NC_old1034: Impact Analyses and Decision Strategies for Agricultural Research (NC1034)

(Multistate Research Project)

Status: Inactive/Terminating

NC_old1034: Impact Analyses and Decision Strategies for Agricultural Research (NC1034)

Duration: 10/01/2016 to 09/30/2021

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

Statement of Issues and Justification

What is the need for the project as indicated by stakeholders?

Stakeholders have an essential need: a better understanding of how agricultural research systems encourage the development and diffusion of new technologies to help farmers adapt in response to many changes in their decision-making environments. Understanding adaptation is a cross-cutting issue because of the diversity of changes farmers face.

Various initiatives at the state, regional, and national level have emphasized the importance of research, extension, and technology transfer in helping farmers adapt to substantive and diverse changes. Various stakeholder groups have called for research to address several changes that agricultural industries are facing. Issues include: (a) Drought, climate variability, and climate change (as stated in NIFA sub- goal 1.2: Advance the development and delivery of science for agricultural, forest, and range systems adapted to climate variability and to mitigate climate impacts; Western Governors’ Association initiatives on climate risk and water supplies); (b) Threats from evolving insect pests, weeds, and pathogens (National Academies of Sciences, National Summit on Strategies to Manage Herbicide Resistant Weeds, National Cotton Council, United Soybean Board, Herbicide Resistance Action Committee; state initiatives to address diseases (e.g. Pierce’s disease in California, citrus greening in Florida); (c) Demands by consumers and the food industry for new product quality characteristics (e.g. state initiatives to require GMO labeling, factors affecting consumer acceptance of biotechnology, producer group responses to food industry demands for sustainable production metrics; NIFA sub-goal 1.7: Ensure the development of human capital, communities, and a diverse workforce through research, education, extension and engagement programs in food and agricultural sciences to support a sustainable agriculture system); (d) Demands for new technologies and production practices that are productive, while conserving natural resources and protecting environmental amenities (NIFA sub-goal: Optimize the production of goods and services from working lands while protecting the Nation’s natural resource base and environment); (e) Demands for production of biofuels (NIFA sub-goal 1.4: Contribute to U.S. energy independence and enhance other agricultural systems through the development of regional systems for the sustainable production of optimal biomass); and (f) Changes in global agricultural markets and their implications for global food security and US exports (USDA Strategic Goal 3: Help America promote agricultural production and exports as America works to increase food security. NIFA sub-goal 1.1: Advance our Nation’s ability to achieve global food security and fight hunger).

While it may not be immediately obvious, these diverse challenges share many important features involving production, the environment, markets, and healthy food. One unifying factor is the recognition that agricultural research systems must play central roles in addressing these issues by developing and delivering the new technologies and practices. Stakeholders recognize that simply developing new technologies is not enough. One must also consider how economic incentives and public policies facilitate or hinder technology adoption. Thus, NC-1034 research pays particular attention to technology needs, developments, rates of return and the understanding of policies, economic incentives, and barriers to technology adoption Related research questions include: What types of technologies are needed to address emerging issues? How do new technologies fit farmer needs and adoption abilities? What are the economic consequences of technology diffusion (or lack thereof)? How can extension messaging be improved to increase adoption when appropriate? What special problems are encountered in agricultural technology transfer in developing countries?

The conceptual framework underlying NC-1034 does not naively take the availability of new technologies as given. While it is critical to assess current producer demand for new technologies, it is equally important to examine how socio-economic factors affect the supply of innovations and how evolving factors will change these demands. Thus, NC-1034 research explicitly examines how public and private research systems identify needs and make innovations available. Research systems are central topics of study. Of particular interest is how policies, regulations, and environmental factors affect the size and focus of investments in research and innovation, and the pace and direction of technological change. The project measures both the pace of technological change and its consequences for farm income and natural resource use. A critical issue is consumer acceptance of new technologies, such as biotechnologies. Increasingly, farmers are expected and required to take into account consumer attitudes toward their production practices, food industry production guidelines and product standards, and effects of voluntary and mandatory labeling requirements. This project will examine the direct effects of consumer perceptions and food industry attitudes toward farm and food technologies on agricultural producers and consumers as well as the incentives and disincentives they create for technology development and dissemination.

A second stakeholder-driven need is measurement of agricultural productivity growth and the contribution of agricultural research investment to that growth. Maintaining agricultural productivity growth is necessary to continue to feed the world’s growing population and at the same time help save increasingly scarce natural resources. Productivity is a measure of the amount of agricultural production obtained from a given amount of land, water, and other inputs. It also shows the amount of resources required to achieve a given amount of production. Productivity growth is a fundamental requirement in meeting demands for food, fiber, and biofuels without placing undue pressure on land, water, and environmental resources. Key policy questions are: (a) Is productivity growth slowing down and contributing to rising global food prices; (b) what environmental factors are altering rates of productivity growth; and (c) is productivity growth on pace to provide for future global food security?

