Volume 35, Issue 3, December 2010

December, 2010

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.

December, 2010

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.

December, 2010

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.

December, 2010

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.

December, 2010

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.