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Dairy production is concentrated in climates that expose animals to less heat stress  
Wednesday, July 08, 2015
Above a temperature threshold, an animal may experience heat stress resulting in changes in its respiration, blood chemistry, hormones, metabolism, and feed intake.  Dairy cattle are particularly sensitive to heat stress; high temperatures lower milk output and reduce the percentages of fat, solids, lactose, and protein in milk. In the United States, dairy production is largely concentrated in climates that expose animals to less heat stress. The Temperature Humidity Index (THI) load provides a measure of the amount of heat stress an animal is under. The annual THI load is similar to “cooling degree days,” a concept often used to convey the amount of energy needed to cool a building in the summer. The map shows concentrations of dairy cows in regions with relatively low levels of heat stress: California’s Central Valley, Idaho, Wisconsin, New York, and Pennsylvania. Relatively few dairies are located in the very warm Gulf Coast region (which includes southern Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida). This map is drawn from Climate Change, Heat Stress, and Dairy Production, ERR-175, September 2014.
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Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa rely more on grain imports to improve food security  
Tuesday, July 07, 2015
Low- and middle-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have, as a whole, expanded their grain imports faster than similar countries in other regions. Increasing reliance on imports has improved food supplies, but increased the region’s vulnerability to higher world prices. Food-insecure countries can improve their availability of food either by expanding production, increasing imports, or reducing population growth. ERS analysis found that many countries adopt more than one of these strategies, but that SSA countries have expanded grain imports the fastest, nearly tripling imports since 1995. Low- and middle-income Asian countries, despite their relatively large populations, have shown the least growth in grain trade and have instead focused on improving food security by expanding their own production. Latin American and Caribbean countries have shown increases in both grain imports and local production. Regardless of the strategy adopted, 37 food insecure countries (nearly half of the 76 countries studied) were successful in meeting the goal set in the 1996 World Food Summit of halving their food-insecure populations by 2015.  Find this chart and additional information in International Food Security Assessment: 2015-2025.
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More Americans report having one-percent or skim milk available at home  
Monday, July 06, 2015
A series of questions in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) asks respondents ages 16 and older how often different types of food are kept in their homes in order to get an idea of the at-home food environment in the United States. In 2007-08 and 2009-10, respondents were asked how often they had 1 percent or skim milk available at home, and in both surveys, the most common response was “never,” followed by “always.” However, between the two surveys, the share of people saying that they “always” kept such beverages at home increased by 4.5 percentage points, rising from 32 percent in 2007-08 to 36.5 percent in 2009-10. This increase in Americans reporting that they always have 1 percent or skim milk available at home is a positive nutrition trend, as Americans aged 2 years and older are advised to consume lower-fat milk (skim or 1 percent) as opposed to whole or 2 percent milk. This chart appears in “National Surveys Reveal Modest Improvement in the Types of Foods Available in Americans’ Homes” in the April 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Retail pork and chicken prices down from a year ago, beef prices higher   
Thursday, July 02, 2015
When shopping at the meat counter this Fourth of July, consumers may notice differences in prices per pound compared to last year. A pound of pork chops sold for $3.79 in May 2015 compared to $4.11 per pound in May 2014, a decrease of 7.8 percent. The price of boneless chicken breasts has also fallen, decreasing by 1.9 percent over the last year to $3.41 per pound.  In contrast, beef prices are up this year, largely due to drought conditions throughout the Southern Plains and Southwest. Higher feed costs and decreased water supplies forced farmers to shrink their herd sizes to historically low levels in 2014, causing beef prices to rise by more than 10 percent over the last year.  On average, consumers are paying $0.28 more per pound for ground beef and $1.23 more per pound for sirloin steak in May 2015 compared to a year earlier. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.
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Managing glyphosate resistance is more cost effective than ignoring resistance  
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
Glyphosate—known by many trade names, including Roundup—has been the most widely used herbicide in the United States since 2001. Crop producers can spray entire fields planted with genetically engineered, glyphosate-tolerant (GT) seed varieties, killing the weeds but not the crops. However, widespread use of glyphosate in isolation can select for glyphosate resistance by controlling susceptible weeds while allowing more resistant weeds to survive, which can then propagate and spread. ERS analyses show that weed control strategies (over 20 years) that manage glyphosate resistance differ from those that ignore glyphosate resistance by using glyphosate during fewer years, by often combining glyphosate with one or more alternative herbicides, and by not applying glyphosate during consecutive growing seasons. Initiating resistance management reduces returns compared to ignoring resistance in the first year, but increases them in subsequent years, as the value of crop yield gains outweighs increases in weed management cost. After two consecutive years of resistance management, the cumulative impact of growers’ returns from continuous corn cultivation, corn-soybean rotation, or continuous soybean cultivation exceeds that received when resistance is ignored. This chart is found in the Amber Waves feature, “Managing Glyphosate Resistance May Sustain Its Efficacy and Increase Long-Term Returns to Corn and Soybean Production,” May 2015.
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Global cotton stockpiles remain near record-high levels  
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Global cotton stocks have risen over the last several years, largely the result of growth in China’s stocks. Government policies in China supported national reserve purchases of domestic cotton and, at the same time, significant imports of raw cotton. These policies strengthened global cotton prices by keeping China’s supplies out of the marketplace while also encouraging production in other countries. Stocks in China at the end of 2014/15 (August/July marketing year) are estimated at a record 65.6 million bales, or 60 percent of global stocks. For 2015/16, policy adjustments in China are expected to reduce stocks slightly to 62.6 million bales, with its share of world stocks remaining unchanged. Globally, cotton stocks are expected to decline in 2015/16 for the first time in 6 years, but would still remain more than double the level in 2010/11, resulting result in only a slight decrease in the world stocks-to-use ratio. As a result, the 2015/16 world cotton price is expected to remain near the current season’s average of about 71 cents per pound, the lowest in 6 years. This chart is from the June 2015 Cotton and Wool Outlook.
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Two-thirds of U.S. nonmetro counties lost population over 2010-14  
Monday, June 29, 2015
During 2010-14, the number of nonmetro counties that lost population reached a historic high of 1,310. County population loss stems from two possible sources: more people leaving a county than moving into it (net outmigration) and/or more people dying than are being born (natural decrease). Historically, the vast majority of counties that lost population still continued to experience natural increase, just not enough to offset losses from net outmigration (this scenario describes less than half of the 2010-14 population loss counties). The number of nonmetro counties with population loss from both net out-migration and natural decrease grew from 387 before the recession (2003-07) to 622 during 2010-14. Clusters of counties experiencing this demographic ‘double-jeopardy’ have expanded, especially in Alabama, southern Appalachia, along the Virginia-North Carolina border, and in New England. The rising number of double-jeopardy counties signals new challenges in maintaining future population growth and sustained economic development. This map is based on information found in the Population & Migration topic page, updated June 2015.
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The spread between U.S. and world sugar prices is widening  
Friday, June 26, 2015
World raw sugar prices have fallen steadily since January 2011, and in May 2015 reached their lowest point since January 2009 due to growing production surpluses and the weakening Brazilian currency. U.S. raw sugar prices have also fallen relative to the record-high levels seen between 2010 and 2012, but have trended higher over the past year. Since the integration of U.S. and Mexican sweetener markets under NAFTA in 2008, U.S. and world prices had tracked more closely. However, those prices began diverging in March 2014 when the U.S. domestic sugar industry filed an anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigation against Mexican sugar imports, resulting in a December 2014 agreement that limits the volume of Mexican sugar entering the United States. With these new limitations on Mexican imports, the spread between U.S. and world prices has increased in recent months, though remains within ranges seen in recent years. This chart is based on the June 2015 Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook.
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While total acreage in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) continues to decline, land in “continuous signup” steadily increases  
Thursday, June 25, 2015
The Agricultural Act of 2014 gradually reduces the cap on land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) from 32 million acres to 24 million acres by 2017. CRP acreage declined 34 percent since 2007, falling from 36.8 million acres to 24.2 million by April 2015. Environmental benefits may not be diminishing as quickly as the drop in enrolled acreage might suggest. While initially enrolling mainly whole fields or farms (through periodically announced general signups), CRP increasingly uses “continuous signup” (which has stricter eligibility requirements than general signup) to enroll high-priority parcels that often provide greater per-acre environmental benefits. Conservation practices on these acres include riparian buffers, filter strips, grassed waterways, and wetland restoration. Riparian buffers, for example, are vegetated areas that help shade and partially protect a stream from the impact of adjacent land uses by intercepting nutrients and other materials, and provide habitat and wildlife corridors. Enrollment under continuous signup increased by about 50 percent, from 3.8 million acres in 2007 to 5.7 million acres in 2014. A version of this chart is found on the ERS web page, Agricultural Act of 2014: Highlights and Implications (Conservation).
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U.S. beef production is historically low, but expected to increase in 2016  
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Historically small U.S. cattle inventory continues to support high beef prices in 2015, but at least in the short term, increasing imports of processing beef (especially from Australia) and heavy carcass weights have helped moderate some of the price pressures. Fed cattle live and dressed weights have remained significantly heavier than last year due in part to improvements in pasture conditions and extra time on feed as a result of reduced steer and heifer slaughter. One uncertainty is the extent to which feeding cattle to heavier weights will offset the decrease in slaughter numbers in 2015, and the ultimate effect this will have on total commercial beef production. Despite heavier cattle, U.S. commercial beef production is currently expected to fall to a multi-decade low of 24 billion pounds in 2015. U.S. beef production is expected to increase in 2016 due to a rising cattle inventory and continued heavier carcass weights. This chart is from Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: June 2015.
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Participation in USDA’s WIC program fell for the fourth consecutive year in 2014  
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food, nutrition education, and health care referrals to low-income, nutritionally at-risk pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women as well as infants and children up to age 5. In fiscal 2014, an average 8.3 million people per month participated in the program, 5 percent fewer than the previous year. This was the largest 1-year decrease since the program’s inception in 1974. Since peaking in fiscal 2010, the number of participants has decreased by almost 10 percent. Falling WIC caseloads reflect the continued decline in the number of U.S. births, which began in 2008. In 2013 (latest data available), 3.9 million babies were born in the United States, down from 4.3 million in 2007. Fewer births reduce the potential pool of WIC-eligible participants. Improving economic conditions in recent years may have also played a role in the decline in participation. This chart appears in “WIC Experienced Largest Decrease in Participation in Program’s History in 2014” in the June 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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U.S. public sector plays a key role in collecting, conserving, and distributing crop genetic resources  
Monday, June 22, 2015
As agriculture adapts to climate change, crop genetic resources can be used to develop new plant varieties that are more tolerant of changing environmental conditions. Crop genetic resources (or germplasm) consist of seeds, plants, or plant parts that can be used in crop breeding, research, or conservation. The public sector plays an important role in collecting, conserving, and distributing crop genetic resources because private-sector incentives for crucial parts of these activities are limited. The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) is the primary network that manages publicly held crop germplasm in the United States. Since 2003, demand for crop genetic resources from the NPGS has increased rapidly even as the NPGS budget has declined in real dollars. By way of comparison, the NPGS budget of approximately $47 million in 2012 was well under one-half of 1 percent of the U.S. seed market (measured as the value of farmers’ purchased seed) which exceeded $20 billion for the same year. This chart updates ones found in the June 2015 Amber Waves feature, Crop Genetic Resources May Play an Increasing Role in Agricultural Adaptation to Climate Change.
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Since 2001, Cuba’s agricultural imports have trended upward while U.S. share declined  
Friday, June 19, 2015
Establishing a more normal economic relationship with Cuba has the potential to foster additional growth in U.S.-Cuba agricultural trade. With the loosening of the U.S. trade embargo in 2000 to allow for sales of agricultural products and medicine, the United States soon became Cuba’s leading foreign supplier of food and agricultural products, but prohibitions on issuing credit continue to limit U.S. potential in this market. Cuba’s total agricultural imports have been trending upward over the past decade, reaching an average of $1.8 billion per year during 2012-14. The United States was Cuba’s second leading supplier of agricultural imports during this period ($365 million), while the European Union ($383 million) and Brazil ($348 million) were Cuba’s first and third leading suppliers. Together, these 3 trade partners supplied 61 percent of Cuba’s agricultural imports, with the U.S. share equaling 20 percent. From 2003 to 2012, the United States was Cuba’s leading supplier of agricultural imports, but it slipped to second in 2013 and third in 2014.  This chart is from U.S. Cuba Agricultural Trade: Past, Present and Possible Future.