Productivity measures agricultural outputs relative to inputs. Its inverse measures the quantity of natural resources and other inputs required to produce a given level of output. It is thus a crucial indicator of the natural resource requirements of agricultural production. This relates directly to the environmental impacts of agricultural production. Increasingly producer groups are being asked to document their resource “footprints” (e.g. carbon footprint, water footprint) to meet consumer and processor demands for more sustainable production practices.

This project does not take productivity growth as given, but is concerned with how public and private investments in agricultural R&D, along with other factors, contribute to that growth as well as other purposes. There are long time lags of many years from when research funding begins and new technologies are first available to farmers, and then the process of adoption takes time and adopted technologies may continue to be used for decades. For this reason changes in R&D investments have long-lasting effects on productivity and economic wellbeing. Increasingly agricultural R&D is carried out by the private sector. Data on private R&D activity is often proprietary. Considerable research and data collection is needed to measure the intensity of private sector innovation. This requires finding, creating, and collecting data and tracking changes in R&D spending, patenting and licensing, and biotechnology field tests. Tracking public and private innovation activity (combined with an empirical understanding of the links between innovation activity and productivity) is critical to assessing whether future productivity will be sufficient to meet global food security goals.

A third critical need is for systematic study of the process of agricultural research itself. The contributions of agricultural research depend on the amount of funding, but also on the sources and mechanisms of funding and the organization of the research process. Dramatic changes have been made to the organization and funding of agricultural research that pose challenges and present opportunities. The share of state agricultural experiment station (SAES) research funded by USDA has remained roughly constant. Yet, the share funded by state governments has declined, while the shares funded by the private sector and other federal agencies have increased. This has led to the recent development of multi-institute research partnerships between universities, federal labs, and private industries, particularly in the areas of biotechnology and biofuels R&D. The structure and performance of such collaborations merit serious research investigation to inform public policy debates about public-private research partnerships. In addition to domestic R&D systems, this project is concerned with the organization and efficacy of International technology transfer in agriculture. This includes the role of traditional sources of support and technology such as the World Bank, CGIAR, and USAID, as well as private foundations, notably the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

What is the importance of the work and what would be the consequences if it were not done?

Virtually all of the analyses of agricultural research conducted worldwide are based on methods developed by members of the NC-1034 group (or its predecessor committees). NC-1034 members have conducted pioneering work in (a) agricultural productivity measurement; (b) estimation of returns to agricultural research; (c) the determinants and effects of adoption of new agricultural technologies, particularly biotechnologies; (d) implications of changes in intellectual property rights for U.S. agriculture; (e) improved design of biotechnology regulations; (f) evaluation of research funding mechanisms and processes and (g) evaluation of the implications of environmental forces on agricultural productivity. Publications of group members have been widely cited in National Academy of Sciences studies of agricultural research and biotechnology and NC-1034 members regularly serve as committee members for National Academy reports.

If the group’s work were not done, some consequences include: (a) a lack of an objective knowledge base to inform public policy debates concerning biotechnology and other new agricultural technologies; (b) lack of an understanding and appreciation of the contributions to the broader society as a whole from agricultural research that benefits both consumers and producers; and (c) lack of understanding of barriers to the development and adoption of innovations that drive productivity growth and their consequences, and of the role of agricultural research in maintaining global food security and U.S. agricultural competitiveness while helping preserve natural resource stocks at home and abroad.

What is the technical feasibility of the research?

NC-1034 members have developed robust methods for evaluating agricultural research systems and technologies. The group’s record of accomplishment of significant publications speaks to the feasibility of such methods. For example, methods developed by this group for agricultural research evaluation and priority setting have been adopted by practitioners worldwide and has received the Publication of Enduring Quality Award from the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (Alston et al., 1995). Demands on agricultural research systems have expanded over time and so have the group’s research methods. Members have drawn on a variety of methods, as problems require. These include applications of agricultural economics, industrial organization, climate science, environmental valuation, rural sociology, human health and nutrition assessment, and energy economics.

What are the advantages for doing the work as a multi-state effort?

NC-1034 participants are either agricultural economists, resource economists or rural sociologists. Most are also part of multi-disciplinary and multi-state research teams addressing important issues in agricultural technology development, adoption, and impact assessment. As part of those multi-state or multi-disciplinary teams, NC-1034 participants take the lead in research problems associated with socio-economic causes and consequences of technological change. NC-1034 allows participants to share in developing the latest social science methods in evaluating returns to agricultural research and the socio-economic impacts of innovations. Further, NC-1034 allows participants to take these new evaluation methods back to their state and regional teams and apply them to local problems of interest. NC-1034 allows members to benefit indirectly from knowledge gained directly by other members from multi-disciplinary projects. For example, one NC-1034 member may gain valuable knowledge from working on a project with weed scientists or entomologists. Knowledge is thus shared so that social and agricultural scientists may work more effectively together.

Increasingly, agricultural research grants call for comprehensive evaluations of the socio-economic and environmental effects of new technologies and production practices. By continuing to develop cutting-edge evaluation methods, NC-1034 members are better able to leverage grant funding and, most significantly, to make major contributions to multi-state and multi- disciplinary projects.

