Publications

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  • Consolidation and Structural Change in the U.S. Rice Sector

    RCS-11D01, April 21, 2011

    This report examines how the structure of the U.S. rice industry has evolved over the past two decades, including a reduction in the number of farms, increased average farm size, and the shifting concentration of rice production away from higher-cost production regions. The authors analyze the economic factors driving these structural changes and explore the implications of those changes for market efficiency and competitiveness of the U.S. rice industry.

  • Contracting Expands for Field Crops

    Amber Waves, March 14, 2011

    Contracts cover a growing share of U.S. corn, soybean, and wheat production. Rising use likely reflects increased price variability, a wider availability of risk management tools, and structural change in agriculture.

  • Cost Savings From Precision Agriculture Technologies on U.S. Corn Farms

    Amber Waves, May 02, 2016

    Information-based technologies are growing in popularity with farmers because their use can lead to closer monitoring of farm production management decisions and possible cost savings. According to USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey, four technologies are the most commonly used: yield mapping, soil mapping, auto-guidance machinery steering, and variable-rate technologies.

  • Cotton Backgrounder

    CWS-07B01, March 30, 2007

    U.S. cotton growers, like producers of other agricultural commodities in recent years, have confronted pressures from market forces and the impacts of policy developments, both domestic and international. Most notably, the ending of the Multifiber Arrangement (MFA) sent a ripple effect throughout the global cotton industry. While adjustments in the textile and apparel sectors of many countries, including the United States, continue to evolve, dramatic changes have already been seen for some. World cotton mill use has accelerated along with economic growth since 1999, particularly in China, and U.S. cotton producers have benefited as foreign import demand has reached new heights. Government payments contribute a considerable portion of total revenue to the cotton sector, and adjustments to this program or any other commodity program in the 2007 farm legislation will be driven by factors such as domestic market conditions, multilateral trade negotiations, and the Federal budget deficit.

  • Creating Rural Wealth: A New Lens for Rural Development Efforts

    Amber Waves, September 20, 2012

    Rural development efforts that create and maintain a broad portfolio of wealth may be central to sustainable rural prosperity.

  • Crop Genetic Resources May Play an Increasing Role in Agricultural Adaptation to Climate Change

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2015

    As agriculture adapts to climate change, crop genetic resources can be used to develop new plant varieties that are more tolerant of changing environmental conditions. The public sector plays an important role in collecting, conserving and distributing crop genetic resources, because private sector incentives for crucial parts of these activities are limited.

  • Crop Genetic Resources: An Economic Appraisal

    EIB-2, May 24, 2005

    Crop genetic resources are the basis of agricultural production. However, crop genetic resources are largely public goods, so private incentives for genetic resource conservation may fall short of achieving public objectives. Within the U.S. germplasm system, certain crop collections lack sufficient diversity to reduce vulnerability to pests and diseases. This report examines the role of genetic resources, genetic diversity, and efforts to value genetic resources.

  • Crop Outlook Reflects Near-Term Prices and Longer Term Market Trends

    Amber Waves, May 20, 2013

    U.S. corn and wheat acreage is expected to increase in 2013, soybean acreage is expected to stay mostly unchanged, and rice and cotton acreage will likely decline. Acreage shifts in recent years reflect growing domestic and foreign demand for U.S. corn and soybeans and increased global competition in wheat, cotton, and other commodity markets.

  • Cropland Consolidation and the Future of Family Farms

    Amber Waves, September 03, 2013

    Over the past 3 decades, U.S. crop production has been shifting to larger farms for most crops and in most States. But family farms still dominate U.S. crop production, accounting for 87 percent of the value of U.S. crop production in 2011.

  • Dairy Backgrounder

    LDPM-14501, July 24, 2006

    Over time, shifts in consumer demands, in the location and structure of milk production, in industry concentration, in international markets, and in trade agreements have dramatically altered the U.S. dairy industry and changed the context for dairy policies and the sector as a whole. In the future, the U.S. dairy industry is likely to become more fully integrated with international markets. At the same time, dairy products such as fluid milk, butter, and cheese are likely to continue to be increasingly used as ingredients for restaurants and in processed foods while still being sold in their traditional forms.

  • Data Feature

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2008

    U.S. agriculture relies almost entirely on productivity growth, primarily from innovation and changes in technology, to raise output.

  • Data Feature

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2004

    The U.S. food and fiber system (FFS) is a source of jobs and earnings for millions of American workers and a supplier of products worldwide. Food and fiber gross domestic product (GDP) and employment increased almost every year between 1972 and 2001. Because the rest of the economy grew at a relatively faster pace, however, the food and fiber share of national GDP and employment declined.

  • Data Feature

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2007

    The changing size distribution of farms makes it difficult to capture the trends in a simple measure, such as the average or median farm size, but an acre-weighted median reflects both the increasing concentration of production on large farms and the growth in the number of small farms.

  • Data Feature

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2007

    ERS ARMS data allow detailed comparisons of a number of characteristics of farms specializing in wheat, corn, cotton, and fruit and vegetable production. For example, wheat and cotton farms tend to be the largest and are also the least specialized, planting less than 50 percent of their acres to their main crop. Fruit and vegetable farms are the smallest and also derived the highest share of their income from off-farm activities.

  • Debt Landscape for U.S. Farms Has Shifted

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2009

    The capital structure of U.S. farms has changed over the last two decades. Fewer farms have outstanding debts than in the past, but debt carried is concentrated among fewer and larger farms.

  • Debt Use by U.S. Farm Businesses, 1992-2011

    EIB-122, April 08, 2014

    While farm business debt use varies widely, large farms, farms with younger operators, and dairy and poultry farms have the highest levels of debt use.

  • Decoupled Payments in a Changing Policy Setting

    AER-838, October 29, 2004

    This report analyzes the U.S. experience with decoupled payments in the Production Flexibility Contracts program from 1996 to 2002. The studies in this report consider the effects of decoupled payments on recipient households, and assess land, labor, risk management, and capital market conditions that can lead to links between decoupled payments and production choices. Each study contributes a different perspective to understanding the response of U.S. farm households and production to decoupled income transfers.

  • Dedicating Agricultural Land to Energy Crops Would Shift Land Use

    Amber Waves, April 03, 2017

    Crops dedicated for use in energy production, such as switchgrass, are potential renewable sources for liquid fuels or bioelectricity. However, demand for switchgrass is low at the current cost of growing and converting it into useful energy, so markets do not presently exist for large-scale use of this resource.

  • Did the Mandatory Requirement Aid the Market? Impact of the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act

    LDPM-135-01, September 16, 2005

    This study focuses on fed cattle markets to compare the mandatory price reporting system developed by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service in 2001 with the previous voluntary reporting system. The study also evaluates whether the mandatory system has improved the amount and quality of information available to the market. Results show that mandatory reporting has given the market additional information about prices for different kinds of sales transactions. The trend toward formula purchases has slowed since mandatory price reporting was implemented, and the volume of cattle moving under negotiated purchases has increased.

  • Direct Payments Can Influence Farmers’ Production Decisions

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2010

    ERS has identified multiple avenues through which Production Flexibility Contract payments could influence agricultural production, including providing easier access to capital markets, changing farmers’ risk preferences, or affecting land values, labor markets, and/or farmers’ expectations about future payments.