Agricultural Economics Department


Date of this Version



Afi, M.; Parsons, J. Integrated vs. Specialized Farming Systems for Sustainable Food Production: Comparative Analysis of Systems’ Technical Efficiency in Nebraska. Sustainability 2023, 15, 5413. su15065413.


Copyright: © 2023 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license


Complementarities between crops and livestock production have the potential to increase input use efficiency and maintain a diversified livelihood. This paper uses non-parametric data envelopment analysis (DEA) to assess the technical efficiency (TE) of integrated crop–livestock systems (ICLS) compared to specialized cropping and specialized livestock systems in the state of Nebraska, in the central United States. We classify each county of Nebraska into one of three systems according to their dominant agricultural production revenues. We use DEA to measure the TE of each county compared, first, to a group production frontier (in-system comparison) and second, to a metafrontier (cross-system comparison). Thirty percent of the cropping systems counties were evaluated as fully efficient in the in-system comparison with other cropping systems counties. Thirty-six percent of the livestock systems counties and 18% of the ICLS counties were evaluated as fully efficient in their in-system comparisons. The ICLS counties are less likely to appear on the metafrontier, with a total of only 7% compared to 39% and 32% for the specialized cropping and specialized livestock systems, respectively. These results highlight the need for further research on optimal crop–livestock integration that allows for the realization of synergies and complementarities needed for higher efficiency and sustainable intensification of food production.