Publications

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  • 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.

  • Extension Faces Challenges Entering Its Second Century

    Amber Waves, September 08, 2014

    In 1914, the Smith-Lever Act created a national Cooperative Extension System (Extension) that established partnerships between USDA, State land grant universities and other institutions, and local partners (city or county governments), with the goal of promoting U.S. agricultural productivity growth and improving rural life. Extension's role has varied through time and across regions.

  • Family Farming in the United States

    Amber Waves, March 04, 2014

    Family farms represent 97.6 percent of all U.S. farms, and are responsible for 85 percent of U.S. farm production.

  • Farm Activities Associated With Rural Development Initiatives

    ERR-134, May 16, 2012

    A number of rural development initiatives have targeted farm-related activities (e.g., agritourism, energy production). ERS examines the characteristics of farms and farm households involved in such activities.

  • Farm Bill Income Cap for Program Payment Eligibility Affects Few Farms

    Amber Waves, August 01, 2016

    The 2014 Farm Act revised the maximum income limitations (the income caps) that determine eligibility for most commodity and conservation programs and payments by replacing the separate limits on farm and nonfarm income specified in the 2008 Farm Act with a single total adjusted gross income cap of $900,000.

  • Farm Businesses Well-Positioned Financially, Despite Rising Debt

    Amber Waves, April 08, 2014

    Debt owed by U.S. farm businesses rose 39 percent between 1992 and 2011, after adjusting for inflation. Despite rising debts, financial leverage—measured as debt relative to the value of assets—declined over this period for the typical farm business. Debt use and financial leverage varies widely, but the vast majority of farm businesses are better positioned to withstand unexpected changes in farm income or interest rates than they were in the 1990’s.

  • Farm Financial Position Expected to Remain Strong Despite a Forecast Drop in 2014 Income

    Amber Waves, March 04, 2014

    Farm financial position expected to remain strong despite a forecast drop in 2014 income.

  • Farm Household Income Volatility: An Analysis Using Panel Data From a National Survey

    ERR-226, February 22, 2017

    Income of commercial farm households is generally more volatile than for nonfarm households. Farm size, commodities raised, operator characteristics, and reliance on Federal programs all play roles in farm household income volatility.

  • Farm Household Well-Being: Comparing Consumption- and Income-Based Measures

    ERR-91, February 12, 2010

    ERS presents, for the first time, estimates of farm households' consumption expenditures and compares them to consumption estimates for all U.S. households. Consumption can complement indicators of household income in assessing economic well-being.

  • Farm Households Experience High Levels of Income Volatility

    Amber Waves, February 22, 2017

    For many farm households, income varies considerably from year to year and may even be negative; farm household income volatility is driven mostly by farm income, which is more volatile than off-farm income. Total household income is more volatile on larger farms than on smaller farms, and crop farms have more volatile household income than livestock farms.

  • Farm Income Expected to Decline in 2009

    Amber Waves, March 01, 2009

    Based on USDA’s early forecast, after 7 consecutive years of increases, U.S. cash receipts from crops are expected to drop by 10 percent from the record level reached in 2008. But at $162.4 billion, crop receipts in 2009 would still reflect the second highest level ever attained. Most of the decline is expected to come from corn and wheat sales, but nearly all crop commodities are forecast to have lower receipts in 2009.

  • Farm Income Forecast To Remain High in 2013

    Amber Waves, March 04, 2013

    Net farm income in 2013 is forecast to be $128.2 billion, which would be nearly 14 percent higher than forecast in 2012. Adjusting for inflation, this would be the highest net farm income since 1973.

  • Farm Payments: Decoupled Payments Increase Households' Well-Being, Not Production

    Amber Waves, February 03, 2003

    Although decoupled payments do not distort price incentives for producers, they can still alter production decisions because payments increase farm operators' income, and the expectation of fixed, future payments increases their wealth. Increased income and wealth from decoupled payments, as from any other source of income, has lasting effects on households' decisions about how much to spend, save, and work.

  • Farm Resource Regions

    AIB-760, August 01, 2000

    ERS recently constructed a new set of regions depicting geographic specialization in production of U.S. farm commodities. ERS will use the new regions to display results of its analyses in a broad array of venues from briefings to publications, our web site, and journal articles. This pamphlet introduces the new ERS Farm Resource Regions, explains their origin and rationale, and serves as a reference for our clients.

  • Farm Size and the Organization of U.S. Crop Farming

    ERR-152, August 05, 2013

    Crop production and land have shifted to larger operations. ERS details the changes by region and commodity sector, and evaluates driving factors such as technologies, business organization and finances, land attributes, and policy.

  • 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.

  • Farmers Employ Strategies To Reduce Risk of Drought Damages

    Amber Waves, June 05, 2017

    Farmers can improve their drought resilience by making different crop choices, enrolling in crop insurance and other farm risk management programs, and investing in soil health. USDA conservation programs—intended primarily to improve on-site and off-site environmental quality—may also help producers adapt to drought risk.

  • Farmland Owners Designate Base Acres to Maximize Payments

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2005

    The 2002 Farm Act provided farmland owners the opportunity to designate commodity program base acres and payment yields, program parameters that are used to determine direct and countercyclical payments. Farmland owners generally chose the alternative that provided the highest direct and countercyclical payments, a distinctly different economic decision than that underlying year-to-year planting decisions.

  • Farmland Values on the Rise: 2000-2010

    Amber Waves, September 20, 2012

    Farm real estate values increased considerably in recent years, with some States experiencing double-digit growth.

  • Farmland Values, Land Ownership, and Returns to Farmland, 2000-2016

    ERR-245, February 21, 2018

    Average farm real estate values grew from $1,483 per acre in 2000 to $3,060 in 2015. Cropland appreciated faster than pastureland. In 2003-14, cropland values increased most in the Corn Belt, Northern Plains, Lake States, and Delta States.