Publications

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  • Industrial Uses of Agricultural Materials Situation and Outlook Report (1)

    IUS-1, June 01, 1993

    Recent scientific advances are reducing the costs of producing and processing renewable resources into industrial products. These include advances that make agricultural production techniques more environmentally benign. And the advances in processing engineering-especially in destructive distillation, steam explosion, ultracentrifuges, and membranes-are making agriculturally based products more competitive. The scientific gains, along with Federal and State environmental regulations and growing consumer preferences for "green" products, are increasing the industrial demand for agricultural materials.

  • Industrial Uses of Agricultural Materials Situation and Outlook Report (2)

    IUS-2, December 01, 1993

    U.S. agriculture likely will have excess capacity for the foreseeable future. However, technological breakthroughs, heightened environmental awareness, and tougher environmental regulations are creating opportunities to use this capacity to produce industrial products. Although cornstarch dominates the industrial starch market, wheat starch is also used to manufacture industrial products. Because of widely fluctuating world supplies, major castor oil buyers have expressed an interest in U.S. production. In addition, a consortium of industrial, university, and government organizations has come together to commercialize lesquerella. Castor and lesquerella are sources of hydroxy fatty acids used by industry in a variety of applications, including cosmetics, waxes, nylons, plastics, coatings, and lubricants. The 1993 kenaf harvest has been completed in Louisiana and is underway in California, Mississippi, and Texas. In the United States, flax is the most extensively used nonwood fiber employed in papermaking, except for cotton. Animal byproducts are used to manufacture pharmaceuticals with a wide range of applications. A special article examines a simulation model that evaluates the feasibility of a community-based 500,000-gallon biodiesel plant in the United States. Soybeans were found to be the most cost-effective feedstock, mainly because the meal is a useful coproduct.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Industrial Uses of Agricultural Materials Situation and Outlook Report (5)

    IUS-5, September 01, 1995

    Research and market demand are opening new opportunities for agriculturally based industrial materials. If biodiesel is approved as a certified technology for the Urban Bus Retrofit Rebuild Program, U.S. transit operations would be able to use it to meet air-quality regulations without any change in operability and maintenance. Ethanol sales in the reformulated gasoline market have been strong, despite the court-ordered elimination of the renewable oxygenate requirement. Cornstarch is used to make xanthan gum, a popular ingredient in food, pharmaceuticals, and industrial products. In 1994, an estimated supply of 10.8 billion pounds of cotton lint, linters, motes, and textile wastes were available for industrial purposes. Essential oils and their derivatives are widely used as flavors and fragrances, a market estimated to be worth $9 billion. A special article examines the expected costs of operating a bus fleet on three different alternative fuels-biodiesel, compressed natural gas (CNG), and methanol-with petroleum diesel as the base fuel.

  • Industrial Uses of Agricultural Materials Situation and Outlook Report (6)

    IUS-6, October 16, 1996

    With U.S. farmers now facing few restrictions on what they can plant, industrial crops will need to stay competitive-economically and agronomically-with other crops to ensure their continued viability. The 1996 Farm Act, which provides expanded planting flexibility, makes expected market returns and crop rotation needs or desires important factors as farmers decide which commodities to produce. In 1995/96, industrial uses of corn are expected to total 622 million bushels, down 18 percent from the previous year, mainly due to lower use for ethanol. Ethanol producers are in the midst of a financial squeeze, resulting from rapidly rising corn prices, only moderate gains in coproduct prices, and relatively stable ethanol prices. Tung oil is being produced in the United States for the first time since 1973. Crambe is again being grown in North Dakota after a year of no commercial production. Biodiesel commercialization faces a number of regulatory and market challenges in the United States. Approximately 37 million metric tons of paper and wood materials were recovered for recycling in 1994, providing a renewable source of inputs to manufacturers. Phytoremediation, the systematic use of plants to treat environmental contamination, is a potential low-cost technology that is being investigated to help meet environmental regulations. A special article examines possible biodiesel demand in three niche fuel markets-Federal fleets, mining, and marine/estuary areas-and estimates the potential impact on U.S. agriculture if soybean oil was used as the raw material for the biodiesel.

