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Thursday, July 24, 2014
The Rural Development Title of the Agricultural Act of 2014 introduces or replaces a number of programs in rural business development, energy, and broadband Internet.  Specific to the rural development program area is the inclusion of the digital economy, or broadband technology use, in new and existing programs. These provisions are aimed at improving the economic impact of public investments in rural broadband Internet technologies. The Rural Gigabit Network Pilot Program provides $10 million per fiscal year for ultra-high-speed Internet service in rural areas.  While its geographic scope will be small, the pilot program will elicit new data on the need for, and the economic effect of, ultra-high-speed Internet technologies in rural settings. USDA’s Rural Broadband Loan Program continues as an ongoing source of funding for rural broadband networks, with improved reporting and data collection requirements. This chart is found on the page Rural Development in ERS’ Agricultural Act of 2014: Highlights and Implications, updated April 2014.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014
The most recent American Community Survey shows that the percentage of the working-age (adults between the ages of 25 and 64) rural population with schooling beyond a high school diploma increased from 44.5 percent in 2000 to 50.6 percent in 2008-12. As elsewhere, rural people have an economic incentive to acquire additional skills and higher educational attainment; doing so improves both their employment prospects and earnings potential. Even though urban places often offer higher wages than rural places for the college educated, good schools coupled with easy access to outdoor amenities and the potential for a higher quality of life can be an effective draw for rural in-migrants. Increasing school quality and educational attainment is often viewed as part of a broader economic development strategy for rural communities, particularly when paired with job creation strategies such as entrepreneurship and small business development. This chart is based on the ERS data product, County Level Data Sets, updated July 2014.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
The Federal crop insurance program has grown significantly over the last 20 years, expanding from about 82 million acres in 1992 to more than 282 million acres in 2012, but changes in coverage have varied by both state and commodity. Producers of corn, soybeans, and wheat—the three largest U.S. crops—remain the largest consumers of crop insurance, although the share enrolled in other crops has been rising as new programs and policies have been offered.  Federal crop insurance enrollments for corn, the largest U.S. field crop by area, are indicative of the variation in enrollment changes across states.  For example, in 1990, more than 60 percent of Iowa’s corn acres were enrolled in the program, with that share rising to 91 percent by 2012. In contrast, about 20 percent of Indiana’s corn acres were enrolled in 1990, climbing to about 74 percent by 2012. The variations likely reflect both differences in production risks across states and changes in federal program provisions, including subsidies for crop insurance premiums. Despite the variation among States, the differences in coverage between states shrank between 1990 and 2012. For corn, the lowest share of acres insured within a State rose from about 12 percent in 1990 (Michigan) to 70 percent in 2012 (Wisconsin). Find additional analysis in Premium Subsidies and the Demand for Crop Insurance, released July 2014.
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Monday, July 21, 2014
Reducing sodium intake is a key recommendation in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  Intake data from the 2007-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reveal that Americans age 2 and older consumed an average of 1,649 milligrams (mg) of sodium for each 1,000 calories eaten, compared to the recommended maximum of 1,100 mg per 1,000 calories. Foods prepared by restaurants, fast-food places, schools, and other away-from-home sources contain more sodium than foods prepared at home—1,879 mg per 1,000 calories versus 1,552 mg per 1,000 calories. Foods consumed at school cafeterias were found to be less sodium dense than foods eaten at restaurants and fast-food places, but higher than at-home foods. The statistics in this chart are from ERS’s Food Consumption and Nutrient Intakes data product, updated on June 27, 2014.