Adoption of technologies and their impacts spill over across state and international boundaries. While there is a certain value of studying impacts of new technologies in their local contexts, there is also value in the ability to compare and contrast how new technologies affect agricultural producers in different areas. Federal agencies, private industry, environmental groups and commodity groups are interested in evaluations of technology and environmental implications for technology that can be scaled-up to commodity-wide or national scale impacts. Multistate collaborations facilitate comparative analyses. They also provide economies of scale for NC-1034 members. Such economies include (a) the ability to pool resources and share data; (b) avoiding redundancy in research activities; (c) increasing complementarity in research (e.g. one member may work on one aspect of a general problem, while another researcher works on another); (d) transfer of methods across research applications; and (e) cross pollination of ideas on environmental and other factors that influence the demand for and impact of technology. Members can also pool expertise in different production systems and environmental situations. For example, comprehensive evaluation of herbicide resistant crop varieties requires knowledge of corn, soybean, and cotton production systems in very different agronomic regions while climate change-related considerations requires interactions between people who understand the climate issue regionally and those who understand production systems. Pooling research expertise can help identify commonalities in new technologies as well as regional or crop-specific differences. Another advantage of multistate collaboration is that it can raise awareness of contributions in other fields of research and facilitated acquaintance with other potential research collaborators.

NC-1034 has a long and successful history of working with the USDA Economic Research Service. University NC-1034 participants have worked closely with ERS economists and indeed ERS economists are active participants of NC-1034. ERS has been instrumental in collecting and developing data to measure public and private agricultural R&D activity and agricultural productivity. NC-1034 has been an important forum to discuss research methods related to data development, productivity estimation, and technology assessment. Through these forums, state-of-the- art methods for productivity measurement have undergone peer discussions and review.

What would be the likely impacts will be from successfully continuing NC-1034’s work?

Future contributions will build on previous ones. These contributions will include: (a) a continued stream of high impact publications; (b) continued contributions to the knowledge base for agricultural research systems, environmental matters, and technologies as evidenced by contributions to National Academy of Sciences panels, EPA Science Advisory Panels, and responses to requests from other federal and state agencies; and (c) continued contributions to decision making in the area of biotechnology regulation.

Over the next five years, we also envision future research to include projects that:

  • Measure impacts of agricultural insurance on technology adoption and agricultural productivity.
  • Measure impacts of climate change and variability on technology effectiveness, adoption and cropping patterns in the US and developing countries
  • Document and analyze public and private agricultural R&D in China, its impact on trade, and technology spillovers to the rest of world.
  • Document and analyze the evolution of private-sector agricultural R&D in the US and its implications for public research priorities and availability of technology to farmers.
  • Evaluate the impact of new technologies such as CRIPR-CAS for modifying the DNA of plants and animals on the agricultural biotech industry and on farmers.
  • Measure effects of technological restrictions on agricultural production agreed to in international trade agreements. NC-1034 members are investigating effects that a proposed beta-agonist ban would have on the U.S. beef and grain industries.
  • Develop methods to increase the reliability of estimates of the welfare effects of technological change on agricultural producers and consumers. NC-1034 members are investigating how to improve traditional methods of measuring changes in producer welfare.
  • Develop state-level productivity indexes. Although national indexes continue to be updated by USDA, state-level measures has been discontinued. Updating state productivity measures will allow direct impacts to be assessed for the nature and amount of state-level public agricultural R&D investment, as well as spill-in effects from R&D investments from other state funding bodies.
  • Evaluate consequences of improved agricultural technologies for income growth, poverty reduction, and environmental improvement in the United States and other countries, especially developing countries.
  • Evaluate use of the latest extension messaging methods to expand adoption of improved agricultural technologies in the U.S. and developing countries.
  • Analyze the extent to which foreign aid to support agricultural research in developing countries results in productivity and income changes affecting demand for U.S. farm products.  



Related, Current and Previous Work

Review of CRIS data suggests there is very little duplication of NC-1034 research activities. NC-1034 research primarily applies two fields of science – economics and sociology – to the subject, research on research management (not research management per se). According to the CRIS database, there is only one multi-state project with a similar focus. This is NC_OLD1100: Enhancing Rural Development Technology Assessment and Adoption through Land Grant Partnerships. That project’s duration is: October 2010 to September 30, 2015. The project focuses on specific, new technologies and outputs have been primarily extension / outreach type reports and webinars. Given that that project includes investigators at Michigan State, Kansas State, and UC Davis, there may be the possibility of collaborative and complementary work with NC-1034 members.

NC-1034 participants have been highly productive, publishing more than 220 peer-reviewed journal articles in the first four years of the project. In addition they have made numerous contributions to edited volumes and government reports. They have also been active in several collaborative research and publishing efforts.

Two academic NC-1034 participants were lead coordinating authors of the report to the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) on an external review of how ERS develops and communicates agricultural productivity measures and to recommend improved methods. In addition, four other NC-1034 participants prepared written stakeholder recommendations published in the report, while two other NC-1034 members served as reviewers of earlier manuscript drafts. ERS economists responsible for ERS's productivity measurement program have been long-standing members of NC-1034 (this collaboration is discussed in more detail in the Methods section).

