Research on Farm Structure and Organization
ERS research provides detailed empirical analyses of specific issues related to the economics of farm structure and organization. The research generally makes extensive use of data from the Census of Agriculture and the Agricultural Resource Management Survey, and the findings are published in peer-reviewed ERS reports and professional journals. Examples of recent and ongoing research topics include the following, with links to relevant ERS reports.
The Organization of U.S. Agriculture
Recent ERS analyses have documented the long-standing shifts of agricultural production to larger family farms, and have identified the continuing role of small farms in U.S. agriculture. Other research analyzes the impact of changing Federal policies on farm organization and financial performance. See the following ERS reports:
- Financial Conditions in the U.S. Agricultural Sector: Historical Comparisons (EIB-211, October 2019) compares recent aggregate and farm-level measures of financial performance to historic levels to better understand the severity of the current downturn in the agricultural economy and to identify the types of farms that are under the greatest financial stress.
- Three Decades of Consolidation in U.S. Agriculture (EIB-189, March 2018);
- The Changing Organization and Well-Being of Midsize U.S. Farms, 1992-2014 (ERR-219, October 2016);
- Working the Land With 10 Acres: Small Acreage Farming in the United States (EIB-123, April 2014);
- Farm Size and the Organization of U.S. Crop Farming (ERR-152, August 2013);
- The Potential Impact of Tax Reform on Farm Businesses and Rural Households (EIB-107, February 2013);
- The Changing Organization of U.S. Farming (EIB-88, December 2011); and
- Small Farms in the United States: Persistence Under Pressure (EIB-63, February 2010).
Farm Policy and Farm Structure
Changing farm structure affects the distribution of benefits from farm programs, and the specific elements of farm program design can affect farm structure. Recent ERS research has analyzed how dairy policy has been redesigned in response to increased price risks and the changing structure of dairy farms. See the ERS reports for more information:
- An Overview of Beginning Farms and Farmers (EB-29, September 2019) provides an overview of beginning farms (those on which all operators have no more than 10 years of farming experience).
- Economic Returns to Farming for U.S. Farm Households (ERR-254, August 2018) provides a broad perspective on financial well-being of farm households, including the returns that farmers—as small business owners and landholders—receive from tax law and land ownership;
- The Evolving Distribution of Payments From Commodity, Conservation, and Federal Crop Insurance Programs (EIB-184, November 2017) shows how the shift of production to larger farms resulted in a shift of payments and indemnities to larger farms operated by higher-income households;
- Changing Structure, Financial Risks, and Government Policy for the U.S. Dairy Industry (ERR-205, March 2016) analyzed how dairy policy has been redesigned in response to increased price risks and the changing structure of dairy farms;
- Stricter Rules Prompt Livestock Producers to Choose Farm Size Just Below Regulatory Cutoff (Amber Waves, June 2012) viewed the impact of the design of regulatory programs on farm structure;
- Changing Farm Structure and the Distribution of Farm Payments and Federal Crop Insurance (EIB-91, February 2012) looked at the links between changing structure and the distribution of payments and indemnities; and
- Policy Reform in the Tobacco Industry: Producers Adapt to a Changing Market (EIB-77, May 2011) analyzed the impact of changes in commodity-specific programs on farm structure.
Consolidation in Livestock Production
Livestock production has shifted to much larger operations. Recent and ongoing ERS research documents those changes, and assesses the causal forces driving the shifts, for specific livestock commodities and for the sector as a whole. See the ERS reports:
- Consolidation in U.S. Dairy Farming (ERR-274, July, 2020);
- Technology, Organization, and Financial Performance in U.S. Broiler Production (EIB-126, June 2014);
- U.S. Hog Production From 1992 to 2009: Technology, Restructuring, and Productivity Growth (ERR-158, October 2013);
- The Diverse Structure and Organization of U.S. Beef Cow-Calf Farms (EIB-73, March 2011); and
- The Transformation of U.S. Livestock Agriculture: Scale, Efficiency, and Risks (EIB-43, January 2009).
ERS research also analyzes the economics of several public policy issues related to large-scale livestock operations, such as the economics of antibiotic use in livestock agriculture. See the ERS reports:
- Comparing Participation in Nutrient Trading by Livestock Operations to Crop Producers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed (ERR-216, September 2016);
- Economics of Antibiotic Use in U.S. Livestock Production (ERR-200, November 2015);
- Trends and Developments in Hog Manure Management: 1998-2009 (EIB-81, September 2011); and
- Climate Change Policy and the Adoption of Methane Digesters on Livestock Operations (ERR-111, February 2011).