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Friday, July 18, 2014
U.S. organic food sales have shown double-digit growth during most years since the 1990s and were estimated to have reached over $34 billion in 2013. According to the Nutrition Business Journal, organic food purchases now account for approximately 4 percent of total at-home U.S. food sales.  Certified organic farmland has also expanded, although not as fast as organic sales, as organic production of acreage-extensive feed grains and oilseed crops has lagged growth in other organic sectors. Fresh produce is still the top organic sales category, and California and other States that grow these high-value organic crops have experienced growth in organic acreage since the 1990s.  Overall, acreage used for organic agriculture accounted for 0.6 percent of all U.S. farmland in 2011 (0.5 percent of all U.S. pasture and 0.8 percent of all U.S. cropland). Major retailer initiatives to expand the number of organic products they sell could further boost demand. The 2014 Farm Act includes provisions to expand organic research, assist with organic certification costs, and provide other support for U.S. organic producers. This chart is found in “Support for the Organic Sector Expands in the 2014 Farm Act” in the July 2014 Amber Waves online magazine.
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Thursday, July 17, 2014
Global corn stocks are forecast to rise to the highest level in 15 years by the end of 2014/15 (September/August), leading to downward pressure on U.S. and global corn prices. Stocks fell to relatively low levels during 2003/04-2006/07, prior to the 2008 spike in world commodity prices, but are now forecast to reach 188.1 million tons in 2014/15, just 3 percent below the recent high of 194.4 million tons in 1999/2000. Since 2008/09, world corn production has exceeded total consumption in 5 out of 7 years.  In addition to the United States and China—the two largest global producers and consumers of corn—production and stocks have been generally rising in Brazil, Russia, and Ukraine—countries that are also playing an expanding role as corn exporters.  With a second consecutive above trend U.S. corn harvest forecast for 2014/15, the United States is expected to account for most of the 8-percent increase in global corn stocks forecast in 2014/15. With growing inventories, the U.S. season average farm price of corn is expected to decline to $4.00 per bushel, down 10 percent from $4.45 per bushel in 2013/14, and 42 percent from $6.89 per bushel in the U.S. drought year of 2012/13. Find this chart in the Feed Grain Chart Gallery and additional analysis in Feed Outlook: July 2014.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014
The 2010 Affordable Care Act includes a provision that will require restaurant chains with 20 or more locations to provide consumers with calorie information on menus and other nutrition information on demand. Understanding who uses current nutrition information provided voluntarily by eating places is useful for anticipating the Act’s impact. Using data from the 2007-08 and 2009-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, ERS researchers found that roughly 90 percent of respondents visited a fast-food or pizza place in the last year and about 88 percent patronized a full-service restaurant. Less than a quarter of those respondents reported seeing nutrition information. In general, women were more likely to see the nutrition information than men, and also more likely to use it in making their eating out selections. For example, in fast-food and pizza places, 48.7 percent of women who saw nutrition information used it, while only 33.1 percent of men did.  In full-service restaurants, 59.6 percent of women who saw nutrition information used it, compared to 48.1 percent of men. This chart is based on statistics found in the ERS report, Consumers’ Use of Nutrition Information When Eating Out, released on June 27, 2014.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014
In the early 1960s, over 80 percent of broiler production was marketed as whole birds, and only 2 percent as further processed products. By 2011, only 12 percent of production was marketed as whole birds, as production shifted to cut-up parts (42 percent of production) and to further processed products such as boneless chicken, breaded nuggets and tenders, and chicken sausages (46 percent of production). The shift to cut-up and processed products spurred growth in demand for chicken, which in turn elicited production increases. Different products come from birds of different sizes, and changes in demand composition have shifted production toward larger birds for processed products. Smaller broilers are usually marketed bone-in (whole or cut into parts) to the fast-food and foodservice sectors, while intermediate sizes are normally marketed to retail groceries in tray-pack or bagged forms. The largest birds can be sold whole as roasters but are also marketed deboned and processed into parts and value-added products. Growing and processing birds of such widely varying sizes requires tight coordination between the hatchery, grow-out, slaughter, and processing stages. This chart is found in the ERS report, Technology, Organization, and Financial Performance in U.S. Broiler Production, EIB-126, June 2014.
