Putting Food on the Table: Agriculture and Regulation
Published March 2020
As part of a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture from 2018-19, the GW Regulatory Studies Center produced this four-chapter report analyzing the role of public comments on the rulemaking process.
Published November 2018
As part of a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture from 2017-18, the GW Regulatory Studies Center produced this four-chapter report detailing the findings of its research on the relationship between regulation and agricultural productivity.
Published September 2017
As part of a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture from 2015-16, the GW Regulatory Studies Center produced this five-chapter report on regulatory differences between the United States and the European Union and their effects on agricultural productivity.
- Full Report
Under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center produced this four-chapter report detailing the findings of its research that analyzes public comments to inform agency regulatory reform efforts. A group of faculty members and researchers affiliated with the GW Regulatory Studies Center contributed to the report, and subject matter experts at the USDA Office of the Chief Economist provided technical advice. This report does not represent an official position of the GW Regulatory Studies Center, the George Washington University, or USDA.
- Executive Summary
An introduction to the report, its findings, methodology, and ideas for future research.
- Chapter One: The Role of Public Participation in Retrospective Review of Regulations
This chapter provides an overview of retrospective review, its history in the United States, challenges in implementation, and how the public informs this important process.
- Chapter Two: Public Comments for Evaluation of Existing Regulations
This chapter provides consultations for evaluation of existing regulations, an overview of public comments, and further content analysis.
- Chapter Three: Identifying Regulations for Retrospective Review
This chapter identifies regulations based on public comments, provides characteristics of those regulations, and provides takeaways for agency use of public comments.
- Chapter Four: Do Comments Help Identify Regulations Inhibiting Productivity Growth?
This chapter presents the methodology used in the report, identifies regulations for crop production industries, shares empirical findings, and offers a conclusion.
- Full Report
Under a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture, the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center produced this four-chapter report detailing the findings of its research on the relationship between regulation and agricultural productivity. This report does not represent an official position of the GW Regulatory Studies Center, the George Washington University, or the United States Department of Agriculture.
By: Linda Abbott -- Director of the Office of Risk Assessment and Cost-Benefit Analysis Office of the Chief Economist, U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Executive Summary
This report attempts to shed light on the relationship between regulation and agricultural productivity through both theoretical discussion and empirical analysis. In particular, the report highlights the importance of considering different forms of regulation—defined by the particular policy mechanisms adopted—in examining the impact of regulation. The report consists of four chapters.
- Chapter One: Regulation & Economic Growth
Regulation & Economic Growth: Theoretical Foundations & Empirical Findings in Agriculture
This chapter begins by summarizing scholarship on the economic effects of regulation and then focuses on the literature linking regulation and productivity. Section III reviews available proxies for measuring regulation, their strengths and weaknesses, and section IV reviews studies that have focused on measuring the effect of regulation on agricultural productivity. Section IV explores why the policy instruments used to effectuate a regulation (i.e., the regulation’s form) may be a key determinant of its economic effects, and Section V concludes.
- Chapter Two: A Taxonomy of Regulatory Forms
A Taxonomy of Regulatory Forms
We propose a more robust method for measuring regulation—namely by supplementing existing measures with the policy instruments or “forms” that a regulation employs to achieve its intended policy outcomes. This taxonomy is the first comprehensive typology of regulation by form that can be applied to regulations across policy areas. We expect the taxonomy to be useful for practitioners as well as researchers to better understand the relationship between regulatory activity and public outcomes.
- Chapter Three: Unpacking the Forms of Regulation
Unpacking the Forms of Regulation Affecting Agricultural Industries
Application of the Taxonomy involves analyzing regulations to identify the specific mechanisms they employ to achieve intended outcomes. For example, introducing tolerance levels for pesticide residues is a form of performance standard intended to reduce human exposure to pesticides. We identified a set of regulations that were most relevant to agriculture, and used qualitative coding techniques to generate a dataset that classifies regulations according to form.
- Chapter Four: Does the Form of Regulation Matter?
In this chapter, we conduct empirical analysis to assess whether different forms of regulation have different effects on productivity growth. Using data from 25 agricultural industries for the period of 1971-2017, we examine the relationship between growth in regulation and growth in land productivity. In particular, we attempt to answer two questions: (1) What is the relationship between growth in agriculture-related regulation and growth in agricultural productivity? (2) Does the relationship vary depending on the form of regulation?
- Annex One: Alternatives to Regression
It is natural to wonder how robust our conclusions are to possible errors in model specification and, more generally, to model uncertainty. To find out, we applied a useful innovation from machine learning: an ensemble of several hundred non-parametric (classification and regression tree) models fit to the data, with the frequency distribution of predictions of yield growth over the entire population of models providing a quantitative indicator of the extent of model uncertainty.
- Annex Two: Code of Federal Regulations Parts
This annex lists the CFR parts we examined (as described in Chapters 3 and 4). We selected the sample first based on the industry relevance estimates in RegData and then refined it according to expert judgment from USDA.
- Dataset One: Industry-Year Data
Industry-Year Data Used for the Empirical Analysis
Downloadable Excel file containing the data used in "The Relationship between Regulatory Form & Productivity: An Empirical Application to Agriculture."
- Dataset Two: Sample of CFR Parts
Downloadable Excel file containing the "Parts in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Relevant to Crop and Animal Production Industries, 1970-2017"
- Full Report
As part of a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center produced a five-chapter report on regulatory differences between the United States (U.S.) and the European Union (EU) and their effects on agricultural productivity. Those chapters are published here as a working paper series with five parts.