Multiple NC-1034 participants contributed to special issues of the journal AgBioForum: The Journal of Agribiotechnology Management and Economics. These include: (a) Volume 14, Number 3, Special Issue on Sustainability and the Bioeconomy; (b) Volume 17, Number 2, Special Issue in Honor of Jimmye Hillman (on non- tariff barriers and other constraints to biotechnology adoption). Many of the articles published here were first presented at the 2013 NC-1034 research symposium in Tucson, AZ; (c) Volume 18 (forthcoming), Special Issue on Impacts of the Bioeconomy on Agricultural Sustainability the Environment and Human Health.

NC-1034 members also contributed to: (a) four chapters to the edited volume Genetically Modified Food and Global Welfare (Carter, Moschini, and Sheldon), while one NC-1034 member was a co-editor; (b) four chapters to The Handbook on Agriculture, Biotechnology and Development (Smyth, Phillips, and Castle); (c) three chapters to the International workshop on socioeconomic impacts of genetically modified crops co-organized by JRC-IPTS and FAO Workshop proceedings (Lusser, et al.); (d) five chapters to Productivity Growth in Agriculture: An International Perspective (Fuglie, Wang, and Ball), while one NC-1034 member was a co- editor.

Five NC-1034 members are research fellows of the International Science & Technology Practice & Policy (InSTePP) program that brings together scholars at the University of Minnesota and elsewhere to engage in economic research on science and technology practice and policy, emphasizing the international implications.


  1. Measure trends, patterns, and sources of agricultural productivity growth.
  2. Estimate the net benefits of public and private investments in agricultural research and characterize the nature of those benefits to consumers, producers, and the environment.
  3. Analyze the adoption and diffusion of new agricultural technologies, assess agronomic, economic, and institutional barriers to adoption, and evaluate policies to overcome such barriers.
  4. Analyze decision strategies for funding, planning, managing, and evaluating agricultural research by public and private organizations.
  5. Analyze opportunities, risks, and net benefits from public-private sector linkages and technology transfer arrangements, including joint ventures, partnering, consortia, specialty research centers, start-up companies, and intellectual property arrangements.
  6. Examine possible future demands for technology as influenced by changes in population, climate and other environmental factors in addition to estimating the potential benefits of prospective technological developments.


Methods to Achieve Objective 1

Research will continue to refine measurement of agricultural productivity, which measures how much output one can obtain from a given quantity of inputs, or conversely, the resource requirements to generate a given quantity of output (USDA-ERS, UC-Davis, Arizona, and Wyoming). Measuring productivity accurately is a non-trivial issue, as one must determine how to measure changes in the quality of inputs. Developing input data for developing countries is especially challenging. Productivity measures may also account for positive and negative effects of production on the environment. The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) is responsible for constructing the agricultural productivity accounts for US agriculture. These accounts generate the official estimates of productivity in the U.S. farm sector. They include estimates of outputs, inputs, and total factor productivity (TFP), the preferred measure of innovation according to the Advisory Committee on Measuring Innovation in the 21st Century (Schramm et al. 2008). The Advisory Committee was established by the Secretary of Commerce to recommend ways to improve the measurement of innovation in the economy.

NC-1034 (and its predecessor projects) play a central role in developing, improving, and implementing methods to measure US agricultural productivity. ERS economists responsible for productivity measurement are NC-1034 participants, while NC-1034 academic participants have worked closely in collaboration with ERS on some aspects in addition to independently conducting pioneering work on productivity measurement. In 2014, ERS commissioned an external review committee to evaluate how ERS develops and communicates productivity measures and to recommend improved methods. Two academic NC-1034 participants were lead coordinating authors of the final review report, published in May 2015. In addition, four other NC-1034 participants prepared written stakeholder recommendations published in the report, while two other NC-1034 members served as reviewers of earlier manuscript drafts.

The report acknowledged "The USDA Economic Research Service has emerged as an acknowledged intellectual leader in construction and integration of national and state-level productivity accounts in agriculture. The national and state-level ERS productivity measures are widely referred to and used, and international sectoral comparisons rely on the ERS production accounts for foundation methodology in constructing agricultural productivity accounts in other countries." The report ( also made recommendations for advances and improvements in productivity measurement. These include improved measurement of inputs (land, labor, non-land capital, and intermediate inputs), outputs, quality adjustments, R&D measurement, state-level productivity measurements, and international productivity comparisons. Complementary and parallel research by NC-1034 members have continued to improve U.S. state-level and international estimates of agricultural productivity. Some of this research has culminated in a group of NC-1034 members receiving awards from the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, the Western Agricultural Economics Association, and the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society (Alston, et al., 2010). Over the life of the new project, NC-1034 participants will continue to collaborate with ERS economists to implement recommended improvements. Annual NC-1034 research symposia will provide an additional forum to share ideas and methods. An NC-1034 symposium contributed to the edited volume on agricultural productivity measurement edited by two NC-1034 members, with seven NC-1034 members serving as contributors to volume chapters (Ball and Norton, 2012).