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Monday, July 14, 2014
When school is not in session, USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides free meals and snacks to children and teens at approved sites such as schools, churches, parks, community centers, and day camp programs.  SFSP meals must meet Federal nutrition guidelines and are served in areas with high concentrations of low-income children. In July 2012, the percent of a State’s total population participating in SFSP ranged from 0.2 percent in Nevada to 1.9 percent in New Mexico and New York.  That same year, 5.7 percent of the District of Columbia’s population participated in the program. Demographic factors help explain differences in program participation as a percentage of total population; higher SFSP participation rates could reflect a higher proportion of school-age children relative to total population, or a higher number of low-income children relative to the overall school-age population.  Differences in availability and accessibility of SFSP sites also play an important role in the variability across States. This map is from ERS’s Food Environment Atlas.
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Friday, July 11, 2014
Producers of corn, soybeans, and wheat—the three largest crops produced in the United States—are the largest consumers of Federal crop insurance, although producers of other crops are a growing share of program enrollment. In 1997, corn, soybeans, and wheat crops accounted for 80 percent of all acres enrolled in the program; including cotton and sorghum raised the share to nearly 90 percent of all acres enrolled. Over the last 15 years, with new types of policies being offered and more crops added to the program, the share of enrolled acres attributed to these major crops fell as participation in the Federal crop insurance program continued to rise. Pasture, forage and range land have accounted for the bulk of recent gains in enrolled acres, expanding from zero in 1997 to 48 million acres in 2012. By 2012, corn, soybeans, and wheat made up roughly 68 percent of all acres enrolled, with cotton and sorghum accounting for an additional 7 percent. The share of acres enrolled in crop insurance varies by crop and region, but these differences decreased between 1990 and 2012 as coverage rates increased. For more data and analysis, see The Effects of Premium Subsidies on Demand for Crop Insurance, released July 2014.
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Wednesday, July 09, 2014
By leaving at least 30 percent of crop residue covering the soil surface after all tillage and planting operations, conservation tillage (including no-till, ridge-till, and mulch-till) reduces soil erosion, increases water retention, and reduces soil degradation and water/chemical runoff. Conservation tillage also reduces the carbon footprint of agriculture. By 2006, approximately 86 percent of land planted with herbicide tolerant (HT) soybeans was under conservation tillage, compared to only 36 percent of conventional soybean acres. Differences in the use of no-till were just as pronounced. While approximately 45 percent of HT soybean acres were cultivated using no-till technologies in 2006, only 5 percent of the acres planted with conventional seeds were cultivated using no-till techniques, which are often considered the most effective of all conservation tillage systems. Cotton and corn data exhibit similar, though less pronounced, patterns. 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 Amber Waves online magazine.
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Tuesday, July 08, 2014
USDA monitors the food security of the Nation’s households—their consistent access to adequate food for active healthy lives—through an annual survey. During the 2007-09 recession, food insecurity increased from 11.1 percent of U.S. households in 2007 to 14.6 percent in 2008, and remained near that level through 2012.  Since the end of the recession, unemployment rates have fallen, leading researchers to question why food security has not improved with employment.  A recent ERS study of the associations of food insecurity with household characteristics and national economic conditions over 2001-12 estimated that declines in the highest monthly unemployment rate, from 10.0 percent in 2009-10 to 8.3 percent in 2012, would have reduced food insecurity by 0.9 percentage point. However, higher annual inflation and larger increases in food prices relative to other goods and services are estimated to have increased the prevalence of food insecurity by 1.1 percentage points. Most of the year-to-year variation in the national prevalence of household food insecurity was associated with changes in these three national economic indicators. The predicted prevalence of food insecurity in 2012 was 14.7 percent, nearly the same as the observed prevalence of 14.5 percent. The statistics in this chart are from the ERS report, Prevalence of U.S. Food Insecurity Is Related to Changes in Unemployment, Inflation, and the Price of Food, released on June 20, 2014.
