Comparing economic performance of organic and conventional U.S. beef farms using matching samples*

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Abstract

Economic performance measures of organic and transitioning-to-organic cow–calf farms are compared with those of non-organic cow–calf farms. A method of matching samples is used for the comparison, estimating sample average treatment effects for the subpopulation of the treated. Each organic farm is matched with one non-organic farm that is involved in the same beef industry segments and farm size classes, and in the same region. Furthermore, farmer demographic, farming system, and technology variables are used to identify matches. Bias is reduced by estimating separate weighted regression functions for the treated and untreated groups. Results suggest that higher cost of organic production is due primarily to higher capital recovery, taxes and insurance, and overhead costs. Evidence is found for differences in beef enterprise profitability by organic status.

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