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Composition of production expenses varies by farm commodity specialization  
Thursday, June 18, 2015
The variation in the percent of total expenses represented by individual expenses across different types of farms reflects how specialized U.S. agriculture has become. While wide differences generally exist between crop and livestock farms, USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) allows a breakdown of expense shares within the major farm types. Livestock purchases are the largest component of total expenses for beef cattle farms, primarily because of the relatively high cost of feeder steers. Because of the lower cost of their animal purchases, feed expenses are the largest component of total expenses for other animal farms (primarily hog, poultry, and dairy). Specialty crop farms (fruit/nuts, vegetables, and nursery/greenhouse) have a higher share of labor expenses than field crop farms, because they occupy fewer acres and are less mechanized. In contrast, field crop farms, especially corn farms, have higher shares of expenses going to principal crop-related expenses (fertilizer, seeds, and chemicals), and rent. Fuel expenses are relatively consistent, varying between 3 percent of total expenses for other animal farms to 8 percent for other field crop farms. This chart is based on results from USDA’s ARMS Farm Financial and Crop Production Practices data.
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Vegetable costs range from 18 cents to $2.58 per cup equivalent  
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
When it comes to vegetable consumption, “More Matters.” Eating a variety and sufficient quantity of vegetables is important for good health, but how much would it cost to add some baby carrots, romaine lettuce, or fresh asparagus to your diet? ERS estimated average prices paid in 2013 for 93 fresh and processed vegetables (including beans and peas), measured in cup equivalents. A cup equivalent is the edible portion that will generally fit in a 1-cup measuring cup; 2 cups for lettuce and other raw leafy greens. ERS researchers found that fresh iceberg lettuce, fresh whole carrots, dried pinto beans, and 13 other products cost less than 40 cents per cup equivalent, while 58 vegetables, including fresh romaine lettuce, baby carrots, and canned tomatoes, cost between 40 and 79 cents per cup equivalent. Fresh asparagus, at $2.58 per cup equivalent, is the priciest of these 93 vegetables. The data in this chart are from ERS's Fruit and Vegetable Prices data product.
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Federal support for nutrition research increasingly focuses on obesity  
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
The relationships between nutrition, dietary choices, and health are established through research. USDA and the Department of Health and Human Service (DHHS) have a long history of supporting research to advance knowledge and innovation, with the ultimate goal of improving human health. DHHS’s Human Nutrition Research Information Management (HNRIM) system—which tracks Federal research support by fiscal year—shows obesity-related nutrition research grew more than seven-fold over a 25-year period, rising from 78 projects in 1985 to 577 projects by 2009. In contrast, nutrition research in food science, which includes food processing, preservation, and other food-related technologies, declined from 226 projects in 1985 to 177 projects by 2009. In the decade from 1999 to 2009, the overall number of DHHS-supported projects grew 7.4 percent annually, while USDA-supported projects fell by 2.8 percent annually. As USDA supports close to 80 percent of Federal nutrition research in food science, the decline in food science projects reflects changes in the size and composition of USDA’s portfolio of nutrition research projects. This chart is based on data in the ERS report, Improving Health through Nutrition Research: An Overview of the U.S. Nutrition Research System, January 2015.
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Number of Summer Food Service Program sites grew in 2014  
Monday, June 15, 2015
When school lets out for the summer, low-income children who participate in USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs lose access to weekday free and reduced-price meals, which may be a hardship for income-strapped families. Through the Summer Food Service Program, USDA reimburses schools, camps, non-profit organizations, and community agencies for nutritious meals and snacks served at no charge to children at eligible sites. A site is eligible for USDA reimbursement if it operates in an area where at least half of the children come from families with incomes at or below 185 percent of the Federal poverty level or if more than half of the children the site serves meet this income criterion. The number of sites offering summer meals rose 16 percent from 38,845 sites in 2012 to 45,170 sites in 2014. Participation on an average operating day in July increased from 2.3 million children in 2012 to 2.6 million children in 2014. In summer 2014, the program provided over 160 million meals and snacks to children at a cost to USDA of $465 million. This chart is from the Child Nutrition Programs: Summer Food Service Program topic page on the ERS website.
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Lower energy prices reduce crop production expenses  
Friday, June 12, 2015
Oil and natural gas prices dropped in the latter half of 2014, with expectations that energy prices would remain lower than previously projected through 2016. Lower energy prices affect crop production expenses, which in turn influence planting decisions and commodity prices. The effect of energy prices on the cost of producing particular crops depends on the level and share of production costs for direct energy inputs such as fuel and oil, as well as for inputs such as energy-intensive nitrogen fertilizers and agricultural chemicals. Rice, cotton, and corn have high energy-related production expenses, so lower energy prices are expected to reduce operating expenses for those crops the most. Lower production costs provide an incentive to plant additional acreage, so plantings of most crops are expected to rise from what they would have been without the decline in energy prices. The exception is soybeans, whose plantings are estimated to fall initially due to relatively small production cost changes and large cross-commodity influences from corn, as they often compete with one another. Nonetheless, the estimated acreage changes due to lower energy prices are small. This chart is based on information found in Effects of Recent Energy Price Reduction on U.S. Agriculture, BIO-04, June 2015. 
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Estate tax liability varies by farm size  
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Since 1916, the Federal estate tax has been applied to the transfer of property at death. Under present law, the estate of a decedent, who at death owned assets in excess of the estate tax exemption amount ($5.43 million in 2015), must file a Federal estate tax return; those estates are subject to a 40 percent tax rate on the nonexempt amount. Based on simulations using farm-level survey data from the 2013 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), for the 2014 tax year an estimated  2.7 percent of farm estates would be required to file an estate tax return, with a much smaller share of estates (about 0.8 percent) owing any Federal estate tax. On average, a farm estate that owed Federal estate tax had net worth of $11.1 million and a tax liability of $1.68 million, paying an average tax rate of 15 percent. Estates of small family farms (those with gross cash farm income (GCFI) below $350,000) faced the lowest average effective tax rate, while estates of large-scale family farms (those with GCFI of $1 million or more) were taxed at an average effective rate of 18 percent. This chart is found on the ERS topic page on Federal Estate Taxes, updated May 2015.
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Number of farmers’ markets and direct marketing farmers accepting SNAP benefits continues to grow  
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increases the purchasing power of eligible, low-income people by providing them with monthly benefits to purchase food at authorized food stores. SNAP benefits can also be used to buy food at authorized farmers’ markets and from direct marketing farmers (farmers who sell agricultural products directly to consumers) who have been licensed by USDA to accept SNAP benefits. The number of authorized markets and farmers has been steadily increasing in recent years. In fiscal 2014, 5,175 farmers’ markets and direct marketing farmers were licensed by USDA to accept SNAP benefits—a 28-percent increase from a year earlier. In fiscal 2014, $18.8 million of SNAP benefits were redeemed at farmers’ markets and direct marketing farms, up from fiscal 2013 redemptions of $17.5 million. This chart updates a chart found in the ERS report, Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress, January 2015.
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Higher sorghum prices supported by strong export demand  
Tuesday, June 09, 2015
In recent years, the price of sorghum has been supported by unusually strong export demand, particularly from China. Sorghum is a common substitute for corn in feed rations and is also used for ethanol production in the United States. In most countries, corn tends to be preferred over sorghum for livestock feed, so sorghum typically sells at a discount to corn in global markets. However, since sorghum does not face import quotas and other constraints that often delay or restrict shipments of corn and distillers dried grains (DDGS) from entering the country, China’s demand for U.S. sorghum has surged. Imports by China were negligible prior to 2013, but it is now the principal buyer of U.S. sorghum and is expected to account for more than 90% of the 350 million bushels of sorghum the United States is forecast to export in the 2014/15 marketing year. The strong increase in demand has pushed U.S. sorghum prices higher, resulting in a premium over corn that is expected to persist for the second consecutive marketing year. While not without precedent, the season average price of sorghum has exceeded the price of corn only in 4 previous marketing years since 1981/82, and only 18 times in the 96-year history of sorghum price reporting. This chart is based on the ERS report, Feed Outlook: May 2015.
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Return migration among young families partially offsets rural population loss  
Monday, June 08, 2015
Rural population loss is generally characterized as young people leaving. A typical nonmetropolitan county (based on the 50th percentile, or median, statistic) lost 28 percent of their 20-24 year olds to net out-migration during 2000-10, compared to just an 8-percent decline in the typical metropolitan county. However, stemming rural population loss may depend less on retaining young adults after high school than on attracting them back as they settle down to start careers and raise children. Median net migration rates in nonmetropolitan counties are highest among adults 30-34 and children 5-9. Interviews with rural return migrants showed that most came home with spouses and brought young children with them or soon started families. Conversations about returning centered on the value of family connections for child-raising in a small town environment. Return migrants described other aspects of home that bolstered their decision to move back, including schools with smaller class sizes, access to outdoor recreation, and shorter trips for work and shopping. This chart is found in the ERS report, Factors Affecting Former Residents' Returning to Rural Communities, ERR-185, May 2015.
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Produce farms account for about half of all local food sales  
Friday, June 05, 2015
In 2012, 34 percent of all U.S. produce farms—those producing vegetables, fruit, or nuts—sold food through local food marketing channels, whereas only 3 percent of field/other crop farms and 8 percent of livestock/livestock product farms did so. The nearly 48,000 produce farmers with local sales in 2012 represented 29 percent of all local food farmers but generated $3.1 billion, or 51 percent of all local food sales. Farmers have two main channels through which to sell their food locally: directly to consumers (at farmers' markets, roadside stands, farm stores, etc.), and through intermediated marketing channels (defined to include sales to grocers, restaurants, schools, universities, hospitals, and regional distributors). Among local food farmers who elected to sell through direct-to-consumer outlets, intermediated marketing channels, or a mixture of both, produce farmers generated higher local food sales per farm than did field/other crop farms or livestock/livestock product farms. This suggests that opportunities to market locally are important to produce farmers, and their disproportionate presence (through local food sales) shapes the profile of a typical local food farm. This chart is found in the ERS report, Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: Report to Congress, January 2015.
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Fruits and vegetables top the list of locally produced foods served in U.S. schools  
Thursday, June 04, 2015
According to USDA’s Farm to School Census, 36 percent of the U.S. public school districts that completed the questionnaire reported serving at least some locally produced foods in school lunches or breakfasts during school years 2011-12 or 2012-13. While fruits and vegetables topped the list of local foods served in schools in 2011-12, 45 percent of the school districts that used local foods reported serving locally produced milk, and 27 percent reported serving locally produced baked goods. Some States have State-produced foods, such as fruits and vegetables, grains, meats, and dairy products included in the products donated by USDA for use in school meals (a program called USDA Foods). The DOD Fresh Program allows districts to use USDA funds to obtain fresh fruits and vegetables through the Department of Defense, which provides information to districts on foods that are sourced locally. This chart appeared in “Many U.S. School Districts Serve Local Foods” in the March 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Global rice prices continue to decline  
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
Global rice prices have fallen more than 14 percent over the past 8 months, recently hitting their lowest level since January 2008. Thailand’s global benchmark price was $389 per ton for the week ending May 18, down from $455 in late September; U.S. rice prices have declined at about the same rate. Several factors have contributed to this steep decline: the Government of Thailand selling its record high stock of rice; continued abundance of exportable rice, despite a smaller global rice crop and lower global ending stocks in 2014/15; and the appreciation of the U.S. dollar, which has put downward pressure on global rice prices, since rice is typically traded in dollars. Meanwhile, low oil prices have reduced the buying capacity of several major importers, especially Venezuela and several Middle Eastern buyers, and none of the major Asian rice importers—Indonesia, the Philippines, or Bangladesh—have experienced a crop shortfall that would boost imports. This chart is based on the report, Rice Outlook: May 2015.
