Publications

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  • Tobacco Production Costs and Returns in 2004

    TBS-26001, August 04, 2006

    This study focuses on factors that led to changes in the estimated residual returns to management and risk from tobacco production in 2003-04. Residual returns per acre for flue-cured tobacco declined less than those for burley tobacco in 2004 because yield increases for flue-cured tobacco helped to offset increases in economic costs. Residual returns above economic costs were calculated using data from the last tobacco surveys, conducted in 1995 for burley tobacco and 1996 for flue-cured tobacco, and updated with 2004 data on prices, yields, marketing costs, and quota levels.

  • 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.

  • Cropland Use

    Amber Waves, July 01, 2006

    While Cropland Used for Crops Decreased by 8 Percent Nationally Between 1945 and 2002, Some Regions Exhibited Much Larger Percentage Changes.

  • 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.

  • Data Feature

    Amber Waves, July 01, 2006

    Since 1996, U.S. farmers have responded to a number of industry-altering changes, including lower crop prices, the availability of genetically engineered seed, and environmental incentives embodied in farm legislation. How have these shocks affected farming and conservation practices used by farmers? USDA's Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) provides a new source of information about production and conservation practices on sample fields in major field crop producing States.

  • Growing More With Less Cropland

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2006

    This finding describes the national trends in cropland acreage and agricultural productivity.

  • 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.

  • America's Diverse Family Farms: Structure and Finances

    EIB-13, May 15, 2006

    American farms vary widely in size and other characteristics, but farming is still an industry of family businesses. Ninety-eight percent of farms are family farms, and they account for 86 percent of farm production. Very small farms are growing in number, and small family farms continue to own most farmland. But production is shifting toward very large family farms. Because small-farm households receive most of their income from off-farm work, general economic policies-such as tax policy or economic development policy-can be as important to them as traditional farm policy.

  • Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: 2005 Family Farm Report

    EIB-12, May 15, 2006

    Most farms in the United States-98 percent in 2003-are family farms. They are organized as proprietorships, partnerships, or family corporations. Even the largest farms tend to be family farms. Very large family farms account for a small share of farms but a large-and growing-share of farm sales. Small family farms account for most farms but produce a modest share of farm output. Median income for farm households is 10 percent greater than the median for all U.S. households. Small-farm households also receive substantial off-farm income.

  • Agriculture and Rural Communities Are Resilient to High Energy Costs

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2006

    Higher energy costs have led agricultural producers to substitute more expensive fuels with less expensive fuels, shift to less energy-intensive crops, and employ energy-conserving production practices where possible. Energy price increases will have the biggest impact on farmers where energy represents a significant share of operating costs. Rural communities face somewhat different issues with increases in petroleum and natural gas costs. As the cost of producing goods and services rises, so will household costs for transportation and home heating. Because of higher transportation expenses, rural communities may see changes in settlement patterns, especially in more remote rural areas.

  • 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.

  • Use of Conservation-Compatible Practices Varies by Farm Type

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2006

    The decision to adopt environmentally friendly farming practices may be motivated by both monetary and non-monetary factors. Operators of small farms and those who derive most of their income from off-farm sources are less likely to adopt practices that require extra time, management skills, or expense than operators of larger operations.

  • Agricultural Contracting: Trading Autonomy for Risk Reduction

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2006

    Farm production is shifting from smaller to larger family farms and from spot (or cash) markets to contracts. Technological developments may underlie much of the shift to larger farms, but expanded use of production and marketing contracts supports that shift by reducing financial risks for farm operators. For farm operators, contracts provide benefits from reduced risks, but also result in loss of managerial control and reduced autonomy.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Crop Genetic Resources: An Economic Appraisal

    EIB-2, May 24, 2005

    Crop genetic resources are the basis of agricultural production. However, crop genetic resources are largely public goods, so private incentives for genetic resource conservation may fall short of achieving public objectives. Within the U.S. germplasm system, certain crop collections lack sufficient diversity to reduce vulnerability to pests and diseases. This report examines the role of genetic resources, genetic diversity, and efforts to value genetic resources.

  • Production Costs and Returns for Tobacco in 2003

    TBS-258-01, May 13, 2005

    Average net returns per acre were estimated to be negative for burley and flue-cured tobacco in 2003. Total economic costs for burley and flue-cured tobacco production likely rose in 2003 from 2002 due to higher costs for energy, labor, and quota rental rates. Cost estimates are computed using production data from the last tobacco surveys, conducted in 1995 for burley tobacco and 1996 for flue-cured tobacco, and 2003 data on prices, yields, marketing costs, and quota levels.