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  • Author or Editor: Robin G. Brumfield x
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Since World War II, U.S. agriculture has reduced production costs by substituting petrochemicals for labor, often resulting in overuse of agricultural chemicals. Among the adverse results of chemical overuse are increases in certain pests, groundwater and surface water contamination, and surface water run-off. There is a growing perception that consumers bear the risk of pesticide use and farmers reap the profits. For farmers, the short-term risk of losing a crop that is already planted may take precedence over the long-term risks of such things as the pests developing resistance to pesticide, environmental damage, and applicator health risks. Alternative farming programs such as ICM and organic farming allow farmers to reconcile short-term risks and long-term benefits. Before farmers adopt an alternative system, they must be convinced that economic benefits from the alternative farming program surpass the costs incurred. Few studies have compared the cost of producing organic produce vs. using conventional production systems. One study found that net returns were slightly higher in ICM and organic systems that conventional ones. This is because of lower costs when using ICM systems and price premiums for organic crops. These results suggest that there may not be any trade-off between economic efficiency and environmentally friendly farming practices. If the society desires better environmental quality, it will be ready to pay premium price for the organic or ICM-grown vegetables. In a free-market system, farmers will use the market signals in the form of price, and they will produce accordingly.

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We surveyed 22 Australian nurseries in 1995 to: 1) develop a profile of Australian nurseries from a production, management, and profitability perspective; 2) compare the data to relevant U.S. benchmarks; and 3) identify trends and potential areas of improvement in the management of Australian nursery enterprises. The study confirmed that Australian nurseries incur high labor costs (38.8% of sales) that are comparable to United States nurseries, while costs of materials and supplies were lower than their U.S. counterparts. Overall, the costs of the surveyed nurseries appeared lower than their U.S. counterparts. Concerns of managers were directed towards recruiting and keeping labor and marketing rather than increasing capital investment to increase production efficiency. Capital expenditures tended to be funded from internal cash flows rather than external borrowings. Many of the nursery managers used relatively simple performance indicators and most business objectives were stated in general terms. Australian nurseries carried more diverse product ranges than the U.S. nurseries. Many of the nurseries adopted quite vigorous marketing strategies with a stronger emphasis on marketing than in those in the U.S. Concerns about the viability of the industry included oversupply, the growth in chain stores business, factors eroding the demand for nursery products and greater regulation.

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The greenhouse, nursery, and sod (GNS) sector in the United States accounted for $10 billion in gross sales or 5% of gross farm receipts, in 1998. Despite its significant economic contributions, the sector receives little attention from policymakers. Part of the problem lies in the absence of empirical economic analysis that addresses the impact of the sector on the U.S. economy. The absence of such analysis places the sector at a disadvantage when agricultural policies are designed to address agricultural imbalances, such as farm income problems, and hinders the ability of the sector to lobby for policies favorable to GNS producers. This study provides estimates of the economic impacts of the GNS sector on the U.S. economy and quantifies the linkages between the GNS sector and other economic sectors. The results show that the sector contributed over $26 billion and $17 billion in output and value added economic activity, respectively, and over 438,000 jobs.

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The aim of this study was to identify existing gender roles in greenhouse vegetable production in the Antalya Province of Turkey. For this purpose, we conducted face-to-face interviews with the owners of 50 vegetable-producing greenhouses to understand the dominant household structures, activity profiles, information sources, training needs, access to resources, control over resources, and intrahousehold income stream. Activity profiles reflected the hours per day men and women spent on specific greenhouse production and household tasks. We observed access to and control of production resources as well as intrahousehold income streams for the two genders. Compared with men, women had higher illiteracy rates and lower levels of education. They also had overall heavier workloads despite having similar workloads in the greenhouse (productive activities), the difference resulting from household (reproductive activities) which were carried out mainly by women. Women received most agricultural information from neighbors, while men obtained most information from chemical salespeople. Notably, men received some information from the agricultural extension service, but women did not. Women also had less access to and control over productive resources. Furthermore, the intrahousehold income streams in the selected households benefited men more than women. In this study, we compared differences among three independent demographic variables: the age of producers, the level of education of the producers, and years of experience farming against women’s ability to prepare the family budget, spend money without asking her spouse, purchase of agricultural inputs, and select which vegetables to produce. Statistically significant links were found between women’s age and ability to manage the family budget, education level and ability to make purchase decisions, and years of production experience and ability to select which vegetables to purchase. The results of this study provide evidence for an unequal social structure and show that efforts should be made to increase women’s access to and control of production resources, including information from the extension service.

