis

    AER-701, January 02, 1995

    Concerns about the impact of farm production on the quality of the Nation's drinking and recreational water resources have risen over the past 10 years. Because point sources of pollution were controlled first, agricultural nonpoint sources have become the Nation's largest remaining single water-quality problem. Both public and private costs of policies that address the conflict between agricultural production and water quality are relevant, but measuring the off-farm benefits and costs of changing water quality is difficult. Many of the values placed on these resources are not measured in traditional ways through market prices. This report explores the use of nonmarket valuation methods to estimate the benefits of protecting or improving rural water quality from agricultural sources of pollution. Two case studies show how these valuation methods can be used to include water-quality benefits estimates in economic analyses of specific policies to prevent or reduce water pollution.

  • Wheat: Background for 1995 Farm Legislation

    AER-712, April 03, 1995

    This report address considerations in the 1995 farm bill debate for wheat, including market conditions, policy proposals, trade agreements, and the interactions between policy and markets for selected commodities. Surplus wheat stocks disappeared under the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990. The aggregate U.S. wheat sector appears in balance due, in part, to acreage reduction programs, the Conservation Reserve Program, and the Export Enhancement Program. However, some industry participants wonder whether wheat carryover levels are optimal and whether the public will approve a continuation of government expenditures near current levels, while others want to maintain low carryover stocks. Exports will likely be the largest source of demand growth for U.S. wheat for the remainder of the 1990s. Global wheat trade is expected to expand steadily through the 1990s at a rate higher than the 1980s, but well below the rate experienced in the 1970s. The U.S. market share is expected to drop slightly over the next decade to about 31 percent as competition increases in a growing world market. Issues for the 1995 farm legislation include levels of program benefits and costs, methods for calculating deficiency payments, the future of the Conservation Reserve Program, farm program cost containment, planting flexibility, wheat imports, marketing loan provisions, targeting benefits to producers, environmental quality, and the future of the Export Enhancement Program.

  • Sugar: Background for 1995 Farm Legislation

    AER-711, April 03, 1995

    This report address considerations in the 1995 farm bill debate for sugar, including market conditions, policy proposals, trade agreements, and the interactions between policy and markets for selected commodities. Current U.S. sugar price support programs have their origin in 1981 legislation. The price support program has resulted in significant expansion of the industry in the last decade. Beet sugar production has expanded in many regions, but has contracted in some western regions, particularly California. Cane sugar production has expanded in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, but has shrunk in Hawaii where costs are high. National average costs of producing beet and cane sugar have been declining in the last decade, and returns have exceeded costs. Average production costs of refined beet sugar are below those of refined cane sugar. Overall sugar demand has been growing at about 2 percent a year since 1986, when the rapid replacement of sugar by high-fructose corn syrup ended. Sugar imports under quota have fallen to levels close to the minimum provided by law. Prospects are for sugar production and consumption to continue to rise. No major impacts on the industry are expected from the GATT Uruguay Round or NAFTA.

  • Cotton: Background for 1995 Farm Legislation

    AER-706, April 03, 1995

    This report address considerations in the 1995 farm bill debate for cotton, including market conditions, policy proposals, trade agreements, and the interactions between policy and markets for selected commodities. The Food Security Act of 1985, and subsequent cotton marketing loan modifications, are analyzed, as they formed the basic provisions of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990. Cotton provisions of the 1990 Act attempted to ensure that cotton remained competitive in domestic and world markets. Program performance is discussed, including the effects on producers, consumers, and taxpayers. Important issues and policy options to be addressed during the 1995 farm bill debates are presented. Background information is also provided on the characteristics of the U.S. cotton industry including current trends in production, consumption, and foreign trade. Financial aspects of the cotton sector including prices, costs, and producer returns give additional perspective and understanding to the report.

  • Dairy: Background for 1995 Farm Legislation

    AER-705, April 03, 1995

    This report address considerations in the 1995 farm bill debate for dairy, including market conditions, policy proposals, trade agreements, and the interactions between policy and markets for selected commodities. The U.S. dairy industry is heavily influenced by public dairy policies and programs. The 1980s were marked by attempts to reduce government program costs by adjusting dairy price supports and initiating voluntary supply control measures. So far the same trends have continued into the 1990s. General issues of concern for the industry include: structural change in milk production, surplus production, international trade issues, and price policies. A key issue for legislators in 1995 will be price volatility in milk and dairy product markets.

  • Feed Grains: Background for 1995 Farm Legislation

    AER-714, April 03, 1995

    Policy issues likely to be considered in 1995 farm legislation are discussed, including planting flexibility, acreage idling under the acreage reduction program and conservation reserve program, and the malting barley assessment, as well as policy options to address these issues. Feed grains are the leading crop grown in the United States. U.S. feed grain production averaged 239 million tons per year in 1990-94. Total disappearance of feed grains is forecast to reach a record 267 million tons in the 1994/95 marketing year: 211 million tons for domestic use and 56 million tons for exports. Much of the expansion during the last two decades came from domestic use. Returns over cash expenses for corn producers during 1991-93 were only two thirds of those during 1988-90 due to rising cash expenses and declining government payments, but are expected to improve considerably in 1994/95 due to record yields. During 1990-93, world trade in coarse grains was sluggish and the U.S. share of world coarse grain trade was relatively low, averaging 52 percent. Slower growth of competitor exports and increased world import demand projected for the next decade, however, suggest that U.S. exports are likely to increase fairly steadily. During 1991-93, direct government payments as a percentage of annual gross income ranged from 12 to 17 percent for corn production.

