Publications

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  • USDA Agricultural Projections to 2019

    OCE-2010-1, February 11, 2010

    This report provides longrun (10-year) projections for the agricultural sector through 2019. Projections cover agricultural commodities, agricultural trade, and aggregate indicators of the sector, such as farm income and food prices.

  • Factors Influencing ACRE Program Enrollment

    ERR-84, December 29, 2009

    ERS applied requirements of the new Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program to eligible crops from 1996 to 2008 and analyzed whether farmers would have benefited more from ACRE than from the programs available during that time

  • Agricultural Income and Finance Outlook, 2009 Edition

    AIS-88, December 22, 2009

    All three measures of U.S. farm income are projected to decline in 2009-net farm income is projected to decline by 34.5 percent, net cash income by 28.4 percent, and net value added by 20 percent. Considerable uncertainty surrounds the forecasts of farm assets, debt, and equity in 2009, given the volatility of commodity, energy/input, and financial markets. The overall level of farm-business equity capital is expected to fall in 2009, as farm-sector asset values decline by 3.5 percent. Farm debt is expected to remain steady at $239 billion in 2009. Farm financial ratios monitoring liquidity, efficiency, solvency, and profitability show that the sector's financial performance in 2008-09, while slightly worse than in 2007, is quite favorable overall when compared to the 1980s and 1990s. Average net cash income for farm businesses (intermediate and commercial operations, including non-family farms) is projected to be $61,578 in 2009. This would be 10.6 percent below the 2008 estimate of $68,876. The projected change in income prospects for farm businesses will not affect all farm operations in the same manner or to the same degree. In 2009, the largest declines in farm-business income are forecast for livestock farms, particularly dairy. Farm-operator household income is forecast to be $76,065, down 3.5 percent from 2008. Household earnings from off-farm sources are projected to be similar to 2008.

  • 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.

  • The Debt Finance Landscape for U.S. Farming and Farm Businesses

    AIS-87, November 16, 2009

    Income and wealth for farm businesses have changed noticeably this decade. Debt levels have been rising, asset levels have outpaced debt despite a recent fall in land prices, and equity has more than doubled for farm businesses. However, recent declines in farm income and falling land prices have raised concerns about the financial position of U.S. farms. Total farm sector debt reached a record $240 billion in 2008, a $26-billion increase over 2007. Debt is expected to decline to $234 billion in 2009. The distribution of debt among farm operators has also been changing. In 1986, nearly 60 percent of farms used debt financing. By 2007, the number had dropped to 31 percent. In essence, farm debt has become more concentrated in fewer, larger farm businesses. Lenders and farm operators indicate that real estate accounts for the largest use of farm debt. Debt repayment capacity utilization (DRCU) of farm operators has dropped since the 1980s. DRCU dropped from 27 percent in 2000 to 22 percent in 2007. Larger farms are more likely to use more of their debt capacity.

  • Income Source Matters in Farm Household Spending

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2009

    Many U.S. farm households have several income sources, including farm production, off-farm jobs, and government payments. ERS research findings suggest that farm households may employ “mental accounting” to decide which income sources, including different types of government payments, are most appropriate for household expenses.

  • Federal Tax Policies and Farm Households

    EIB-54, May 15, 2009

    Significant changes in Federal individual income and estate tax policies over the last 10 years have reduced average tax rates for farm households

  • Economic Aspects of Revenue-Based Commodity Support

    ERR-72, April 07, 2009

    ERS examines the economic effects of two theoretical scenarios in which commodity support is determined by shortfalls in farm revenue, unlike current price-based programs or yield-based assistance.

  • Wheat Outlook: March 2009

    WHS-09C01, March 24, 2009

    The recent historic rise in farm input costs and wheat prices has had economic effects on the U.S. wheat sector. A cumulative distribution of forecasted production costs for wheat farms shows that current high (but falling) wheat prices will allow a greater share of producers to cover their production costs in 2008 (90 percent) than in 2004 (82 percent), despite higher input costs in 2008. However, if farm-gate prices for wheat continue to fall into 2009, and if prices for inputs do not drop off similarly, many more wheat producers may find themselves unable to cover production costs and the U.S. wheat sector may see further attrition of planted area.

  • Forecasting Farm Income: Documenting USDA's Forecast Model

    TB-1924, February 12, 2009

    The Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) develops and publishes estimates and forecasts of three primary measures of income and returns for the U.S. farm economy: (1) net value added, or total value of the farm sector's production of goods and services less purchases of inputs and services from other sectors of the economy; (2) net farm income, the portion of net value added earned by farm operators and others who share the risks of production, and (3) net cash income, the cash earned from sales of production and conversion of assets into cash. The USDA short-term income forecast model generates forecasts of receipts for individual commodities, Government payments for each program commodity or activity, and expenses for inputs such as fertilizer, fuel, feed, rent, and labor. The report describes the components and equations in the model, showing how components can be recombined to produce the three main measures of income.

