Publications

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  • Consumers Show Strong Brand Loyalty in Cheese Purchases

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2009

    ERS research reveals that strong brand loyalty for specific types of cheese among U.S. consumers. This brand loyalty even overrides response to changing prices. But brand loyalty does appear to decline over time.

  • Emerging Issues in the U.S. Organic Industry

    EIB-55, June 03, 2009

    Consumer demand for organic products has widened over the last decade. While new producers have emerged to help meet demand, market participants report that a supply squeeze is constraining growth for both individual firms and the organic sector overall. Partly in response to shortages in organic supply, Congress in 2008 included provisions in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (2008 Farm Act) that, for the first time, provide financial support to farmers to convert to organic production. This report examines recent economic research on the adoption of organic farming systems, organic production costs and returns, and market conditions to gain a better understanding of the organic supply squeeze and other emerging issues in this rapidly changing industry.

  • 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.

  • The Interplay of Regulation and Marketing Incentives in Providing Food Safety

    ERR-75, July 10, 2009

    Both Government regulations and private-sector-determined actions have resulted in the current level of safety in meat and poultry products. Focusing on process control, ERS examines the relative contributions of regulations and management-determined initiatives.

  • U.S. Food Import Patterns, 1998-2007

    FAU-125, August 06, 2009

    Using import data from the U.S. Census Bureau, this study examines patterns of U.S. food imports for fiscal years 1998-2007. Results indicate faster import growth trends for consumer-ready foods, such as fruit, vegetables, meats, seafood, and processed food products. Although the United States imported most bulk food commodities and perishable consumer-ready products, such as fruit and vegetables, from neighboring countries in the Western Hemisphere, it imported processed foods, spices, and other tropical products from more global sources, with rising import shares for many countries in Asia.

  • Marketing U.S. Organic Foods: Recent Trends From Farms to Consumers

    EIB-58, September 30, 2009

    Organic foods now occupy prominent shelf space in the produce and dairy aisles of most mainstream U.S. food retailers. The marketing boom has pushed retail sales of organic foods up to $21.1 billion in 2008 from $3.6 billion in 1997. U.S. organic-industry growth is evident in an expanding number of retailers selling a wider variety of foods, the development of private-label product lines by many supermarkets, and the widespread introduction of new products. A broader range of consumers has been buying more varieties of organic food. Organic handlers, who purchase products from farmers and often supply them to retailers, sell more organic products to conventional retailers and club stores than ever before. Only one segment has not kept pace-organic farms have struggled at times to produce sufficient supply to keep up with the rapid growth in demand, leading to periodic shortages of organic products.

  • Characteristics, Costs, and Issues for Organic Dairy Farming

    ERR-82, November 02, 2009

    ERS addresses size, regional differences, and pasture use in organic milk production. Economic forces have pressured organic dairies to operate more like their conventional counterparts and take advantage of economies of size.

  • Retail Dairy Prices Fluctuate With Farm Value of Milk

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2009

    In the late 1990s, a nearly two-decade decline in farm share of retail dairy prices slowed and in 2000-2008, farm share fluctuated between 26 and 35 percent. Consumers saw modest increases in dairy prices over this period until the 2007-08 jump in food price inflation.

  • Increasing Size of Dairy Farms Driven by Declining Production Costs

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2009

    A major driver behind the continuing trend toward increases in the size of dairy farms is the decline in average production costs for milk as dairy farms grow larger. But many farms are not operating at full efficiency and are not taking advantage of incentives to expand.

  • USDA Agricultural Projections to 2019

    OCE-2010-1, February 11, 2010

    This report provides longrun (10-year) projections for the agricultural sector through 2019. Projections cover agricultural commodities, agricultural trade, and aggregate indicators of the sector, such as farm income and food prices.

  • Organic Dairy Sector Evolves To Meet Changing Demand

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2010

    Declining demand for organic products in response to the economic downturn has slowed the rapid growth in organic milk production. Economic forces, primarily lower production costs, may be pushing organic dairies to be more like conventional dairies in terms of size, location, and the types of technologies used. More specific pasture requirements for organic certification may affect how the organic milk production sector evolves.

  • On the Map: Western U.S. Has the Highest Number of Organic Dairy Cows Per Farm But the Fewest Farms

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2010

    Only 7 percent of organic dairies were in the West in 2005, but these operations accounted for 31 percent of organic milk cows. Operations in the Northeast averaged 53 cows per farm; the Upper Midwest, 64 cows; and the West, 381 cows.

