Publications

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  • 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.

  • On the Doorstep of the Information Age: Recent Adoption of Precision Agriculture

    EIB-80, August 24, 2011

    The adoption of precision agriculture, which encompasses a suite of farm-level information technologies, can improve the efficiency of input use and reduce environmental harm from the overapplication of inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides. Still, the adoption of precision agricultural technologies and practices has been less rapid than envisioned a decade ago. Using Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) data collected over the past 10 years, this report examines trends in the adoption of four key information technologies-yield monitors, variable-rate application technologies, guidance systems, and GPS maps-in the production of major field crops. While yield monitoring is now used on over 40 percent of U.S. grain crop acres, very few producers have adopted GPS maps or variable-rate input application technologies.

  • Patenting and Licensing Are Tools for Technology Transfer

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2005

    Research at the USDA Agricultural Research Service and other public research agencies sometimes results in the discovery of potentially marketable products, technologies, and innovations. ARS can transfer these discoveries to the private sector through the use of patents and licensing agreements, which encourages further research, development and commercialization of new products that benefit consumers.

  • Policy, Technology, and Efficiency of Brazilian Agriculture

    ERR-137, July 09, 2012

    ERS focuses on the effects of Brazil's science and technology investments and other public policies on the country's growth in agricultural production—77 percent between 1985 and 2006—and its emergence as a major agricultural exporter.

  • Possible Implications for U.S. Agriculture From Adoption of Select Dietary Guidelines

    ERR-31, November 20, 2006

    To help Americans meet nutritional requirements while staying within caloric recommendations, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole-grain products, and fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products. This report provides one view of the potential implications for U.S. agriculture if Americans changed their current consumption patterns to meet some of those guidelines. For Americans to meet the fruit, vegetable, and whole-grain recommendations, domestic crop acreage would need to increase by an estimated 7.4 million harvested acres, or 1.7 percent of total U.S. cropland in 2002. To meet the dairy guidelines, consumption of milk and milk products would have to increase by 66 percent; an increase of that magnitude would likely require an increase in the number of dairy cows as well as increased feed grains and, possibly, increased acreage devoted to dairy production.

  • Private Industry Investing Heavily, and Globally, in Research To Improve Agricultural Productivity

    Amber Waves, June 05, 2012

    Private sector firms becoming leaders in developing new innovations in agriculture.

  • Production Contracts May Help Small Hog Farms Grow in Size

    Amber Waves, February 03, 2014

    In the U.S. hog sector, production contracts—under which farm operators agree to raise hogs owned by contractors—are becoming increasingly common: the share of market hogs grown under a production contract increased from 5 percent in 1992 to over 70 percent in 2009. The growth in the use of production contracts has been accompanied by pronounced increases in the size of farms producing hogs.

  • Productivity Growth Is Still the Major Driver in Growing U.S. Agricultural Output

    Amber Waves, September 06, 2016

    To monitor the U.S. farm sector’s performance, ERS develops total factor productivity (TFP) statistics measured as total agricultural output per unit of aggregate input, with each adjusted for price changes. Total factor productivity measures changes in the efficiency with which inputs are transformed into output.

  • Productivity Growth Slows for Specialized Hog Finishing Operations

    Amber Waves, February 03, 2014

    U.S. hog farm numbers dropped by 70 percent over 1991-2009 while hog inventories remained stable. The result has been an industry with larger hog enterprises, increased specialization in a single phase of production, greater reliance on purchased rather than homegrown feed, and greater use of production contracts. This structural change has led to higher productivity and lower pork prices.

  • Productivity Growth and the Revival of Russian Agriculture

    ERR-228, April 25, 2017

    Russia’s southern district spurred national agricultural recovery due to competitive advantages. Other districts without such advantages have lagged behind.

  • Productivity Growth in U.S. Agriculture

    EB-9, September 04, 2007

    Innovation and changes in technology have been a driving force for gains in productivity growth in U.S. agriculture. USDA's Economic Research Service has developed annual indexes of agricultural inputs, outputs, and total factor productivity (TFP) for 1948 through 2004. American agriculture relies almost entirely on productivity growth to raise output. By lowering the cost of agricultural commodities, productivity growth benefits not only farmers but also food manufacturers and consumers.

