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Off-farm labour and the structure of US agriculture: the case of corn/soybean farms

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While the growing importance of off-farm earnings suggests large benefits accrue to farmers from efforts to expand off-farm income opportunities, economic well being also depends on greater efficiency. To comprehensively gauge the economic health of farm operator households' off-farm income is interpreted as an output along with corn, soybeans, livestock and other crops. To accomplish this task two related methodologies were used. First, using 2000 data, a multi-activity cost function was set up to analyse labour allocation decisions within the farm operator household and also to estimate returns to scale and scope. Second, using 1996–2000 data, an input distance function approach was followed to estimate returns to scale, cost economies and technical efficiency – and the relative performance of farm operator households with and without off-farm wages and salaries compared. The cost function and input distance function results both suggest that off-farm outputs and inputs can be modelled in a multi-activity framework and involve significant economies of scope.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Resource Economics Division, Economic Research Service, USDA

Publication date: 2005-04-10

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