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Monday, April 21, 2014
The spread between farm prices and retail prices of U.S. choice beef has been rising in real terms since 2000 because of an increasing spread between wholesale and retail prices. The spread between wholesale and retail choice beef prices averaged 75.5 cents/lb during the 1990s, but averaged 93.7 cents/lb during 2009-13. The ERS price spread calculations standardize the farm, wholesale, and retail product values over time, so the expanding wholesale-to-retail spread suggests rising costs in that segment of the supply chain, rather than changes in product mix or quality at each price point. In contrast, the farm-to-wholesale price spread has tended to decline slightly since 2000. These trends in price spreads may arise from differences in cost inflation in key inputs in the farm-to-wholesale and wholesale-to-retail segments of the supply chain, differences in productivity growth in each segment, and changes in the degree of market competition in each segment. This chart is based on data from the Meat Price Spreads data product.
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Friday, April 18, 2014
Although global and U.S. wheat exports are projected to rise over the next decade, the U.S. share of the world market is projected to continue to decline because of competition from other exporters. Global demand for wheat is expected to expand, driven primarily by income and population growth in developing country markets, including Sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt, Pakistan, Algeria, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Brazil. The number of major exporting countries has, however, expanded in recent years from the traditional wheat exporters--the United States, Argentina, Australia, Canada, and the European Union--to include Ukraine, Russia, and Kazakhstan. Although variable, the wheat export volume of those three Black Sea exporters together now rivals that of the United States. Low production costs and new investment in the agricultural sectors of the Black Sea region have enabled their world market share to climb, despite the region’s highly variable weather. Competition from the Black Sea region, as well as from traditional exporters, has resulted in a decline in the U.S. share of expanding world exports from an average of about 39 percent in the first half of the 1980s to an average of about 20 percent over the last 5 years. Find this chart and additional analysis on the Wheat topic page.
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Thursday, April 17, 2014
According to ERS's 2012 food availability data, the per capita supply of chicken available to eat in the United States continues to outpace that of beef. In 2012, 56.6 pounds of chicken per person on a boneless, edible basis were available for Americans to eat, compared to 54.5 pounds of beef. Although down from its peak of 60.9 pounds per person in 2006, chicken availability has been higher than that of beef for the past three years. Chicken began its upward climb in the 1940s, overtaking pork in 1996 as the second-most-consumed meat and overtaking beef for the No. 1 spot in 2010. Pork availability, which fluctuated between 49.9 and 46.6 pounds per person over the 1981 to 2009 period, dropped to 42.6 pounds per person in 2012. This chart is from the Summary Findings in ERS’s data product, the Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014
The 2014 Farm Act provides support for local and regional foods across several titles, including nutrition, horticulture, credit, and rural development. Support includes increased consumer access to and marketing of locally and regionally produced food, both via farmer direct-to-consumer outlets and intermediated outlets (e.g., regional distributors, local retailers, or restaurant sales). In particular, the Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program’s increase in mandatory funding could increase opportunities in the entire local and regional food-supply chain now that intermediaries, including food hubs, can participate. In 2008 (the latest year of analysis available), most local and regional foods were marketed through intermediated channels. Prior to the 2014 Farm Act, support was aimed at local and regional food producers participating in direct-to-consumer sales, rather than those relying on intermediated marketing channels. This chart was adapted from one appearing in the Local and Regional Foods page of Agricultural Act of 2014: Highlights and Implications on the ERS website.
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Farming requires large investments in machinery, equipment, and other depreciable capital. Such investments may be treated either as a current expense and deducted from gross farm income immediately, or capitalized and depreciated over time. For the past four years (2010-2013), if the cost was treated as an expense, the maximum deduction a farm could take was $500,000. Unless the 2010-13 expensing limit is extended, it will fall to $25,000 for tax year 2014. This change could increase the cost of capital investment and significantly increase taxable income for some farms. Based on 2012 ARMS data, while 38 percent of U.S. family farms reported a capital purchase, less than 1 percent had expenses exceeding $500,000. Under a $25,000 expensing limit, 13 percent of farms would have exceeded the limit. Smaller family farms, in general, did not make investments exceeding the old limit, but about 9 percent would have exceeded the 2014 limit. Very large family farms (those with gross cash farm income in excess of $5 million) were far more likely to have capital costs exceeding both the old limit (35 percent) and the 2014 limit (78 percent). This chart updates one found in the ERS report, The Potential Impact of Tax Reform on Farm Businesses and Rural Households, EIB-107, February 2013.
