The Economic Research Service (ERS) research program on farm structure examines developments in the farm sector as a whole and for individual commodities, assesses their causes, and evaluates their impacts on productivity, financial performance, prices, and environmental outcomes. ERS research provides detailed empirical analyses of specific issues related to the economics of farm structure and organization, including the use of contracts. For examples of recent and ongoing research topics, see Research on Farm Structure and Organization.
ERS has three periodic report series related to farm structure:
- Family Farm Reports and Brochures. ERS researchers seek to identify and analyze the key factors affecting farm structure and prepare periodic reports on the changing structure and finances of the diverse types of U.S. farms. For the latest brochure in the series, see America's Diverse Family Farms: 2021 Edition (EIB-231, December 2021).
- Agricultural Contracting Updates. ERS tracks the use of marketing and production contracts in agriculture across time and commodities.
- Characteristics and Production Costs Reports. ERS researchers examine how production costs vary among producers of different commodities, as well as how farm operator and structural characteristics affect cost and returns estimates.
For a complete list and links to reports in these three series, see Readings.
Finally, ERS and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) jointly conduct the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), an annual survey that collects data on structural characteristics summarized for various classifications of farms—such as commodity specialization, sales class, and various farm typologies—to better understand the changing nature of farming. The Census of Agriculture, conducted by NASS, also provides information on the structure of agriculture that is used extensively by ERS for farm structure analyses, especially when tracking trends over long periods of time or when analyzing small groups.