Publications

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  • Profit Margin Increases With Farm Size

    Amber Waves, February 02, 2015

    Given the broad USDA definition of a farm, most U.S. farms are not profitable as ongoing businesses. One commonly used measure of profitability is the farm’s operating profit margin (OPM), the ratio of operating profit to gross farm income.

  • The Size and Scope of Locally Marketed Food Production

    Amber Waves, February 02, 2015

    In 2012, 163,675 farmers sold an estimated $6.1 billion in local foods. "Local foods" includes food for human consumption sold via direct-to-consumer (e.g., farmers’ markets, on-farm stores, farm stands, pick-your-own activities, and other farmer-to-consumer venues) and intermediated marketing channels (sales directly to restaurants, grocers, schools, universities and other institutions).

  • Livestock Forage Disaster Program Payments Increase in 2014

    Amber Waves, February 02, 2015

    ERS’s current farm income forecast for 2014 includes $4.3 billion in Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) payments, an almost 700 percent increase from total LFP payments made during the previous 5 years combined. LFP, which is accounted for in farm income accounting under “ad hoc and disaster assistance payments,” is expected to be over 40 percent of total direct payments.

  • Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress

    AP-068, January 29, 2015

    ERS details current economic information on local food producers, consumers, and policies, based on findings from several national surveys and a synthesis of recent literature.

  • Improving Health Through Nutrition Research: An Overview of the U.S. Nutrition Research System

    ERR-182, January 26, 2015

    ERS explores the structure and function of the U.S. nutrition research system, particularly changes in Federal support. Federal investments in nutrition research grew from 1985 to 2009 in real terms, but the portfolio of research changed.

  • Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: Family Farm Report, 2014 Edition

    EIB-132, December 22, 2014

    Most U.S. farms-97 percent in 2011-are family operations. Small family farms make up 90 percent of the count, though midsize and large-scale family farms produce 60 percent of value of production, per ERS's latest Family Farm Report.

  • With Adequate Productivity Growth, Global Agriculture Is Resilient to Future Population and Economic Growth

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2014

    If agricultural productivity growth slows in future years, how will global agricultural output, consumption, land use, and prices adjust? To address this question, ERS researchers recently used the agency’s global agricultural and energy economic model—the Future Agricultural Resources Model (FARM)—to simulate agricultural markets in 2050 under a range of different scenarios.

  • Returns to Organic Corn Production Were Higher Than Conventional in 2010

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2014

    The returns and production practices for organic and conventional corn production are compared for 2010. The returns from organic corn production exceeded those from conventional production due mainly to higher organic prices that more than offset lower organic yields. Total operating and ownership costs per acre were not significantly different.

  • 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.

  • Greater Heat Stress From Climate Change Could Lower Dairy Productivity

    Amber Waves, November 03, 2014

    In 2010, heat stress is estimated to have lowered annual milk production for the average dairy by about $39,000, totaling $1.2 billion in lost production for the entire U.S. diary sector. Additional heat stress from climate change is expected to lower milk production for the average dairy by 0.60-1.35 percent in 2030 relative to what it would have been in the absence of climate change.

  • Higher Corn Returns Changes Corn Farm Dynamics

    Amber Waves, November 03, 2014

    Changes in the returns to corn production are examined over 1997-2013 period using data from ERS cost and return accounts and the corn versions of the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS).

  • Economic Responses Offset Potential Climate Change Impacts on Global Agriculture

    Amber Waves, October 06, 2014

    Research indicates that a decrease in agricultural productivity due to climate change could be largely mitigated by increasing nonland inputs such as fertilizer and irrigation, increasing cropland area, and expanding international trade.

  • Agritourism Farms Are More Diverse Than Other U.S. Farms

    Amber Waves, October 06, 2014

    Agritourism involves attracting paying visitors to farms by offering farm tours, harvest festivals, hospitality services (such as bed and breakfast), petting zoos, and other attractions. Farms that provide agritourism services also typically produce agricultural commodities and may provide a variety of other goods and services.

  • Vegetables and Pulses Outlook: September 2014

    VGS-354, September 30, 2014

    Despite the decrease in domestic production of fresh-market vegetables, both producer and consumer prices are down as import volumes fill the gaps.

  • 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.

  • Selected Charts 2014, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials

    AP-067, September 12, 2014

    Examples from ERS's updated collection of 70 charts/maps, each with accompanying text, covering key statistics on farming, food spending and prices, food security, rural communities, interaction of agriculture and the environment, and more.

  • Extension Faces Challenges Entering Its Second Century

    Amber Waves, September 08, 2014

    In 1914, the Smith-Lever Act created a national Cooperative Extension System (Extension) that established partnerships between USDA, State land grant universities and other institutions, and local partners (city or county governments), with the goal of promoting U.S. agricultural productivity growth and improving rural life. Extension's role has varied through time and across regions.

  • Agricultural Energy Use and the Proposed Clean Power Plan

    Amber Waves, September 08, 2014

    The EPA’s Clean Power Plan aims to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants, the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States, by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. To better understand how the agricultural sector might be affected, its current direct use of electric power, as well as the sector’s direct and indirect use of natural gas—is examined.

  • Financial Risks and Incomes in Contract Broiler Production

    Amber Waves, August 04, 2014

    Contract broiler growers earn average household incomes that substantially exceed those of all farm and all U.S. households. Contract growers’ incomes cover a wider range than the incomes of all farm and all U.S. households. The range of income reflects, in part, the risks of contract production; while contracts are designed to remove or reduce certain financial risks, they introduce other risks

  • U.S. Organic Trade Includes Fresh Produce Exports and Tropical Imports

    Amber Waves, August 04, 2014

    The United States has developed an active organic trade sector in recent years, with organic trade partners around the world. In 2013, the United States exported organic products consisting mostly of fresh fruits and vegetables to over 80 countries, and imported organic products including coffee, bananas, and olive oil, from nearly 100 countries. Canada and Mexico were the top trade partners.