  • Long-Term Growth in U.S. Cheese Consumption May Slow

    LDPM-193-01, August 12, 2010

    Cheese production and markets have emerged as important elements of the dairy industry over the past three decades. Supply-and-use analysis shows an upward trend in total cheese consumption over the past three decades. Nielsen 2005 retail Homescan data were used to analyze cheese consumption by location as well as by income, age, and racial/ethnic groups. Own-price and expenditure demand elasticities were also calculated using the Nielsen data. To the extent that increases in consumers' food expenditure translate into more cheese purchases, it is expected that total cheese consumption will continue to rise. However, changes in the demographic profile of the U.S. population may somewhat slow future growth.

  • Cow-Calf Beef Production in Mexico

    LDPM-196-01, November 18, 2010

    This report characterizes Mexican beef cow-calf production systems in the context of the many issues affecting Mexican beef and cattle markets, including geo-climatic factors, disease and pest challenges, patterns of landownership, changes in export regions, and changes in domestic consumption as they relate to cow-calf production.

  • An Analysis of U.S. Household Dairy Demand

    TB-1928, December 13, 2010

    This report examines retail purchase data for 12 dairy products and margarine from the Nielsen 2007 Homescan retail data. Selected demographic and socioeconomic variables included in the Nielsen data are analyzed for their effects on aggregate demand and expenditure elasticities for the selected products. A censored demand system is used to derive the demand elasticities. The resulting estimates revealed that the magnitudes of 10 of the 13 own-price elasticities are greater than 1; substitute relationships are found among most dairy categories; expenditure elasticities are 1 or greater for 7 of the 13 products; and demographic and socioeconomic variables are statistically significant contributors to dairy demand.

  • Consumer-Level Food Loss Estimates and Their Use in the ERS Loss-Adjusted Food Availability Data

    TB-1927, January 03, 2011

    The Food Availability (per capita) Data System developed by USDA's Economic Research Service tracks annual food and nutrient availability for many commodities. The Food Availability data series in this system overstates actual consumption, so ERS has included an additional series, the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data, to adjust the Food Availability data for nonedible food parts and food losses, including losses from farm to retail, at retail, and at the consumer level. In this report, we propose new consumer-level loss estimates for "cooking loss and uneaten food" of the edible share to replace those currently used in the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data and propose their adoption for the entire data span (1970 to the most recent year in the series). The proposed loss percentages are calculated by subtracting food consumption estimates from food purchase or availability estimates for each food. These calculations are adjusted with information from an expert panel experienced in analyzing food consumption data. In general, the proposed food loss estimates for individual foods indicate substantial differences from the currently used estimates. Although some estimates indicate smaller loss percentages than the currently used estimates, many are larger. Overall, if the proposed loss estimates are used in the ERS loss-adjusted series, the average American would consume 17.3 pounds less each year, or 41.9 fewer calories per day, than suggested by the currently used loss estimates.

  • Carbon Prices and the Adoption of Methane Digesters on Dairy and Hog Farms

    EB-16, February 07, 2011

    Biogas recovery systems collect methane from manure and burn it to generate electricity or heat. Burning methane reduces its global warming potential, thereby reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Climate change mitigation policies that effectively put a price on GHG emissions could allow livestock producers to "sell" these reductions to other greenhouse gas emitters who face emissions caps or who voluntarily wish to offset their own emissions. Depending on the direction and scope of future climate change legislation, income from carbon off set sales could make methane digesters profitable for many livestock producers. By modeling the main determinants of producers' decisions to adopt biogas recovery systems, we illustrate how the price of carbon influences this decision and the potential supply of carbon offsets from the livestock sector.

  • Climate Change Policy and the Adoption of Methane Digesters on Livestock Operations

    ERR-111, February 07, 2011

    Methane digesters-biogas recovery systems that use methane from manure to generate electricity-have not been widely adopted in the United States because costs have exceeded benefits to operators. Burning methane in a digester reduces greenhouse gas emissions from manure management. A policy or program that pays producers for these emission reductions-through a carbon offset market or directly with payments-could increase the number of livestock producers who would profit from adopting a methane digester. We developed an economic model that illustrates how dairy and hog operation size, location, and manure management methods, along with electricity and carbon prices, could influence methane digester profits. The model shows that a relatively moderate increase in the price of carbon could induce significantly more dairy and hog operations, particularly large ones, to adopt a methane digester, thereby substantially lowering emissions of greenhouse gases.

  • NAFTA at 17: Full Implementation Leads to Increased Trade and Integration

    WRS-1101, March 31, 2011

    This report is the last in USDA's series of Congressionally mandated biennial reports on the impacts of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on U.S. agriculture and the rural economy. The report responds to a mandate in the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act of 1993.

  • Selected Trade Agreements and Implications for U.S. Agriculture

    ERR-115, April 15, 2011

    ERS examines possible impacts of recently implemented free trade agreements (FTAs) where the United States is not a partner, and potential effects of pending U.S. agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama.