title: Agricultural Outlook Summary
author: USDA Economic Research Service
document-date: 18 June 1993
almanac-area: ers s-and-o
June 18, 1993
Farm numbers more stable: The decline in farm numbers has leveled off
considerably since the radical changes in the 1950's and 1960's, when the U.S.
was losing over 100,000 farms annually. The trend toward fewer, larger farms
will continue, but at a slower pace. USDA's Economic Research Service
forecasts that farm numbers will likely decline by an average 15-20,000 per
year in the coming decade.
The aggregate statistics camouflage many of the changes taking place in
farming and in rural areas. The number of small farms, for example, and the
number of farms in the West, have actually grown during the last two decades.
Part-time farming has become a permanent and growing part of U.S. agriculture.
Off-farm income rather than farming has become the major source of household
income for most farm operators.
Environment & Resources
Methyl bromide ban: U.S. producers and importers are awaiting final word from
EPA on whether the most widely used soil fumigant and quarantine treatment for
imports--methyl bromide--will be phased out by the year 2000. USDA estimates
that U.S. producers and consumers would lose more than $1 billion annually if
agricultural uses of methyl bromide are banned. Production of some specialty
crops could decline and move to other countries, and consumers could face
reduced supplies and higher prices for many crops, especially tomatoes,
strawberries, and grapes.
Loss of methyl bromide as a soil fumigant would account for about $800
to $900 million of the annual economic cost, while loss as a quarantine
treatment would incur a cost of about $460 million. Effective substitutes for
use in soil fumigation and import quarantine are not readily available.
Irradiation, a potential alternative for quarantine purposes, has not been
approved for use in the U.S., and may face problems of consumer acceptance.
EC pollution curbs: Burgeoning efforts in individual EC countries to reduce
agricultural chemical use, improve water quality, and meet other environmental
goals, will likely be enhanced by reforms of the EC's Common Agricultural
Policy (CAP). During the mid-1980's, EC countries started dealing with the
pollution problems that have accompanied intensified agricultural production.
Declining rates of chemical use in recent years reflect the stricter
environmental codes being adopted, although chemical use per acre in EC
countries is still generally much higher than in the U.S.
Recent CAP reforms will advance environmental stewardship and decrease
the intensity of agricultural production by partially decoupling production
from price and income support, and by subsidizing specific environmental
protection programs. While current CAP reforms do not set environmental
protection as their main goal, many EC countries are adopting environmental
protection policies that are already in place in the U.S., and some that even
go beyond U.S. programs.
Salmonella costs: The Economic Research Service estimates that illnesses
caused by the two most frequent agents of foodborne disease--Salmonella and
Campylobacter--cost over $2 billion annually in medical expenses and lost
productivity. In the second of a series on food safety, Agricultural Outlook
focuses on poultry--the major single food associated with illness from
Salmonella--and on eggs.
Poultry and egg producers and processors are adopting new techniques to
reduce bacterial contamination, including improved feeds and equipment, and
are collaborating with government on research for new methods of bacterial
control. USDA has also undertaken more rigorous food safety and inspection
efforts, including mandatory testing of egg-type breeder flocks. The
department is currently finalizing a proposal for mandatory safety labeling on
poultry product packages.
Printed copies of Agricultural Outlook will be available in about 2 weeks.
For further information, call Cathy Greene or Robert Dismukes at (202) 219-
0313. The full text of the magazine also will be available electronically.
For details, call (202) 720-5505.
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