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Farming Field

Agricultural Economics

Highland economists combine academic training in agricultural economics and finance with personal interest and experience in agriculture.  We understand the economic factors that influence agricultural production and determine economic feasibility.  Our backgrounds provide a comprehensive suite of agricultural economics services.  Highland specializes in analyzing markets; financial feasibility; economic rate of return of agricultural enterprises; estimating on-farm responses including changes in acreage and production value, changes in regulations or resource availability, and changes in water supply or quality; and translating on-farm impacts to total job and income impacts in the local economy.


Highland economists have completed agricultural economic projects including Native American water rights, regional planning, business planning, foreign-aid agency funding prioritization, and expert witness testimony. Through our current projects and relevant past work, the Highland Economics team has a solid reputation for providing clients with accurate, cost-effective analyses that have often been used in making critical decisions regarding land, labor, capital, and water resource issues.    


Highland economists have conducted Agricultural Economics studies in over 10 states domestically and internationally.  We work for irrigation districts, indian tribes, agricultural cooperatives and trade assocations, and federal agencies.  For these diverse cients, Highland economists have conducted the following agricultural economics studies:

  • Market studies to identify demand for new agricultural enterprises


  • Enterprise budgeting, including risk and uncertainty analysis


  • Cost benefit analyses of irrigation project rehabilitation, replacement, or development


  • Financial feasibility studies and associated pro-forma financial projections 


  • Economic modeling to estimate on-farm changes in agricultural acreage and production
    in response to policy or resource management changes


  • Economic impacts of regulations or changes in water supplies on agricultural economies


  • Irrigation rate and payment capacity studies


  • Practicable irrigable acreage (PIA) analysis in support of Indian water right claims


  • Economic rate of return (ERR) studies for foreign aid agencies

Selected Agricultural Economics Projects


Market Analysis of Organic Crops, Nationwide


Highland Economics conducted an analysis of the market for organic dry peas and lentils. To assess the supply conditions, we contacted more than 150 potential buyers and sellers of these crops, and collected survey information regarding the nature and volume of sales. Survey responses were combined with publicly-available statistics to determine the where the crops were being grown and sold, and in what volumes. We also assessed the current demand trends, including recent social dietary changes that have impacted the market. The research on supply and demand provided a broad view of the market that aided the USDA Risk Management Agency in shaping insurance policies for the target crops.


Economic Cost Benefit and Feasiblity Analysis of Irrigation Project Expansion & Value Added Processing - Practical Irrigable Acreage Economic Analysis, Montana


In this ongoing project, Highland Economics is conducting an economic feasibility analysis for developing new areas for agricultural irrigation.  The work is supporting Indian water rights claims. In the first part of the project, Highland Economics is working with crop production experts to determine crop suitability and expected yields in the study area. We will use the information gathered from these consultations to help build crop enterprise budgets specific to the study area. These budgets will be used to assess the economic viability of agriculture in support of claims for irrigation water rights. In another of the project's components, Highland Economics is conducting surveys to gauge the extent of subsistence farming in the study area, as well as the practices, costs, and benefits associated with this kind of agriculture. In the final project component, Highland Economics is assessing the feasibility of a food processing facility that would add value to crops grown in the study area. This will involve a close study of market conditions, an assessment of the costs associated with establishing such a facility, and an estimate of the water required to run the facility.


Value of Agricultural Land Under Different Management Strategies, California


Highland Economics was hired to estimate the total economic value of an ecologically important area under three land use scenarios with contrasting benefits. We included in the study economic values associated with agricultural production, water supply, water quality, recreation, biodiversity, and volunteer labor. We used @Risk software to conduct sensitivity analyses and run Monte Carlo simulations, which tested our assumptions and provided a range of likely values. Our analysis will be used to help inform decision-making regarding the management of the study area.


Economic Impacts of Reduced Irrigation Water Supplies, California


For Merced Irrigation District, Highland Economics (as a subcontractor) is estimating the regional econoimc impact of reduced irrigation supplies, considering not only the on-farm production effects but also potential effects on producton by food processors. This involves researching agricultural productivity in the study area, and understanding the forward linkage relationships that exist between growers and processors. To accomplish this, we have gathered statistical data on agricultural output, tailored crop budgets to the study area, and are conducting interviews with growers and processors. We developed a customized IMPLAN impact model that accurately reflects the agricultural crops and practices in the area, and provides the most accurate estimates of value added, jobs, and labor income supported by agriculture.  We used this model to estimate how direct impacts at the farm and food processing manufacutring industry translate into total job and income impacts (including direct, indirect, and induced economic impacts) in the county economy. Our final results and study provide insight into the economic relationship between  water supply, agricultural producers, food processors, and the economic dependence of othe Merced County economy on the agricultural sector.  

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