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RESEARCH / ECONOMIC SIMULATIONS AND MODELLING

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Economic Simulations and Modelling

Bosch, Zhang, Abler, Shortle, Hu, Huang, and Sharma are looking at how the economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is impacted by national-level government policies and market developments. To accomplish this task they are using the Regional Environment and Agriculture Programming (REAP) model. REAP is a large-scale, partial-equilibrium economic-environmental model of the U.S. agricultural sector developed by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS). The model is partial equilibrium in the sense that it focuses on the agricultural sector and not other sectors of the economy.

The REAP model currently divides the U.S. into 273 agricultural production regions, with 10 major commodity crops and 4 major livestock product groups. Many of the 273 production regions are further subdivided into highly erodible and normal cropland, resulting in 456 combinations of region and soil erodibility class. 33 of the 273 regions lie partly or entirely in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Crop and livestock outputs in the REAP model are processed into food, livestock feed, and bioenergy products.

The REAP model is used to simulate the regional allocation of agricultural resources (land, fertilizer, water, and other inputs) and agricultural production in response to changes in policy, market, and biophysical conditions. The research team is currently working with ERS and other cooperating institutions to update and refine the REAP model. The team is also currently using the REAP model to evaluate effects of energy cost changes on U.S. and regional crop and livestock production, consumption, and prices.

In addition to the work using the REAP model, the research team is examining trends in agricultural production and environmental indicators in urbanized landscapes – metro counties and metro-adjacent counties – over the period from 2007 to 2017. The team is examining both counties in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and in the U.S. as a whole. Using data envelopment analysis (DEA), the questions the team is investigating are: where is agriculture thriving, which counties are doing better than others on the agricultural and environmental indicators, what can be learned from the counties that are doing better than others. Click here to view the agricultural and environmental trends in urbanized counties.

Project Leaders


Darrell Bosch

Professor, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

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James Shortle

Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Agricultural and Environmental Economics, Penn State

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Project Team


Dave Abler

Professor of Agricultural Economics, Penn State, and Project Director

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Chenyang Hu

PhD Student, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

Xuetao Huang

Research Economist at Employment Security Department (ESD) of Washington State

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Sadikshya Sharma

MS Student, Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Penn State

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Wei Zhang

Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

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Zeya Zhang

Postdoc, Department of Agricultural Economics, Penn State