In addition, NC-1034 participants will be engaged in developing updated measures of international and US state-level productivity. Another area of methods development will be accounting for environmental impacts and natural resource use in productivity accounts as well as evaluation of methods for estimating "water footprints", "carbon footprints", and other environmental indicators.

The loss of reliable farm labor data has been primarily responsible for discontinuing the widely used and important state-level U.S. agricultural productivity accounts. This is a great hindrance to high quality research on the economics of U.S. agriculture important for public and private decision making. USDA-ERS researchers will work on developing new approach and data sources to measure quality-adjusted state-level labor indices so that state productivity accounts can be restored

An ongoing concern is how fast U.S. and global agricultural productivity will continue to grow. Although economists are not in complete agreement, there is new and troubling evidence that agricultural productivity growth is slowing down. This leads to policy questions of what has accounted for this slowdown and what might be done to reverse it. A related question is how might climate change be contributing to this? Productivity growth has implications for U.S. agricultural exports, world commodity prices, and food security. Agricultural productivity growth accounts for a rising share of the increase in agricultural production, easing pressure on natural resources to supply the rising demand for food. New econometric methods will be combined with conventional and improved measures of agricultural inputs and outputs and the climate to improve assessments of productivity trends.

Ongoing research (USDA-ERS, Rutgers) will continue to examine agricultural research systems in China and to begin developing bilateral US-China agricultural productivity indices. These indices can be used to bridge the gap of total factor productivity estimates between developed countries and developing countries.

Methods to Achieve Objective 2

Econometric methods will be employed to estimate what factors account for differences across space and over time in public agricultural research funding and productivity growth (UC-Davis, Iowa State University, USDA-ERS, Rutgers). This includes differences across states within the United States as well as cross-country differences. Determinants of private R&D, patenting and field trials will also be estimated (UC-Berkeley, Montana State, UC-Davis). Data on public and private R&D effort will be compared with productivity data to estimate how changes in R&D activity has affected trends and patterns in agricultural productivity. Implications for food prices and food security will be assessed (Rutgers, UC-Davis, and USDA-ERS). Thus, research will examine the linkages from agricultural R&D investment, to productivity growth, and to food security. Returns to research will be evaluated using a broader set of metrics than just agricultural production. The influence on other outcomes such as nutrition, health, climate, and the environment will be measured and assessed.

Research being conducted at Virginia Tech, UC-Berkeley, Purdue, and Iowa State will examine trade-offs between food and biofuels production and will assess the role of agricultural R&D in enhancing capacity to produce both. Econometric methods will also be applied to estimate how investments in R&D affect natural resources and the environment. Research (USDA-ERS, Arizona, and Texas A&M) will examine the role of agricultural research and extension in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Methods to Achieve Objective 3

Research on the adoption and diffusion of new agricultural technologies will continue to be important. Ongoing work examines biotechnologies, integrated pest management (Arizona, Virginia Tech), energy crops and innovations in biofuels production (Iowa State, Purdue, UC-Berkeley, Virginia Tech), other renewable energy technologies (Rutgers, Arizona), soil and water conservation (Arizona, Texas A&M), and technological responses to plant diseases (Montana State, UC-Davis, Florida). Research will apply statistical methods to assess factors that encourage or discourage farm-level adoption of specific technologies. It will also apply econometric methods to measure the aggregate diffusion of technologies over space and time.

An area of concern raised by the National Research Council, various USDA agencies, and commodity groups is how crops with transgenic traits for insect and / or herbicide resistance may be deployed and managed sustainably. Adoption and diffusion models will be applied to identify critical barriers to adoption of resistance management practices (Iowa State, Arizona, Virginia Tech). NC-1034 members will be involved in developing extension messages to encourage such practices.

Ongoing research will also evaluate consumer acceptance of genetically modified foods (Iowa State, Cornell). Methods in experimental economics will be applied to estimate consumer response to new food products and food labeling regimes. The benefits and costs of alternative mandatory and voluntary labeling systems will be assessed to estimate economic impacts on different producer and consumer groups.

Barriers to governmental acceptance of biotechnologies, especially in developing countries will continue to be assessed (UC-Berkeley, Rutgers). Even when technologies face no government restrictions, resource-poor farmers may face other adoption barriers. Such barriers in both developed and developing countries (e.g. lack of credit, knowledge, extension services) will be measured and assessed.

Research will continue to assess the impacts of biotechnologies, beyond field trial data, looking at impacts under actual production conditions (UC-Davis, UC-Berkeley, Rutgers, and Arizona). Methods include econometric analysis and simulations in multi-market settings. This might include use of multi-commodity, multi-region trade models or computable general equilibrium (CGE) models. Such models have scope for examining horizontal and vertical linkages among different commodity markets.

