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Readings

The following collections of reports highlight ERS work on the structure and finance of U.S. family farms, agricultural contracting, and characteristics and production costs of producers of different commodities. This is a subset of ERS' broad research in the area meant to direct readers to reports in these more-narrowly defined topics. See also Research on Farm Structure and Organization.

Family Farm Reports

The Family Farm Report Series provides detailed information on how U.S. Farming is organized. Broad descriptions of farms based on U.S. averages can mask variation among different sizes and types of farms. Small family farms dominate the farm count and hold most assets. But large-scale family farms and nonfamily farms account for the bulk of farm production.  Averages, such as sales per farm, therefore can be misleading. Information on the different kinds of farms—and the farmers who operate them—is important for understanding the economic well-being of farm households and the impact of farm policy.

Agricultural Contracting Reports

Agricultural commodities are often sold through spot markets, but they can also be raised and sold under production or marketing contracts reached prior to harvest or an animal production cycle. This series of reports tracks the use of contracts through time and across commodities, assesses the reasons for use of contracts, and examines important contract features in specific applications.

Characteristics and Production Costs Reports

These reports examine how production costs vary among producers of different commodities. They include details on production practices and input use levels (i.e., the 'technology set'), as well as farm operator and structural characteristics that underlie the cost and return estimates. The reports also illustrate the degree to which costs vary for producers of different commodities and indicate possible reasons for the variation. Characteristics and production costs are examined for low- and high-cost producers of each commodity, and producers of varying size, region, and typology classification. The data in these reports were collected in commodity-specific versions of USDA's annual Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS). USDA conducts commodity-specific surveys as part of the ARMS process every 4-8 years on a rotating basis for each commodity, and uses these data to support annual commodity costs and returns estimates. Commodity costs and returns are estimated using the data from each survey and then updated between surveys to reflect changes in input costs and commodity prices and production. 

Last updated: Thursday, May 08, 2014

For more information contact: Robert Hoppe and Doris Newton

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