Publications

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  • Relaxing Fruit and Vegetable Planting Restrictions

    Amber Waves, May 01, 2007

    A recent World Trade Organization challenge to U.S. commodity programs has created pressure to eliminate fruit and vegetable planting restrictions on farms that plant program crops. If planting restrictions were relaxed, overall market effects would likely be limited, with the greatest effects in California, the Southeast and the upper Midwest. Some producers with base acreage would likely benefit while others without base acres may find that production of fruit and vegetables would be less profitable than production of program crops.

  • How Do Decoupled Payments Affect Resource Allocations Within the Farm Sector?

    Amber Waves, May 01, 2007

    Most industrialized nations subsidize producers of certain farm commodities with payments linked to commodity prices and production levels. In the U.S., interest in market liberalization and obligations under multilateral trade agreements have prompted policymakers to design and implement less distorting government commodity programs. One step in that direction is to use "decoupled" payments to directly change the income and wealth of farm households without distorting relative commodity prices. Recent analyses indicate how land tenure arrangements influence the amount farm households receive from decoupled payments, and how decoupled payments influence markets for agricultural capital and labor.

  • On The Map

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2007

    The legislated payment rates are commodity dependent, averaging about $1 per acre for oats and close to $100 per acre for rice. Payments are concentrated in the major producing areas.

  • Cotton Backgrounder

    CWS-07B01, March 30, 2007

    U.S. cotton growers, like producers of other agricultural commodities in recent years, have confronted pressures from market forces and the impacts of policy developments, both domestic and international. Most notably, the ending of the Multifiber Arrangement (MFA) sent a ripple effect throughout the global cotton industry. While adjustments in the textile and apparel sectors of many countries, including the United States, continue to evolve, dramatic changes have already been seen for some. World cotton mill use has accelerated along with economic growth since 1999, particularly in China, and U.S. cotton producers have benefited as foreign import demand has reached new heights. Government payments contribute a considerable portion of total revenue to the cotton sector, and adjustments to this program or any other commodity program in the 2007 farm legislation will be driven by factors such as domestic market conditions, multilateral trade negotiations, and the Federal budget deficit.

  • Valuing Counter-Cyclical Payments: Implications for Producer Risk Management and Program Administration

    ERR-39, February 22, 2007

    Counter-cyclical payments supplement incomes of eligible producers enrolled in commodity programs. ERS developed a computer program that improved upon USDA's method of estimating payment rates and that producers and forecasters can use.

  • Managing Risk With Revenue Insurance

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2006

    This Amber Waves article analyzes how crop revenue insurance offers farmers a way to manage revenue variability that results from yield and price risks. Revenue insurance has become a major part of the subsidized Federal crop insurance program but there are difficulties in using single-commodity and whole-farm revenue insurance as a farm income policy tools.

  • 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.

  • Who Gets Farm Program Payments?

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2006

    This article discusses the sources, distribution, and year-to-year variation in government payments from farm programs.

  • Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook: May 2006

    SSSM-246, May 30, 2006

    Mexico has been a significant producer, consumer, and exporter of sugar. Figure M1 shows trends and relationships between these variables since 1960. Sugar production has been steadily growing since 1960. Yearly production growth averaged 66,000 metric tons (mt) from 1960-74, and it averaged 81,000 mt per year from 1975-89.

  • Greening Income Support and Supporting Green

    EB-1, March 14, 2006

    A multitude of design decisions influence the performance of voluntary conservation programs. This Economic Brief is one of a set of five exploring the implications of decisions policymakers and program managers must make about who is eligible to receive payments, how much can be received, for what action, and the means by which applicants are selected. In particular, this Brief focuses on potential tradeoffs in combining income support and environmental objectives in a single program.

  • Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook: January 2006

    SSSM-245, January 31, 2006

    The European Union's (EU-25) sugar program has been scheduled for reform every five years for the last 40 years. However, its success in making sugar one of the most profitable crops in many EU countries has succeeded in delaying reform proposals until recently.

  • Peanut Backgrounder

    OCS-05I01, October 26, 2005

    Like producers of other agricultural commodities, U.S. peanut growers in recent years have confronted pressures from market forces and the impacts of policy developments, both domestic and international. Most notably, peanut policy was transformed in 2002 by the elimination of a decades-old marketing quota system. This policy step represented a fundamental change that was accompanied by substantial adjustments in the peanut sector. While demand growth has since been robust, greater supplies and lower prices are raising government expenditures on the peanut program. Federal budget pressures and the implications of trade agreements are important current issues. This report is the first of a series of background reports on key U.S. commodities, which will provide a concise overview of important developments in major sectors of the agricultural economy.

  • Economic Analysis of Base Acre and Payment Yield Designations Under the 2002 U.S. Farm Act

    ERR-12, September 19, 2005

    The 2002 Farm Act provided farmland owners the opportunity to update commodity program base acres and payment yields used for calculating selected program benefits. Findings in this report suggest that farmland owners responded to economic incentives in these decisions, selecting those options for designating base acres that resulted in the greatest expected flow of program payments. Farmland owners with high-payment base acres, such as rice and cotton, held on to these base acres and, whenever possible, expanded them. Analogously, farmland owners with low-payment commodity base acres, such as oats and barley, switched to higher payment commodities whenever possible.

  • 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.

  • Farm Poverty Lowest in U.S. History

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2005

    Fifty years ago, half of all U.S. farm families were poor. Today, however, farm poverty is at its lowest level in the Nation's history due to the availability of remunerative off-farm employment coupled with onfarm gains in labor productivity.

  • Sweetener Consumption in the United States: Distribution by Demographic and Product Characteristics

    SSS-243-01, August 19, 2005

    U.S. consumption of sugars added to food items increased by 23 percent between 1985 and 1999. Although USDA data have documented the overall growth trend, not much has been inferred from USDA survey data. This article helps fill a gap by reporting findings for sweetener consumption by income and demographic characteristics. Among the conclusions: per capita sweetener consumption is highest in the Midwest and lowest in the Northeast and sweetener consumption tends to rise with increased income up to a certain level and then fall.

  • Why Hasn't Crop Insurance Eliminated Disaster Assistance?

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2005

    In 1995, 80 percent of eligible U.S. farm acreage was enrolled in crop insurance. Still, Congress has continued to pass ad hoc disaster assistance measures in reaction to drought and other adverse events. Since 2000, four such programs have been authorized, covering 6 crop years for a total cost of about $10 billion.

  • Data Feature

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2005

    U.S. agriculture underwent a tremendous transformation during the 20th century--the structure of farming and rural life barely today resembles that of the early 1900s. A comparison of data across the century reveals trends of increasing farm size, falling farm population, increasing specialization of farms, and the growing importance of new stakeholders.

  • The 20th Century Transformation of U.S. Agriculture and Farm Policy

    EIB-3, June 01, 2005

    The structure of farms, farm households, and the rural communities in which they exist has evolved markedly over the last century. Historical data on a range of farm structure variables-including the value of agricultural production, commodity specialization, farming-dependent counties, and off-farm work-offer a perspective on the long-term forces that have helped shape the structure of agriculture and rural life over the past century. These forces include productivity growth, the increasing importance of national and global markets, and the rising influence of consumers on agricultural production. Within this long-term context of structural change, a review of some key developments in farm policy considers the extent to which farm policy design has or has not kept pace with the continuing transformation of American agriculture.

  • China's New Farm Policies Have Modest Impact

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2005

    New farm policies introduced by the Chinese Government in 2004 are intended to address the country’s widening urban-rural income gap and boost grain production. So far, the changes have had limited impact.