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Percent of residents receiving SNAP benefits in 2014 declined in many States  
Tuesday, June 02, 2015
USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) served an average of 46.5 million people per month in fiscal 2014. The percent of Americans participating in the program declined from 15.0 percent in 2013 to 14.6 percent in 2014, marking the first decline in the percent of the population receiving SNAP since 2001. Between 2013 and 2014, 42 States and the District of Columbia saw a decrease in the percent of residents receiving SNAP benefits, while 8 States experienced small increases. The percent of State populations receiving SNAP benefits ranged from a low of 6.1 in Wyoming to a high of 21.9 in Mississippi, reflecting differences in need and in program policies. Southeastern States have a particularly high share of residents receiving SNAP benefits, with participation rates of 15.8 to 21.9 percent. Utah had the largest decline from 2013 to 2014 and joined Wyoming and North Dakota as States with less than 8 percent of the population receiving SNAP benefits. This chart appears in the ERS data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated May 7, 2015.
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Maintaining and restoring wetlands could remove nitrogen cost effectively over much of the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River watersheds  
Monday, June 01, 2015
Every year, agriculture contributes an estimated 60-80 percent of delivered nitrogen and 49-60 percent of delivered phosphorous in the Gulf of Mexico. Nitrogen in waters can cause rapid and dense growth of algae and aquatic plants, leading to degradation in water quality as found in the hypoxic zone of the Gulf of Mexico, where excess nutrients have depleted oxygen needed to support marine life. Nitrogen removal is one of the many benefits of wetlands. An ERS analysis found that on an annual basis, the amount of nitrogen removed per dollar spent to restore and preserve a new wetland ranged from 0.15 to 34 pounds within the area of study (the Upper Mississippi/Ohio River watershed), or a range of $0.03 to $7.00 per pound of nitrogen removed. Restoring and protecting wetlands in the very productive corn-producing areas of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio tends to be more cost effective than elsewhere in the study area. The study suggests that if nitrogen reduction was the only environmental goal, these corn-producing areas would be a good place to restore wetlands. Hydrologic conditions in the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River watersheds are unique, so the cost effectiveness of wetlands elsewhere is uncertain. This map is found in the ERS report, Targeting Investments To Cost Effectively Restore and Protect Wetland Ecosystems: Some Economic Insights, ERR-183, February 2015.
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Declining prices for U.S. poultry led to higher-than-expected export shipments  
Friday, May 29, 2015
Broiler shipments were down 4.1 percent in March 2015 from a year ago. The 603 million pounds shipped was higher than had been expected, given Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) related national and regionalized trade bans and a stronger dollar. Exports declined in January and February by 12.4 and 17 percent from a year ago, respectively, due to national bans imposed by China, South Korea, and Russia and regionalized bans imposed by a majority of trading partners; however, declining prices, particularly for leg quarters, led to greater shipments into other markets as low prices offset the impact of a stronger currency. The largest gains in shipments were to Asian markets including Taiwan (up 186 percent), Hong Kong (up 58 percent), and Vietnam (up 115 percent). Shipments also increased to Mexico and Canada.  For all of 2014, U.S. broiler exports reached 7.304 billion pounds, and USDA currently forecasts 2015 exports of 6.680 billion pounds, down 7.2 percent from 2014, reflecting the bans in place by Russia, South Korea, and China, as well as the continuing strength of the U.S. dollar.  This chart is from the May 2015 edition of the Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Report.
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Fresh fruit accounted for 52 percent of U.S. fruit availability in 2010-12  
Thursday, May 28, 2015
According to ERS’s Food Availability data, per capita supplies of fruit available for consumption in the United States have fallen over the last decade after rising since the early 1970s. In 2010-12, per capita fruit availability was 251 pounds per person (fresh-weight equivalent), down from 281 pounds per person in 2000-02. Increased U.S. production and greater imports of some types of fruit have not compensated for decreased U.S. citrus production. Fresh fruit accounted for 52 percent of fruit availability in 2010-12, up from a 42-percent share in 1970-72. Bananas, apples, and oranges were the most popular fresh fruits in 2010-12, accounting for 40 percent of fresh fruit availability. Processed fruit availability (canned, juice, frozen, and dried forms) has steadily fallen since reaching a peak of 171 pounds per person (fresh-weight equivalent) in 1977 to a low of 114 pounds in 2012. The bulk of the decline came from juice, especially orange juice. Availability of orange juice fell from 97 pounds per person in 1977 to 44 pounds in 2012. This chart appears in “Fresh Fruit Makes Up a Growing Share of U.S. Fruit Availability” in the May 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Agriculture accounts for 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions  
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Agriculture accounted for about 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2013. Since agricultural production accounts for only about 1 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), it is a disproportionately GHG-intensive activity. In agriculture, crop and livestock activities are unique sources of nitrous oxide and methane emissions, notably from soil nutrient management, enteric fermentation (a normal digestive process in animals that produces methane), and manure management. GHG emissions from agriculture have increased by approximately 17 percent since 1990. During this time period, total U.S. GHG emissions increased approximately 6 percent. This chart is from the Land and Natural Resources section of ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product.
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Imports make up a growing share of U.S. fresh vegetable supplies  
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
U.S. production of fresh vegetables has grown over the past several decades, but domestic consumption has grown even faster, reflecting an expanding population and higher per capita use. The United States has been a net importer of fresh vegetables since 1969 (with the exception of 1981), and the rate of increase of the share of imports grew notably after 1990. Since 2010, approximately 25 percent of the fresh vegetable supply utilized in the United States has been imported each year. The value of fresh vegetable imports exceeded exports by almost $4.3 billion in 2014. The share of imports in domestic use continues to grow in response to multiple factors, including supply gaps, increased awareness of vegetables as a part of healthy diets, desire for year-round variety of fresh vegetables, and increased demand for new products. Exports have remained a relatively small share of U.S. fresh vegetable production. Average volume exported as a share of production peaked in the 1990s and the share exported to all countries fell approximately 3 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year. Onions and lettuce continue to dominate fresh vegetable exports. This chart is based on the Vegetables and Pulses Outlook: May 2015.
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A growing female presence among rural veterans is likely to continue  
Friday, May 22, 2015
The demographics of rural veterans are shifting as newly separated cohorts of younger veterans replace older veterans, and an increasing number of women serve and retire from the military. Since the change from a conscription-based military to an all-volunteer force in 1973, the presence of women in the military has grown from less than 2 percent of active duty personnel to more than 14 percent; as a result, the share of female veterans has steadily increased. In rural (nonmetro) counties, their share more than doubled from the end of Gulf War I (1990-1991) to the present, rising from 3.0 percent in 1992 to 6.3 percent in 2013. Over 40 percent of rural female veterans served during Gulf Wars I and II (2003-2011), compared with less than 5 percent of rural male veterans, reflecting a more youthful rural female veteran population. In 2013, 55 percent of rural female veterans were under the age of 55 compared to 26 percent of rural male veterans. This chart is based on information found in Rural Veterans at a Glance, EB-25, November 2013.
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Farm production costs rise to 10.5 cents of the U.S. food dollar  
Thursday, May 21, 2015
In the United States, 10.5 cents of a typical dollar spent by consumers on domestically-produced food in 2013 represented value added by farm producers, up 8 percent from the previous two years. Products and services provided to farmers by agribusinesses, such as fertilizers and veterinary services, accounted for 2.1 cents of the 2013 food dollar, down 12.5 percent from the previous year. ERS uses input-output analysis to calculate the value added, or cost contributions, to the U.S. food dollar from 12 industry groups in the food supply chain. Annual shifts in food dollar shares between the industry groups occur for a variety of reasons, ranging from the mix of foods that consumers purchase to relative input costs. Energy is another industry group supplying goods and services to farm producers as well as to the other industry groups, and like agribusiness, the energy industries’ food dollar share declined in 2013. Energy costs accounted for 5.2 cents of the food dollar in 2013 compared to 5.6 cents in 2012. This chart is from ERS’s Food Dollar Series data product updated April 2015.
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U.S. production of sweet potatoes continues to grow  
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
U.S. sweet potato production reached a record high 29 million hundredweight (cwt) in 2014, extending production gains that have continued for more than 15 years. Since 1971, North Carolina has been the top sweet potato producer in the United States, and in 2014 it produced 53 percent of all sweet potatoes grown in the country. North Carolina’s production of sweet potatoes in 2000 was 5.6 million cwt, and by 2014 it had had expanded to 15.8 million cwt. The 185-percent increase in North Carolina’s production has led the growth of the U.S. sweet potato industry, but production has expanded in many other states, including California (where production has doubled since 2000) and Mississippi (where production is up by 155 percent). This chart is from the Vegetables and Pulses Outlook: May 2015.
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Number of children participating in USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program has grown  
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides increased access to healthy meals throughout the day to children at child care centers, family day care homes, shelters, and afterschool care programs. In fiscal 2014, over 3.6 million children in child care centers and family day care homes received nutritious meals and snacks through CACFP, up from 2.7 million children in fiscal 2000. Over the last 15 years, child care centers’ participation in CACFP has steadily increased, while fewer CACFP meals are being served in family day care homes. In January 2015, USDA proposed new nutrition standards for CACFP meals—the first change to meal standards since the program’s inception in 1968. The proposed standards require CACFP meals to include a larger variety of fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and less sugar and fat. This chart appears in the Child Nutrition Programs topic page on the ERS website, updated April 15, 2015.
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Peanut farms are adopting precision agriculture technologies  
Monday, May 18, 2015
Precision agriculture is a set of practices used to manage fields by assessing variations in nutrient needs, soil qualities, and pest pressures. In 2013-14, USDA conducted the latest Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) of U.S. peanut growers, interviewing farmers about production practices, resource use, and finances. Some technologies have been rapidly adopted; in particular, 42 percent of peanut farms used auto-steer or guidance systems in 2013, up from 5 percent in 2006. These systems can reduce stress for operators and limit the over-application of inputs on field edges. Yield monitors and yield maps, with essentially no usage in 2006, were used on 8 and 6 percent of farms, respectively, in 2013. With these technologies, monitors can identify within-field yield variations so farmers can adjust inputs and practices accordingly. The use of variable rate application, which has increased from 3 to 22 percent of farms, allows for the adjustment of fertilizer application over a field so that fertilizer can be applied where and when it is needed, thus reducing costs and being more environmentally friendly. This chart is found in the joint ERS/National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) report, 2013 ARMS—Peanut Industry Highlights, based on ARMS Farm Financial and Crop Production Practices data.
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Sub-Saharan Africa food aid receipts variable but declining  
Friday, May 15, 2015
Sub-Saharan Africa food aid receipts have generally declined over the past 10 years, but remain highly variable and continue to account for the largest regional share of global food aid. Annual fluctuations in food aid to the region is partly a result of the shift in the composition of food aid from program aid to meeting more variable emergency assistance needs; emergency assistance accounted for about half of all food aid in 2000, rising to about 70 percent in 2012. Several of the recent major food aid recipient countries in the region, including Sudan and Somalia, are countries with significant emergency needs associated with domestic supply shortages and/or civil unrest. The general decline in Sub-Saharan African food aid receipts since the early 2000’s is partly due to improved supply conditions in some countries in the region, and partly due to the decline in the volume global food aid, which fell from 11.3 million tons in 2000 to less than 7 million tons in 2012.   This chart is based on data found in International Food Security and analysis found in International Food Security Assessment: 2014-2024.
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Frontier and Remote (FAR) codes pinpoint Nation’s most remote regions  
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Small population size and geographic remoteness provide benefits for residents and visitors alike, but those same characteristics often create economic and social challenges. Job creation, population retention, and provision of goods/services (such as groceries, health care, clothing, household appliances, and other consumer items) require increased efforts in very rural, remote communities. The newly updated ERS Frontier and Remote area (FAR) codes identify remote areas of the United States using travel times to nearby cities. Results for level one FAR codes (which include ZIP code areas with majority of their population living 60 minutes or more from urban areas of 50,000 or more people) show that 12.2 million Americans reside more than a one-hour drive from any city of 50,000 or more people. They constitute just 3.9 percent of the U.S. population living in territory covering 52 percent of U.S. land area. Wyoming has the highest share of its population living in FAR level one ZIP code areas (57 percent), followed by Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Alaska. This map, along with the full detail of FAR codes levels 1-4 may be found in the ERS data product, Frontier and Remote Area Codes, updated April 2015.