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Monday, April 14, 2014
Following the 2007-09 recession, the U.S. labor force declined from 154.3 million individuals in 2008 to 153.6 million in 2011. With less time dedicated to paid work, households could opt to spend more time preparing food and eating together as a family. Previous ERS research has shown that food prepared at home tends to be of higher nutritional quality than food prepared outside the home. Using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, ERS researchers found that in households of working-age adults and children younger than 17, the number of family meals (meals eaten with a majority of household members) increased from 5.8 per week in 2007-08 to 6.3 per week in 2009-10, and the number of those family meals prepared at home increased from 5.4 to 5.8 per week. Adults age 60 and older also ate more family meals and more family meals prepared at home. Among all working age adults in multiperson households (including those without children), the number of family meals prepared at home increased from 5.3 to 5.7 per week. The statistics in this chart are from “Less Eating Out, Improved Diets, and More Family Meals in the Wake of the Great Recession” in ERS’s March 2014 Amber Waves magazine.
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Friday, April 11, 2014
The number of U.S. jobs associated with agricultural exports has generally been growing along with U.S. agricultural exports and is influenced by the composition of exports between bulk (raw, unprocessed) and nonbulk (processed, high-value) agricultural products. In calendar year 2012, the $141.3 billion of total U.S. agricultural exports generated an estimated 929,000 full-time civilian jobs. Since the early 2000s, job growth associated with U.S. agricultural exports has been driven entirely by expanding sales of nonbulk products. Nonbulk exports have a larger proportional effect on jobs than bulk exports because they generate more economic activity and jobs in the nonfarm economy in areas such as manufacturing, trade, and transportation. In 2012, nonbulk exports of $90.6 billion led to an additional $140.1 billion of business activity supporting an estimated 654,584 jobs, while bulk exports valued at $50.7 billion produced an additional $39.4 billion of business activity supporting an estimated 274,584 jobs. Estimates of economic activity and jobs associated with agricultural exports are model-based, using a detailed input-output data set on the U.S. economy. Find this chart and additional data and documentation in the ERS Agricultural Trade Multiplier data product.
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Thursday, April 10, 2014
U.S. egg disappearance (production adjusted for trade and stock changes) and prices tend to be seasonally low during the first and second quarters of the calendar year, indicating minimal impacts on egg demand and prices due to the Easter holiday. Instead, egg disappearance and prices tend to be noticeably higher during the winter holiday season in the fourth quarter of the year. Household use of eggs for baking and other purposes is normally highest in the fourth quarter, while commercial use is highest in the third quarter. Roughly 31 percent of annual table egg use is termed as “broken,” meaning that they are used in commercial baking and food processing. On an annual basis, U.S. egg consumption fell in 2009 and 2010 as producers reduced output in response to the increases in grain and energy prices that occurred in 2008, but production and consumption have been on a long term upswing since 2010. As of January 2014, on a year-over-year basis, production increased in 28 of the previous 29 months.  Find the data for this chart in Livestock and Meat Domestic Data, with additional analysis in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: March 2014.
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Wednesday, April 09, 2014
After peaking at 6.8 million farms in 1935, the number of U.S. farms fell sharply until leveling off in the early 1970s. Falling farm numbers during this period reflected growing productivity in agriculture and increased nonfarm employment opportunities. Because the amount of farmland did not decrease as much as the number of farms, the remaining farms have more acreage—on average, about 430 acres in 2012 versus 155 acres in 1935. Preliminary data from the recently released Census of Agriculture show that in 2012, the United States had 2.1 million farms–down 4.3 percent from the previous Census in 2007. Between 2007 and 2012, the amount of land in farms in the United States continued a slow downward trend, declining from 922 million acres to 915 million. This chart is found in the ERS chart collection, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated April 8, 2014.
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Tuesday, April 08, 2014
In the United States, 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten. The estimated value of this food loss was $161.6 billion, using 2010 retail prices. Food loss by retailers, foodservice establishments, and consumers occurs for a variety of reasons—a refrigerator malfunctions and food spoils, a store or restaurant overstocks holiday foods that do not get purchased, or consumers cook more than they need and choose to throw the extra food away. Food loss also includes cooking loss and natural shrinkage, such as when leafy greens wilt. In 2010, the top three food groups in terms of share of total value of food loss were meat, poultry, and fish ($48 billion); vegetables ($30 billion); and dairy products ($27 billion). Meat, poultry, and fish’s 30-percent share in value terms is higher than its 12-percent share when measured on a weight basis due to these foods’ higher per pound cost relative to many other foods. This chart can be found in The Estimated Amount, Value, and Calories of Postharvest Food Losses at the Retail and Consumer Levels in the United States, released February 20, 2014.
