Publications

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  • "No-Till" Farming Is a Growing Practice

    EIB-70, November 02, 2010

    ERS summarizes U.S. trends in the use of reduced-tillage practices on cropland planted to eight major crops--barley, corn, cotton, oats, rice, sorghum, soybeans, and wheat -- from 2000 to 2007, and provides estimates of acreage under no-till in 2009.

  • Indicators

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2010

    Indicators tables from the September 2010 issue of Amber Waves magazine.

  • Targeted Farmers in EQIP Operate More Environmentally Sensitive Land, But Address Different Environmental Needs

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2010

    If EQIP-targeted farmers address different environmental needs or operate acreage that is more or less environmentally sensitive than land operated by other EQIP farmers, the EQIP provisions favorable to targeted farmers could change the economic and environmental outcomes of the program.

  • The Farm Act's Regional Equity Provision: Impacts on Conservation Program Outcomes

    ERR-98, June 11, 2010

    The 2002 and 2008 Farm Acts increased funding for conservation programs that provide financial assistance to farmers to implement conservation practices on working farmland. Along with seeking cost-effective environmental benefits, these programs have a goal of spreading conservation funding equitably across States. The 2002 and 2008 Farm Acts strengthened this allocative goal by setting a minimum threshold for conservation funding for each State-one that exceeds historical funding for some States-for enrolling agricultural producers in specified conservation programs. This study uses conservation program data to examine evidence of the impacts of the Regional Equity provision of the 2002 Farm Act, and explores the tradeoffs that can occur among conservation program goals when legislation gives primacy to fund allocation. The study found that cross-State shifts in funding reduced the acres receiving conservation treatment for many resource problems, but increased the net economic benefits from treatments on some of them. Overall impacts on the types of producers enrolled were small.

  • Economics of Markets for Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, Fiscal 2010: Competitive Grants and Cooperative Agreements Program: Description and Application Process

    AP-048, May 07, 2010

    The Economic Research Service (ERS) of USDA is accepting proposals for fiscal year 2010 for economic research in three broad areas related to U.S. agricultural participation in proposed greenhouse gas markets. The research should focus on the economics of agricultural activities and practices, including agricultural land use, that increase carbon sequestration or reduce greenhouse gas emissions, together referred to as "greenhouse gas reductions." Proposals must focus on U.S. agriculture. Of particular interest is research on (1) estimates of supply curves of greenhouse gas reductions from U.S. agriculture, (2) the integrity of agricultural greenhouse gas reductions procured through markets, including provisions designed to enhance this integrity; and (3) the role of non-neoclassical behavior in the provision of agricultural greenhouse gas reductions through markets. ERS will accept proposals under this program for funding levels of up to $150,000 for a period not to exceed 3 years. Total funding available for this research is approximately $500,000. The deadline for proposal submission is June 14, 2010.

  • Indicators

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2010

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America.

  • Participation in Conservation Programs by Targeted Farmers: Beginning, Limited-Resource, and Socially Disadvantaged Operators' Enrollment Trends

    EIB-62, December 07, 2009

    Beginning, limited-resource, and socially disadvantaged farmers make up as much as 40 percent of all U.S. farms. Some Federal conservation programs contain provisions that encourage participation by such "targeted" farmers and the 2008 Farm Act furthered these efforts. This report compares the natural resource characteristics, resource issues, and conservation treatment costs on farms operated by targeted farmers with those of other participants in the largest U.S. working-lands and land retirement conservation programs. Some evidence shows that targeted farmers tend to operate more environmentally sensitive land than other farmers, have different conservation priorities, and receive different levels of payments. Data limitations preclude a definitive analysis of whether efforts to improve participation by targeted farmers hinders or enhances the conservation programs' ability to deliver environmental benefits cost effectively. But the different conservation priorities among types of farmers suggest that if a significantly larger proportion of targeted farmers participates in these programs, the programs' economic and environmental outcomes could change.

  • 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.

  • Agricultural Land Tenure and Carbon Offsets

    EB-14, September 23, 2009

    Agricultural Land Tenure and Carbon Offsets examines the potential role that land ownership might play in determining the agricultural sector's involvement in carbon sequestration programs. By estimating the carbon sequestration potential of agricultural producers who own most of the land they operate, this report finds that land ownership should not be a constraining factor in agriculture's ability to provide carbon offsets.

  • Manure Use for Fertilizer and for Energy: Report to Congress

    AP-037, June 25, 2009

    The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to evaluate the role of animal manure as a source of fertilizer, and its other uses. About 5 percent of all U.S. cropland is currently fertilized with livestock manure, and corn accounts for over half of the acreage to which manure is applied. Expanded environmental regulation through nutrient management plans will likely lead to wider use of manure on cropland, at higher production costs, but with only modest impacts on production costs, commodity demand, or farm structure. There is widespread interest in using manure as a feedstock for energy production. While current use is quite limited, expanded government support, either direct or indirectly, could lead to a substantial increase in manure use as a feedstock. However, current energy processes are unlikely to compete with fertilizer uses of manure, because they leave fertilizer nutrients as residues, in more marketable form, and because manure-to-energy projects will be most profitable in regions where raw manure is in excess supply, with the least value as fertilizer.