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<i>Listeria</i> ranks third among foodborne pathogens in terms of economic burden in the United States  
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Listeria monocytogenes causes few illnesses compared to many other major U.S. foodborne pathogens, but these few cases have a high economic burden. According to 2011 estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year about 1,300 adults in the United States are sickened by foodborne Listeria. These cases can have serious consequences, especially for older adults, those with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women and their unborn children. Ninety percent of those who are sickened by Listeria require hospitalization and around 250 die. Pregnant women generally recover without further complications to themselves, but their infections can have serious impacts on their fetuses. Each year, about a third of the 280 cases of congenitally-acquired Listeria infections result in permanent disability or death. ERS estimates that foodborne Listeria infections cause an estimated $2.8 billion annually in medical costs, lost wages, and societal willingness to pay to prevent deaths. About a quarter of that burden is from newborn and prenatal infections. This chart and similar charts for 14 other pathogens can be found in the ERS report, Economic Burden of Major Foodborne Illnesses Acquired in the United States, released on May 12, 2015.
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Food grain yields key to improving food security in low-income countries  
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Eighty percent or more of grain supplies are produced domestically in a majority of the 76 countries included in USDA’s annual International Food Security Assessment, making food grain production key to the assessment of food security conditions. Historically, area expansion was the main driver behind improved performance, but over the last two decades, production increases have stemmed primarily from attaining higher yields. Countries with higher yield growth have generally made steady progress toward reducing the shares of their population assessed as food-insecure. However, per hectare grain yields in a number of countries remain well below the world average and have failed to grow, resulting in relatively little progress towards reducing their food-insecure populations. In the Sub-Saharan Africa region, which generally includes most of the more vulnerable, low- and middle-income countries assessed, ERS analysis indicates that more countries are successfully adopting modern seed varieties that are contributing to improved yields. For additional analysis, see International Food Security Assessment, 2014-24
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Glyphosate use is more widespread in soybean than in corn production  
Monday, May 11, 2015
Recent data from the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) suggest that glyphosate resistant weeds are more prevalent in soybean than in corn production. Glyphosate, known by many trade names (including Roundup), has been the most widely used pesticide in the United States since 2001. It effectively controls many weed species and generally costs less than the herbicides it replaced. Overall, glyphosate was used on a higher proportion of soybean than corn acres, and it was used alone (not in combination with other herbicides) on a substantially higher proportion of soybean acres. Using glyphosate alone contributes to resistance. Many soybean fields are managed with glyphosate alone, because the next best alternative herbicides are more expensive, less effective, and/or can cause significant injury to soybean plants. This chart is found in the Amber Waves feature, “Managing Glyphosate Resistance May Sustain Its Efficacy and Increase Long-Term Returns to Corn and Soybean Production,” May 2015.
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China’s large cotton stockpiles affect world markets  
Friday, May 08, 2015
China has been the world’s largest cotton producer and consumer of cotton for decades, and it became the largest importer shortly after its 2001 accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Economic growth has transformed its agriculture sector, driving wages higher and spurring greater mechanization in many areas; however, small scale cotton production persists with limited mechanization and high production costs, especially in eastern China. To support its farmers, China introduced a support price for cotton in 2011, and from 2011 to 2013 acquired more than 40 percent of China’s cotton crop in an attempt to maintain domestic cotton prices 50-60 percent above world prices. This has resulted in China’s government owning a large amount of cotton stocks, equivalent to nearly 200 percent of its annual use and half of the world’s consumption. New policies in 2014 included a shift from stock acquisition toward target-price based direct subsidies and a sharp reduction in cotton import quotas. Reduced purchases by China’s government and a transition of cotton stockpiles toward long run historic levels could result in years of lower imports, and a decline in world prices. This chart is based on Cotton Policy in China, CWS-15c-01, March 2015.
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Fewer Americans report always having sugar-sweetened beverages available at home  
Thursday, May 07, 2015
A series of questions in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) asks respondents aged 16 and older how often different types of food are kept in their home in order to get an idea of the food environment in U.S. homes. In 2007-08 and 2009-10, respondents were asked how often they had soft drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, or fruit punch available at home. In both surveys, the most common response was “always,” followed by “sometimes.” However, between the two surveys, the share of people saying that they “always” kept such beverages at home fell by 7.1 percentage points, and the share of “never” rose by 2.2 percentage points—positive trends for Americans, who typically over-consume added sugars in foods and beverages. This chart appears in “National Surveys Reveal Modest Improvement in the Types of Foods Available in Americans’ Homes” in the April 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Cotton production in California expected to decline due to drought  
Wednesday, May 06, 2015
California is the fourth largest cotton producing state, and production there depends heavily on irrigation. California is the dominant producer of the longer and finer quality “Extra-long Staple” (ELS) fiber that is used in high-value products such as sewing thread and more expensive apparel and home furnishing items. During the past three years, California production accounted for 95 percent of the total ELS cotton in the United States. The on-going drought that began in 2012 remains a major concern for agricultural producers as reservoir levels and water supplies have been reduced significantly; record-low water allocations were seen in 2014, affecting the type and amount of crops some farmers can produce. While acreage planted to upland and ELS varieties varies from year to year, the lingering drought in California is expected to limit acreage once again in 2015. USDA’s Prospective Plantings report released at the end of March indicated a 27-percent decrease in the State’s total cotton area for 2015, with ELS area declining 29 percent and upland area decreasing 21 percent. While California’s total cotton area would be at its lowest since 1932, the decline is similar to the one experienced during the previous statewide drought of 2007-09.  This chart is based on information in Cotton and Wool Outlook: April 2015.
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The United States is Mexico’s largest source of agricultural imports  
Tuesday, May 05, 2015
Intraregional agricultural trade among the United States, Canada, and Mexico has grown since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. In 2011-13, agricultural imports from NAFTA partners accounted for 80 percent of Mexico’s total agricultural imports, 63 percent of Canada’s imports, and nearly 40 percent of all U.S. agricultural imports. Roughly two-thirds of U.S. agricultural imports from Mexico consist of beer, vegetables, and fruit. These imports are closely tied to Mexico's historical expertise in producing alcoholic beverages and a wide range of fruit and vegetables, along with favorable climates with growing seasons that largely complement those of the United States. Meat, grains, vegetables, fruit, and related products make up roughly 60 percent of U.S. agricultural imports from Canada, while grains, fruit, vegetables, meat, and related products accounted for about 61 percent of U.S. agricultural exports to Canada. Grains, oilseeds, meat, and related products make up about three-fourths of U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico. This chart is based on data found in NAFTA at 20: North America’s Free-Trade Area and Its Impact on Agriculture, February 2015.
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Poorest U.S. households spent 36 percent of their income on food in 2013  
Monday, May 04, 2015
While households spend more money on food when their incomes rise, food expenditures represent a smaller portion of income as households allocate additional funds to other goods. In 2013, U.S. households in the middle income quintile, with an average 2013 after-tax income of $43,592, spent an average of $5,728 on food, or 13.1 percent of their incomes. The lowest income households—those with annual after-tax incomes of $10,092 and below in 2013—spent $3,655 on food on average, or 36.2 percent of their incomes. Since 2009, rising food prices and falling incomes put pressure on food budgets. In pre-recession 2006, households in the lowest income quintile spent 32 percent of their incomes on food and middle income households 12.8 percent. Between 2006 and 2013, average incomes for the lowest quintile rose only 1.2 percent and fell 0.5 percent for middle income earners. This chart is from the Food Prices and Spending section of ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product.
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Rural-urban poverty gap is widest among youngest Americans  
Friday, May 01, 2015
An important indicator of the Nation’s long-term well-being is poverty among children; child poverty often has an impact that carries throughout a lifetime, particularly if the child lived in poverty at an early age. Like the overall poverty rate, nonmetro (rural) child poverty has been historically higher than metro (urban) child poverty, and increased to record-high levels in 2012. According to Census estimates, the poverty rate for children under 18 living in rural areas stood at 26.2 percent in 2013, more than four percentage points higher than the metro child poverty rate of 21.6 percent. In 2013, the nonmetro/metro difference in poverty rates was greatest for children under six years old (30.3 percent nonmetro and 23.9 percent metro). Child poverty is more sensitive to labor market conditions than overall poverty, as children depend on the earnings of their parents. Older members of the labor force, including empty nesters and retirees, are less affected by job downturns, and families with children need higher incomes to stay above the poverty line than singles or married couples without children. This chart is found in the ERS topic page on Rural Poverty & Well-being, updated April 2015.
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U.S. dairy exports trending lower  
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Exports of U.S. dairy products have been strong over the past decade, growing from 1.95 billion pounds in 2005 to nearly 5 billion pounds in 2014. However, over the past 9 months, exports have softened considerably, falling from 464 million pounds in May 2014 to below 340 million pounds in February 2015. Much of the reduction in export volume can be attributed to lower demand by China. Chinese imports of milk powders surged in late 2013 and early 2014, reflecting tight domestic supplies due to herd reductions, stricter regulations on dairy/infant formula production, and strong consumer demand. China turned to the United States and the European Union to supply growing volumes of skim milk powder, while New Zealand increased output of whole milk powder. By mid-2014, China scaled back purchases of milk powders due to growing inventory, slowing economic growth, and an upsurge in China’s domestic milk production.  In addition, U.S. dairy exports have been hampered by the strong exchange rate value of the dollar and flagging international demand for milk powders in general. This chart is based on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook, LDPM-250, April 2015.
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Native Americans live farther from large grocery stores than the average American  
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
A recent ERS study used 2010 data to compute distances to the nearest large grocery store (annual sales of $2 million or more) for individuals living in 3 types of U.S. tribal areas: Alaska Native Village Statistical Areas, Oklahoma Tribal Statistical Areas, and American Indian Tribal Areas. Individuals were ordered by how far they lived from a large grocery store. Upon ranking individuals across the United States in this way, researchers found that the median distance to the closest large grocery store was 0.8 miles, compared to 3.3 miles for individuals living in tribal areas. At the 20th percentile, the distance from an individual’s residence to the nearest large grocery store was 0.3 miles for all U.S. individuals and 0.8 miles for tribal area individuals. More remote U.S. households, those at the 80th percentile, were 2.2 miles away from a large grocery store compared to 9.9 miles for the similar percentile of households living in tribal areas. This chart appears in “Native Americans Living in Tribal Areas Face Longer Trips to the Grocery Store” in the April 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Wholesale beef prices remain elevated  
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
The spread, or difference, between the Choice beef cutout and pork carcass value can indicate the relative demand for red meat proteins at the wholesale level. Likewise, the spread between wholesale Choice beef and pork cutout values—the value of a carcass based on the wholesale prices for the various cuts of meat and other items contained in the carcass—is important to the retail sector. The rapid rise in beef prices and significant decline in pork prices since the beginning of 2015 has widened the spread between the two competing meats to $190/cwt (as of April 24). The choice beef-to-pork ratio sits at 3.77, implying that wholesale beef is being priced nearly four times higher than pork. Most retailers are sensitive to price changes at the wholesale level and choose to feature meat items that provide a good value to consumers while ensuring profitable margins. At current prices, consumers are likely to favor more pork in their diet and less beef. Retail beef prices are expected to remain high throughout the calendar year due to constrained beef production. This chart appears in the cattle and beef section of the April 2015 Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook, LDPM-250.
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California’s irrigation varies by crop  
Monday, April 27, 2015
The California drought continues into 2015—as of April, 44 percent of the State is classified under the exceptional drought rating (meaning that there are exceptional and widespread crop/pasture losses; and shortages of water in reservoirs, streams, and wells creating water emergencies, as determined by U.S. Drought Monitor, produced by the interdepartmental U.S. Government National Integrated Drought Information System [NIDIS]). Farmers in California grow a wide variety of crops using off-farm surface water, groundwater, and—to a limited extent—on-farm surface water. Crops such as rice, cotton, and beans that are most dependent on off-farm surface water are the most vulnerable to reductions in snowpack and reservoir storage due to the ongoing drought. In addition, farmers use a variety of irrigation technologies to apply water. Farms that use the least amount of gravity irrigation, such as orchards/vineyards/tree nuts, vegetables, and berries, are the most able to limit evaporation losses during the drought. In many cases, the most capital intensive crops and irrigation systems, such as almond orchards using drip irrigation systems, have been strategically located over the most reliable water supplies, which is why these crops are more likely to continue irrigating during the drought. The crops that represent the predominant sources of agricultural water use—orchards, rice, hay, and vegetables—consume large amounts of water primarily because they are grown on large amounts of acreage. This chart visualizes information found in California Drought: Farm and Food Impacts in the ERS newsroom, updated April 2015.