  • Rice: Background for 1995 Farm Legislation

    AER-713, April 03, 1995

    This report address considerations in the 1995 farm bill debate for rice, including market conditions, policy proposals, trade agreements, and the interactions between policy and markets for selected commodities. U.S. rice sector income has shown steady growth in recent years, reaching $2.1 billion in 1993/94. However, Government program payments have also grown in importance. Since 1985/86, rice program outlays have averaged $733 million per year, 42 percent of all returns from rice farming. Farm and industry economic health are linked to costs of production which vary significantly across the six rice-producing regions. Because of inflation in the cost of production since the early 1980s, frozen payment yields, reduced target prices, and continued reductions in farm program benefits due to budgetary pressures, some rice farmers have been operating at a loss. Any reductions in current rice program support levels would probably accelerate the trends of a declining number of U.S. rice farms, increasing farm size, and a shift of rice growing from the high-cost production regions along the gulf coast to the upper Delta States, while reducing both the participation rate and dependency on government program revenue.

  • Honey: Background for 1995 Farm Legislation

    AER-708, April 03, 1995

    This report address considerations in the 1995 farm bill debate for honey, including market conditions, policy proposals, and the interactions between policy and markets for selected commodities. The U.S. Government has supported the price of honey since 1950 by providing market price stability to honey producers to encourage them to maintain honeybee populations sufficient to pollinate important agricultural crops. When honey support prices moved above the average domestic price in the early 1980s, domestic producers found it profitable to forfeit their honey to the Government while packers and industrial users imported lower priced honey for domestic use. Changes made in the program by the Food Security Act of 1985 reduced forfeitures of honey to the Government and made domestic honey competitive with imports. Consequently, imports declined from 138.2 million pounds in 1985 to 55.9 million in 1988. At the same time, Government takeover of forfeited honey declined from 98 million pounds in 1985 to 1.1-3.2 million pounds from 1989 through 1992. Expenditures and takeovers will decline even further in fiscal years 1994 and 1995 with amendments to the Appropriations Acts, which eliminated deficiency payments and loan forfeitures for 1994 and 1995 crop honey.

  • Tobacco: Background for 1995 Farm Legislation

    AER-709, April 03, 1995

    This report address considerations in the 1995 farm bill debate for tobacco, including market conditions, policy proposals, trade agreements, and the interactions between policy and markets for selected commodities. U.S. tobacco production is likely to decline by the end of the 1990s. Accelerated antismoking activity, along with an increasing number of smoking restrictions and prohibitions and proposals to increase cigarette taxes, is weakening leaf demand. Also, ample world production at lower prices is hurting U.S. export prospects. Technological advances that permit production of an acceptable-quality cigarette with cheaper leaf are curtailing demand for U.S.-grown leaf. Furthermore, stagnant cigarette demand and trade barriers hold down U.S. export prospects, although the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade should help soften declines in exports. This report provides an overview of the U.S. tobacco industry, reviews Federal tobacco programs, and examines issues and potential program changes.

  • Federal Marketing Orders and Federal Research and Promotion Programs: Background for 1995 Farm Legislation

    AER-707, May 01, 1995

    This report address considerations in the 1995 farm bill debate for milk, fruits, vegetables, and specialty crops, including market conditions, policy proposals, and the interactions between policy and markets for selected commodities. Federal marketing orders and Federal research and promotion programs are self help programs proposed by agricultural commodity industries and authorized by Federal legislation. Marketing orders have proven a durable fixture in U.S. agricultural policy, especially for milk, fruits, vegetables, and specialty crops. Since 1980, however, 12 of the 47 Federal marketing orders for fruits, vegetables, and specialty crops have been terminated; 2 were added. New Federal research and promotion programs have begun; of the 18 operating in 1994, 14 were established since 1982. With budget limitations expected to constrain agricultural programs in the 1995 farm bill debate, these self-help programs are perhaps under less pressure than some others because they involve only administrative costs, much of which are reimbursed to the Government from assessments on producers, handlers, and importers. Issues with marketing orders include user fees to recover administrative costs, streamlining the rulemaking process, strengthening compliance and enforcement efforts, and resolving concerns of equitable treatment of all handlers within regulated commodity industries. Issues for research and promotion programs deal with governance of the programs and evaluation of their effectiveness.

  • 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.

  • Oilseeds: Background for 1995 Farm Legislation

    AER-715, May 01, 1995

    This report address considerations in the 1995 farm bill debate for oilseeds, including market conditions, policy proposals, trade agreements, and the interactions between policy and markets for selected commodities. International trade agreements and greater acreage flexibility have improved the outlook for U.S. oilseed production and trade. Issues for 1995 farm legislation that will affect oilseeds will include: setting marketing loans and loan rates; determining payment acres for program crops; extension of acreage-idling policies; resumption of the Export Enhancement Program for vegetable oils; continued funding for the Conservation Reserve Program and other land use policies; and revenue assurance.

  • Agricultural Export Programs: Background for 1995 Farm Legislation

    AER-716, June 01, 1995

    Since 1985, the United States has heavily supported agricultural exports with an array of programs. A central issue related to those programs is how best to support farm exports, and farm income, with lower price subsidies under the Uruguay Round Agreement of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and with U.S. budget constraints.