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Friday, August 22, 2014
India’s government cereal stocks cycle up and down, but typically exceed government targets set to ensure adequate supplies for domestic distribution programs and provide a strategic reserve.  Cereals in government stocks are procured from growers at annually revised minimum support prices (MSPs). Most procured cereals are distributed at subsidized rates through the Targeted Public Distribution System and other programs, with residual supplies accumulating in government-held stocks. The peaks and valleys in government cereal stocks are associated with cycles in price incentives due to changes in MSPs.  Relatively low stocks and large increases in MSPs in the late 1990s led to a stock buildup by the early 2000s, and low stocks in the mid-2000s, combined with rising world prices, led to higher MSPs and another stock buildup beginning in the late 2000s. Price policy announced for 2014/15 crops so far indicates relatively small nominal increases in wheat and rice MSPs. For additional information see Indian Wheat and Rice Sector Policies and Implications of Reform.
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Thursday, August 21, 2014
The Chesapeake Bay is North America’s largest and most biologically diverse estuary, and its watershed covers 64,000 square miles across 6 States (Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia) and the District of Columbia. In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established limits for nutrient and sedi­ment emissions from point (e.g., wastewater treatment plants) and nonpoint (e.g., agricultural runoff) sources to the Chesapeake Bay in the form of a total maximum daily load (TMDL). Agriculture is the largest single source of nutrient emissions in the watershed. About 19 percent of all cropped acres in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are critically undertreated, meaning that the management practices in place are inadequate for preventing significant losses of pollutants from these fields. Critically undertreated acres are not distributed among the four sub-basins in the same way as cropland.  For example, the Susquehanna watershed contains 69 percent of critically undertreated acres but only 41 percent of cropland.  Targeting conservation resources to highly vulnerable regions could improve the economic performance of environmental policies and programs. This chart displays data found in the ERS report, An Economic Assessment of Policy Options To Reduce Agricultural Pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay, ERR-166, June 2014.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
ERS researchers used data from the 2007-08 and 2009-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to examine who uses nutrition information in full-service restaurants (generally defined as restaurants with wait staff).  They found that healthy diet behaviors are correlated with use of nutrition information in full-service restaurants. For example, people who consult Nutrition Facts labels on grocery store foods and who store healthy foods at home are more likely to use nutrition information on restaurant menus. While people who reported rarely or never having dark green vegetables at home were as likely to go to full-service restaurants as people who always or most of the time have these vegetables at home, the first group was less likely to see and use nutrition information on restaurant menus. Among people who saw the nutrition information, just 19.1 percent of the group that “rarely or never” had dark green vegetables available at home said they used it, compared to 54.9 percent of those who said they “always” or “most of the time” had dark green vegetables available at home. This chart is from the ERS report, Consumers’ Use of Nutrition Information When Eating Out, released on June 27, 2014.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Russia’s recently announced 1-year ban on imports of food from the United States should affect only relatively small shares of U.S. agricultural exports.  In calendar year 2013, U.S. agricultural exports to Russia totaled $1.31 billion, or 0.8% of total U.S. agricultural exports of $162.16 billion. Major U.S. products shipped to Russia in 2013 were poultry meat and products ($312 million), tree nuts (primarily almonds; $172 million), soybeans ($157 million), and live animals (primarily cattle for breeding purposes; $149 million).  Imports of non-food items, including soybeans and live animals, do not appear to be on Russia’s banned list.  U.S. exports of poultry meat and products to Russia accounted for 5.6 percent of U.S. exports in this category in 2013, but U.S. poultry exports to Russia have declined in recent years because of restrictive tariff rate quotas and phyto-sanitary measures. Exports of high-quality breeding cattle to Russia accounted for 16.8 percent of U.S. live animal exports in 2013, and are imported by Russia to upgrade its cattle and dairy herds. Russia was the 16th largest U.S. export market for tree nuts, accounting for 2.3 percent of U.S. tree nut exports. This chart is based on ERS analysis of data from the Global Agricultural Trade System.
