Publications

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  • The Use of Markets To Increase Private Investment in Environmental Stewardship

    ERR-64, September 02, 2008

    U.S. farmers and ranchers produce a wide variety of commodities for food, fuel, and fiber in response to market signals. Farms also contain significant amounts of natural resources that can provide a host of environmental services, including cleaner air and water, flood control, and improved wildlife habitat. Environmental services are often valued by society, but because they are a public good-that is, people can obtain them without paying for them-farmers and ranchers may not benefit financially from producing them. As a result, farmers and ranchers underprovide these services. This report explores the use of market mechanisms, such as emissions trading and eco-labels, to increase private investment in environmental stewardship. Such investments could complement or even replace public investments in traditional conservation programs. The report also defines roles for government in the creation and function of markets for environmental services.

  • Productivity Growth Drives Expanded Agricultural Production

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2008

    U.S. agriculture relies almost entirely on productivity growth, primarily from innovation and changes in technology, to raise output.

  • Rapid Growth in Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops Continues in U.S.

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2008

    New 2008 USDA data show that adoption by U.S. farmers of genetically engineered (GE) corn, cotton, and soybeans with herbicide tolerance and/or insect resistance (Bt) traits has been rapid over the 13-year period following commercial introduction.

  • Farm Operators Turn to Energy-Saving Practices

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2008

    ver the past 5 years, the price of fuels has risen sharply and remains high by historical standards. Driven by strong worldwide economic growth (especially in China and India) and other factors, the inflation-adjusted price per barrel of crude oil (refiner average acquisition cost) climbed 145 percent since 2002. Over the same period, the inflation-adjusted price of (wellhead) natural gas, a major ingredient in the production of fertilizer, rose 93 percent.

  • Agricultural Contracting Update, 2005

    EIB-35, April 01, 2008

    Over half of all transactions for U.S. farm products involved commodities bought and sold in open markets. But formal contractual arrangements cover a growing share of production.

  • Characteristics and Production Costs of U.S. Hog Farms, 2004

    EIB-32, December 27, 2007

    Once dominated by small, owner-operated crop-hog farms, hog ownership is increasingly concentrated. Traditional farrow-to-finish operations are being replaced by operations specializing in a single production phase.

  • On The Map

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2007

    The major greenhouse and nursery products are shrubs, flowers, sod, Christmas trees, and other agricultural products associated with the landscape industry. The principal determinants of where greenhouse and nursery products are grown are climate and local demand. In warmer climates, nursery products can be grown outside of greenhouses, reducing production costs. Strong local demand is important because the bulkiness and perishability of nursery products make them expensive to transport long distances. Hence, production tends to be concentrated across the southern tier of States and those with rapid population and suburban growth.

  • In The Long Run

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2007

    In terms of cash receipts, the U.S. greenhouse and nursery industry has experienced rapid growth in the last three decades at a rate more than four times that experienced by all agricultural commodities. These trends have been the result of the relocation of both businesses and residences to suburban settings and the concurrent explosive growth in population in the South and West. This combination has generated demand for attractive vegetation and expansive areas of lawn with sod as the preferred ground cover. The top-producing States have always been California and Florida over this time period, and other States in the top five have remained the same since about 1990 when Oregon passed Ohio to enter the group.

  • Effects of Reducing the Income Cap on Eligibility for Farm Program Payments

    EIB-27, September 04, 2007

    Could a single program support farm income and encourage environmentally sound farm practices? ERS looks at some hypothetical program scenarios.

  • Profits, Costs, and the Changing Structure of Dairy Farming

    ERR-47, September 04, 2007

    ERS examines economic factors in the dramatic decline in the number of dairy farms over the past 15 years and the increasing concentration in the industry.

  • Economic Returns to Public Agricultural Research

    EB-10, September 04, 2007

    Over the last several decades, the U.S. agricultural sector has sustained impressive productivity growth. The Nation's agricultural research system, including Federal-State public research as well as private-sector research, has been a key driver of this growth. Economic analysis finds strong and consistent evidence that investment in agricultural research has yielded high returns per dollar spent. These returns include benefits not only to the farm sector but also to the food industry and consumers in the form of more abundant commodities at lower prices.

  • Consumers Demanding Identity Preservation in U.S. Grain Markets

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2007

    Consumer demand for specific product traits has led to a growing number of specialty crops requiring either segregation or full-scale identity preservation (IP) to differentiate them from conventional commodities. These IP or differentiated crops include products with specific traits, like waxy corn, non-genetically engineered, organic, or pharmaceutical crops. These products typically incur higher costs than conventional due to costs of segregation and certification, higher risks, and the need for greater coordination between growers and handlers or processors.

  • Sources of Public Agricultural R&D Changing

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2007

    Explains the sources of funding for research and development at USDA, land grant universities and other state institutions.

  • Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: Family Farm Report, 2007 Edition

    EIB-24, June 01, 2007

    U.S. farms are diverse, ranging from small retirement and residential farms to enterprises with annual sales in the millions. Nevertheless, most U.S. farms-98 percent in 2004-are family farms. Even the largest farms tend to be family farms. Large-scale family farms and nonfamily farms account for 10 percent of U.S farms, but 75 percent of the value of production. In contrast, small family farms make up most of the U.S. farm count, produce a modest share of farm output, and receive substantial off-farm income. Many farm households have a large net worth, reflecting the land-intensive nature of farming.

  • In The Long Run

    Amber Waves, May 01, 2007

    Over the past 112 years, an average of 7 percent of U.S. agricultural land has experienced severe or extreme drought each year.

  • In The Long Run

    Amber Waves, May 01, 2007

    Energy intensity reflects the total amount of energy used in the production of output. Since 1973, farm output has grown 63 percent while energy consumption declined 26 percent. The decline in energy intensity is the result of improved machinery and equipment, enhanced energy efficiency, and changes in the commodities produced.

  • Feed Grains Backgrounder

    FDS-07C01, March 30, 2007

    The U.S. feed grain sector, largest of the major U.S. field crops, faces unprecedented demand conditions. The size and speed of the expanding use of corn by the ethanol industry is raising widespread issues throughout U.S. agriculture. Debate is ongoing over the use of grain for fuel instead of for food or feed and the adequacy of future grain supplies. Increased productivity (yield) and additional area from land planted to competing crops, land enrolled in conservation programs, or idled land is expected to provide an increased supply of feed grains. The outlook is for higher feed grain prices, in part, as a result of renewable energy policies and high energy prices, with feed grain prices rising above farm program support levels. During the ongoing farm policy debate, the U.S. feed grain sector faces uncertainty about the future level and type of government support.

  • 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.

  • Regional Environment and Agriculture Programming Model (REAP)

    TB-1916, March 30, 2007

    The Regional Environment and Agriculture Programming Model (REAP), facilitates scenario-or "what if"-analyses by showing how changes in technology, commodity supply or demand, or farm, resource, environmental, or trade policy could affect a host of performance indicators important to decisionmakers and stakeholders. This report describes its theoretical and modeling system specification and the data used by REAP, and serves as a user guide for setting up and running model simulations.

  • Off-Farm Income, Technology Adoption, and Farm Economic Performance

    ERR-36, February 01, 2007

    ERS examines the relationship between off-farm work, farmers' technology choices, and the economic performance of farms and farm households.