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Monday, April 07, 2014
Rural population (determined by nonmetropolitan status) declined for the third 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. Since 2010, the increase in rural population that came from natural change (193,000 more births than deaths) has not matched the decrease in population from net migration (276,000 more people moved out than moved in).  While natural change has gradually trended downward over time, net migration rates tend to fluctuate in response to economic conditions.  Thus, this period of rural population loss may be short-lived depending on the course of the economic recovery. This chart is found in the ERS topic page on Population and Migration, updated April 2014.
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Friday, April 04, 2014
Poultry meat imports by major importers are projected to increase by 2.5 million tons (34 percent) between 2013 and 2023, led by rising import demand in North Africa and the Middle East (NAME), Mexico, and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).  Similar factors are expected to drive import growth in each region. Rising incomes and the low cost of poultry meat relative to other meats are projected to favor growth in poultry meat consumption among the low- and middle-income consumers in each region. At the same time, limited local supplies of feed grains and feed protein in all three regions are expected to continue to limit the expansion of indigenous poultry meat production.  The NAME region currently accounts for 47 percent of imports by the major poultry importers, and is projected to account for nearly 80 percent of the increase in their poultry meat imports between 2014 and 2023. In contrast, little import growth is projected for Russia, where policies continue to deter imports in favor of domestic producers, and for China, where domestic production is projected to keep pace with demand. Find this chart and additional analysis in USDA Agricultural Projections to 2023.
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Thursday, April 03, 2014
Since the 1980s, ERS has reported an income measure for farm operator households comparable to the U.S. Census Bureau's measure for all U.S. households. From 1991 to 1997, median farm household income (which is driven almost entirely by off-farm income) was consistently less than median U.S. household income. Since 1998, however, the opposite has been true. The reversal may reflect greater returns to farm household skills employed off the farm, in addition to other factors such as changes in the composition of the farm population. As such, the size of the median household income gap reflects differences in the location and type of nonfarm jobs held by the typical farm and U.S. household, as well as variation in farm income. This chart is found in the ERS topic page on Farm Household Well-being, updated February 2014.
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Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Over the last 15 years, Ukraine has emerged as a major supplier to world markets for several agricultural commodities, including wheat, corn, sunflower oil, and rapeseed.  Wheat is a traditional export, with annual shipments varying with crop size. For 2013/14 (July/June marketing year), Ukraine’s wheat exports are forecast at 10 million tons, or about 6 percent of world wheat trade.  During the last decade, Ukraine’s corn production and exports have expanded, with 2013/14 (October/September) exports forecast at 18.5 million tons, making Ukraine the world’s third-largest corn exporter.  Robust production growth is also behind Ukraine’s emergence as the world’s dominant supplier of sunflowerseed oil, with 2013/14 (September/August) exports forecast at nearly 4.1 million tons, or about 57 percent of global trade.  Ukraine has also become a significant exporter of rapeseed, with 2013/14 (July/June) exports forecast at about 2.2 million tons, or 16 percent of world trade. Despite recent political developments in Ukraine, so far there is no evidence of significant shipping disruptions that might alter the 2013/14 Ukraine export forecasts. Find additional analysis Wheat Outlook: March 2014, Feed Outlook: March 2014, and Oil Crops Outlook: March 2014.
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Tuesday, April 01, 2014
Grocery store food prices increased 0.9 percent in 2013. Since 1970, annual food-at-home price inflation has only been lower three times—in 1992, 2009, and 2010. Low food price inflation usually indicates that prices in some categories increased modestly while others fell, and that was the case in 2013. The largest increases were for poultry and fresh vegetables, which both rose by nearly 5 percent. Poultry price increases were driven by high feed prices and strong consumer demand in response to high beef and pork prices in 2011 and 2012. Vegetable prices rebounded from heavy deflation in 2012. Global sugar and coffee prices fell substantially in 2013, causing retail prices for the broader nonalcoholic beverages and sugar and sweets categories to fall as well. The other foods category, which constitutes over 10 percent of food spending, was nearly flat in 2013 due mostly to moderate fuel prices which lowered processing, packaging, and transportation costs. More information on food price changes and forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated March 25, 2014.
