Publications

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  • Characteristics and Production Costs of U.S. Cotton Farms, 2007

    EIB-104, December 20, 2012

    Fewer U.S. farms produced cotton in 2007 than in 1997. The average farm was larger, and the share of production had shifted to the Southwest. Cotton farms varied - e.g., in production practices and commodity diversification.

  • Alternative Policies To Promote Anaerobic Digesters Produce Positive Net Benefits

    Amber Waves, December 03, 2012

    Rising fuel prices and the public’s desire for new sources of renewable energy and reduced carbon emissions have led to government policies that support the adoption of anaerobic digesters by livestock producers. ERS research finds that the design of such policies can affect farmer adoption rates of digesters, farm incomes, and environmental benefits from use of the technology.

  • Nitrogen Management in Corn Production Appears To Be Improving

    Amber Waves, December 03, 2012

    An ERS study of nitrogen management on U.S. corn cropland over 2001-10 indicates that corn producers may be adjusting to changing economic conditions and environmental concerns. U.S. corn acreage treated with nitrogen increased 18 percent during the period as corn prices rose by 70 percent in response to increased demand for grain for export and ethanol production.

  • Rising Concentration in Agricultural Input Industries Influences New Farm Technologies

    Amber Waves, December 03, 2012

    The largest agricultural input firms are responsible for a large and growing share of global agricultural research and development (R&D). See the December issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

  • Nitrogen Management on U.S. Corn Acres, 2001-10

    EB-20, November 14, 2012

    Nitrogen is a critical input in agriculture, and corn is the largest user of nitrogen. An examination of nitrogen management on corn cropland indicates that corn producers appear to be applying less excess nitrogen.

  • On the Map: The Conservation Challenge for Sustainable Irrigated Agriculture

    Amber Waves, September 20, 2012

    Expanding water demands to support population and economic growth, environmental flows, and energy-sector growth will present new challenges for agricultural water and conservation, particularly for the 17 Western States that account for nearly three-quarters of U.S. irrigated agriculture.

  • Improving Water-Use Efficiency Remains a Challenge for U.S. Irrigated Agriculture

    Amber Waves, September 20, 2012

    In 2007, irrigated agriculture accounted for 55 percent of the total value of U.S. crop sales, while also supporting the livestock and poultry sectors. The economic health and sustainability of irrigated agriculture will depend on the ability of producers to adapt to growing constraints on water, particularly through improved water-use efficiency.

  • Water Conservation in Irrigated Agriculture: Trends and Challenges in the Face of Emerging Demands

    EIB-99, September 04, 2012

    Agriculture accounts for 80-90 percent of U.S. consumptive water use. ERS draws on findings from several national surveys and current literature to assess water resource use and conservation measures within the irrigated crop sector.

  • Agricultural Adaptation to a Changing Climate: Economic and Environmental Implications Vary by U.S. Region

    ERR-136, July 06, 2012

    ERS models the farm sector's ability to adapt to a changing climate with current practices and technology, and explores economic and environmental implications of adaptation under a range of climate change scenarios.

  • Trends in U.S. Farmland Values and Ownership

    EIB-92, February 22, 2012

    In the last few years, U.S. farmland values have been supported by strong farm earnings, helping the farm sector withstand the residential housing downturn. Regarding ownership, non-operating landowners play a significant role.

  • Changing Farm Structure and the Distribution of Farm Payments and Federal Crop Insurance

    EIB-91, February 06, 2012

    A long-term shift in production toward larger farms has affected the distribution of commodity-related Federal program payments and Federal crop insurance, with the share of payments going to larger farms increasing.

  • The Changing Organization of U.S. Farming

    EIB-88, December 02, 2011

    Using survey and census data, ERS examines how changes in farm input use, business arrangements, structure, and production practices since the 1980s combined to expand output without increasing the total use of inputs.

  • The Information Age and Adoption of Precision Agriculture

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2011

    Findings suggest that low adoption rates of precision technologies by farmers may be due to uncertainty about economic returns to large initial investments, the complexity of the technologies, and the need to make integrated use of several precision technologies to obtain cost savings.

  • Use of Conservation-Compatible Manure Management Practices Increases on U.S. Hog Farms

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2011

    U.S. hog producers altered their manure management decisions between 1998 and 2009, suggesting an increased focus on applying nutrients at agronomic rates--that is, at levels that do not exceed what can be absorbed by crops.

  • Changing Farming Practices Accompany Major Shifts in Farm Structure

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2011

    Changing production practices, including adoption of labor-saving innovations, have contributed to and been affected by increases in both agricultural productivity and the concentration of production.

  • Nitrogen in Agricultural Systems: Implications for Conservation Policy

    ERR-127, September 22, 2011

    Nitrogen is an important agricultural input that is critical for crop production. However, the introduction of large amounts of nitrogen into the environment has a number of undesirable impacts on water, terrestrial, and atmospheric resources. This report explores the use of nitrogen in U.S. agriculture and assesses changes in nutrient management by farmers that may improve nitrogen use efficiency. It also reviews a number of policy approaches for improving nitrogen management and identifies issues affecting their potential performance. Findings reveal that about two-thirds of U.S. cropland is not meeting three criteria for good nitrogen management related to the rate, timing, and method of application. Several policy approaches, including financial incentives, nitrogen management as a condition of farm program eligibility, and regulation, could induce farmers to improve their nitrogen management and reduce nitrogen losses to the environment.

  • Trends and Developments in Hog Manure Management: 1998-2009

    EIB-81, September 14, 2011

    In the past decade, hog production has increasingly become consolidated, with larger operations producing a greater volume of hog manure on smaller areas. With less cropland for spreading the manure, hog farmers may be compensating through more effective manure management. The authors use data from 1998 to 2009 collected in three national surveys of hog farmers. Over this period, structural changes in the hog sector altered how manure is stored and handled. Changes to the Clean Water Act, State regulations, and local conflicts over air quality also affected manure management decisions. The findings further suggest that environmental policy has influenced conservation-compatible manure management practices. The authors examine how the use of nutrient management plans and of practices such as controlled manure application rates vary with scale of production and how these practices changed over the study period. This report is an update of an earlier report, Changes in Manure Management in the Hog Sector: 1998-2004.

  • 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.

  • Trade, the Expanding Mexican Beef Industry, and Feedlot and Stocker Cattle Production in Mexico

    LDPM-206-01, August 22, 2011

    This report characterizes Mexican feeder-calf and fed cattle production systems in the context of the imports of Mexican feeder cattle into the United States. The increase in cattle feeding in Mexico will increasingly affect U.S. feeder cattle imports and U.S. beef exports to Mexico in ambiguous ways as Mexican population and incomes increase. Cattle production also depends on geo-climatic factors, disease and pest challenges, feeding systems, and feeder cattle export patterns.

  • Impacts of Higher Energy Prices on Agriculture and Rural Economies

    ERR-123, August 18, 2011

    ERS looks at direct and indirect impacts of higher energy prices on the agricultural and rural sectors, with scenarios developed for specific energy price changes.