Publications

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  • Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

    EIB-53, May 15, 2009

    Beginning farmers and ranchers accounted for 10 percent of the sector's total value of production in 2007. ERS provides an overview of their characteristics and the farm businesses they operate.

  • Beginning Farmers and Ranchers at a Glance

    EB-22, January 30, 2013

    In 2011, beginning farms and ranches accounted for 22 percent of the 2 million U.S. family farms and 10 percent of the value of agricultural production by family farms. How do beginning farmers and ranchers compare to established ones?

  • Biofuels and Land-Use Change: Estimation Challenges

    Amber Waves, June 16, 2011

    Most studies estimate significant increases in land-use requirements for agricultural production resulting from scaled-up biofuel production. Additional research on variables, such as projected crop yields, will be instrumental in narrowing the bands of uncertainty associated with such projections.

  • Brazil's Ethanol Industry: Looking Forward

    BIO-02, June 27, 2011

    This report profiles and analyzes Brazil's ethanol industry, providing information on the policy environment that enabled the development of feedstock and processing sectors, and discusses the various opportunities and challenges to face the industry over the next decade.

  • California’s Irrigation Varies by Crop

    Amber Waves, July 06, 2015

    Farmers in California grow a wide variety of crops using off-farm surface water, groundwater, and to a limited extent, on-farm surface water. Differences in the source of irrigation water play a major role in how vulnerable different crops are to shortfalls in surface water supplies due to drought. Farmers of different crops also have differing levels of investment in irrigation technologies.

  • Change in U.S. Livestock Production, 1969-92

    AER-754, July 01, 1997

    This report examines geographic changes in U.S. livestock production during 1969-92 from the standpoint of industry concentration and structure. Farm numbers declined 30 percent from 1969 to 1992, but hog and dairy operations were down 70 percent, farms producing eggs dropped 85 percent, and broiler operations declined 35 percent. Operations feeding cattle declined 40 percent from 1978 to 1992. Despite fewer farms, production was generally stable for most commodities with changes that reflected shifts in consumer demand for livestock products. With fewer farms producing more product, structural change in the production of most major livestock commodities was substantial. However, the magnitude and geography of change varied by commodity.

  • Changing Farm Structure and the Distribution of Farm Payments and Federal Crop Insurance

    EIB-91, February 06, 2012

    A long-term shift in production toward larger farms has affected the distribution of commodity-related Federal program payments and Federal crop insurance, with the share of payments going to larger farms increasing.

  • Changing Farmland Values Affect Renters and Landowners Differently

    Amber Waves, February 21, 2018

    Farm real estate (including land and the structures on the land) accounts for over 80 percent of farm sector assets. Farmland values have appreciated substantially since 2000, more than doubling from $1,483 per acre in 2000 to $3,060 per acre in 2015. Cropland appreciated faster than pastureland, while farmland in the Midwest appreciated faster than other areas of the country.

  • Changing Structure, Financial Risks, and Government Policy for the U.S. Dairy Industry

    ERR-205, March 09, 2016

    Dairy farmers faced a severe financial setback in 2009 as milk prices fell sharply and feed prices remained high, while the industry has undergone structural change. Recent legislation addresses the volatility in milk and feed prices.

  • Changing the Definition of a “Farm” Can Affect Federal Funding

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2009

    The Federal Government's definition of a farm affects farm statistics and influences the design and delivery of Federal farm programs. The definition also has implications for States because each State’s share of the national farm population is used to help allocate some Federal funding.

  • Characteristics and Production Costs of U.S. Corn Farms, Including Organic, 2010

    EIB-128, September 17, 2014

    In 2010, the average operating and ownership costs per bushel varied between low- and high-cost corn producers but not among producers with different enterprise sizes. Organic production returns exceeded those for conventional production.

  • Characteristics and Production Costs of U.S. Hog Farms, 2004

    EIB-32, December 27, 2007

    Once dominated by small, owner-operated crop-hog farms, hog ownership is increasingly concentrated. Traditional farrow-to-finish operations are being replaced by operations specializing in a single production phase.

  • Characteristics and Risk Management Needs of Limited-Resource and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

    AIB-733, April 01, 1997

    Small U.S. farms and those run by socially disadvantaged minority operators tend not to purchase insurance or to participate in insurance-type programs operated by USDA. This report traces the lack of use of such risk management measures to several characteristics of such farmers, who include females, blacks, American Indians, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and operators of Spanish origin. These farmers tend, more than the typical U.S. farm, to raise livestock rather than crops, and there are no government-sponsored insurance-type programs for livestock.

  • Characteristics of U.S. Wheat Farming: A Snapshot

    SB-968, June 07, 2000

    Wheat growers' choice of production practices and geographic location were the major determinants of their costs of production, according to the findings of a 1994 survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One-fourth of surveyed farms reported using some form of conservation tillage, especially farms in the North Central, Northern Plains, and Southeast regions. On a per-bushel basis, low-cost farms tended to be small in terms of wheat acreage and total farm acreage. Differences in capitalization, tenure, and the use of custom services accounted for nearly 81 percent of the variation in the cost of producing wheat. Most size economies were realized at around 200 to 300 wheat acres.

  • 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.

  • China’s Agricultural Productivity Growth: Strong But Uneven

    Amber Waves, June 03, 2013

    The rapid growth in China’s agricultural productivity over the past few decades may not have been sustained in recent years. Annual total factor productivity growth peaked during 1996-2000 at 5.1 percent before slowing to 3.2 percent in 2000-2005. It then declined by 3.7 percent per year in 2005-07. The significance of this slowdown remains unclear.

  • Comparing Two Sources of Retail Meat Price Data

    ERR-88, November 17, 2009

    The livestock industry uses information on meat prices at different stages in the marketing system to make production decisions. When grocery stores began using electronic scanners to capture prices paid for meat, it was assumed that the livestock industry could capitalize on having these point-of-sale data available as a measure of the value of its products. This report compares scanner price data with publicly available data collected by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Of the two data types, scanner data provide more information about retail meat markets, including a wider variety of meat-cut prices, multiple measures of an average price, the volume of sales, and the relative importance of discounted prices. The scanner data sample, however, is not statistically drawn, and complicated processing requirements delay its release, which makes scanner data less useful than BLS data for analyzing current market conditions.

  • Comparing the Structure, Size, and Performance of Local and Mainstream Food Supply Chains

    ERR-99, June 21, 2010

    A series of coordinated case studies compares the structure, size, and performance of local food supply chains with those of mainstream supply chains in delivering locally produced food to consumers.

  • Conservation Program Provision May Have Limited Impact on Underserved Farmer Participation

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2008

    Conservation program funding set-asides in the 2008 Farm Act may have little impact on the participation of beginning farmers in EQIP. Payments to beginning farmers in EQIP exceeded the set-aside funding amount in 2006, but regionally administered set-asides may increase participation in certain regions.

  • Conservation Reserve Program Acreage To Decline; Will Benefits Also Fall?

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2008

    The Conservation Reserve Program-the long-time centerpiece of U.S. agricultural conservation policy-is shrinking. The acreage cap will fall to 32 million acres beginning in October, 2009, and program acreage could fall farther without new enrollments. As CRP acreage declines, will environmental benefits decline at the same rate?