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Tomatoes, cultivar `Mountain Pride', were evaluated for productivity, post-harvest qualities, and pest populations in three different production systems. These included a conventional, high chemical input system with prophylactic applications of pesticides and fertilizers; a reduced chemical input system that used pesticides only as needed; and a transitional organic system that followed the guidelines of the Organic Farmers Association of New Jersey. No significant differences were observed in either the high input or low input system despite a reduction in synthetic pesticide and fertilizer use. Organically produced tomatoes yielded significantly less than the other production systems in terms of total yields. Average fruit size was increased, however, along with the percentage of tomatoes with diameters larger than 7.7 cm. Differences in pest populations were noted between the plots.

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The ornamental horticulture industry relies on workers to do myriad tasks, such as pruning, applying fertilizers, scouting, spraying pesticides, planting, harvesting, packing, and weeding. As a result of the perishable nature of horticultural goods, a skilled and accessible labor supply is imperative for continued industry growth and stability. The decreasing number of workers, followed by increasing wage rates, could be alarming for the economic well-being of the ornamental horticulture industry, which has already experienced a downward trend in revenue and profits. Combining 2014 and 2019 National Green Industry Survey data, this study investigates factors affecting ornamental growers’ decisions on hiring H-2A workers. Growers’ decisions are largely affected by their home state’s enforcement of the 287(g) program and the observed industry employment and total wage payment. Growers are more likely to participate in an H-2A workers program if their home state implemented the restrictive 287(g) program. Increasing industry employment of domestic workers will discourage participation in the H-2A workers program, but increasing industry wage costs will encourage participation. In contrast, individual firm characteristics play different roles in program participation and the number of H-2A workers hiring decision. Increasing farm sales value by $1 million merely increases the probability of hiring by a 0.1% point, revealing that large growers are the major beneficiaries of the H-2A workers program. After the participation hurdle is overcome, the number of H-2A workers hired is affected minimally by these factors. Our results suggest that the current H-2A program imposes a potential hurdle to participate, thus benefiting large growers.

Open Access

Nursery production contributed $18.1 billion to the U.S. economy in 2002 and created nearly two million jobs. A U.S. Department of Agriculture multistate research committee on economics and marketing has conducted The National Nursery Survey four times at 5-year intervals (1988, 1993, 1998, and 2003) to help fill the void of publicly available information on production, marketing, and management for the nursery industry. In 2003, the committee conducted the National Nursery Survey using a standard sampling methodology targeting 15,588 total firms representing 44 states with 2,485 nurseries responding. The objective of this analysis was to provide a regional profile of the marketing practices of nursery producers. Regional differences were present in several areas of sales management, selling practices, pricing, and advertising. Generally, the coastal regions had a higher percentage of wholesale sales, whereas interior regions had a higher percentage of retail sales. Newsletters and yellow pages were the most important form of advertising in the Great Plains; trade journals were the most important method in the south central and southeast regions; and catalogs were the most important advertising method for all other regions. The percentage of sales to repeat customers varied from a low of 65.6% in the Great Plains to a high of 76.2% in the southeast. The Appalachian (26.9%) and southeast (26.8%) regions had the highest percentage of negotiated sales, whereas the northeast had the lowest. Although significant differences generally existed among regions in the percentage of sales spent on various transaction methods, nurseries in all regions used in-person, telephone, and mail order as their three most important sales transaction methods, except for the southeast where trade shows were the third most important method of sales transactions. Landscape professionals, rewholesalers, and single-location garden centers were the major market outlets in all regions. Respondents in all regions identified production, personnel, and marketing as limitations for expansion.

