Develop Crop Rotational Budgets For Three Cropping Systems in the Northeast
The Northeastern United States is the most highly urbanized region in the nation. Public concern for both environmental quality and maintenance of a dependable supply of high-quality food presents a challenge for the agriculture of the region. This challenge requires that farming systems be developed and implemented that successfully combine environmentally responsible production methods and management of resources in a manner that enables Northeastern farmers to successfully compete in regional, national, and international markets. Long-run profitability is the ultimate determinant of sustainability.
To test the profitability and productivity of alternative systems the project developed enterprise budgets for a set of crop and livestock enterprises under three defined resource management systems. Eighty-one enterprise budgets for "conventional," "reduced input," and "organic" production systems were developed. An interactive web site hosts these budgets and related information. Results of this study will also be published through the Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service by September 1998.
1.To develop enterprise budgets for conventional, reduced input, and organic production systems for the Northeast.
2.To input the enterprise budgets developed into a computerized database so that information on identifying and selecting sustainable practices can be provided.
3.To provide training to field educators that prepares them to assist farmers in selecting alternative sustainable production systems appropriate to individual farm situations.
4.To inform farmers about the relative environmental impact and profitability of alternative systems by providing a selection enterprise budgets for various cropping systems.
This study developed a database providing an analytical framework for "whole farm" assessment of alternative production practices. Production practices included in the analysis were: "Conventional" — primary reliance upon conventional tillage, commercial fertilizers, and pesticides; "Reduced Input" — reliance on minimum tillage, nutrient balancing, and integrated pest management; and "Organic" — use of no-till and cover cropping to minimize erosion, reduction of pest populations through rotation and use of manures and natural fertilizers, and biological methods of pest control.
The database demonstrates production practices, inputs, and crop enterprises that reduce costs, increase net farm incomes, lessen adverse impacts upon the environment and human health, and increase competitiveness. Hence, producers and agricultural consultants can use it to make decisions about cost containment measures, alternative enterprises, resource use and allocation, and optimal crop mix. By being able to directly relate personal performance to those of the typical grower of the same commodity or other value added crops, farmers can plan more effectively.
The database also provides cost and return information valuable to people making key policy decisions about alternative agricultural enterprises. It also can help enhance understanding of the effects of policy changes on production structure and farm performance, and to evaluate the distribution of agricultural costs, revenues and profits by commodity and region.
A World Wide Web site (http://aesop.rutgers.edu/~farmmgmt/) was developed to share the enterprise budgets. Other items on this web site are an interactive budget form that any farmer can use to input data and calculate net returns, and links to other web sites containing information on sustainable agriculture, organic farming, enterprise budgets, and other relevant topics. Project results will be published in 1998, through the Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service.
We first developed typical budgets of crops and livestock that are of high economic significance in the region. Each budget was constructed within a specific context of assumed farm conditions typical for the crop in the region. These conditions include size of enterprise (acres, number of animals, etc.), slope, soil conditions, fertility, conservation practices, and equipment/technology complement. The budgets are intended to be used as guides to help producers develop costs of production for their particular operation and to make comparisons in producing the crop under conventional, reduced input, or organic systems.
Each of the budgets incorporated a representative set of production practices, on-farm and purchased inputs, equipment technologies, and farm-gate marketing requirements. In all, 81 budgets (37 conventional, 24 integrated crop management, and 20 organic) were developed representing 23 crop and seven livestock enterprises.
Several cooperating farmers and Cooperative Extension integrated crop management specialists and organic working groups provided second-stage evaluations. Typical budgets were adjusted to reflect actual on-farm costs.
Field educators organized and presented similar workshop activities in their home states. At the workshops, farmers learned how each cropping system affected net incomes, productivity, resource use efficiency, costs, and impacts on environmental and human health. Using data from their own farms, participants could then modify the budgets to reflect their own farm situations.
Reported December 1997.