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Monday, August 18, 2014
The United States has developed an active organic trade sector in recent years. In 2013, the United States exported organic products to over 80 countries, with Canada and Mexico being the top trade partners. The U.S. Department of Commerce began tracking the trade value of some organic products in 2011, and is expanding the number of organic items tracked. Each new organic product added to the trade code system must meet minimum requirements on product value and the number of importers and exporters. In 2013, the value of tracked U.S. organic exports was $537 million. Fresh fruits/vegetables is still the top organic sector in both production and sales in the United States, and dominates the trade items currently being tracked. Fresh and chilled fruits and vegetables accounted for over 90 percent of the Nation’s total organic export sales in 2013. The top three U.S. organic exports (in value) were apples, lettuce, and grapes. This chart is found in the August 2014 Amber Waves data feature, “U.S. Organic Trade Includes Fresh Produce Exports and Tropical Imports.”
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Friday, August 15, 2014
Much of the 63-pound per person drop in the amount of dairy products available  to eat or drink in the United States between 1970 and 2012 stems from declining milk consumption by U.S. consumers. Since peaking at 42.3 gallons per person in 1945, fluid milk availability has steadily fallen, reaching a record low of 19.6 gallons per person in 2012. Whole milk availability dropped to 5.4 gallons per person in 2012, almost a quarter of 1970’s 25.3 gallons. In addition, lower-fat milk availability has leveled off to an average of 14 gallons per person since 1998. Competition from other beverages—especially carbonated soft drinks, fruit juices, and bottled water—is likely contributing to declining fluid milk consumption. Substitutes for cow’s milk (including nut milks, coconut milk, and soy milk) have also provided alternatives for consumers. This chart appears in “Trends in U.S. Per Capita Consumption of Dairy Products, 1970-2012” in the June 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Thursday, August 14, 2014
For farmers, household income combines the income that the household receives from off-farm activities with the income that the household receives from the farm business, net of expenses and payments to other stakeholders in the business. Households that raise broilers have higher median incomes than other farm households, and other U.S. households. In 2011, the median income among all U.S. households was $50,504, while the median income among farm households was $57,050. The median for contract broiler growers was higher, at $68,455. However, median income doesn’t tell the whole story; the range of household incomes earned by broiler growers is also wider than other groups, even though contract growers are a much more demographically homogeneous than both the U.S. population and the overall farm population. The wider range reflects, in part, the financial risks associated with contract broiler production. Grower costs can vary widely, and flat annual broiler production in recent years has increased the risk that growers will get fewer chicks placed, or that their contracts won’t be renewed. This chart is found in the August 2014 Amber Waves feature, “Financial Risks and Incomes in Contract Broiler Production.”
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Wednesday, August 13, 2014
U.S. commercial exports of dairy products have grown since 1995, accounting for an increasing share of the total commercial disappearance of U.S milk production. On a milk-equivalent skim-solids basis (a method of adding up quantities of diverse milk products based on their skim-solids content), U.S. commercial exports grew on average 11.8 percent per year between 1995 and 2013, with their share of total commercial disappearance rising from 3.4 percent in 1995 to 18.7 percent in 2013. Commercial exports of nonfat dry milk (NDM) and skim milk powder (SMP) played a major role in this increase. In recent years, major U.S. markets for NDM and SMP have been Mexico, China, Philippines, and Indonesia. Domestic commercial disappearance serves as a proxy for U.S. consumption, calculated as a residual after accounting for production, on-farm use, imports, exports, and changes in stocks. The commercial data also exclude USDA net removals (price support purchases plus subsidized exports minus sales to the commercial market) which were significant in earlier years but a minor factor since 2004. Find these data in the new commercial disappearance dairy product tables provided in Dairy Data.