  • Indicators- Amber Waves - June 2009

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2009

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America from June 2009.

  • Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

    EIB-53, May 15, 2009

    Beginning farmers and ranchers accounted for 10 percent of the sector's total value of production in 2007. ERS provides an overview of their characteristics and the farm businesses they operate.

  • An Illustrated Guide to Research Findings from USDA's Economic Research Service

    EIB-48, April 01, 2009

    This book contains a sampling of recent ERS research illustrating the breadth of the Agency's research on current policy issues: from biofuels to food consumption to land conservation to patterns of trade for agricultural products.

  • Changes in Manure Management in the Hog Sector: 1998-2004

    EIB-50, March 31, 2009

    In recent years, structural changes in the hog sector, including increased farm size and regional shifts in production, have altered manure management practices. Also, changes to the Clean Water Act, State regulations, and increasing local conflicts over air quality issues, including odor, have influenced manure management decisions. This study uses data from two national surveys of hog farmers to examine how hog manure management practices vary with the scale of production and how these practices evolved between 1998 and 2004. Included are the effects of structural changes, recent policies on manure management technologies and practices, the use of nutrient management plans, and manure application rates. The findings suggest that larger hog operations are altering their manure management decisions in response to binding nutrient application constraints, and that environmental policy is contributing to the adoption of conservation compatible manure management practices.

  • Research Areas

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2009

    This page contains research area charts from the March 2009 issue of Amber Waves.

  • Agriculture and Water Quality Trading: Exploring the Possibilities

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2009

    Water quality trading is a market-based approach intended to reduce pollution at a lower cost than through traditional regulatory action. The Environmental Protection Agency and USDA are actively promoting water quality trading programs in watersheds impaired by pollutants, such as nutrients, produced by both regulated and unregulated sources, such as agriculture. Polluted runoff from agricultural fields is not regulated under the Clean Water Act, and greater use of trading might increase the number of farms willing and able to change their farming practices to reduce nutrient runoff.

  • Program of Research on the Economics of Invasive Species Management Fiscal 2003-2008 Activities

    AP-034, February 26, 2009

    Under the Program of Research on the Economics of Invasive Species Management (PREISM), ERS conducts intramural research and funds extramural research to support the economic basis of decisionmaking concerning invasive species issues, policies, and programs. The report, Program of Research on the Economics of Invasive Species Management: Fiscal 2003-2008 Activities, details the objectives and activities of PREISM and reports important accomplishments for fiscal years 2003-2008. Included are descriptions of the extramural research program and all funded projects, and a list of project outputs.

  • The Roles of Economists in the U.S. Department of Agriculture

    AP-031, January 02, 2009

    Among the many responsibilities of USDA are implementing the Food Stamp Program and other food and nutrition assistance programs; managing Federal forest land; implementing standards of humane care and treatment of animals; providing incentives for adopting wildlife habitat enhancements and other conservation practices; participating in trade negotiations; ensuring the safety of meat, poultry, and eggs; providing funds for rural business development; and implementing farm programs legislated by Congress. The Department has a broad mandate, and virtually everything with which it is charged has economic dimensions. It is not surprising, then, that USDA employs over 800 economists across 16 of its agencies.

  • Integrating Invasive Species Prevention And Control Policies

    EB-11, September 19, 2008

    Programs and policies to minimize the threat of, or mitigate the damages from, invasive species work best if designed in concert with each other. Whether program emphasis should be on prevention or control depends on the biological characteristics and size of the invasive species population, ecological characteristics of invaded ecosystems, the cost and efficacy of prevention measures relative to control measures, and the level of prevention costs borne abroad. Because all of these factors are highly variable, data needs are constant if intervention is to be both effective and economical.

  • Economic Measures of Soil Conservation Benefits: Regional Values for Policy Assessment

    TB-1922, September 19, 2008

    This report describes data and methodologies that the Economic Research Service has used to apply monetary values to changes in soil erosion. Values and methodology are clearly described so that analysts can apply the data to specific soil conservation projects. ERS has used the values to estimate soil conservation benefits of changes in farm programs and practices, but no analyses of farm programs or practices are provided here. The benefit values are regional dollar-per-ton measures of 14 different categories of soil conservation benefits. There are other soil conservation benefits categories beyond those reported here, so a full accounting of benefits is not possible. As a result, monetary values derived from applications of these data are likely to be lower-bound estimates of the benefits or costs of changes in soil erosion. The data are thought to be detailed enough for national and regional estimates, but lack precision for smaller scale estimates.