Publications

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  • Policy Reform in the Tobacco Industry: Producers Adapt to a Changing Market

    EIB-77, May 26, 2011

    ERS analyzes tobacco producers' adjustments in production, investment, labor requirements, and contracting practices following elimination of tobacco quotas and tobacco price supports.

  • The Diverse Structure and Organization of U.S. Beef Cow-Calf Farms

    EIB-73, March 28, 2011

    The beef cow-calf industry is characterized by large numbers of small farms, although large farms account for most of the production. Operators of beef cow-calf farms have varying goals for their cattle enterprises.

  • 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.

  • Agricultural Contracting Update: Contracts in 2008

    EIB-72, February 14, 2011

    ERS examines the effects of current Federal tax provisions regarding low- and moderate-income households in rural America, focusing on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC).

  • U.S. Farm Structure: Declining—But Persistent— Small Commercial Farms

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2010

    The continuing shift in production away from small commercial farms to larger farms is driven by financial pressures and aging operators.

  • America's Diverse Family Farms, 2010 Edition

    EIB-67, July 26, 2010

    ERS provides comprehensive information including number and size of U.S. farms, characteristics of operators, finances of farm businesses and households, and geographic distribution of farms.

  • Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: Family Farm Report, 2010 Edition

    EIB-66, July 26, 2010

    Most U.S. farms-98 percent in 2007-are family operations, and even the largest farms are predominantly family run. Large-scale family farms and nonfamily farms account for 12 percent of U.S farms but 84 percent of the value of production. In contrast, small family farms make up most of the U.S. farm count but produce a modest share of farm output. Small farms are less profitable than large-scale farms, on average, and their operator households tend to rely on off-farm income for their livelihood. Generally speaking, farm operator households cannot be characterized as low-income when both farm and off-farm income are considered. Nevertheless, limited-resource farms still exist and account for 3 to 12 percent of family farms, depending on how "limited-resource" is defined.

  • Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues

    ERR-97, May 17, 2010

    A series of coordinated case studies compares the structure, size, and performance of local food supply chains with those of mainstream supply chains in delivering locally produced food to consumers.

  • Small Farms in the United States: Persistence Under Pressure

    EIB-63, February 18, 2010

    ERS documents the changing distribution and character of small farms as ag production becomes more concentrated. Commercially oriented small farms, those accounting for most small-farm production, continue to decline in number in the face of large-farm competition.

  • Characteristics, Costs, and Issues for Organic Dairy Farming

    ERR-82, November 02, 2009

    ERS addresses size, regional differences, and pasture use in organic milk production. Economic forces have pressured organic dairies to operate more like their conventional counterparts and take advantage of economies of size.

  • Larger Farms, Environmental Policy Affecting Manure Management

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2009

    Changes in the structure of livestock farms from smaller to larger increasingly specialized operations have altered manure management practices. At the same time, changes to the Clean Water Act, State regulations, and local conflicts over odor are requiring livestock producers to more carefully consider their manure management decisions.

  • Exploring Alternative Farm Definitions: Implications for Agricultural Statistics and Program Eligibility

    EIB-49, March 20, 2009

    Meeting agricultural policy and statistical goals requires a definition of U.S. agriculture's basic unit, the farm. However, these goals can be at odds with one another. USDA defines "farm" very broadly to comprehensively measure agricultural activity. Consequently, most establishments classified as farms in the United States produce very little, while most production occurs on a small number of much larger operations. While desirable for obtaining comprehensive national coverage, measurement and analysis based on the current definition can provide misleading characterizations of farms and farm structure in the United States. Additionally, more stringent requirements have been proposed for farms to qualify for Federal agricultural program benefits. This analysis outlines the structure of U.S. farms, discusses the current farm definition, evaluates several potential criteria that have been proposed to define target farms more precisely, and examines how these criteria affect both statistical coverage and program eligibility.

  • The Transformation of U.S. Livestock Agriculture: Scale, Efficiency, and Risks

    EIB-43, January 23, 2009

    ERS details the nature, causes, and effects of structural changes in U.S. livestock production as it shifts to larger, more specialized, and more tightly integrated enterprises.

  • 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.

  • The Economic Organization of U.S. Broiler Production

    EIB-38, June 30, 2008

    ERS describes the boiler industry's organization, use of production contracts, animal housing features, enterprise cost structures, and farm household finances.

  • Agricultural Contracting Update, 2005

    EIB-35, April 01, 2008

    Over half of all transactions for U.S. farm products involved commodities bought and sold in open markets. But formal contractual arrangements cover a growing share of production.

  • The Changing Economics of U.S. Hog Production

    ERR-52, December 27, 2007

    ERS examines the economic factors that underlie the dramatic decline in number of hog operations over the past 15 years and the increasing concentration of production on large, specialized hog farms.

  • Characteristics and Production Costs of U.S. Hog Farms, 2004

    EIB-32, December 27, 2007

    Once dominated by small, owner-operated crop-hog farms, hog ownership is increasingly concentrated. Traditional farrow-to-finish operations are being replaced by operations specializing in a single production phase.

  • Commodity Payments, Farm Business Survival, and Farm Size Growth

    ERR-51, November 27, 2007

    ERS compared consumption of refined and whole grains with recommendations of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, considering the consumers' social, economic, and demographic characteristics.

  • 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.