The role of agricultural and energy R&D in biofuels production and the increasing linkages between energy and agricultural markets will continue to be explored (UC-Berkeley, Purdue, Texas A&M). Bio-energy is a potential source of future petroleum substitutes through bio-fuels, e.g., ethanol, bio-oils, and biomass from plants like switchgrass, and wind energy. Impacts of these new alternatives on farmers, the U.S. economy, and the environment, especially greenhouse gases, will be identified and measured. In addition renewable energy technologies in the West compete with agriculture for scarce water. Such energy, agricultural, and resource linkages will continue to be examined. Over the past decade, USDA-NASS has collected more survey data on on-farm energy production. Both regional and farm-level NASS survey data will be analyzed to examine the extent of on-farm energy generation as well as economic and policy factors that encourage it (Arizona, Rutgers). 

Methods to Achieve Objective 4

Applying economic principles of allocating scarce resources and dynamic planning under uncertainty can aid in research priority-setting and may increase the social benefits from public funds allocated to research (Iowa State, Wisconsin). Principles of priority setting will be advanced, information management systems developed to support the system, and a document will be written to assist experiment stations and other institutions in setting priorities (Iowa State, UC-Davis). Applicable economic methods will be developed and decision support tools will be developed and applied to evaluate economic impacts of alternative research projects. The costs and benefits of alternative institutional, transfer, and operating arrangements will be examined (UC-Berkeley, Rutgers, UC-Davis, Virginia Tech, Florida): (a) for land-grant universities and USDA agencies (b) for the CGIAR system and the national agricultural research systems of developing countries, and (c) for private sector companies.

State Agricultural Experiment Stations and USDA research agencies were endowed with public federal and state funds to undertake research for the public interest. New funding mechanisms challenge the traditional rationale for public-sector financing of certain types of agricultural research, may crowd-out or complement traditional funding sources, and hence may result in an increase or decrease in total resources for agricultural research in the long run. Economic research in this area will assess these important agricultural research policy issues through new conceptual models and empirical analyses (UC-Davis, Iowa State). The establishment of the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) represents a dramatic institutional change whose effects on what research is undertaken, and how, will be examined. Applications of game theory and mechanism design will be used to develop hypotheses about how new institutional structures affect university researcher incentives (Iowa State, Purdue). Potential for innovative funding mechanisms, such as research prizes, will be examined. 

Methods to Achieve Objective 5

Changes in public research have impacts on private R&D just as changes in private R&D have impacts on public research. Both static and dynamic models of these relationships will be developed and tested, including the application of game theory (UC-Berkeley, Purdue). New research will quantify the impacts of public research on aggregate private R&D, and examine the potential complementary or substitute relationships between these major sources of R&D (UC-Berkeley, Iowa State University). New research policy recommendations will be developed. Specific projects include analysis of: industry technology pricing strategies, patenting of biotechnologies and university-industry research relationships.

International comparisons of different institutions such as joint industry-government efforts undertaken by the Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) in Australia will be examined to see what lessons might be drawn to improve total agricultural R&D funding and its outcomes (UC-Davis, Florida, Virginia Tech, Rutgers). Other institutions may include end-point royalty schemes to pay for the research embodied in new crop varieties. While intellectual property protection is vital for generating private incentives for innovation, there are also benefits from allowing researchers access to information and technologies. Ongoing research will assess such trade-offs. Finally, much agricultural R&D is carried out by the private input suppliers. The pace of technological adoption and distribution of gains from private R&D depend on pricing structures in seed, agricultural chemical, and other input markets. Ongoing research will examine vertical coordination and pricing behavior in agricultural input industries.

Methods to achieve Objective 6

Econometric, simulation and other methods will be employed to estimate the influence of environmental factors on differences across space in time in agricultural productivity levels, variability and growth (Arizona, Texas A&M, Cornell, Iowa State, Rutgers, and USDA-ERS). This includes differences across states, crops and animal products within the United States as well as cross-country differences. In addition, economic appraisal of a continuation of current trends plus the influence of alternative adaptation and mitigation actions will be undertaken particularly related to climate change. This will involve methods development, application, and dissemination. Work will also be done on program design to facilitate private adoption and, where needed, public roles in adaptation and mitigation.

Measurement of Progress and Results


  • New data sets measuring quantities of agricultural inputs, outputs, and productivity
  • New data sets measuring public and private research investments, patenting and other inventive activity
  • Results from analysis of data to estimate factors determining inventive activity
  • Results from analysis of data to estimate the effect of agricultural R&D on productivity
  • Results from analysis of data to estimate economic returns to investments in agricultural R&D and extension
  • Published research will assess the economic and social impacts of new technologies, including biotechnology, bioenergy, information technologies, and natural resource conserving technologies.
  • Theoretical models will be developed to assess how institutional changes affect researcher incentives
  • Published research will assess the productivity, economic, environmental, and social impacts of drought, weather extremes and climate change, in addition to prospects and program design for adaptation and mitigation

