Volume 35, Issue 3, December 2010

By: Richards, Timothy J.; Ellsworth, Peter; Tronstad, Russell; Naranjo, Steve
Invasive insect species represent perhaps one of the most significant potential sources of economic risk to U.S. agricultural production. Private control of invasive insect species is likely to be insufficient due to negative externality and weaker-link public good problems. In this study, we compare a system of Pigouvian taxes with tradable permits for invasive species control. While the emissions control literature shows that taxes are preferred to permits under cost uncertainty, invasive-species control involves correlated cost and benefit uncertainty. Hence, we expect a quantity-based system to be preferred. Monte Carlo simulations of optimal steady-state outcomes confirm our expectations.
By: Paulson, Nicholas D.; Babcock, Bruce A.
The production literature has shown that inputs such as fertilizer can be defined as risk-increasing. However, farmers also consistently overapply nitrogen. A model of optimal input use under uncertainty is used to address this paradox. Using experimental data, a stochastic production relationship between yield and soil nitrate is estimated. Numerical results show that input uncertainty may cause farmers to overapply nitrogen. Survey data suggest that farmers are risk averse, but prefer small chances of high yields compared to small chances of crop failures when expected yields are equivalent. Furthermore, yield risk and yield variability are not equivalent.
By: Belasco, Eric J.; Schroeder, Ted C.; Goodwin, Barry K.
This study evaluates quality, production, and price risk within the context of overall profit variability in fed cattle production. The approach used offers a flexible way to estimate a large system of equations with more than three jointly related censored outcomes. Trade-offs between quality and yield grade levels and production measures, such as average daily gain and feeding efficiency, are evaluated. Simulation procedures are used to assess the impact of quality risk on overall profit variability. Results make an important contribution to existing research by explaining why price signals through grid quality grade premiums may not generate intended producer responses.
By: Chang, Jae Bong; Lusk, Jayson L.; Norwood, F. Bailey
This paper analyzes price differentials among conventional, cage-free, organic, and Omega-3 eggs using retail scanner data from two regional markets and the United States as a whole. Results reveal significant premiums attributable to cage-free (a 57% premium on average) and organic (an 85% premium on average). However, significant variation exists among geographic locations; price premiums for organic over conventional eggs in Dallas are almost twice as high as those in San Francisco. Estimates indicate that about 42% of the typically observed premium for cage-free eggs over conventional eggs (and 36% of the premium for organic eggs) can be attributed to egg color rather than differences in hens’ living conditions. Despite the large implicit price premiums for cage-free and organic, our data reveal that most shoppers are not willing to pay such high prices for cage-free and organic attributes.
By: Allender, William J.; Richards, Timothy J.
This study examines the consumer welfare impact of animal welfare legislation mandating cage-free egg production in California. We estimate California egg consumers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for cage-free eggs using household-level purchase data and compare the implied premium to higher production costs when calculating the potential change in consumer surplus. Our findings suggest that larger households and/or households with limited means are most likely to be affected. Furthermore, the implied welfare loss for consumers is approximately $106 million. Although consumers value cage-free eggs, higher production costs result in a net welfare loss to consumers. One implication of this finding is that a clear labeling practice may be a more efficient way to motivate animal welfare and non-cage systems.
By: Kivi, Paul A.; Shogren, Jason F.
Food consumption involves inherently risky decisions with uncertain probabilities. This study examines how second-order ambiguity, or uncertainty over probabilities, affects food safety decisions. We conduct a food safety survey wherein subjects face both unambiguous and ambiguous situations, each with the same expected value. Respondents show a preference for unambiguous situations and state a willingness to pay to avoid ambiguity
By: Bernard, John C.; Bernard, Daria J.
Auction experiments were used to investigate demand relationships and willingness to pay (WTP) for four versions of potatoes and sweet corn—conventional, organic, and two parts of organic: no pesticides and non-genetically modified (non-GM). Elasticities showed strong and asymmetric substitute relationships between organic and its parts. Combined premiums of the parts were not significantly different than the whole organic premium, suggesting WTP for the attributes are not additive. A two-stage heteroskedastic tobit model found significant WTP for each part dependent on demographics and beliefs about conventional versions. Results suggest segments for parts of organic could be established alongside the whole.
