Publications

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  • Environmental Effects of Agricultural Land-Use Change: The Role of Economics and Policy

    ERR-25, August 31, 2006

    This report examines evidence on the relationship between agricultural land-use changes, soil productivity, and indicators of environmental sensitivity. If cropland that shifts in and out of production is less productive and more environmentally sensitive than other cropland, policy-induced changes in land use could have production effects that are smaller-and environmental impacts that are greater-than anticipated. To illustrate this possibility, this report examines environmental outcomes stemming from land-use conversion caused by two agricultural programs that others have identified as potentially having important influences on land use and environmental quality: Federal crop insurance subsidies and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Nation's largest cropland retirement program.

  • Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 2006 Edition

    EIB-16, July 21, 2006

    These chapters describe trends in resources used in and affected by agricultural production, as well as the economic conditions and policies that influence agricultural resource use and its environmental impacts. Each of the 28 chapters provides a concise overview of a specific topic with links to sources of additional information. Chapters are available in HTML and pdf formats.

  • Environmental Credit Trading: Can Farming Benefit?

    Amber Waves, July 01, 2006

    Environmental credit trading is a market-based approach to complying with regulations with the potential to achieve pollution abatement goals at least cost to society. Agriculture can contribute to credit trading programs by generating pollution-reduction credits through the adoption of environmentally preferred practices and selling the credits to regulated firms.

  • Emphasis Shifts in U.S. Conservation Policy

    Amber Waves, July 01, 2006

    This article describes the policy shift in the 2002 Farm Bill toward increased funding of conservation policies, and shifting conservation priorities. The share of conservation funds allocated to working lands (land used for crop production or grazing) will increase, a modest increase in retirement programs will focus largely on wetland restoration, and the role of benefit-cost targeting in working land programs will be reduced, potentially reducing the cost-effectiveness of these programs.

  • Improving Air and Water Quality Can Be Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Amber Waves, July 01, 2006

    Agricultural production practices have generated a variety of substances that enter the atmosphere and have the potential of creating health and environmental problems. The air in some farming communities can be as impaired by pollutants such as ozone and particulates as air in urban areas. Two challenges for reducing air emissions from agriculture are potential inter-relationships with water quality, and a lack of information on farm-level emissions needed for effective regulation and management.

  • In The Long Run

    Amber Waves, July 01, 2006

    Today, about half of the original wetlands area in the 48 contiguous States has been converted to other uses, mostly agriculture, but urbanization and other uses now account for most wetland conversion.

  • Conservation Compliance May Reduce Soil Erosion

    Amber Waves, July 01, 2006

    With the 1985 Food Security Act, farmers are required to engage in conservation activities in order to receive government payments. This article focuses on the soil erosion impacts of 'conservation compliance', which requires producers to apply and maintain conservation systems on highly erodible (HEL) cropland that was already in crop production in 1985 or risk losing government farm price and income support. The article finds that following implementation of conservation compliance and other conservation policy changes, soil erosion on U.S. cropland fell significantly.

  • Hypoxia in the Gulf: Addressing Agriculture's Contribution

    Amber Waves, July 01, 2006

    The Northern Gulf of Mexico's hypoxic (oxygen-deficient) waters represent one of the Western Hemisphere's largest 'dead zones'--areas where lack of oxygen kills fish, crabs, and other marine life. Scientists believe that Gulf hypoxia is caused by nitrogen loads from the Mississippi River. Because two-thirds of the nitrogen in the Mississippi River comes from the use of fertilizer and manure on agricultural lands, reducing agricultural nitrogen is a major strategy for controlling the hypoxic zone. Nitrogen is reduced by either changes in the application of fertilizer on farms or by wetland restoration along rivers to filter out nitrogen before it reaches surface waters.

  • Indicators

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2006

    Farm, Rural, Natural Resources and Food and Fiber Sector Indicators section - April 2006

  • Major Uses of Land in the United States, 2002

    EIB-14, May 31, 2006

    This publication presents the results of the latest (2002) inventory of U.S. major land uses, drawing on data from the Census, public land management and conservation agencies, and other sources. The data are synthesized by State to calculate the use of several broad classes and subclasses of agricultural and nonagricultural land over time. The United States has a total land area of nearly 2.3 billion acres. Major uses in 2002 were forest-use land, 651 million acres (28.8 percent); grassland pasture and range land, 587 million acres (25.9 percent); cropland, 442 million acres (19.5 percent); special uses (primarily parks and wildlife areas), 297 million acres (13.1 percent); miscellaneous other uses, 228 million acres (10.1 percent); and urban land, 60 million acres (2.6 percent). National and regional trends in land use are discussed in comparison with earlier major land-use estimates.

  • Indicators

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2006

    Farm, Rural, Natural Resources and Food and Fiber Sector Indicators section - April 2006

  • Participant Bidding Enhances Cost Effectiveness

    EB-3, 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. The particular issue examined here is the potential benefits of allowing farmers to "bid" for the activity they will undertake and the level of payment they would receive for it.

  • Rewarding Farm Practices versus Environmental Performance

    EB-5, 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. The particular issue examined here is whether to pay for conservation practices or to link payments to environmental performance.

  • 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.

  • Contrasting Working-Land and Land Retirement Programs

    EB-4, 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 balancing land retirement with conservation on working lands.

  • Environmental Credit Trading: Can Farming Benefit?

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2006

    Environmental credit trading is a market-based approach to complying with regulations with the potential to achieve pollution abatement goals at least cost to society. Agriculture can contribute to credit trading programs by generating pollution-reduction credits through the adoption of environmentally preferred practices and selling the credits to regulated firms.

  • Indicators

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2006

    Farm, Rural, Natural Resources and Food and Fiber Sector Indicators section - February 2006

  • Research Areas

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2006

    Indicators: Markets and Trade, Diet and Health, Farms Firms and Households and Rural America - February 2006

  • Research Areas

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2005

    Indicators: Markets and Trade, Diet and Health, Resources and Environment and Rural America - November 2005

  • Improving Air and Water Quality Can Be Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2005

    Agricultural production practices have generated a variety of substances that enter the atmosphere and have the potential of creating health and environmental problems. Two challenges for reducing air emissions from agriculture are potential inter-relationships with water quality, and a lack of information on farm-level emissions needed for effective regulation and management.