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Monday, July 07, 2014
A recent ERS international food security assessment indicates that Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most food-insecure region in the world, although the region shows significant improvement over previous assessments. The share of the population that is food insecure is projected to decline to under 30 percent in 2014, compared with 50 percent or more of the population estimated to be food insecure in the late 1990s. Estimates of the distribution gap—the amount of additional food needed to increase per capita consumption in all income groups to the nutritional target of about 2,100 calories per day—show that the overall gap for the region will decline about 17 percent in 2014. However, the intensity of food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa—measured by the distribution gap—is expected to remain high relative to other regions studied. The overall improvement in food security in the region in 2014 is primarily due to the outlook for increased grain production. The ERS assessment also foresees improved food security conditions in 2014 in Asia and the Latin America and Caribbean region, as well as improvements in the generally food-secure conditions in North Africa. Find this chart and additional analysis in International Food Security Assessment, 2014-2024.
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Thursday, July 03, 2014
Could your 4th of July burger be topped with mozzarella or provolone this year instead of a slice of American cheese? Over the last four decades, Americans have increased their consumption of cheese, especially Italian varieties such as mozzarella, parmesan, and provolone. In 2012, cheese availability was 33.5 pounds per person, almost triple the amount in 1970 at 11.4 pounds. Availability of Italian cheeses increased to 14.9 pounds per person from 2.1 pounds in 1970. Since 2005, availability of American cheese has remained around 13 pounds per person. Innovative, convenient packaging of shredded cheeses and other cheese offerings and the inclusion of cheese in prepared foods such as frozen pizza and macaroni and cheese have boosted consumption. The popularity of cheese-rich Italian and Tex-Mex cuisines has also contributed to increased cheese consumption. This chart appears in “Trends in U.S. Per Capita Consumption of Dairy Products, 1970-2012” in the June 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Wednesday, July 02, 2014
USDA projections for 2014/15 indicate that world cotton stocks will rise for a fifth consecutive season in 2014/15 (August/July marketing years), leading to continued downward pressure on global cotton prices. Global ending stocks are now projected at a record 102.7 million bales for 2014/15, nearly 4 percent above 2013/14, with China accounting for the bulk of the world total. Cotton stocks increased over the past several seasons after relatively high cotton prices led simultaneously to higher global production and slowed growth in cotton mill use. The rise in global stocks has largely occurred in China due to government policies, including national reserve purchases, that have supported global cotton prices by effectively keeping supplies out of the marketplace. Stocks in China at the end of 2013/14 are estimated at 60.3 million bales, or 61 percent of global stocks, and are not projected to change significantly in 2014/15. Cotton prices jumped to average $1.65 per pound in 2010/11 in response to tight global stocks, but have weakened since. The world cotton price is expected to decrease from an average of 92 cents per pound during 2013/14 to about 80 cents per pound in 2014/15. Find this chart in the Cotton & Wool Chart Gallery and additional analysis in Cotton & Wool Outlook: June 2014.
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Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Between 1960 and 1995, annual broiler slaughter in the United States grew from 1.5 to 7.4 billion birds—4.6 percent per year, on average. With birds also getting larger—from an average of 3.35 pounds to 4.66—total live-weight production grew at an average rate of 5.6 percent per year. While average weights continued to grow steadily after 1995, growth in annual slaughter slowed sharply and then fell in 2009 and again in 2012. Total live-weight production reached 49.8 billion pounds in 2008, but did not exceed that figure until 2013. In all, live-weight production grew by just 1.3 percent per year between 2003 and 2013, one-fourth of the 1960-1995 growth rate. High produc­tion growth in earlier decades—and slowing growth later—reflected movements in demand for chicken meat. The cessation of broiler industry growth, due to slowing growth in population, per capita consumption of chicken, and exports, places new financial pressures on broiler producers and new stresses on industry organization. This chart is found in Technology, Organization, and Financial Performance in U.S. Broiler Production, EIB-126, June 2014.