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Vietnam’s agricultural trade has grown rapidly in the past decade  
Friday, April 24, 2015
After Vietnam joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), its agricultural trade within the 10-member regional trade bloc expanded. The normalization of trade with the United States in 2001 and WTO accession in 2007 also provided catalysts for growth and integration. Subsequent preferential trade agreements (PTAs) have led to tariff reductions that have only recently begun to take effect. Today, Vietnam’s agricultural trade is still led by trade with its ASEAN partners; however, China has become a major export market and Vietnam’s largest trade partner, while the United States is a close second, and also the largest source of imports. Trade growth with both partners has been significant, growing 7- and 10-fold, respectively, while imports from South America have also grown. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, now under negotiation, is viewed as important to Vietnam’s long-term economic strategy as it could potentially secure markets abroad and facilitate the flow of foreign investment. Vietnam seeks greater access for its textile and footwear industry, while exporting countries, including the United States, see Vietnam as a market with growth potential. This report is from the Amber Waves article, “Japan, Vietnam, and the Asian Model of Agricultural Development and Trade.”
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Fast-food purchasers spend more time in secondary eating and drinking outside the home  
Thursday, April 23, 2015
On an average day over 2006-08—the most recent data available—just over half of Americans age 18 and older engaged in secondary eating or drinking, meaning they consumed food or beverages while doing another (primary) activity. Fast-food purchasers spent about the same amount of time in secondary eating on an average day as the total adult population (23.1 versus 23.9 minutes) but more time in secondary drinking (76.9 versus 65.4 minutes). In addition, fast-food purchasers spent more time engaged in eating/drinking multitasking during certain activities than the total population average. Fast-food purchasers spent more time in secondary eating and secondary drinking while at work, at entertainment venues, and during travel (either as driver or passenger) than the total population average. This information is from the ERS report, The Role of Time in Fast-Food Purchasing Behavior in the United States, November 2014.
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Incentive payments often boost adoption of conservation practices  
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Under the Agricultural Act of 2014, Congress provided an estimated $28 billion in mandatory 2014-18 funding for USDA conservation program payments that encourage farmers to adopt conservation practices. If farmers would have adopted the practice even without financial incentive, however, the practices are not “additional,” and the payments provide income for farmers without improving environmental quality. 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, including 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. Additionality tends to be high for practices that are expensive to install, have limited onfarm benefits, or onfarm benefits that accrue only in the distant future (e.g., soil conservation structures, buffer practices, and written nutrient management plans). Practices that can be profitable in the short term are more likely to be adopted without payment assistance and tend to be less additional (e.g., conservation tillage). Research indicates that the likelihood a payment will result in additional environmental benefit increases as the implementation cost of the conservation practice increases (such as soil conservation structures) and its impact on farm profitability declines. This chart is based on data from the ERS report, Additionality in U.S. Agricultural Conservation and Regulatory Offset Programs, ERR-170, July 2014.
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Calorie shares of the diet in Tanzania, by region  
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Food consumption patterns vary widely across different regions of Tanzania, leading to significant differences in food basket costs and impacts of changes in food prices.  Understanding these consumption patterns is key to measuring access to food in developing countries and supports U.S. policies targeting global food security.  ERS analyzed consumption patterns nationally and for three regions: the business capital Dar es Salaam, the Southern Highlands, and the Lake Zone in the northwestern corner of the country. On average, the Tanzanian diet relies heavily on starchy staples, with maize providing over 40 percent of household calories. But maize accounts for 51 percent of total calories in the Southern Highlands, where it’s produced in surplus, and just 32 percent of calories the deficit producing Lake Zone. In the Lake Zone, cassava is the other key staple, providing about 19 percent of total calories. Rice, beans, and cooking bananas are also important to the Tanzanian diet;in most areas, beans are the main source of protein. Total food basket costs are lowest in the Southern Highlands and highest in Dar es Salaam. This chart is based on data found in Measuring Access to Food in Tanzania: A Food Basket Approach.
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California drought continues, but produce inflation expected to be near historical average  
Monday, April 20, 2015
The California drought continues into 2015—as of March, 42 percent of the State is classified under the exceptional drought rating. Despite these conditions, U.S. fresh fruit and vegetable price inflation is expected to be close to its historical average in 2015. ERS predicts fresh fruit prices will increase 2.5 to 3.5 percent and fresh vegetable prices 2.0 to 3.0 percent. While California does grow a large percentage of many U.S. fresh fruits and vegetables, portions of the produce purchased in grocery stores are imported from various foreign markets. Currently, the strong U.S. dollar is making foreign produce relatively less expensive, putting downward pressure on U.S. retail produce prices. Commodities that are grown almost entirely in California and whose supplies are not largely supplemented by imports could begin to experience higher price increases in 2015. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Consumers section of the California Drought: Farm and Food Impacts page on the ERS website. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.
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Global stocks of rice are tightening in 2015  
Friday, April 17, 2015
Global ending stocks of most agricultural commodities, including feedgrains, oilseeds, wheat, and cotton are expected to reach multi-year highs in 2015. Ample supplies are reflected in prices that are well below the record levels of just a few years ago. Rice is an exception, with global ending stocks projected to decline for the second year in a row to reach their lowest level since the 2009/10 marketing year (August/July). At the same time, global use continues to grow, led by consumption growth in China, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and several other nations. As a result, the global stocks-to-use ratio is projected at just over 20 percent, the lowest it has been since 2007/08, a time when international concern over high commodity and food prices led several of the world’s leading rice producing and consuming countries to restrict exports and increase government-owned rice reserves. These actions resulted in a rapid rise in global rice prices and reduced trade. Today, even though global stocks are approaching levels that prompted substantial trade restrictions in early 2008, prices are lower and global rice trade remains at near-record levels. This chart is from the April 2015 Rice Outlook.
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Degree of rurality influences recent U.S. county population growth and decline  
Thursday, April 16, 2015
ERS Rural Urban Continuum (RUC) codes subdivide the broad metro/nonmetro categories into three metro and six nonmetro groupings. Recently released county-level estimates show that population change within the RUC ranged from over 4-percent growth in metro areas with 1 million or more people to 1-percent declines in the two rural, nonmetro categories. Overall population growth occurred in nonmetro counties with sizeable towns (more than 20,000 urban residents) despite net out-migration. In these counties, employment opportunities often attract younger populations, which in turn imparts higher rates of natural increase (more births than deaths) compared with other nonmetro counties. Conversely, long-term out-migration of younger people results in an older average population in the most rural counties, creating a pattern of natural decrease (more deaths than births). For decades, nonmetro counties that were physically adjacent to metro areas grew rapidly from suburbanization. This is no longer happening, due to the effects of the housing crisis, changing residential preferences that favor urban centers, and reclassification of fast-growing suburban counties from nonmetro to metro. This chart is found in the ERS topic page on Population and Migration, updated April 2015.
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Taxable net farm income increased in 2012, but was still negative  
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
U.S. farm households generally receive income from both farm and off-farm activities, and for many, off-farm income largely determines the household’s income tax liability. Since 1980, farm sole proprietors, in aggregate, have reported negative net farm income for tax purposes. Over the 1998-2008 period, both the share of farm sole proprietors reporting losses and the amount of losses reported generally increased, due in part to deduction allowances for capital expenses. Since 2007, strong commodity prices have bolstered farm sector profits and the net losses from farming have declined. In 2012, the latest year for which complete data are available, U.S. Internal Revenue Service data showed that nearly 70 percent of farm sole proprietors reported a farm loss, totaling almost $24 billion. The remaining farms reported profits totaling $18.2 billion. This chart updates the chart found in the February 2013 Amber Waves feature, “Federal Income Tax Reform and the Potential Effects on Farm Households.”
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Livestock sector is rebounding in the former Soviet Union region  
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
During the last decades of the USSR, the livestock sector grew substantially as the state heavily subsidized both the production and consumption of livestock goods. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the livestock sectors of Russia, Ukraine, and other countries of the former USSR contracted. By the end of the 1990s, both animal inventories and meat production were half (or even less) than at the start of the decade, as these countries’ governments could no longer afford the large subsidies provided to the sector during the Soviet period. Beginning in 2000, the livestock sector in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan began to rebound, though output has not yet reached pre-reform levels. As gross domestic product (GDP) began to rise the governments in these countries had the financial resources to restore some of the subsidies to the sector. Russia also protected the sector with a system of tariff rate quotas on meat imports imposed in 2003. In addition, large modern livestock producers are increasing the efficiency and productivity of operations. The poultry and pork industries have grown, but the beef industry has yet to experience a turnaround. This chart is from the report, Rising Grain Exports by the Former Soviet Union Region: Causes and Outlook.
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Effects of the WIC program extend beyond its participants  
Monday, April 13, 2015
Each month, USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food, health care referrals, and nutrition education to over 8 million low-income, nutritionally at-risk women, infants, and preschool children. In 2012, just over half of all infants in the United States, and over a quarter of all pregnant and postpartum women and children younger than 5, participated in the program, representing a potentially lucrative market for manufacturers of some WIC-approved foods, such as cereals. WIC requires that all breakfast cereals provided through the program be fortified with iron and contain no more than 6 grams of sugars per dry ounce. In response to these requirements, some cereal manufacturers formulated (or reformulated) their products to meet WIC standards. Because these products can also be consumed by non-WIC individuals, WIC may impact the diet quality of all children and adults who eat WIC-approved breakfast cereals, not just participants. This chart is from “Painting a More Complete Picture of WIC: How WIC Impacts Nonparticipants” in the April 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Costs of restoring and preserving wetlands vary across the United States  
Friday, April 10, 2015
USDA’s costs of restoring and preserving new wetlands across the contiguous United States range from about $170 to $6,100 per acre, with some of the lowest costs in western North Dakota and eastern Montana and the highest in major corn-producing areas and western Washington and Oregon. To analyze conservation program expenditures, ERS researchers generated county-level estimates of wetland costs for each of the major wetland regions as designated by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (outlined in black in the map), using primarily NRCS Wetland Reserve Program contract data. Variations in costs are driven by differences in land values and the complexity of restoring hydrology and wetland ecosystems. Information about how the costs of restoring and preserving wetlands vary spatially (together with the relative benefits) can inform wetland targeting policies within States/regions and across the U.S. This map is found in the ERS report, Targeting Investments to Cost Effectively Restore and Protect Wetland Ecosystems: Some Economic Insights, ERR-183, February 2015.
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Over 30 retail fruits cost less than 80 cents per cup equivalent  
Thursday, April 09, 2015
Food intake surveys find Americans consuming about half the amount of recommended fruits per day. One reason may be that some consumers perceive fruit to be expensive. ERS calculated average prices paid in 2013 for 63 fresh and processed fruits measured in cup equivalents. A cup equivalent is the edible portion that will generally fit in a 1-cup measuring cup; 1/2 cup for raisins and other dried fruits. The amount of fruit a person should eat per day depends on age, gender, and level of activity. For a 2,000-calorie diet, 2 cup equivalents of fruits per day is recommended. Fresh watermelon at 21 cents per cup equivalent and apple juice (made from concentrate) at 27 cents were the lowest priced fruits, while fresh blackberries, fresh raspberries, and canned cherries were the priciest. Thirty-five fruits cost less than 80 cents per cup equivalent. The data in this chart are from ERS's Fruit and Vegetable Prices data product on the ERS website, updated March 19, 2015.
