Friday, May 29, 2015

Member blog: Marc Bellemare

A Theory of Community-Supported Agriculture

May 27, 2015
"Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) contracts allow consumers to buy claims on a farm’s future production. In turn, the consumer provides working capital to the farm during the growing season. CSA contracts also provide risk management for farmers with limited access to Federal crop insurance by transferring part of the farm’s risk to the consumer. We derive a theory of CSA contract pricing for the two most prevalent types of CSA contracts: yield contracts, in which consumers receive a percentage of the farm’s production, and weight contracts, in which consumers receive fixed quantities. We develop a two-period model in which expected utility maximizing producers and consumers engage in CSA contracting in the first period based on anticipation of yields and spot prices in the second period. Using the model, we generate several testable hypotheses to be explored in future research. Additionally, we present an overview of the data necessary to test the propositions and potential challenges that might arise in related empirical work."

That is the abstract of a new article by my long-time friend and former grad-school colleague Jaclyn Kropp and her coauthor Tom Sproul in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

This is fascinating for a few different reasons. First off, from the point of view of novelty, this is exactly the kind of topic that I think agricultural and applied economists should be spending some time working on, given the rise in CSA popularity. Second, from a contract-theoretic perspective, I found it interesting that there were two types of contracts, as highlighted in the abstract: a contract wherein production risk is shared by the producer and the consumer (yield contract), and a contract where all risk is borne by the producer (weight contract). Finally, I like that the paper pays attention to both the theory and, in a more limited fashion, the empirics of CSA.

Having written a dissertation on agrarian contracts, this does not surprise me, but I was unaware that the institution of CSA came in both those contractual shapes. Comparing this to land tenancy agreements, yield contracts for CSAs are reminiscent of sharecropping arrangements, whereas weight contracts are reminiscent of fixed rent contracts.

Read the entire blog post on

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