Free access

This study assessed the material and energy inputs required to produce a Petunia ×hybrida plant from initial propagation to delivery at a regional distribution center. Impacts were expressed in terms of their contribution to the carbon footprint or global warming potential (GWP) of a single finished plant in a ≈10-cm diameter container. Beyond this baseline assessment, the study investigated the secondary impacts (e.g., irrigation demand) associated with container type used. Life cycle assessment data were sourced from interviews, published literature, propriety data sources, direct metering at the greenhouse facility, and original findings from a series of university greenhouse experiments. Results show that a traditional plastic container accounts for ≈16% of overall CO2e emissions (0.544 kg) during petunia production. Although the container was a significant contributor to GWP, electrical consumption for supplemental lighting and irrigation during plug production proved to be the leading source of CO2e emissions (over 47%) in our model system. Differences in GWP when considering secondary impacts associated with the various biocontainers were minor, especially when compared with the other elements of production. Our results demonstrate that biocontainers could potentially be as or more sustainable than plastic pots once pot manufacturing and end-of-life data are considered. However, use of more efficient supplemental lighting sources may ultimately have the greatest impact on overall GWP for the production system assessed.

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Management of agricultural irrigation water is extremely important as fresh water resources are being depleted on a global scale. In anticipation of regulatory restrictions, several greenhouse and nursery operations in New Jersey have implemented systems that disinfect and recycle their irrigation water. This study compared the disinfection methods at two greenhouses and three container nurseries, focusing on the qualitative and quantitative benefits of using chlorine gas, ultraviolet light, ozone, and copper for water disinfection. The data were collected during on-site visits where the growers were interviewed on camera. A cost analysis was performed, but the most efficient disinfection technique could not be determined due to the variability between businesses and various unquantifiable benefits of proactive water management recycling, such as improved plant health, decreased fungicide and fertilizer use, a cleaner operation, reduced runoff, reduced pressure on aquifers, and increased customer satisfaction. The investment and maintenance costs per hectare and 1000 L were calculated, which can be useful reference tools for growers. The net present value (NPV) of each disinfection system was calculated to analyze the profitability of the investments. All three container nurseries had positive NPV values and profitable investments, which improved with cost sharing from the National Resource Conservation Service. This information will be useful in the future as growers throughout the state, and country, may be required to deal with the stricter regulation of their irrigation runoff.

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Greenhouse growers find themselves under increasing pressure to respond to consumer preferences to use environmentally sustainable practices and materials while maintaining profitable operations. These consumer preferences reflect a mounting awareness of the environmental issues, such as climate change and their associated social costs. Ideally, sustainable horticultural production accounts for both traditional economic considerations and such social costs, some of which can be explained through the calculation of global warming potential (GWP). An obvious candidate for a sustainable intervention is the traditional plastic pot, which growers can replace with alternative biocontainers with varying degrees of GWP. This study calculates the variability of direct costs of production using alternative containers to offer a comparison of social and economic costs. We evaluated these direct costs of producing petunia (Petunia ×hybrida) grown in pots made of traditional plastic, bioplastic, coir, manure, peat, bioplastic sleeve, slotted rice hull, solid rice hull, straw, wood fiber, and recycled reground plastic containers used in a previous assessment of GWP. Our analysis of the costs when using a traditional plastic pot showed that the highest contributors to GWP were different from the highest contributors to direct costs, revealing that the price does not reflect the environmental impact of several inputs. Electricity, the plastic shuttle tray, and the plastic pot contributed most to GWP, whereas labor, the plastic container, and paclobutrozol growth regulator contributed most to direct cost of production (COP). At 64% of total cost, labor was the most expensive input. Watering by hand added another $0.37–$0.54 per plant in labor. When we analyzed input costs of each alternative container separately, container type had the largest impact on total direct costs. Before adding container costs, the direct COP ranged from $0.56 to $0.61 per plant. After adding containers, costs ranged from $0.61 to $0.97 per plant. Wood fiber pots were the most expensive and recycled reground plastic pots were the least expensive in this study. Based on our assessment and the observed small variation in GWP between alternative containers, growers would benefit from selecting a container based on price and consumer demand. Some social costs that we are not aware of yet may be associated with some or all biocontainers.

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