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South Africa's corn production to drop as dryness cuts yields  
Wednesday, April 08, 2015
South Africa’s 2014/15 corn production is forecast at 11.5 million tons, down 23 percent from the previous year. Area harvested is expected to be unchanged from a year earlier, but yields are forecast to drop 10 percent from the 5-year average due to heat and dryness during critical growth stages. South Africa is normally one of the world’s top 10 corn exporters, with exports averaging 2.1 million tons over the last 5 years. While favorable weather and growing conditions in most major corn producing countries is supporting record world corn yields in 2014/15, South Africa, one of the last countries to harvest corn in the 2014/15 marketing year, is expected to lower corn exports by half to 1 million tons. South Africa produces both white and yellow corn, and both types are experiencing poor weather conditions this year. White corn is a staple food in South Africa, and due to the production shortfall it will require a price premium over yellow corn to channel it into human food use and away from feeding to animals. This chart is based on the March 2015 Feed Outlook report.
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Share of U.S. school districts serving locally produced foods varies by State  
Tuesday, April 07, 2015
The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 established the USDA Farm to School Program to encourage school districts to use locally produced food for school-provided breakfasts and lunches. USDA’s Farm to School Census, covering school years 2011-12 and 2012-13, found that 36 percent of the 9,887 public school districts that responded to the Census served locally produced food in their school meal programs, and an additional 9 percent planned to serve local foods in the future. Many States have legislation encouraging local sources of foods for school meals, and in a handful of States (Rhode Island, Maryland, Delaware, Vermont, Maine, and Hawaii) more than 80 percent of school districts that completed the questionnaire reported serving some local foods. In 10 other States, 20 percent or fewer districts reported serving local foods. Some of the hurdles to serving local foods cited by school districts included lack of year-round availability of key items, high prices for local foods, and lack of availability of local foods from primary vendors. This map appears in “Many U.S. School Districts Serve Local Foods” in the March 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Rural population decline continues in 2014  
Monday, April 06, 2015
The number of people living in rural (nonmetropolitan) counties declined for the fourth year in a row according to population estimates released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau. While hundreds of individual counties have lost population over the years, especially in remote or sparsely-settled regions, this marks the first period of population decline for rural (nonmetro) areas as a whole. Population declines stem from a combination of fewer births, more deaths, and changing migration patterns. From July 2013 to July 2014, the increase in rural population that came from natural change (58,348 more births than deaths) did not match the decrease in population from net migration (89,251 more people moved out than moved in), leading to overall population loss. The contribution of natural change to rural population growth will likely continue its gradual downward trend due to historically low fertility rates and an aging population. Net migration rates are prone to short-term fluctuations in response to economic conditions. This chart is based on the data found in County-level Datasets: Population on the ERS website, updated April 2015.
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Manmade fibers behind increase in textile and apparel product imports  
Friday, April 03, 2015
U.S. net textile and apparel fiber imports rose for a second consecutive calendar year in 2014 to their highest level in 4 years. Net imports reached approximately 14.5 billion raw-fiber-equivalent pounds in 2014, compared with 13.9 billion pounds in 2013 and a record 15.1 billion pounds in 2007. In 2014, total fiber product imports grew 3 percent to their highest since 2010, while exports rose 1 percent to their highest level since 2008. U.S. net imports consist largely of cotton and manmade fiber products, but cotton’s share has declined in recent years due to the steady growth in the use of manmade fibers, due in part to their relative price advantage. In 2014, cotton textile and apparel products accounted for about 46 percent of the total, while manmade fibers contributed 47 percent. By comparison, just 5 years ago, cotton contributed nearly 56 percent of the total compared with manmade fibers’ share of 38 percent. This chart is from the March 2015 Cotton and Wool Outlook report.
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Average net cash income for farm businesses is forecast down in all regions in 2015  
Thursday, April 02, 2015
After historically high average net cash farm income (NCFI) in 2012 and 2013, average NCFI is expected to decline 22.7 percent in 2014F-15F for U.S. farm businesses (defined as farms with annual gross cash farm income greater than $350,000, or smaller operations where the operator’s primary occupation is farming), the lowest level since 2010-11 While declines are expected in all ERS resource regions, performance is expected to vary considerably, primarily driven by the regional commodity production specializations. The forecast sharp drop in dairy receipts contributes to an expected 34-percent decline in average NCFI in the Northern Crescent. The forecast decline in NCFI for the Fruitful Rim is driven by the expected drop in NCFI for specialty crop farms. Farm businesses’ average NCFI in the Basin and Range is forecast to decline due to declining receipts for sorghum and wheat. Expected declines in poultry and hog receipts drive lower projected average NCFI in the Eastern Uplands, while increasing livestock costs and decreasing crop receipts contribute to the decline in the Southern Seaboard. This map is found in the ERS topic page on Farm Business Income and the data are available in the February 2015 release of Farm Income and Wealth Statistics.
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Drop in fuel prices contributes to lower energy-related costs for major crops  
Wednesday, April 01, 2015
The share of operating expenses devoted to energy-related inputs used in agricultural production increased during the most recent period of high energy prices, and for many crops peaked in 2008 followed by a decline in 2010 with a drop in natural gas prices. Fertilizers (an energy-intensive input with up to 80 percent of its manufacturing cost in natural gas) are generally the largest component of farms’ energy-related costs and are highest for corn, accounting for 43 percent of all operating costs in 2013. For other major field crops, 2013 fertilizer cost shares ranged from 19 percent for cotton to 36 percent for wheat. The Department of Energy projects diesel fuel prices to fall by 34 percent in 2015, which is expected to lower the share of energy-related production expenses for all major crops. Reduced costs of production increase producer returns and can affect planting decisions in the aggregate, as well as cropping choices between competing crops. For most livestock producers, energy costs are a relatively small part of production costs relative to feed costs. This chart is based on the data available in Commodity Costs and Returns, updated December 2014.
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U.S. food shoppers do not usually shop at the closest grocery store  
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
A new survey funded by USDA, the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (or FoodAPS), asked the main food shopper of the household where they did most of their food shopping. Researchers compared the distance to this store to the distance to the nearest supermarket or supercenter authorized to accept benefits from USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-SM/SC). Researchers found that on average, all households—those receiving food assistance and those not—bypass the SNAP-SM/SC closest to their home to shop at another store, which may or may not be SNAP authorized, for their main grocery purchases. The average SNAP participant lived 1.96 miles from the nearest SNAP-SM/SC, but traveled 3.36 miles to their primary store for food shopping. WIC-participating households were 1.92 miles from the nearest SNAP-SM/SC, but traveled 3.15 miles to do their main grocery shopping. Non-poor households traveled 3.98 miles, while the closest SNAP-SM/SC was 2.21 miles from their home. Store proximity may be important, but price, quality, and selection also affect where households shop. In addition, households may food shop on their way home from work or other activities. The statistics for this chart are from the ERS report, Where Do Americans Usually Shop for Food and How Do They Travel to Get There?, released on March 23, 2015.
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The U.S. dairy herd will continue adjusting to market forces  
Monday, March 30, 2015
U.S. milk cow numbers are projected to rise through 2018 as high milk prices and lower feed costs provide favorable returns to producers. Lower returns due in part to higher feed costs are expected to lead to year-to-year declines in cow numbers from 2020-24. At the same time, U.S. milk output per cow is projected to increase through the projection period, reflecting continued technological and genetic developments. Domestic commercial use of dairy products is expected to increase faster than the growth in U.S. population over the next decade. The demand for cheese is expected to rise due to greater consumption of prepared foods and increased away‑from-home eating, while the long-term decline in per capita consumption of fluid milk products is likely to continue. The United States is expected to expand exports of dairy products; commercial U.S. dairy exports are projected to increase steadily over the next decade, reaching record levels on both a fat and a skim-solids basis. Production increases in other major dairy exporting countries are expected to lag growth in global import demand, supporting a favorable outlook for U.S. dairy exports. This chart is based on the report, USDA Agricultural Projections to 2024.
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Retail food prices up 3.5 percent at the end of 2014  
Friday, March 27, 2015
Grocery store food prices in the fourth quarter of 2014 were 3.5 percent higher than a year earlier. At-home food price inflation over the last 20 years has averaged around 2.6 percent per year, indicating that 2014 ended the year with higher than average food price inflation. Beef and veal prices saw the largest increase, rising 18.2 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013, the result of historically low U.S. herd sizes and steady consumer demand. Pork prices were up 9.3 percent, as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) in the United States affected the supply of hogs available for market. However, some food categories saw price increases over the same time period that were lower than average. Retail prices for cereals and bakery products rose just 0.4 percent, and fats and oils rose 1.5 percent. The relatively low rate of inflation for these two categories was predominantly due to large supplies of soybeans and wheat from strong U.S. production. This chart is from ERS’s data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated March 23, 2015. More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated March 27, 2015.
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Wheat prices in India tend to be less volatile than in world markets  
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Wheat is the primary food staple across much of northern India. Government policy interventions have generally kept domestic prices more stable than world prices (represented by the U.S. wheat price), particularly since the 2008 global price spike. Indian policies provide growers with Minimum Support Prices (MSPs), distribute wheat procured at the MSP to consumers at subsidized prices, subsidize storage of operational and buffer stocks, and regulate imports and exports through periodic trade bans and quotas. Low domestic stocks and rising world prices led India to boost wheat MSPs and limit exports during 2007-2009 but by 2012, the accumulation of surplus stocks led to the return of private sector exports. The increase in domestic wheat prices that occurred between 2007 and 2010 was much smaller than the more than 30 percent rise in domestic rice prices. ERS research using Indian household data indicates that, compared with Indian rice consumers, wheat consumers were more able to maintain consumption of wheat and other foods during the 2007-2010 period. This is an updated version of a chart that can be found in Coping Strategies in Response to Rising Food Prices: Evidence from India.
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Rice farms are adopting precision agriculture technologies  
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Precision agriculture refers to a set of practices used to manage fields by measuring variations in nutrient needs, soil qualities, and pest pressures. In 2013, USDA conducted the latest Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) of the U.S. rice industry, interviewing farmers about production practices, resource use, and finances in the 10 largest rice-producing States. Some technologies have been rapidly adopted; in particular, yield monitoring increased in use to 60 percent of farms between 2006 and 2013. Monitors can identify variations in yields within a field, allowing farmers to adjust inputs and practices accordingly. Auto-steer or guidance systems are now used on over half of all rice farms; these reduce stress on operators, and reduce errors in input application overlaps and seeding cut-off at the end rows. The cost savings from using these two technologies can also be accompanied by increases in yields. This chart is found in the joint ERS/National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) report, 2013 ARMS—Rice Industry Highlights, based on ARMS Farm Financial and Crop Production Practices data.
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Food assistance expenditures fall for the first time in 15 years  
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Federal expenditures for USDA’s 15 domestic food and nutrition assistance programs totaled $103.6 billion in fiscal 2014—a 5-percent drop from the previous fiscal year and the first decrease since fiscal 2000. The decrease was driven largely by an 8-percent decline in expenditures for USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which totaled $73.9 billion in fiscal 2014. Expenditures for all the other food and nutrition assistance combined increased by less than 1 percent. Lower SNAP expenditures reflected a decrease in both participation and average benefits per person. An average 46.5 million people per month participated in the program in fiscal 2014—2 percent fewer than the previous year—as economic conditions continued to improve. Benefits per person averaged $125.37 per month, or 6 percent less than the previous fiscal year, due largely to the November 2013 termination of the temporary increase in SNAP benefits mandated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This chart appears in ERS's The Food Assistance Landscape: FY2014 Annual Report, released on March 20, 2015.
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Global wheat, coarse grains, and soybean trade projected to continue increasing  
Monday, March 23, 2015
Global trade in soybeans and soybean products has risen rapidly since the early 1990s, surpassing global trade in both wheat and total coarse grains (corn, barley, sorghum, rye, oats, millet, and mixed grains). Continued growth in global demand for vegetable oil and protein meal, particularly in China and other Asian countries, is expected to keep soybean and soybean products trade above either wheat or coarse grain trade throughout the next decade. Increasing demand for grains, oilseeds, and other crops provides incentives to expand global area under cultivation and cropping intensity, although lower projected prices could constrain expansion. Globally, the total area planted to grains, annual oilseeds, and cotton is projected to expand at an average annual rate of 0.5 percent from 2015 to 2024, from 934 to 982 million hectares. Population growth is a significant factor driving overall growth in demand for agricultural products. Rising per capita income in most countries is also contributing to the demand for vegetable oils, meats, horticulture, dairy products, and grains. This chart is based on the report, USDA Agricultural Projections to 2024.