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Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Corn is the most widely planted crop in the U.S. and the largest user of nitrogen fertilizer. By using this fertilizer, farmers can produce high crop yields profitably; however nitrogen is also a source of environmental degradation when it leaves the field through runoff or leaching or as a gas. When the best nitrogen management practices aren’t applied, the risk that excess nitrogen can move from cornfields to water resources or the atmosphere is increased. Nitrogen management practices that minimize environmental losses of nitrogen include applying only the amount of nitrogen needed for crop growth (agronomic rate), not applying nitrogen in the fall for a crop planted in the spring, and injecting or incorporating fertilizer into the soil rather than leaving it on top of the soil. In 2010, about 66 percent of all U.S. corn acres did not meet all three criteria. Nitrogen from the Corn Belt, Northern Plains, and Lake States (regions that together account for nearly 90 percent of U.S. corn acres) contribute to both the hypoxic (low oxygen) zone in the Gulf of Mexico and to algae blooms in the Great Lakes. This chart is based on data found in the ERS report, Nitrogen Management on U.S. Corn Acres, 2001-10, EB-20, November 2012.
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Monday, August 11, 2014
When advised to “eat your vegetables,” Americans may also need to be reminded “and watch how you prepare them.”  ERS researchers recently looked at the types of vegetables and vegetable-containing foods eaten by Americans and found that instead of eating vegetables in their simple, unadorned state, Americans often eat vegetables in ways that add calories and sodium and reduce dietary fiber. For potatoes prepared at home, potato chips were the most commonly eaten form, accounting for 28 percent of potato consumption. In restaurants, fast food places, and other away from home eating places, fried potatoes accounted for 59 percent of potato consumption. Food intake surveys show other potato dishes, such as mashed and scalloped potatoes, are often prepared with added fats and sodium. Baked and boiled potatoes accounted for 19 percent of at-home potato consumption and 12 percent away from home, and the skin was usually not eaten, reducing dietary fiber content. This chart appears in “Healthy Vegetables Undermined by the Company They Keep” in the May 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Friday, August 08, 2014
U.S. hog producers are responding to inventory losses associated with the spread of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) by increasing the average slaughter weights of their remaining inventory, thus mitigating the likely impacts of PEDv on 2014 pork production. The PEDv outbreak reduced the average litter rates for the December 2013-February 2014 and March-May 2014 pig crops by about 5.5 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively, contributing to a 5 percent decline in the June 2014 U.S. hog inventory compared with a year earlier.  However, lower U.S. corn prices, combined with excess barn space created by the PEDv losses have allowed producers to respond by holding surviving animals longer on cheaper corn-based rations, thus boosting average dressed weights. During January-May 2014, dressed weights averaged 3.7 percent higher than the same period in 2013.  The heavier animals continue to partially offset production losses from PEDv-related deaths.  For 2014, USDA forecasts a 5.2 percent drop in hog slaughter, but only a 1.9 percent reduction in pork production.  Dressed weights are expected to average more than 214 pounds this year, more than 7 pounds greater than in 2013. Find this chart and additional analysis in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: July 2014.
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Thursday, August 07, 2014
U.S. farmers have adopted genetically engineered (GE) seeds in the 19 years since their commercial introduction, despite their typically higher seed prices. Herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops, developed to survive the application of specific herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds, provide farmers with a broader variety of options for weed control. Insect-resistant crops contain a gene from the soil bacterium Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that produces a protein toxic to specific insects, protecting the plant over its entire life. “Stacked” seed varieties carry both HT and Bt traits and now account for a large majority of GE corn and cotton seeds. In 2014, adoption of  GE varieties, including those with herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, or stacked traits, reached 96 percent of cotton acreage, 94 percent of soybean acreage (soybeans have only HT varieties), and 93 percent of corn acreage planted in the United States. This chart comes from the ERS data product, Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., updated July 2014.
