Journal Issue:
Spring 2016 Agricultural Policy Review: Volume 2016, Issue 2

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Reducing Antibiotic Use in Animal Production Systems
( 2016-04-01) Jensen, Helen ; Center for Agricultural and Rural Development

Antimicrobial drugs are commonly used for animals raised in food production for treatment, control, and prevention of disease as well as growth promotion or increased feed efficiency in many production systems. A recent report from the USDA Economic Research Service (Sneeringer et al. 2015) indicates that the share of hogs, broilers, and beef cattle that have been raised without the use of antibiotics has increased, although a significant share of animals do receive antibiotics for growth promotion or disease prevention (e.g., 59 percent of finishing hogs in 2009 and 52 percent of broilers in 2011). Furthermore, many producers reported that they did not know about their use of antibiotics, particularly those producing under contract (based on data from the USDA Agricultural Resource Management Survey, Sneeringer et al. 2015). The advantages of using antimicrobials in production include prevention of mortality and morbidity especially for young animals (e.g., weaning pigs), reduced input costs (improved feed efficiency), and reduced variation in growth and final product. However, concerns have been raised that the extent of antibiotic use in animal production has the potential to promote the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens that can affect human health through exposure in food and the environment and limit the important and critical benefits of drugs used to treat and protect human health. Consumer groups and public health proponents have pushed for the food animal production industry to restrict antimicrobial use.

The Yield Response to Nitrogen: Subjective Belief Bias in Nitrogen Management
( 2016-04-01) Agarwal, Sandip ; Jacobs, Keri ; Weninger, Quinn ; Sawyer, John ; Center for Agricultural and Rural Development

Agricultural scientists and economists have long been interested in quantifying the optimal amount of nitrogen needed on an acre of corn. Notions of optimality are sometimes based on principles of cost and revenue, sometimes on yield targets, and other times on environmental concerns. Ask any producer, fertilizer retailer, or agronomist how much nitrogen a corn producer needs to apply and you will probably not be surprised to hear, repeatedly, “It depends.” Even if the optimal amount of nitrogen can be computed for a single yield, being right ex post hinges critically on weather and other factors. The nitrogen management decision is complicated because the yield response to nitrogen depends on a host of variables, most of which are uncertain when nitrogen is applied and beyond the control of the producer: rainfall amounts and timing, in-field nutrient availability, and growing conditions top the list.

Research Needs and Challenges in the Food, Energy and Water System: Findings from an NSF Funded Workshop
( 2016-04-01) Keiser, David ; Arritt, Raymond ; Calhoun, Gray ; Kling, Catherine ; Center for Agricultural and Rural Development

In October 2015, the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa hosted a two-day National Science Foundation-funded workshop exploring the challenges and pitfalls associated with integrating biophysical and economic models. The workshop brought together leading economists, statisticians, crop scientists, hydrologists, climate scientists, and other biophysical modelers, to identify and address the key scientific, engineering, and data challenges associated with understanding our food, energy, and water (FEW) system. Approximately 80 people attended the workshop with about half of them representing social scientists (primarily economists) and the rest from the physical and natural sciences. Economics and social sciences were intentionally emphasized so that the findings would be particularly relevant to research needs in those fields.

Crude Oil Prices and US Crop Exports: Exploring the Secondary Links between the Energy and Ag Markets
( 2016-04-01) Zhang, Wendong ; Hart, Chad ; Center for Agricultural and Rural Development

As the biofuel industry has developed, there has been a lot of discussion about the linkages between the energy and agricultural markets. The growth of the ethanol and biodiesel sectors bolstered the connection among the oil, gas, and crop markets. As crop-based biofuels compete in the energy market, crop prices are directly impacted not only by the relative standing of biofuels in the fuel hierarchy, but also by general shifts in energy supplies and demands. However, there is another distinct way energy markets can impact crop markets—many US international trade partners are reliant on the energy sector as a major source of income. Thus, energy market swings can translate into significant income movements for those countries, influencing their ability to purchase US agricultural products. In this article, we examine the robustness of treating a key energy commodity—crude oil—as an indicator for income for those oil-reliant countries and investigate how that affects their demand for US crop exports.