ESSAYS ON QUALITY CERTIFICATION IN FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL MARKETS
Adalja, Aaron Ashok
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This dissertation features three essays exploring the market impacts of two types of quality certification---a voluntary non-GMO label and a mandatory food safety standard. In the first essay, I use a hedonic framework to examine whether firms use a voluntary quality certification for non-GMO products to extract rent from customers. Using U.S. retail scanner data coupled with data from a voluntary non-GMO label, I find no evidence of price premiums or quantity changes for newly certified non-GMO products. Instead, the label may induce firms to develop new non-GMO products targeted to high-valuation consumers. The second essay examines how voluntary non-GMO food labeling impacts demand in the ready-to-eat [RTE] cereal industry. I estimate a discrete-choice, random coefficients logit demand model using monthly data for 50 cereal brands across 100 DMAs. Consumer tastes for the label are widely distributed, and this heterogeneity plays a substantial role in individual choices; but, on average, the non-GMO label has a positive impact on demand. I estimate welfare effects by simulating two labeling scenarios: one in which all brands use the non-GMO label, and one in which no brands use the label. The simulation results suggest that non-GMO labeling in the RTE cereal industry may improve consumer welfare on average. In the final essay, we use data from an original national survey of produce growers to examine whether complying with the Food Safety Modernization Act's Produce Rule will be prohibitively costly for some growers. We examine how food safety measure expenditures required by the Rule vary with farm size and practices using a double hurdle model to control for selectivity in using food safety practices and reporting expenditures. Expenditures per acre decrease with farm size, and growers using sustainable farming practices spend more than conventional growers on many food safety practices. We use our estimates to quantify how the cost burden of compliance varies with farm size. We also explore the policy implications of exemptions to the Rule by simulating how changes to exemption thresholds might affect the cost burden of each food safety practice on farms at the threshold.