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Wednesday, August 06, 2014
USDA’s Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provides low-income seniors—people age 60 and older with household incomes at or below 185 percent of the Federal poverty level—with coupons to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and honey at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs. In fiscal 2013, 835,795 low-income seniors received $20 to $50 in coupons. Of the 8,158 farmers’ markets in the United States in 2013, 2,330 reported accepting SFMNP, according to USDA’s National Farmers' Market Directory. In 396 of the more than 3,000 U.S. counties, over half of farmers’ markets reported accepting SFMNP coupons, and in another 295 counties, 26 to 50 percent of farmers’ markets reported accepting SFMNP. Areas in the Northeast, Southwest, and along the West Coast have a relatively high percent of farmers’ markets that accept SFMNP coupons. This chart appears in “Food Assistance Program Connects Low-Income Seniors with Fresh Farm Produce” in the August 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Tuesday, August 05, 2014
India’s cotton production has expanded rapidly since the early 2000s, passing the United States to become the world’s 2nd largest producer in 2006/07 (August/July marketing year), and now poised to surpass China—the world’s largest producer. India’s cotton production began to expand with the introduction of genetically-modified Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton; higher yield potential and increased pest resistance boosted profitability and stimulated growth in both area and yields. Since 2000/01, India’s cotton area has increased about 2.8 percent annually and is now more than double the area sown to cotton in China and more than triple U.S. cotton area. However, India’s cotton yields, while improving about 6 percent annually since 2000/01 to an average of 530 kgs/ha during 2009/10-2013/14, remain well below those achieved in China (1,357 kgs/ha) and the United States (916 kgs/ha). With gains in production, India has emerged as the world’s second largest exporter of raw cotton, after the United States, and the second largest consumer of raw cotton, after China. Cotton processed in India is destined for its large domestic market as well as exports of cotton yarn, fabric, and clothing.  Find additional analysis of cotton market developments in Cotton and Wool Outlook: July 2014.
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Monday, August 04, 2014
A farmers’ market is a common area where several farmers gather on a recurring basis to sell a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other farm products directly to consumers. The number of farmers’ markets rose to 8,284 in 2014, up from 3,706 in 2004 and 1,755 in 1994, according to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. Farmers’ markets tend to be concentrated in densely populated areas of the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast. Generally, farmers’ markets feature items from local food systems, although depending on the definition of “local,” some vendors may come from outside the local region, and some local vendors may not sell locally-produced products. The growing number of farmers’ markets could reflect increased demand for local and regional food products based on consumer perceptions of their freshness and quality, support for the local economy, environmental benefits, or other perceived attributes relative to food from traditional marketing channels. This chart updates one found in the ERS report, Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues, ERR-97, May 2010.
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Friday, August 01, 2014
Current USDA forecasts show declines in U.S. average farm prices for major U.S. field crops—corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton—of 4 to 19 percent in 2014/15. For corn, soybeans, and wheat, this would be the second consecutive year of declining prices. Soybean prices are forecast to decline the most in 2014/15, based on an expected record U.S. crop, combined with ample supplies from Brazil and Argentina. U.S. corn prices are forecast to fall 10 percent in 2014/15, after a 35-percent decline in 2013/14, also based on a large U.S. corn crop forecast and competition from other exporters like Brazil, Argentina, and Ukraine. U.S. wheat prices are forecast to decline about 4 percent in 2014/15, despite the forecast for smaller U.S. supplies, due to adequate supplies from both traditional and Black Sea wheat exporters. Although smaller cotton crops are forecast for China and India—the top two global producers—a larger U.S. crop is expected to lead to a fifth consecutive year of rising global cotton stocks and a 12-percent drop in U.S. prices in 2014/15. Find additional analysis in the current ERS outlook newsletters: Feed Outlook: July 2014, Oil Crops Outlook: July 2014, Wheat Outlook: July 2014, and Cotton and Wool Outlook: July 2014.