  • Progress and Challenges in Global Food Security

    EIB-175, July 31, 2017

    ERS researchers analyze the roles of trade, agricultural productivity, safety nets, and better data and measurement in achieving achieving gains in global food security.

  • Propellers of Agricultural Productivity in India

    ERR-203, December 10, 2015

    Exerting the greatest effect on India's agricultural productivity growth since 1980 were investments in public and private agricultural research and in irrigation infrastructure.

  • Prospects for China's Corn Yield Growth and Imports

    FDS-14D-01, April 28, 2014

    The pace of growth in China's corn yield is a key determinant of its future corn imports. Yields are growing, but more slowly than U.S. yields. Trends suggest China's corn consumption, driven by feed demand, will outpace production growth.

  • Public Agricultural Research Investment Helps Determine Productivity Growth

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2012

    The main driver of agricultural productivity growth over the last 50 years has been the application of new technologies to farming. Robust productivity growth has allowed U.S. agriculture to hold down the cost and environmental consequences of growing more food and fiber.

  • Public Agriculture Research Spending and Future U.S. Agricultural Productivity Growth: Scenarios for 2010-2050

    EB-17, July 25, 2011

    By 2050, global agricultural demand is projected to grow by 70-100 percent due to population growth, energy demands, and higher incomes in developing countries. Meeting this demand from existing agricultural resources will require raising global agricultural total factor productivity (TFP) by a similar level. The rate of TFP growth of U.S. agriculture has averaged about 1.5 percent annually over the past 50 years, but stagnant (inflation-adjusted) funding for public agricultural research since the 1980s may be causing agricultural TFP growth to slow down. ERS simulations indicate that if U.S. public agricultural R&D spending remains constant (in nominal terms) until 2050, the annual rate of agricultural TFP growth will fall to under 0.75 percent and U.S. agricultural output will increase by only 40 percent by 2050. Under this scenario, raising output beyond this level would require bringing more land, labor, capital, materials, and other resources into production.

  • Regional Trends in Extension System Resources

    AIB-781, April 07, 2003

    In 1914, when the Cooperative Extension Service was founded, about 30 percent of U.S. workers were in agriculture-related occupations; by the late 1990s, that share had declined to about 1 percent. The Extension System ("Extension") has changed along with its audience. The number of full-time-equivalent Extension personnel dropped by 12 percent from 1977 to 1997. Regional personnel FTE allocation patterns were mostly similar to the national ones, with the largest declines found in community resource development and 4-H youth programs. Staff years dedicated to agriculture and natural resources increased modestly, as did staff years dedicated to home economics and nutrition.

  • Research Investments and Market Structure in the Food Processing, Agricultural Input, and Biofuel Industries Worldwide

    ERR-130, December 30, 2011

    ERS quantifies investment trends by for-profit companies in food manufacturing, biofuels, and agricultural input R&D and explores how the trends are affected by changes in industry structure.

  • Research Investments and Market Structure in the Food Processing, Agricultural Input, and Biofuel Industries Worldwide: Executive Summary

    EIB-90, December 30, 2011

    Meeting growing global demand for food, fiber, and biofuel requires robust investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) from both public and private sectors. This report highlights the major findings of a study examining global R&D spending by private industry in seven agricultural input sectors, food manufacturing, and biofuel and describes the changing structure of these industries. For the full report, see Research Investments and Market Structure in the Food Processing, Agricultural Input, and Biofuel Industries Worldwide, ERR-130. In 2007 (the latest year for which comprehensive estimates are available), the private sector spent $19.7 billion on food and agricultural research (56 percent in food manufacturing and 44 percent in agricultural input sectors) and accounted for about half of total public and private spending on food and agricultural R&D in high-income countries. In R&D related to biofuel, annual private-sector investments are estimated to have reached $1.47 billion worldwide by 2009. Incentives to invest in R&D are influenced by market structure and other factors. Agricultural input industries have undergone significant structural change over the past two decades, with industry concentration on the rise. A relatively small number of large, multinational firms with global R&D and marketing networks account for most R&D in each input industry. Rising market concentration has not generally been associated with increased R&D investment as a percentage of industry sales.