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Monday, March 31, 2014
The successful commercialization of GE varieties culminates earlier research and development (R&D) efforts in agricultural biotechnology. One measure of previous and ongoing R&D activity is the number of field releases for testing of GE varieties approved by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). As of September 2013, about 7,800 releases were approved for GE corn, more than 2,200 for GE soybeans, more than 1,100 for GE cotton, and about 900 for GE potatoes. Field releases were approved for GE varieties with herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, product quality such as flavor or nutrition, agronomic properties like drought resistance, and virus/fungal resistance. After successful field testing, deregulation allows seed companies to commercialize the seeds that they have developed.  As of September 2013, APHIS had received 145 petitions for deregulation and had approved 96 petitions after having determined that the organism (i.e., the GE plant) is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk.  In addition to corn, cotton, and soybeans, APHIS has approved petitions for deregulation for GE varieties of tomatoes, rapeseed/canola, potatoes, sugarbeets, papaya, rice, squash, alfalfa, plum, rose, tobacco, flax, and chicory. This chart is found in “Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops by U.S. Farmers Has Increased Steadily for Over 15 Years” in the March 2014 edition of Amber Waves online magazine.
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Friday, March 28, 2014
Family farms—whether using the ERS definition based on majority ownership of the farm business or the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) definition based on the predominance of family-supplied labor—account for a large share of U.S. agricultural production.  However, their relative production within commodity groups varies. Family farms were particularly important in the production of major field crops (corn, cotton, soybeans, and wheat), where they accounted for 62-96 percent of U.S. production in 2011, and in hogs, poultry, and eggs, where they accounted for 68-96 percent of production.  Family farm production shares are lower in every major commodity category when focusing on the share of farms where the principal operator and spouse provide most of the labor used on the farm (the FAO standard). Large farms, often family owned but heavily reliant on hired farm labor and contract service providers, account for a large share of U.S. production, particularly in high-valued crops (fruit, nuts, vegetables, and nursery) and dairy. For example, family-owned and operated farms account for 75 percent of dairy production, but the operator and spouse usually provide less than half the labor on those farms.  This chart can be found in “Family Farming in the United States” in the March 2014 Amber Waves.
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Thursday, March 27, 2014
Rising yields have been the primary driver of growth in Brazil’s corn production since the mid-2000s. Production gains have allowed Brazil to meet rising domestic corn demand, as well as emerge as a major corn exporter. New high-yielding varieties, the introduction of GMO corn, improved cultural practices, and a shift to higher-yielding land has supported long-term yield growth.  A large share of second-crop corn is planted following soybeans in the frontier agricultural State of Mato Grosso, where corn production quadrupled over the past decade.  In 2011/12 and 2012/13 (March/February marketing year), above-average rains in Mato Grosso pushed corn yields and production to record levels.  For 2013/14, lower corn prices caused reductions in corn area and, with the assumption of more normal weather, corn yields are forecast below the 2012/13 record.  Brazil is the world’s third largest corn producer after the United States and China.  Brazil became the world’s largest corn exporter in 2012/13 when the U.S. corn crop was damaged by drought, but is forecast to be the second largest exporter in in 2013/14. Find additional analysis of corn market developments in Feed Outlook: March 2014.
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014
The new U.S. farm bill—the Agricultural Act of 2014—reauthorizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Nation’s largest food and nutrition assistance program. In fiscal 2013, Federal spending for the program totaled $79.8 billion and an average of 47.6 million people per month received SNAP benefits. The Act maintains the program’s basic eligibility guidelines, and States retain the option, within Federal guidelines, to coordinate SNAP eligibility requirements with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Historical evidence suggests that SNAP expenditures will decline even without stricter eligibility limits, as caseloads contract in response to improving economic conditions. In fact, growth in monthly participation has slowed since late 2009. The Act restricts access to an income deduction related to home heating and cooling costs that boosted SNAP benefits for some households. The Act also provides additional SNAP funding for enhanced employment and training activities for SNAP recipients, expanded efforts to prevent SNAP trafficking (the illegal exchange of SNAP benefits for cash), and matching funds for projects that encourage SNAP recipients to purchase fruits and vegetables by reducing their cost.  Find this chart and additional information on ERS’s Agricultural Act of 2014: Highlights and Implications web pages.
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Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Total calendar year 2014 global rice trade is forecast at a record 41.0 million tons, up 2.3 million tons, or nearly 6 percent, from 2013 and continuing the trend of expansion that began in 2010. The increase of rice trade has been driven by the combination of increasing demand by markets in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, and abundant exportable supplies with Asian exporters.  In 2014, China is forecast to be the world’s largest rice importer, followed by Nigeria, Iran, Indonesia, Iraq, and the Philippines. India is forecast to again be the largest rice exporter, followed by Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, and the United States. World rice prices, while remaining somewhat volatile since the 2008 spike in global food prices, have remained well below those that occurred in 2008 and have generally supported the growth in world rice trade. Find this chart in the Rice Chart Gallery and more analysis in Rice Outlook: March 2014.
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Last updated: Friday, April 18, 2014

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