Outcomes or Projected Impacts

  • Project participants will continue to contribute to projects and publications of The Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources (BANR). BANR is the major program unit of the National Research Council (NRC) responsible for organizing and overseeing studies on issues of agricultural production and related matters of natural resource development, including forestry, fisheries, wildlife, and land and water use. The goal of the NRC, organized by the National Academy of Sciences, is to further knowledge and advise the federal government on critical issues in science and technology. Project participants will continue to be directly involved in publications and to be sources of key cited references.
  • Outputs will be used to enhance knowledge and awareness among state agricultural experiment station directors, NIFA, and groups such as ESCOP and ECOP that influence the allocation of research and extension dollars of the impacts of changes in research and extension funding levels and funding mechanisms.
  • The project will provide analysts and program planners with improved methods to evaluate impacts of technological change and to conduct economic evaluations of alternative research policy options. Research administrators will be provided with improved methods to analyze data and information and to make recommendations to decision-makers.
  • Organizations furthering international agricultural research and technology transfer such as the CGIAR Consortium, the World Bank, USDA, and the U.S. Agency for International Development will use research findings and research evaluation methods developed by project participants.
  • Information will be created for the global community of research returns and the influences of climate change on productivity as an input to climate related decisions with materials fed into US assessments and UNFCCC/IPCC assessments.


(2016):1. Contributions to Special Issue of AgBioForum on the Impacts of the Bioeconomy on Agricultural Sustainability, the Environment and Human Health. 2. A full day pre-conference workshop on “Financing Innovation for the Bioeconomy” at the annual meeting of the International Consortium for Bioeconomy Research emphasizing the role for public-private partnerships, at the ICABR 20th annual conference in June 2016. A related agenda, with many of the same participants will be covered at two invited sessions at the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association annual conference. 3. Edited volume with contributions by NC-1034 participants, "Pests, Germs, and Seeds: The Economics of Policies, Programs, and Technologies for Managing Agricultural Pests and Diseases. 4. Organization of annual research symposium, Tucson AZ, February 26-27. 5. Organization and participation of sessions of the International Consortium for Bioeconomy Research. 6. Organization and participation in sessions of the Berkeley Bioeconomy Conference.

(2017):1. Organization of annual research symposium. 2. Organization and participation of sessions of the International Consortium for Bioeconomy Research. 3. Organization and participation in sessions of the Berkeley Bioeconomy Conference.

(2018):1.. Organization of annual research symposium. 2. Organization and participation of sessions of the International Consortium for Bioeconomy Research. 3. Organization and participation in sessions of the Berkeley Bioeconomy Conference.

(2019):1. Organization of annual research symposium. 2. Organization and participation of sessions of the International Consortium for Bioeconomy Research. 3. Organization and participation in sessions of the Berkeley Bioeconomy Conference.

(2020):1. Organization of annual research symposium. 2. Organization and participation of sessions of the International Consortium for Bioeconomy Research. 3. Organization and participation in sessions of the Berkeley Bioeconomy Conference.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Outreach Plan

This project places a premium on communicating and disseminating research results to Experiment Station Directors, Deans of Colleges of Agriculture, national research administrators, and national policymakers and research directors responsible for justifying and allocating agricultural research resources.

Results of the project will be integrated into Cooperative Extension in a number of ways. First, participants are conducting research projects measuring the economic returns to specific Cooperative Extension programs. These include extension programs for water conservation, energy conservation, rangeland management, seed potato certification, and integrated pest management. The value of extension programs will be communicated to state legislators and other decision makers through Cooperative Extension publications, testimony, briefings and press releases. Ongoing project research has also estimated the contribution of extension funding on state-level productivity growth.

Another key means of outreach is publication of research results in more accessible outreach publications. For example, project participants frequently publish project findings in the magazine Choices, the principal outreach vehicle of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association. Participants from the University of Arizona and Iowa State University will be organizing and contributing to a special issue of Choices devoted to herbicide resistant weed management scheduled for 2017. Participants have also coordinated publications in special issues of the online journal AgBioForum, which is “committed to providing a space where academics, private and public sector analysts, and decision makers can present timely scientific evidence to enrich the ongoing public debate regarding the economic and social impacts of agricultural biotechnology.” AgBioForum is financed by the Illinois Missouri Biotechnology Alliance. IMBA is supported by a Congressional Special Grant to provide funding for University biotechnology research. These special issues publish brief, accessible reports of research findings relatively quickly, facilitating broad dissemination to policy audiences. Research findings have been and will continue to be published in a variety of outreach publications of land grant universities (LGUs). These include including the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development’s Iowa Ag Review, UC-Davis Agricultural Issues Center Briefs, and California Agriculture.

Participants are asked to provide background assessments and materials based on project experience and research findings to various federal agencies. For example the U.S. Department of Justice periodically contacts participants for background information concerning the potential impact of mergers of agricultural input – biotechnology companies (e.g. DuPont-Dow, Bayer-Monsanto) merger on agricultural innovation. It is expected that participants will continue providing background materials and assessments as requested in support of these evaluation efforts. Participants also regularly provide talking points based on project to LGU deans and experiment station directors in support of their testimony before Congressional agricultural and natural resource committees. Project findings have been cited in Congressional Research Service reports to Congress and project members regularly provide direct testimony before state and federal legislative bodies.

