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Toward a Normative Theory of Crop Yield Skewness

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  • David A. Hennessy

Abstract

While the preponderance of empirical studies point to negative crop yield skewness in a wide variety of contexts, the literature provides few clear insights on why this is so. The purpose of this paper is to make three points on the matter. We show formally that statistical laws on aggregates do not suggest a normal yield distribution. We explain that whenever the weather-conditioned mean yield has diminishing marginal product, then there is a disposition toward negative skewness in aggregate yields. This is because a high marginal product in bad weather states stretches out the left tail of the yield distribution relative to that of the weather distribution. Turning to disaggregated yields, we decompose unconditional skewness into weather-conditioned skewness plus two other terms and study each in turn.

Suggested Citation

  • David A. Hennessy, 2008. "Toward a Normative Theory of Crop Yield Skewness," Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) Publications 08-wp473, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University.
  • Handle: RePEc:ias:cpaper:08-wp473
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Carlos Arnade & David Kelch, 2007. "Estimation of Area Elasticities from a Standard Profit Function," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 89(3), pages 727-737.
    2. Searchinger, Timothy & Heimlich, Ralph & Houghton, R. A. & Dong, Fengxia & Elobeid, Amani & Fabiosa, Jacinto F. & Tokgoz, Simla & Hayes, Dermot J. & Yu, Hun-Hsiang, 2008. "Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change," Staff General Research Papers Archive 12881, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    3. Feng, Hongli & Rubin, Ofir D. & Babcock, Bruce A., 2008. "Greenhouse Gas Impacts of Ethanol from Iowa Corn," Lifecycle Carbon Footprint of Biofuels Workshop, January 29, 2008, Miami Beach, Florida 49101, Farm Foundation.
    4. Miranowski, John & Orazem, Peter, 1994. "A Dynamic Model of Acreage Allocation with General and Crop-Specific Capital," Staff General Research Papers Archive 10695, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    5. David A. Hennessy, 2006. "On Monoculture and the Structure of Crop Rotations," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 88(4), pages 900-914.
    6. Hertel, Thomas W. & Tyner, Wallace E. & Birur, Dileep K., 2008. "Biofuels for all? Understanding the Global Impacts of Multinational Mandates," 2008 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2008, Orlando, Florida 6526, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
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    Keywords

    conditional distribution; crop insurance; negative skewness; spatial heterogeneity; statistical laws.;

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