  • Million-Dollar Farms in the New Century

    EIB-42, December 30, 2008

    ERS documents the growing importance of very large farms in agricultural production. While a large majority of U.S. farms are small, those with annual sales above $1 million account for roughly half of agricultural sales.

  • USDA Agricultural Projections to 2017

    OCE-2008-1, February 12, 2008

    This report provides longrun (10-year) projections for the agricultural sector through 2017. Projections cover agricultural commodities, agricultural trade, and aggregate indicators of the sector, such as farm income and food prices.

  • Farm-Based Recreation: A Statistical Profile

    ERR-53, December 31, 2007

    Farm-based recreation provides an important niche market for farmers, but limited empirical information is available on the topic. Access to two USDA databases, the 2004 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) and the 2000 National Survey on Recreation and the Environment, provided researchers with a deeper understanding of who operates farm-based recreation enterprises, such as hunting and fishing operations, horseback riding businesses, on-farm rodeos, and petting zoos. Regression analysis identified the importance of various farmer and farm characteristics, as well as local and regional factors associated with farmer operation of, and income derived from, farm-based recreation.

  • Integrating Commodity and Conservation Programs: Design Options and Outcomes

    ERR-44, October 30, 2007

    Could a single program support farm income and encourage environmentally sound farm practices? ERS looks at some hypothetical program scenarios.

  • America's Diverse Family Farms, 2007 Edition

    EIB-26, June 01, 2007

    American farms encompass a wide range of sizes, ownership structures, and business types, but most farms are still family farms. Family farms account for 98 percent of farms and 85 percent of production. Although most farms are small and own most of the farmland, production has shifted to very large farms. Farms with sales of $1 million or more make up less than 2 percent of all farms, but they account for 48 percent of farm product sales. Most of these million-dollar farms are family farms. Because small-farm households rely on off-farm work for most of their income, general economic policies, such as tax or economic development policy, can be as important to them as traditional farm policy.

  • Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: Family Farm Report, 2007 Edition

    EIB-24, June 01, 2007

    U.S. farms are diverse, ranging from small retirement and residential farms to enterprises with annual sales in the millions. Nevertheless, most U.S. farms-98 percent in 2004-are family farms. Even the largest farms tend to be family farms. Large-scale family farms and nonfamily farms account for 10 percent of U.S farms, but 75 percent of the value of production. In contrast, small family farms make up most of the U.S. farm count, produce a modest share of farm output, and receive substantial off-farm income. Many farm households have a large net worth, reflecting the land-intensive nature of farming.

  • Whole-Farm Approaches to a Safety Net

    EIB-15, June 28, 2006

    In recent U.S. farm policy debates, several "whole-farm revenue" programs have been proposed as a new form of safety net that would be available to all U.S. farms. A whole-farm program is based on revenues from all farming activities added together and is not linked to the production of particular commodities. This report looks at the risk management potential for such programs and the obstacles to implementing such a whole-farm revenue approach to a farm safety net.

  • America's Diverse Family Farms: Structure and Finances

    EIB-13, May 15, 2006

    American farms vary widely in size and other characteristics, but farming is still an industry of family businesses. Ninety-eight percent of farms are family farms, and they account for 86 percent of farm production. Very small farms are growing in number, and small family farms continue to own most farmland. But production is shifting toward very large family farms. Because small-farm households receive most of their income from off-farm work, general economic policies-such as tax policy or economic development policy-can be as important to them as traditional farm policy.

  • Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: 2005 Family Farm Report

    EIB-12, May 15, 2006

    Most farms in the United States-98 percent in 2003-are family farms. They are organized as proprietorships, partnerships, or family corporations. Even the largest farms tend to be family farms. Very large family farms account for a small share of farms but a large-and growing-share of farm sales. Small family farms account for most farms but produce a modest share of farm output. Median income for farm households is 10 percent greater than the median for all U.S. households. Small-farm households also receive substantial off-farm income.

  • Growing Farm Size and the Distribution of Farm Payments

    EB-6, March 14, 2006

    Crop production is shifting to much larger farms. Since government commodity payments reflect production volumes for program commodities, payments are also shifting to larger farms. In turn, the operators of very large farms have substantially higher household incomes than other farm households, and as a result government commodity payments are also shifting to much higher-income households. Since the changes in farm structure appear to be ongoing, commodity payments will likely, under current policies, continue to shift to higher income households. This brief uses 2003 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) data to detail the shifts.