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True Cost Accounting – College & University Publications

These publications explore economic externalities and develop value-based parameters that help integrate them with research, teaching and policy development.

Iowa State University

Dr Michael Duffy, Iowa State University, (Emeritus) Ag Econ faculty, is the author of numerous papers that explore externalities in agricultural production systems, farm viability, IPM implementation, soil conservation and farm valuation.

External Costs of Agricultural Production in the United States, Tegtmeier, Erin M. and Michael D. Duffy. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, Vol. 2, No. 1, Channel View Publications, Clevedon, UK, 2004.

This paper lays an early foundation for examining how current accounting systems fail to accurately reflect the long term and full costs of current agriculture production practices.  The parameters included in this discussion include: human health, natural resources, and wildlife and ecosystem biodiversity.  Their methodology makes use of consumer price indexes because many external costs are borne across a wider population than just the producers, and over a much longer time frame than the year of use of any particular production practice.  They identify damage categories: human health, air, soil and water, and gather data from existing reports that have examined specific issues related to human health and environmental damage resulting from modern agriculture practices.  They include budget data from US government agencies that identify, regulate and mitigate these damages and include: USDA Food Safety, AMS, ARS and APHIS, National and State EPA’s, and the FDA.  They also include actual cost data generated from these identified negative impacts.  They acknowledge this report is not comprehensive and recommend that public policy should promote sustainable practices as a way to internalize some of the negative costs of production systems.

Value of Soil Erosion to the Land Owner, Michael D. Duffy, Iowa State University, Ag Decision Maker. 2012

In this paper, Dr Duffy identifies and places values on the costs associated with soil loss.  Starting at the farm, and following the impacts to current and future production, he includes fertilizer and soil carbon loss, and increased need for fertilizer in future crops.  The paper also explores down-stream costs to society where costs are born by local municipalities, as well as ecosystem impacts downstream to fish and aquatic health from water turbidity and fertilizer load.  Finally, he places values on the decreased soil productivity related to soil erosion valued in terms of rent paid or declining value to the next owner.

An Economic Comparison of Organic and Conventional Grain Crops in a Long-Term Agroecological Research (LTAR) Site in Iowa. Delate, K., M. Duffy, C. Chase, A. Holste, H. Friedrich and N. Wantate.  Journal of Alternative Agriculture, Vol. 18, No. 2, 2003.

This paper compares organic and conventional systems on a typical Iowa farm and shows that with training and access to organic systems management strategies, yield and profitability between organic and conventional systems are comparable.  Adopting more organic practices has demonstrated the potential to reduce negative externalities to human health and the environment.

The Clock is Ticking for Rural America in Sustainable Land Management; Strategies to Cope with the Marginalisation of Agriculture, Duffy, Michael. ed F. Brouwer, et al, Edward Elgar Pub. Ltm., The Lypiatts, 15 Lansdown Rd., Cheltenham, UK, 2008.

This peer reviewed paper appears as Chapter 4 in the book Sustainable Land Management: Strategies to Cope.   It provides insights into the changing nature of rural communities as farms get larger and there are fewer farmers.  He examines the structure of ownership and production systems, and the impact from USDA policy and commodity price supports.   Those communities with access to recreational opportunities and urban populations are developing strategies to slow the marginalization of farming communities.

University of Warwick, UK

A comprehensive review of full cost accounting methods and their applicability to the automotive industry. Published in the Journal of Cleaner Production in 2016, this paper measures a broad range of economic, environmental, resource and social impacts, data which are not currently available for the automotive sector.

Multi-institutional Collaboration

Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal – Coal Train Facts

Published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science, issue; “Ecological Economics Reviews”.  This 32-page study was prepared by faculty from Harvard, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and WSU-Spokane, and evaluates each phase of the waste streams generated by the use of coal; from the extraction, processing, transportation and combustion of coal.  The focus is on the Appalachian region of the US, but the data and valuations are not unique.

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