  • Industrial Uses of Agricultural Materials Situation and Outlook Report (7)

    IUS-7, July 01, 1997

    An estimated $110 billion worth of agricultural and forestry products were used as raw materials in the manufacture of industrial (nonfood, nonfeed) products in 1992. Wood and paper products accounted for $96 billion, more than 87 percent of the total. Other fibrous materials, animal products, natural rubber, and vegetable oils were among the other agricultural materials used in the manufacture of nonfood items. Markets are growing for citric and lactic acids, two organic chemicals usually derived from starch and sugar feedstocks. Soybean meal is being used to make adhesives and composites. Soybean oil is finding its way into plastics, inks, and solvents. Special articles examine two specialty oilseeds-crambe production and processing in North Dakota and lesquerella production in the Southwestern United States.

  • International Food Security Assessment, 2011-21

    GFA-22, July 15, 2011

    ERS assesses the food security situation in 77 developing countries, including estimates for 2011 and projections for the next decade. The report is the latest in an annual series.

  • International Food Security Assessment, 2014-24

    GFA-25, June 30, 2014

    The food-insecure population of 76 low- and middle-income countries is projected to fall 9 percent to 490 million in 2014. The food-insecure share of the population is projected to rise from 13.9 percent in 2014 to 14.6 percent in 2024.

  • Is U.S. Agricultural Productivity Growth Slowing?

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2010

    Long-term agricultural productivity is driven by innovations in animal and crop genetics, chemicals, equipment, and farm organization. Public agricultural research funding, which historically has driven innovation, faces budgetary pressure in the U.S., therefore raising concerns about current and future U.S. productivity growth.

  • Linking Land Quality, Agricultural Productivity, and Food Security

    AER-823, June 20, 2003

    As rising populations and incomes increase pressure on land and other resources around the world, agricultural productivity plays an increasingly important role in improving food supplies and food security. This report explores the extent to which land quality and land degradation affect agricultural productivity, how farmers respond to land degradation, and whether land degradation poses a threat to productivity growth and food security in developing regions and around the world.

  • Long-Term Agricultural Productivity Growth Lowers Agricultural Commodity Prices, Short-Term Productivity Changes Contribute to Price Variability

    Amber Waves, April 06, 2015

    To explain the rise of agricultural commodity prices, discussion has focused on demand-side factors, such as the growing demand for food in emerging countries and the increased use of crops in biofuel production. However, prices also are affected by supply-side factors such as unexpected increase or decline in agricultural productivity growth or oil prices.

  • Market Failures: When the Invisible Hand Gets Shaky

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2008

    Government intervention in agricultural markets may be warranted under circumstances where markets fail to allocate resources efficiently.

  • Measurement of U.S. Agricultural Productivity: A 2014 Review of Current Statistics and Proposals for Change

    CCR-69, August 29, 2017

    The USDA Economic Research Service has developed national and state-level agricultural productivity measures. These productivity measures are widely referred to and used, and international sectoralcomparisons rely on the ERS production accounts for foundation methodology in constructing agricultural productivity accounts in other countries. ERS engaged an external review committee to examine the data sources, methodology, ongoing research, documentation, and reporting of the ERS agricultural productivity accounts. This report represents the outcome of that review.

  • Mergers and Competition in Seed and Agricultural Chemical Markets

    Amber Waves, April 03, 2017

    Under recent merger proposals, the six global firms that dominate private agricultural chemical and seed research and production would be reduced to four. The mergers are subject to antitrust reviews in both the U.S. and the EU. The reviews will evaluate the likely effects of the mergers on specific seed and agricultural chemical markets, prices, and innovation.

  • Milk Production Continues Shifting to Large-Scale Farms

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2014

    Production has shifted to larger farms in most agricultural commodity sectors over the last two decades. This is especially true for dairy farms, where a major transformation of the sector has reduced the number of dairy farms by nearly 60 percent over the past 20 years, even as total milk production increased by one-third.

  • Natural Resources, Agricultural Productivity, and Food Security

    AIB-765-3, April 26, 2001

    This issue brief describes ERS research on international differences in the quality of natural resources and their effects on agricultural productivity and food security.

  • New Evidence Points to Robust But Uneven Productivity Growth in Global Agriculture

    Amber Waves, September 20, 2012

    Total factor productivity-–a key measure of agricultural productivity-–is showing rapid growth globally, led by improvement in China and Brazil. See this and other features in the September <i>Amber Waves</i>.

  • 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.

  • On The Map: Agricultural Productivity Grew in Every State

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2008

    ERS provides estimates of annual growth in agricultural productivity for each of the 48 contiguous States. ERS calculates productivity as the difference between growth in agricultural output and growth in inputs used.