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The United States has a large and growing agricultural trade surplus with China  
Friday, March 20, 2015
In recent years, growth in U.S.-China agricultural trade has accelerated. During calendar years 2012-13, U.S. exports of agricultural products to China averaged $25.9 billion per year—a tenfold increase from the late 1990s. Sales to China doubled during 2004-08 and doubled again during 2008-12, while the share of U.S. agricultural exports going to China rose from about 3 percent during the 1990s to 18 percent during 2012-13. China became the largest overseas market for U.S. farm products in 2010. U.S. imports of agricultural products from China rose at a slower pace, reaching $4.4 billion in 2013—agriculture is one of the few sectors where the United States has a trade surplus with China.  During 2012-13, the United States accounted for over 24 percent of China’s agricultural imports by value and was its leading supplier of oilseeds, cotton, meat, cereal grains, cattle hides, distillers’ dried grains (mainly used for animal feed), and hay. Soybeans account for more than half of the total value of U.S. agricultural exports to China, averaging $14.1 billion during the 2012-13 calendar years, and are also the largest U.S. export of any type to China, accounting for about 11 percent of the value of total U.S. exports to China. This chart is based on the ERS report, China’s Growing Demand for Agricultural Imports.
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Farmers’ markets, other local food marketing channels show strong growth  
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Local foods is one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture, and the number of local food marketing outlets is increasing. Growing demand for local foods in the United States is, at least in part, the result of consumer interest in environmental and community concerns, including supporting local farmers/economies and increasing access to healthful foods. American farmers and consumers are increasingly finding more opportunities to sell and buy food locally. As of 2014, there were 8,268 farmers’ markets in the United States, up 180 percent since 2007, despite no growth in real farmer-to-consumer (direct) sales between 2007 and 2012. Local food sales may be increasingly indirect, that is through intermediaries rather than farmer-to-consumer. The number of regional food hubs, (enterprises that aggregate locally sourced food to meet wholesale, retail, institutional and even individual demand) has increased almost threefold since 2007, to a total of 302 in 2014. Farm to school programs have multiple objectives, ranging from nutrition education to serving locally-sourced food in school meals. According to the USDA Farm to School Census, 4,322 school districts have farm to school programs, a 430-percent increase since 2007. This chart is found in the ERS report, Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress, AP-068, January 2015.
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Recession affected visits to sit-down restaurants, not fast food  
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Economic recovery since the Great Recession—which officially ran from December 2007 to June 2009—was slow, particularly for the labor market; the 8.7 million jobs lost during the recession were not recovered until May 2014. Tough economic times caused consumers to adjust their spending on discretionary items, including their eating out habits. Using American Time Use Survey (ATUS) diaries from 2003-11, ERS researchers found that visits to sit-down restaurants declined during and after the 2007-09 recession, while fast food visits were little changed. The share of adults purchasing fast food/carry out at a counter-service restaurant on a given day stayed fairly constant over 2007-11 at around 13 percent. In contrast, the share of adults visiting a sit-down restaurant once or more on an average day declined from 20 percent in 2006 to 17 percent in 2011. The drop in sit-down restaurant visits likely reflects people switching their eating out purchases to lower-cost fast food options and the expansion of fast food offerings—both menu items and restaurant formats, such as “fast casual” restaurants. This chart is from “Recession Had Greater Impact on Visits to Sit-Down Restaurants than Fast Food Places” in the March 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Americans are eating fewer potatoes and less cabbage than previous generations  
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Many consumers will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by preparing a traditional Irish-themed meal of corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. While cabbage and potatoes remain seasonally popular, annual per capita consumption is trending lower. Beginning in the1970s and through the 1990s, consumption of fresh cabbage averaged about 8.5 pounds per capita, peaking at 9.3 pounds in 1993 with the growing availability of prepared, fresh-cut products such as slaws and salad mixes. Consumption has been trending lower since 2000, reaching as low as 6.3 pounds in 2012 before rebounding somewhat the past two years to 7.0 pounds in 2014. Consumption of fresh potatoes has been declining over a longer period, falling by about 20% during the 1970’s, before stabilizing during the 1980s and 1990s and trending lower again since 2000. The long-term decline reflects changes in the market as well as dietary shifts, including greater availability of processed potatoes (especially frozen) that supplant consumption of fresh potatoes, and growing interest in low-carbohydrate diets during the past decade that reduced consumption of all starches. This chart is based on data found in the Vegetable and Pulses Yearbook and the Food Availability Per Capita Data System.
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Livestock Forage Disaster Program payments spike in 2014  
Monday, March 16, 2015
The Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) was initially authorized by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 to reimburse eligible farmers and ranchers for grazing losses due to a qualifying drought or fire through September 30, 2011 (the end of the period covered by the 2008 Act). The 2014 Farm Act made LFP a permanent program, and included payments retroactive to October 1, 2011. ERS’s farm income forecast for 2014 includes $4.4 billion in expected LFP payments, incorporated in the direct government payments category “ad hoc and disaster assistance payments.” The 2014 forecast is an over 700-percent increase over the sum of LFP payments made during the previous 5 years. This large spike—generally regarded as a one-time event—reflects large retroactive payments for 2012 and 2013, which account for 84.2 percent of the 2014 expected payout. The 2014 Farm Act included a number of changes that could raise future LFP payments, although not to 2014’s extraordinary level. This chart is found in the Amber Waves finding, “Livestock Forage Disaster Program Payments Increase in 2014.”
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Women operate about 14 percent of U.S. farms  
Friday, March 13, 2015
The share of U.S. farms operated by women nearly tripled over the past three decades, from 5 percent in 1978 to about 14 percent by 2012. Although there have always been women farm operators, national-level statistics to track their numbers and examine their characteristics were not available until the Census of Agriculture began asking for principal farm operators’ gender in 1978. 2012 marked the first census, however, in which the number (and share) of women-operated farms did not increase. The number of women-operated farms declined 6 percent between 2007 and 2012, similar to the 4-percent decline for men-operated farms. For both genders, most of the decline (about 75 percent) occurred in the smallest size category of farms (those with annual sales less than $1,000). Between the 1992 and 2007 censuses, the number of farms in this category increased substantially—in part because of increased efforts to find all small farms, including those operated by women. Fewer of these very small farms are overlooked now, resulting in more stable farm numbers. This chart updates one found in the ERS report, Characteristics of Women Farm Operators and Their Farms, EIB-111, April 2013.
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Russian grain production and exports are rising in tandem  
Thursday, March 12, 2015
During the final decades of the Soviet Union, Russia (along with the USSR in general) was a large importer of grain, with net imports in some years exceeding 20 million metric tons (mmt). However, since 2000, the country has become a major grain exporter (primarily of wheat), with net exports in some years exceeding 20 mmt. Underlying this reversal is the fact that the Russian livestock sector contracted substantially—by about half—during the 1990s, reducing not only the need for grain imports, but for domestic production, as well. Then, beginning in about 2000, Russian grain production began to rise substantially, creating large surpluses for export. Despite the country’s move from large grain importer to exporter, average annual grain output over 2011-14 was still below that of 1986-90. This highlights the degree to which the Soviet Union over-invested in its high-cost and inefficient livestock sector, which required large volumes of feed from both domestic and imported grain. Russian grain output and exports continue to trend higher, but can fluctuate considerably on a year-to-year basis because of Russia’s volatile continental weather. This chart is based on the report, Rising Grain Exports by the Former Soviet Union Region, Causes and Outlook.
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Productivity rises in global agriculture  
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
By using new technologies, farmers can produce more food using fewer economic resources at lower costs. One measure of technological change is total factor productivity (TFP). Increased TFP means that fewer economic resources (land, labor, capital and materials) are needed to produce a given amount of economic output. However, TFP does not account for the environmental impacts of agricultural production; resources that are free to the farm sector (such as water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity) are not typically included in TFP. As a result, TFP indexes may over- or under-estimate the actual resource savings from technological change. Growth in global agricultural TFP began to accelerate in the 1980s, led by large developing countries like China and Brazil. This growth helped keep food prices down even as global demand surged. This chart uses data available in International Agricultural Productivity on the ERS website, updated October 2014.
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Southern States generally have a higher share of infants participating in WIC   
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food, nutrition education, and referrals to health care and other social services to eligible low-income women, infants, and preschool children. In fiscal 2014, WIC served an average of 8.3 million people each month, including almost 2 million infants. State level data from fiscal 2012 reveal that on average, about 51 percent of all infants in the United States participated in the program. The share of  infants that participated in the program varied by State, ranging from a low of 30 percent in Utah to a high of 67 percent in Mississippi. In six States (Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Alabama)—all located in the southeastern United States—over 60 percent of all infants participated in WIC. Economic conditions impact both the percent of infants eligible to participate and the percent of eligible infants enrolled in the program. Participants in WIC must meet maximum income guidelines. A State with a more robust economy is more likely to have fewer residents who qualify for WIC. The statistics for this map can be found in the ERS report, The WIC Program: Background, Trends, and Economic Issues, 2015 Edition, January 2015.
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Nonbulk agricultural exports support more business activity than bulk exports  
Monday, March 09, 2015
Nonbulk agricultural exports (processed or high-value) have a larger proportional effect on the U.S. nonfarm economy than bulk exports (defined as soybeans and other oilseeds, wheat, rice, corn and other feed grains, tobacco, and cotton). In 2013, nonbulk exports of $96.9 billion stimulated an additional $137.7 billion of business activity (i.e., each dollar of non-bulk exports generated $1.42 of additional output). Bulk exports valued at $47.5 billion produced an additional $38.3 billion of business activity (i.e., each dollar of bulk exports generated $0.81 of additional output). In contrast to bulk exports, nonbulk exports of higher value or more processed products led to proportionally more additional business activity in the food processing, other manufacturing, and services, trade, and transport sectors. Of the 1.09 million jobs associated with U.S. agricultural exports in 2013, 768,300 (70 percent) supported nonbulk exports. This chart comes from the Agricultural Trade Multipliers data product.
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Motivating Americans to make dietary changes continues to be a challenge  
Friday, March 06, 2015
Research has shown that participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) tend to consume lower quality diets than nonparticipants. Pessimism about the value of dietary change may be one of the culprits. Analysis of responses to questions in the Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey module of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that 40 percent of SNAP participants indicated that they felt no need to change their diets; in contrast, only 25 percent of higher income shoppers felt no need to make dietary changes. (Higher income adults are those with household incomes above 185 percent of the Federal poverty threshold.) SNAP participants were also more likely than other respondents to agree with the statement "some people are born to be fat and some thin; there is not much you can do to change this.” This may indicate differences in perceptions of self-efficacy among SNAP participants compared to higher income shoppers. Alternatively, it may be that the other stresses of living in poverty make maintaining diet and health as a top priority more difficult. This chart appears in “SNAP Households Must Balance Multiple Priorities to Achieve a Healthful Diet” in the November 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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U.S. share of world wheat exports continues to decline  
Thursday, March 05, 2015
The United States is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat—second only to the European Union and ahead of the world’s other major exporters including Canada, Australia and Russia—but its share of global wheat exports has trended lower over several decades and is expected to continue to decline over the next 10 years. While US wheat exports are expected to trend modestly higher from 2015 through 2024, exports from Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan could account for nearly half of the projected increase in world wheat trade, notwithstanding the weather-related production fluctuations that are common in this region. Growth in wheat imports is concentrated in developing countries where income and population gains drive increases in demand, including regions of West Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt and other parts of North Africa and the Middle East, Indonesia and Pakistan. In many of these markets, Black Sea and EU exporters maintain a cost advantage over the United States reflecting transportation distance, as well as the fact that U.S. wheat exports are almost exclusively for high-value food markets while much of the wheat imported by developing countries is for lower value uses including livestock feed. Nevertheless, the United States will remain one of the world’s leading suppliers of high-quality wheat, with exports projected to rise slowly during the coming decade, even as its share of global exports falls from 17.8 percent in 2015/16 to 16.1 percent in 2024/25. This chart is based on the report, USDA Agricultural Projections to 2024.