By: Devadoss, Stephen; Kuffel, Martin
The United States has used tax credits and mandates to promote ethanol production. To offset the tax credits received by imported ethanol, the United States instituted an import tariff. This study provides insights about the quantitative nature of a U.S. trade policy that would establish a free-market price for ethanol, given the U.S. ethanol mandate and tax credit. The theoretical results from a horizontally related ethanol-gasoline partial equilibrium model show that the United States should provide an import subsidy rather than impose a tariff. The empirical results quantify that this import subsidy is 9 cents, instead of a 57 cent import tariff, per gallon of ethanol.
By: Olynk, Nicole J.; Wolf, Christopher A.
As dairy farms grow and specialize in milking cows, raising replacement heifers is increasingly outsourced. Perhaps the largest challenge of outsourcing the heifer enterprise involves quality, measured as milk production potential, and the possibility for moral hazard due to hidden action on the part of the custom heifer grower. A principal-agent framework was used to elicit contract terms to provide incentives for the heifer grower to achieve desired growth rates, and enable the return of the heifer to the dairy farm on an accelerated time frame, without sacrificing quality. To mitigate incentive asymmetries, bonuses and deductions are proposed.
By: Johnecheck, Wendy A.; Wilde, Parke E.; Caswell, Julie A.
A two-country, comparative static partial equilibrium model is used to simulate the ex ante market and welfare outcomes of U.S. country-of-origin labeling for the U.S.-Mexico fresh tomato trade. In all scenarios where consumers show a relative preference for U.S. tomatoes, Mexican tomato exports decline and U.S. production increases. Mexican trade losses using low- to mid-range consumer preference assumptions are 14% to 32% of the value of Mexican tomato exports to the United States and 1% to 3% of the total value of agricultural produce exports, partially negating the market access gains of NAFTA. Consumer effects are small and sometimes negative. Producer impact is the big effect, with transfer from Mexican to U.S. tomato producers.
By: Wu, Jinzhuo; Sperow, Mark; Wang, Jingxin
A mixed-integer programming model is developed to assess the economic feasibility of siting a woody biomass-based ethanol facility in the central Appalachian hardwood region. The model maximizes the net present value (NPV) of a facility over its economic life. Model inputs include biomass availability, biomass handling system type, plant investment and capacity, transportation logistics, feedstock and product pricing, project financing, and taxes. Four alternative woody biomass handling systems, which include all processes from stand to plant, are considered. Eleven possible plant locations were identified based on site selection requirements. Results showed that the optimal plant location was in Buckhannon, West Virginia. The NPV of the plant with a demand of 2,000 dry tons of woody biomass per day varied from $68.11 million to $84.51 million among the systems over a 20-year plant life. Internal rate of return (IRR) of the facility averaged 18.67% for the base case scenario. Average ethanol production costs were approximately $2.02 to $2.08 per gallon. Production costs were most impacted by biomass availability, mill residue purchase price, plant investment and capacity, ethanol yield, and financing. Findings suggest that a woody biomass-based ethanol facility in central Appalachia could be economically feasible under certain operational scenarios.
By: Isengildina-Massa, Olga; Irwin, Scott H.; Good, Darrel L.
This study uses quantile regressions to estimate historical forecast error distributions for WASDE forecasts of corn, soybean, and wheat prices, and then compute confidence limits for the forecasts based on the empirical distributions. Quantile regressions with fit errors expressed as a function of forecast lead time are consistent with theoretical forecast variance expressions while avoiding assumptions of normality and optimality. Based on out-of-sample accuracy tests over 1995/96–2006/07, quantile regression methods produced intervals consistent with the target confidence level. Overall, this study demonstrates that empirical approaches may be used to construct accurate confidence intervals for WASDE corn, soybean, and wheat price forecasts.
By: Hoehn, John P.; Lupi, Frank; Kaplowitz, Michael D.
Stated choice experiments about ecosystem changes involve complex information. This study examines whether the format in which ecosystem information is presented to respondents affects stated choice outcomes. Our analysis develops a utility-maximizing model to describe respondent behavior. The model shows how alternative questionnaire formats alter respondents’ use of filtering heuristics and result in differences in preference estimates. Empirical results from a large-scale stated choice experiment confirm that different format presentations of the same information lead to different preference parameter estimates and error variances. A tabular format results in choice parameter estimates with statistically smaller variances than parameters estimated from data obtained with a text-based format. A text-based format also appears to induce greater use of decision heuristics than does a tabular format.