Switching Costs in the US Seed Industry: Technology Adoption and Welfare Impact

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2022-12
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Luo, Jinjing
Perry, Edward D.
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Moschini, Giancarlo
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Center for Agricultural and Rural Development

The Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) conducts innovative public policy and economic research on agricultural, environmental, and food issues. CARD uniquely combines academic excellence with engagement and anticipatory thinking to inform and benefit society.

CARD researchers develop and apply economic theory, quantitative methods, and interdisciplinary approaches to create relevant knowledge. Communication efforts target state and federal policymakers; the research community; agricultural, food, and environmental groups; individual decision-makers; and international audiences.

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We evaluate the role of brand and technology switching costs in the US soybean seed industry using a unique dataset of actual seed purchases by about 28,000 farmers from 1996 to 2016. Using a random coefficients logit model of demand, we estimate brand and technology switching costs, characterize the distributions of buyers’ willingness to pay for seed brands and the glyphosate tolerance (GT) trait, and assess the implications of brand and technology switching costs for farmers’ welfare, technology adoption, firm profits, and firm market shares. We find that farmers are willing to pay large premiums for brand labels, and even larger premiums for the GT trait, although there is considerable heterogeneity in these values. Switching costs play an important role in the soybean seed industry. Eliminating these costs would significantly increase buyers’ welfare, reduce seed prices and firm profits, decrease adoption of the GT trait, and impact industry consolidation by expanding smaller firms’ market shares.
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