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Japan increasingly imports agricultural products from Asia and South America  
Wednesday, March 04, 2015
Japan is one of the largest markets for U.S. agricultural exports, and the United States has long been its largest supplier. However, in recent years the total value of U.S. agricultural exports to Japan has stagnated (in real terms) and the U.S. share of Japan’s agricultural imports has declined. U.S. exports to Japan of some major products—such as soybeans and fruits/preparations—are down since 2000, and others, such as wheat and corn, have remained flat. Japanese imports of U.S. pork are an exception, with strong growth over the last 15 years. The decline in the U.S. share of Japan’s agricultural imports reflects greater competition from competing suppliers, especially in South America and Asia. Japan has expanded its imports of soybeans, soy meal, poultry meat, and grains from South America; palm oil, rubber, and poultry meat from Southeast Asia; soy meal from South Asia; and alcoholic beverages and processed foods from nearby South Korea. Nevertheless, the United States remains Japan’s largest supplier of agricultural products despite trade policies there that maintain a high level of protection for domestically produced products such as wheat and rice and many consumer-ready foods. This chart is from “Japan, Vietnam, and the Asian Model of Agricultural Development and Trade,” in Amber Waves, February 2015.
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Fresh produce prices at direct-to-consumer outlets vary by region  
Tuesday, March 03, 2015
ERS researchers recently used quantity and expenditure data from a nationally representative survey of households and their retail food purchases to analyze prices of selected fruits and vegetables at direct-to-consumer (DTC) outlets, which include farmers’ markets, roadside fruit stands, and onfarm sales. Average prices at DTC venues exhibited regional variation for fresh tomatoes, potatoes, and apples, which were among the most popular fresh produce items purchased by Nielsen Homescan panelists in 2006. (2006 is the latest year that has detailed information on unpackaged and nonstandard-weight foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.) Prices at DTC outlets in 2006 were lowest in the Rocky Mountain region and highest (for tomatoes and potatoes) in the Far West. DTC apple prices were highest in the Mid-Atlantic. DTC tomato prices varied most, ranging from $0.79 per pound in the Rocky Mountains to $1.30 per pound in the Far West. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress, January 2015.
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U.S. farm sector assets and equity (inflation-adjusted) forecast to decline in 2015 for the first time since 2009  
Monday, March 02, 2015
The rate of growth in U.S. farm sector assets and equity (assets minus debt) is forecast to moderate in 2015 compared with recent years, and to decline for the first time since 2009 after adjusting for inflation. Lower projected farm asset growth is primarily driven by decreases in financial assets and a small drop in farm real estate value. These declines reflect lower forecast net cash income for 2014-15, along with expectations of slightly higher interest rates. Farm sector debt is expected to increase in both nominal and inflation-adjusted terms in 2015. Debt is led higher by an increase in nonreal estate borrowing because lower cash income is expected to reduce cash available to cover operating expenses. As a result, the debt-to-asset ratio is expected to increase from 10.6 to 10.9 in 2015, marking the first increase since 2009. Dig deeper into the U.S. farm balance sheet with the data visualization released on February 10, 2015.
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Strict <em>Salmonella</em> standards contribute to safety of school lunches  
Friday, February 27, 2015
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides about half of the ground beef served in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) by purchasing raw and cooked ground beef products from U.S. meat producers. AMS-approved suppliers must meet AMS’s basic standards. AMS suppliers can be “active” and sell to the NSLP or be “inactive” and sell in commercial markets only. Active ground beef suppliers must adhere to a strict Salmonella standard. A recent ERS study found that on average, ground beef from all groups of producers examined had levels of Salmonella below the limit set by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Researchers also found that AMS standards incentivize producers to supply ground beef to the NSLP that has lower levels of Salmonella contamination (0.7 percent of samples testing positive) than the ground beef the same suppliers sell to commercial buyers (1.6 percent of samples testing positive). Plants supplying ground beef to the NSLP performed better on Salmonella tests than commercial-only and inactive AMS plants. This chart appears in “Strict Standards Nearly Eliminate Salmonella From Ground Beef Supplied to Schools” in the February 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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On average, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their incomes on food  
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Between 1960 and 2007, the share of disposable personal income spent on total food by Americans fell from 17.5 to 9.6 percent, as the share of income spent on food at home fell. The share of income spent on food purchased in grocery stores and other retailers declined from 14.1 percent in 1960 to 5.5 percent in 2007. At the same time, the percent of income spent on food purchased at restaurants, fast food places, and other away-from-home eating places increased from 3.4 to 4.1 percent. The share of income spent on total food began to flatten in 2000, as inflation-adjusted incomes for many Americans have stagnated or fallen over the last decade or so. In addition, between 2006 and 2013, food price inflation has been greater than overall inflation, making food more costly. In 2013, Americans spent 5.6 percent of their disposable personal incomes on food at home and 4.3 percent on food away from home. This chart appears in the ERS data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials. More information on U.S. food sales and expenditures can be found in ERS’s Food Expenditures data product.
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African American population growth rates higher than U.S. average  
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
The estimated 42 million African Americans living in the United States in 2013 made up close to 13 percent of the population. During a post-recession population slowdown in the United States, African Americans have continued to experience relatively high rates of population growth, the result of higher fertility rates and a younger average population. Population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show gains among African Americans in all urban/rural county types except for the most sparsely-settled and remote areas (nonadjacent rural) during 2010-13. For the total population, suburbanization trends in the U.S. slowed markedly with the onset of the housing crisis and recession. Suburban fringe counties (metro outlying) now show slower rates of growth than the central cities of metro areas, although the African American population growth rate has not yet experienced this historic shift. Similarly, the African American population continues to show gains in those nonmetro counties most likely to be suburbanizing (nonmetro adjacent) at a time when those counties show overall population declines. This chart expands on one found in Shifting Geography of Population Change, a chapter in the ERS website topic page on Rural Population and Migration.
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Stagnant India oilseed production is supporting growth in vegetable oil imports  
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Production incentives for Indian oilseeds are being eroded by declining prices for imported vegetable oils, which are down to a six-year low. Indian rapeseed area fell 7 percent in 2014/15 to 6.6 million hectares. Peanut production is down 4.6 million hectares (15 percent) from 2013/14, continuing a shift by Indian farmers to competing crops such as cotton.  Similarly, sunflowerseed area is down 13 percent in 2014/15. Cottonseed production is estimated to be nearly flat in 2014/15 and soybean production increased about 10 percent, reflecting an improved yield. Total oilseed production will be down about a half million metric tons from the previous year and 1.2 million metric tons from 2012/13.  To make up for lower domestic production, India’s imports of vegetable oil are forecast to be up more than 10 percent in 2014/15, the fourth consecutive year of growth. This trend has turned India into the world’s top importing country for vegetable oil, and a major factor in determining global prices. This chart is based on the February 2015 Oil Crops Outlook Report.
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China continues to import rice at a record pace  
Monday, February 23, 2015
Rice imports by China are expected to set a new record in 2015, surpassing 2014 levels by 200,000 metric tons and marking the fourth consecutive year of record imports.  Rice imports surged in 2012 to more than 7 times the average of the previous 5 years, and continued to grow each year thereafter. China remains the world’s largest rice producer and consumer, and has been largely self-sufficient in rice for more than 30 years and until recently, was typically a net rice exporter.  In 2012, China surpassed Nigeria to become the world’s largest rice importer. Vietnam and Burma are the largest suppliers of rice to China, along with Pakistan and Thailand. The United States is currently unable to ship rice to China due to ongoing disagreements over phytosanitary issues.  China’s record imports are not due to a short crop or tight supplies, but are the result of much lower prices for imported rice than for domestic rice, and continued growth in use partly due to an increasing population.   As the world’s largest rice consumer, even small dietary shifts can have a large effect on the supplies needed to meet consumer demand, and China is increasingly turning to the world market to feed its appetite not only for staple commodities such as rice, but also fruits, vegetables, meat and other consumer-oriented products.  This chart is based on the February 2015 Rice Outlook report. 
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China’s meat imports surge, driven by rising domestic demand and prices  
Friday, February 20, 2015
As China enters a new phase of its economic development, its demand for higher-valued products like meat and dairy products is growing rapidly. China’s imports of meats during 2013-14 were more than double the volume imported during the early 2000s. Growing demand and higher prices of domestic meat products have driven the growth in China’s meat imports over the past few years. China’s meat imports have shifted from items like chicken feet and animal offal to muscle meat, as living standards rose and China opened its market to more beef and mutton imports. The U.S. is currently the top supplier of China’s poultry and pork imports. U.S. exports of meat, dairy products, and other consumer-oriented products, such as fruits, nuts, and wine to China rose from $234 million in 2000 to $3 billion in 2013, comprising nearly 12 percent of the value of total U.S. agricultural exports to China that year. The growth in China’s meat imports could mean new opportunities for U.S. exporters. This chart is based on the ERS report, China’s Growing Demand for Agricultural Imports.
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U.S. fruit and vegetable trade has grown during NAFTA  
Thursday, February 19, 2015
U.S. fruit and vegetable trade with Canada and Mexico has increased more than 380 percent since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Canada and Mexico now account for over half of all U.S. trade in fruits and vegetables, up from 37 percent in 1994. Over the same period, the share of U.S. fruit and vegetable trade with South America and Central America has remained relatively steady, while the share accounted for by Asia and the EU declined considerably.  Mexico’s annual exports of fruit and vegetables to the United States (including juice) have more than tripled during the NAFTA period, approaching $9.4 billion in 2013. These exports have their roots in the development and growth over the past half century of a Mexican fruit and vegetable sector that is oriented toward the U.S. market. Annual U.S. fruit and vegetable exports to Mexico have more than tripled under NAFTA, reaching about $1.4 billion in 2013 and benefitting from the rapid expansion of Mexico’s supermarket sector, including several U.S. supermarket chains that operate there. At the same time, trade liberalization and broader use of greenhouse technology in Canada has allowed U.S. imports of fruit and vegetables from Canada to grow from $213 million in 1988 to $3.1 billion in 2013. Canada has long been a large market for the U.S. fruit and vegetable industry. During the NAFTA period, U.S. fruit and vegetable exports to Canada have grown from less than $2 billion in 1993 to $5.8 billion in 2013.  The chart is from the report, NAFTA at 20: North America’s Free Trade Area and its Impact on Agriculture.
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Lower oil prices may temper 2015 food price inflation  
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Oil prices began declining in the last quarter of 2014, continuing their descent to just above $45 a barrel in January 2015 from $105 in July 2014. Barrel prices have not dipped this low since the end of the Great Recession in 2009. Through their impact on transportation costs and the cost of operating farm machinery, oil prices play a role in retail food prices, and declining oil prices could ease grocery store inflation. However, the effect is likely to be modest because processing costs and retailing overhead are larger cost components of retail food prices. Prices of foods requiring little processing, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, are more likely to be affected by lower oil prices than processed foods such as cereals and bakery products. As oil prices fell in 2009, fresh produce prices decreased 4.8 percent, while prices for cereals and bakery products rose 3.2 percent. Despite lower oil prices, ERS currently predicts overall food prices to rise between 2 and 3 percent in 2015, closely in line with 2014 food price inflation. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.
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Half of U.S. cropland now on farms with 1,200 acres or more  
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
The average (mean) number of acres on crop farms has changed little over 3 decades, with a slight increase from 241 acres in 2007 to 251 in 2012. However, the mean misses an important element of changing farm structure; it has remained stable because while the number of mid-size crop farms has declined over several decades, farm numbers at the extremes (large and small) have grown. With only modest changes in total cropland and the total number of crop farms, the size of the average (mean) farm has changed little. However, commercial crop farms, which account for most U.S. cropland, have gotten larger, aided by technologies that allow a single farmer or farm family to farm more acres. The midpoint acreage (at which half of all cropland acres are on farms with more cropland than the midpoint, and half are on farms with less) effectively tracks cropland consolidation over time. The midpoint acreage of total and harvested cropland has increased over the last three decades, from roughly 500-600 acres in 1982 to about 1,200 acres in the most recent census of agriculture data (2012). This chart is extended through 2012 from one found in the ERS report, Farm Size and the Organization of U.S. Crop Farming, ERR-152, August 2013.
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Last updated: Tuesday, July 07, 2015

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