Impacts of Higher Energy Prices on Agriculture and Rural Economies

Agricultural production is sensitive to changes in energy prices, either through energy consumed directly or through energy-related inputs such as fertilizer. A number of factors can affect energy prices faced by U.S. farmers and ranchers, including develop- ments in the oil and natural gas markets, and energy taxes or subsidies. Climate change policies could also affect energy prices as a result of taxes on emissions, regulated emis- sion limits, or the institution of a market for emission reduction credits. Here we review the importance of energy in the agricultural sector and report the results of a case study on the economic implications for the farm sector of energy price increases that would arise from plausible, constructed greenhouse-gas-emission reduction scenarios. Higher energy-related production costs would generally lower agricultural output, raise prices of agricultural products, and reduce farm income, regardless of the reason for the energy price increase. Nonetheless, farm sector impacts were modest for the scenarios and time periods examined. We demonstrate the unique distribution of effects resulting from price (or cost) increases for different types of energy due to pricing their carbon content, as well as the relative use of energy in production of different agricultural commodities. Our analysis focuses on relatively short-term adjustments to higher energy- related costs and does not include potential financial benefits from seques- tering carbon or reduced climate change. Finally, we find that agricultural sector impacts on farming-dependent counties would not be substantial but would be potentially largest where education and employment levels are relatively low, while effects on rural communities due strictly to energy production adjustments would be concentrated in the few U.S. counties with significant employment in energy extraction industries.

Issue Date:
Aug 01 2011
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Economic Research Report Number 123

 Record created 2017-08-22, last modified 2020-10-28

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