- Chapter One: Agricultural Statistics
By: Susan E. Dudley, Lydia Holmes, Peter Linquiti, Brian Mannix, Daniel R. Pérez, Aryamala Prasad & Zhoudan Xie
This chapter provides an overview of key statistical comparisons between the agricultural sectors of the U.S. and the EU. Its purpose is to highlight key economic indicators, describe the role that agriculture plays in each economy, and highlight differences in each jurisdiction’s respective factor endowments and trade patterns. In addition, this chapter updates key statistics contained within the USDA Economic Research Service’s (ERS) 2004 report: U.S. – EU Food and Agricultural Comparison.
- Chapter Two: Agricultural Productivity and the Impact of Regulation
By: Aryamala Prasad & Zhoudan Xie
This chapter provides focuses on the impact of agricultural policy, specifically regulation, in influencing agricultural productivity across jurisdictions. It begins by tracing agricultural growth in the EU and U.S. to illustrate their respective trends for agricultural productivity. Then, drawing from the literature, it identifies measures and methodologies used to estimate the impact of regulation on productivity. Finally, it outlines important differences regarding how regulations can affect agricultural productivity and other measures of agricultural performance such as output and production costs in the EU and the U.S.
- Chapter Three: Transatlantic Approaches to Agriculture Policy
By: Susan E. Dudley, Lydia Holmes, Daniel R. Pérez, Aryamala Prasad & Zhoudan Xie
This chapter reviews the institutions and procedures governing regulatory development in the U.S. and EU, details several notable differences in their respective regulatory approaches towards agriculture, and then presents and compares relevant regulations affecting agricultural production in each jurisdiction. It first provides an overview of the U.S. and EU procedures for developing and implementing regulation and how they differ. It then describes how the jurisdictions approach regulation of the agricultural sector. Finally, it discusses five areas of agricultural policy: (i) agri-environmental regulations, (ii) organic farming, (iii) genetically modified organisms (GMO), (iv) pesticides, and (v) fertilizers. The regulations discussed are initiated at the EU level and the U.S. federal level. The roles of member states (in the EU) and states (in the U.S) are outlined wherever applicable, but a complete accounting of the effects of implementation and enforcement present at this level falls outside the scope of this paper.
- Chapter Four: Water Pollution from Agriculture
By: Peter Linquiti & Zhoudan Xie
This chapter reviews how the U.S. and EU regulate water pollution from agriculture, particularly nutrient contamination from fertilizer use on crops and from the management of manure from livestock. The chapter first reviews the core environmental problem—the process by which nutrient pollution occurs and the adverse environmental and human health consequences it causes. It also provides a broad overview of the institutions and policy frameworks that shape water quality polices relevant to agriculture in the two jurisdictions and proceeds by characterizing the specific policy instruments used in the U.S. and the EU to implement these broader policy frameworks. The chapter concludes by describing the on-the-ground implementation experience and the degree to which retrospective program evaluations are performed.
- Chapter Five: Regulatory Impact on Corn Farming
By: Daniel R. Pérez, Aryamala Prasad, & Zhoudan Xie
This chapter examines the impact of environmental and food safety regulations on corn production in the U.S. and EU. We provide quantitative estimates for differences in farm-level outcomes that result from different regulatory requirements between jurisdictions. The chapter begins by identifying and discussing regulations affecting corn production and proceeds to estimate the economic impact of each regulation at the farm level. We selected France and Spain as case studies to illustrate the differences that result from EU member states’ translation and implementation of agricultural regulations at the country level. Our use of a typical farm approach is meant to demonstrate relative differences in outcomes for farms among different jurisdictions rather than provide an exhaustive list of the costs facing a representative corn farm within any particular geographic region.
By: Zhoudan Xie -- June 12, 2019
Although our Regulatory Form and Productivity report's major findings are derived from agriculture-related industries, the concept and framework for classifying regulations according to their forms have broader implications for examining the effects of regulation.
By: Zhoudan Xie & Daniel R. Pérez -- May 30, 2018
This Regulatory Insight addresses the information gap in how regulations are measured when determining their effect on economic growth and other macroeconomic measures by developing a taxonomy of regulatory forms. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this framework allows regulations to be classified by the form they employ to achieve the stated regulatory outcomes. We expect this taxonomy to also be applicable to industries outside of agriculture, and to be utilized by researchers and analysts in a wide range of fields as a framework for informing research on the relative effectiveness of different regulatory forms to address market and social problems.
By: Zhoudan Xie -- April 13, 2020
Public comments have been a valuable source of data in research studying public participation and bureaucratic behavior. Our recent report analyzes public comments from an unconventional perspective and reveals a new way for researchers to use comments as data.
By: Daniel R. Pérez -- April 22, 2020
Each administration since President Carter has issued directives requiring federal agencies to review their existing regulations to make them more effective, more efficient, or to eliminate those that are outdated. Nonetheless, the difficulty of identifying which regulations to evaluate from the existing stock persists as a barrier to agencies in their efforts to implement retrospective review. A new report by the GW Regulatory Studies Center finds that analysis of public comments can help agencies pick which regulations to evaluate. In addition to feedback about individual regulations that commenters point out as candidates for review, the underlying characteristics of those regulations can be used by agencies to prioritize additional regulations for evaluation.