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Image: Farm Economy

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 (see, for example, 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 Changing Organization of U.S. Farming, EIB-88, December 2011; and Small Farms in the United States: Persistence Under Pressure, EIB-63, February 2010). Other research analyzes the impact of changing Federal policies on farm organization and financial performance (see The Potential Impact of Tax Reform on Farm Businesses and Rural Households, EIB-107, February 2013).

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 Changing Structure, Financial Risks, and Government Policy for the U.S. Dairy Industry, ERR-205, March 2016); the links between changing structure and the distribution of commodity and conservation payments (see Changing Farm Structure and the Distribution of Farm Payments and Federal Crop Insurance, EIB-91, February 2012), the impact of changes in commodity-specific programs on farm structure (see Policy Reform in the Tobacco Industry: Producers Adapt to a Changing Market, EIB-77, May 2011), and the impact of the design of regulatory programs on farm structure (see Stricter Rules Prompt Livestock Producers to Choose Farm Size Just Below Regulatory Cutoff, Amber Waves, June 2012).

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, for example 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 Transformation of U.S. Livestock Agriculture: Scale, Efficiency, and Risks, EIB-43, January 2009, and The Diverse Structure and Organization of Beef Cow-Farms, EIB-73, March 2011).

ERS research also analyzes the economics of several public policy issues related to large scale livestock operations (see, for example Trends and Developments in Hog Manure Management: 1998-2009, EIB-81, September 2011, or Climate Change Policy and the Adoption of Methane Digesters on Livestock Operations, ERR-111, February 2011). ERS has also analyzed the economics of antibiotic use in livestock agriculture (see Economics of Antibiotic Use in the U.S. Livestock Production, ERR-200, November 2015).

Last updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2016

For more information contact: Robert Hoppe and Doris Newton