Project participants at universities and USDA’s Economic Research Service conduct critical research and data development for agricultural productivity, research impact, and technology assessments. There is an active exchange of information, data and expertise between ERS economists and other NC-1034 members, beneficial to both. ERS forums, publications and briefings are a critical means of bringing NC-1034 research findings to the attention of policymakers in timely and accessible formats. Indeed, on the main USDA website under the heading “Agricultural Research and Productivity” the first web link is to an ERS publication that extensively cites NC-1034 research. Close collaboration with ERS economists will continue throughout the next phase of the project. Participants also work with commodity groups such as Cotton Incorporated and United Soybean Board to develop outreach materials based on project research. Examples include providing supporting research and developing infographics about the economic benefits of herbicide resistance management, water conservation, and integrated pest management. Participants are also regular speakers at workshops organized by the Farm Foundation and contribute to the Foundation’s Issue Reports on topics such as returns to public investment in research and extension, university-industry relations in biotechnology research, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Participants also engage in significant outreach providing project-related socio-economic perspectives to issues of science and technology policy. For example, participants have frequently participated in National Academy of Science studies related to agricultural technologies. In the most recent National Academies Press report, Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects (2016), more than 25 publications of participants (directly related to this project) are cited. Participants also have served as reviewers on other federal scientific reports by USDA, EPA, and DOE on climate change adaptation. Participants have also regularly served, and will continue to serve as authors and reviews on reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Congressionally-mandated National Climate Assessment.

To keep up with new developments in social media, participants are increasingly making project findings accessible via university press releases and websites, development of infographics (often in collaboration with industry groups), guest articles in farm organization newsletters, blogs and Cooperative Extension webinars.


The project will be organized as a Multi-state Research Project consistent with the specifications for membership and organization given in the Guidelines for Multi-state Research Activities. The project technical committee shall consist of one vote from each cooperating agency as appointed or otherwise designated by each respective organization, an administrative advisor appointed by the Association of North Central Experiment Station Directors and a representative of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). 

The executive committee for NC-1034 shall consist of a chairman and secretary, elected by the technical committee. Members of the executive committee will be elected annually and may succeed themselves. This committee will have the major responsibility for coordinating annual research symposia contributing to the Multi-state Research Project.

The chairman of the project technical committee will prepare the annual report, summarized from material supplies to him by the project committee member from each participating agency. The chairman will send two copies of the final draft of the annual report with original signature of recommendation and an approval block for signature to the Administrative Advisor. The Administrative Advisor will make the appropriate distribution.

Meetings will be held at least once a year at time and place mutually agreed upon by the technical committee with the approval of the administrative advisor. The secretary will have responsibility to record the minutes of the annual meeting. The secretary will be responsible for distribution of approved minutes to members of the technical committee. The Administrative Advisor will send approved copies to NIFA and Directors of participating SAES and other agencies. A research symposium, drawing on the work of individuals inside and outside the project, will normally be held in conjunction with the annual meeting.

Literature Cited

Alston, J. M., Andersen, M. A., James, J. S., & Pardey, P. G. (eds.) (2010). Persistence pays: US agricultural productivity growth and the benefits from public R&D spending (Vol. 34). Springer Science & Business Media.

Alston, J. M., Norton, G. W., & Pardey, P. G. (1995). Science under scarcity: principles and practice for agricultural research evaluation and priority setting. Cornell University Press.

Ball, V.E. and G. Norton. 2012. Agricultural Productivity: Measurement and Sources of Growth Springer Science & Business Media.

Carter, C. A., Moschini, G., & Sheldon, I. M. (eds.). (2011). Genetically modified food and global welfare (Vol. 10). Emerald Group Publishing.
Fuglie, K. O., Wang, S. L., & Ball, V. E. (eds.) 2012. Productivity growth in agriculture: an international perspective. Cambridge, MA: CABI.

Lusser, M., T. Raney, P. Tillie, K. Dillen, and E. Rodriguez Cerezo (Eds.) International workshop on socioeconomic impacts of genetically modified crops co-organised by JRC-IPTS and FAO Workshop proceedings. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union and Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Schramm, C., and 14 others. 2008. Innovation Measurement: Tracking the State of Innovation in the American Economy. A Report to the Secretary of Commerce by the Advisory Committee on Measuring Innovation in the 21st Century Economy.

Shumway, C. Richard, Barbara M. Fraumeni, Lilyan E. Fulginiti, Jon D.
Samuels, and Spiro E. Stefanou. 2015. Measurement of U.S. Agricultural Productivity: A 2014 Review of Current Statistics and Proposals for Change. Report of the Review Committee for USDA Productivity Accounts, Working Paper Series WP 2015-12, School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University, May 2015.

Smyth, S. J., Phillips, P. W., & Castle, D. (Eds.). 2014. Handbook on agriculture, biotechnology and development. Edward Elgar Publishing.


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

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