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Monday, June 30, 2014
ERS’s new data product—Quarterly Food-Away-From-Home Prices (QFAFHP)—provides quarterly average prices for meals and products at four types of away-from-home eating places (full-service restaurants, limited-service restaurants, vending machines, and schools) to help support research on demand for food away from home over time and across geographic areas. School lunch prices are the prices paid by students for a full-price lunch averaged across public and private schools educating kindergarteners through 12th graders. In the first quarter of 2012, an average U.S. school lunch cost $2.19, up 60 percent from $1.37 in the first of quarter 1998, but prices and increases over time varied by region. In first quarter 1998, school lunches were most expensive in the West at $1.50 per lunch. By first quarter 2012, school lunches were most expensive in the Northeast at $2.48 per lunch. The Northeast experienced the highest growth over this period (97 percent), while the South experienced the lowest (52 percent). These increases outpaced regional inflation for overall food away from home as measured by the Consumer Price Index, which showed increases ranging from 47 to 49 percent from 1998 to 2012. More information on ERS’s QFAFHP data product can be found in Methodology for the Quarterly Food-Away-From-Home Prices Data, released on May 21, 2014.
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Friday, June 27, 2014
Double-cropped acreage has varied from year to year. Because decisions about double cropping are made annually, fluctuations are likely as farmers respond to changing market and weather conditions. For example, higher commodity prices give farmers more incentive to intensify production and could offset revenue shortfalls from lower potential yields when double cropping. From 2004 to 2012, total double-cropped acreage roughly paralleled soybean, winter wheat, and corn prices. When commodity prices at the time of planting decisions were increasing or relatively high, total double-cropped acreage also increased. Total double-cropped acreage peaked at 10.9 million acres in 2008, when prices for soybeans, winter wheat, and corn also peaked. In 2005 and 2010, nearly every region witnessed declines in double-cropped acreage amid commodity price declines. This chart is found in the ERS report, Multi-Cropping Practices: Recent Trends in Double-Cropping, EIB-125, May 2014.
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Thursday, June 26, 2014
Retail pork prices have been rising in recent months, increasing 2.8 percent in the first quarter of 2014. Higher prices at the meat counter are partly due to increasing farm prices for hogs, which rose 41 percent over the same time period.  Higher hog prices to date are, in part, the result of strong demand, particularly in export markets, as well as the high price of pork substitutes such as beef and poultry.  In addition, the outbreak of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) has increased piglet mortality, reduced litter sizes, and lowered forecasts for U.S. hog slaughter and pork production later in 2014. Farm prices provide early indications of changes at the wholesale and retail levels, although price swings at those levels are dampened by processing, transportation, and retailing costs.  The recent increases in hog prices indicate that the current inflation in retail pork prices can be expected to gain momentum in coming months. ERS forecasts wholesale pork prices to increase 7 to 8 percent in 2014 and retail pork prices to rise by 3 to 4 percent.  More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in the Food Price Outlook data product, updated June 25, 2014.
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Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Estimates of U.S. crop returns per acre reveal large differences in crop profitability across commodities and over time during 2010-13. Returns to crop production are defined as the gross value of production less total economic costs. Total economic costs include operating costs such as seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides; the capital recovery cost for machinery and equipment; and the costs—known as opportunity costs—of employing land, labor, capital and other owned resources that have alternative uses. While returns to total economic costs for corn, soybeans, rice, and peanuts were positive, on average, for the 2010-13 period, average returns for other major crops were negative.  For most crops, changes in farm prices and the gross value of production per acre, rather than changes in production costs, have driven returns to total economic costs. Lower prices contributed to reduced returns for corn, soybeans, wheat, sorghum, and peanuts in 2013, while price and yield increases improved returns for oats and rice.  The negative returns over total economic costs for some crops indicate that that those producers realized a lower rate of return to their land, labor, and capital than the benchmark rates of return used in ERS commodity cost and returns accounts; returns over operating costs alone were positive for all crops throughout the period.  This chart is based on data found in Commodity Costs and Returns.
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Last updated: Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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