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Thursday, July 31, 2014
With the 2014/15 (September/August marketing years) soybean production forecast at a record 103.4 million metric tons (3.8 billion bushels), the United States is expected to reclaim the role of leading global soybean exporter that it lost to Brazil in 2012/13. A record harvested area of 84.1 million acres is expected to enhance U.S. price competitiveness and boost U.S. soybean exports to a record 45.6 million metric tons (mmt). U.S. soybean meal and oil exports are also expected to increase, with soybean meal shipments abroad forecast to edge up to 10.66 mmt in 2014/15 from 10.57 mmt this year, and soybean oil exports could reach 0.95 mmt, up from 0.77 mmt in 2013/14. If achieved, the plentiful US supplies will drive farm prices lower.  USDA forecasts the U.S. average farm price for soybeans in 2014/15 to fall within a range of $9.50-11.50 per bushel, down from an estimated $13.00 per bushel in 2013/14.  The last time the U.S. farm price for soybeans averaged below $12.00 per bushel for a crop year was in 2010/11 when it reached $11.30 per bushel, a record at the time.  Find this chart in the Oil Crops Chart Gallery, with additional analysis in the Oil Crops Outlook: July 2014.
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Wednesday, July 30, 2014
USDA’s Summer Food Service Program provides nutritious meals and snacks to children in low-income areas during the summer months, and during long vacation periods for schools on year-round schedules. USDA reimburses schools, local government agencies, camps, private non-profit organizations, and other sponsors for meals and snacks served to children at eligible sites. The program served 151 million meals and snacks at a cost to USDA of more than $427 million in fiscal 2013.  After rising in 2008 and 2009, the number of sites offering summer meals to children remained about the same from 2010 to 2012 but rose from 38,845 in 2012 to 42,654 in 2013.  Participation also increased in 2013, with the program serving more than 2.4 million children on an average operating day in July. This chart is from the Child Nutrition Programs: Summer Food Service Program topic page on the ERS website, updated June 23, 2014.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014
The Federal Government spent more than $6 billion in fiscal 2013 on conservation payments to encourage the adoption of practices addressing environmental and resource conservation goals, but such payments lead to additional improvement in environmental quality only if those receiving them adopted conservation practices that they would not have adopted without the payment. Some farmers have adopted specific conservation practices without receiving payments because doing so reduces production costs or preserves the long-term productivity of their farmland (e.g., conservation tillage). Many other farmers have not adopted conservation practices, presumably because the cost of doing so exceeds expected onfarm benefits, the value of which can vary based on many factors—soil, climate, topography, crop/livestock mix, producer management skills, and risk aversion. Since the value of onfarm benefits can vary widely across practices and farms, identifying which farmers will adopt a conservation practice only if they receive a payment is not straightforward, but research indicates that the likelihood a payment will result in additional environmental benefits increases as the implementation cost of the conservation practice increases and its impact on farm profitability declines. This chart is found in the ERS report, Additionality in U.S. Agricultural Conservation and Regulatory Offset Programs, ERR-170, July 2014.
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Monday, July 28, 2014
Federal eligibility rules for USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) stipulate that households must meet three financial criteria: gross income, net income, and asset limits. States using broad-based categorical eligibility criteria are allowed to eliminate the asset limit and increase the monthly gross income limit from 130 percent of the Federal poverty line up to 200 percent when determining SNAP eligibility. This new eligibility option is among the many legislative and regulatory efforts to simplify SNAP administration and increase program access, especially for low-income working families. During the discussions leading up to the Agricultural Act of 2014, concerns were raised that the broad-based categorical eligibility option had allowed assistance to expand beyond the poorest Americans. In 2012, 5.2 percent of SNAP households had incomes above 130 percent of the Federal poverty line—compared to 1.0 percent in 2000—and they received 1.5 percent of total SNAP benefits.  This chart and a discussion of other SNAP-related provisions of the 2014 Farm Act can be found in “2014 Farm Act Maintains SNAP Eligibility Guidelines and Funds New Initiatives” in the July 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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