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Need a quick fact? Below are answers to questions we receive from policymakers, agribusiness, other researchers, and the media about food and diet, farming, conservation, and rural communities. Follow the links for more details.


Q: How will the recent drought affect food prices and America's farmers?

A:  Please visit the U.S. Drought 2012-13: Farm & Food Impacts page to find information about the possible consequences of the drought for American farmers and consumers.

Q: Which are the top 10 agricultural producing States?

A: The top 10 agricultural producing States, in terms of cash receipts are (in descending order): California, Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, Kansas, North Carolina, Indiana, and Missouri. These and related statistics can be found among ERS's Farm Income and Wealth Statistics.

Q: What are the leading farm commodities in the United States, in terms of cash receipts?

A: Cattle and calves producers earned the largest receipts, followed by producers of corn, soybeans, dairy products, and broilers. These and related statistics can be found among ERS's Farm Income and Wealth Statistics (see "Leading Commodities by State, 2009").

Q: Are family farms disappearing?

A: No. In fact, family farms have accounted for a large majority of farm numbers and agricultural sales since the 1970s. But as production shifts to larger farms, family-owned farm businesses often become incorporated. Family corporations (having more than half the voting stock held by individuals related by blood or marriage) account for about a fifth of farm sales.

Q: How does farm household income compare with the income of other U.S. households?

A: Since the mid-1990s, the income of the average farm household has surpassed that of nonfarm households, and farm household income today derives from a number of income sources. The financial well-being of farm households today depends less on the income from the farm business and more on the availability of remunerative off-farm employment.

Q: Which States have the largest number of food processing plants?

A: California has the largest number of food manufacturing plants, followed by New York and Texas (see text under second pie chart).

Q: How does U.S. beef consumption today compare with consumption in the 1970s?

A: Americans are consuming less beef per capita than in the 1970s, or in the 1980s. We're also, per capita, consuming more food overall. The ERS Food Consumption (per capita) Data System provides data on the wide variety of foods in the American diet, and explains how the data are derived.

Q: What is the current outlook for U.S. retail food prices?

Food prices surged in the final quarter of 2011, resulting in annual price inflation of 3.7 percent for all food. The food-at-home Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased more 4.8 percent in 2011-above the expected rate, but not as strong as in 2008 when it increased 6.4 percent. With inflationary pressures not expected to intensify in 2012,  food prices are projected to increase 2.5 to 3.5 percent in 2012. ERS publishes monthly updates on food CPI analysis and forecasts.

Q: How prevalent is hunger in the United States?

A: Resource-constrained hunger refers to a potential consequence of food insecurity that, because of prolonged, involuntary lack of food, results in discomfort, illness, weakness, or pain that goes beyond the usual uneasy sensation. While USDA's measurement of food insecurity provides some information about the economic and social contexts that may lead to hunger, it does not measure hunger or the number of hungry people.

In 2010, 85.5 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the entire year, meaning that they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining households (14.5 percent) were food insecure at least some time during the year, including 5.4 percent with very low food security-meaning that the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food.

Q: How many people in the United States live in food deserts - low- income areas with low access to supermarkets or large grocery stores?

There are an estimated 13.5 million Americans in food desert census tracts who reside far from a supermarket or large grocery store.  Just over 11 million of these Americans live in urban tracts (and are more than 1 mile from a store), while the remainder are in rural census tracts (and are 10 miles from a store).  See ERS's Food Desert Locator for more details.

Q: What are the main reasons that eligible households don't apply for food stamps?

A: According to ERS research, most households that are eligible but don't participate in the Food Stamp Program said they would apply for benefits if they were sure they were eligible. However, about a quarter of the eligible households not participating reported that they would not apply in any case, mainly because of a desire for personal independence.

Q: What is the value of U.S. agricultural exports and U.S. agricultural imports?

A: U.S. agriculture enjoys a trade surplus, with the value of exports exceeding imports. The level of the surplus has changed over time, with increasing agricultural imports. ERS publishes monthly trade updates.

Q: How important are exports to the U.S. agricultural sector?

A: Trade is essential to the U.S. agricultural sector, with agricultural exports accounting for more than 20 percent of the volume of U.S. agricultural production. (Scroll down to "Food and Fiber Sector Indicators."). The export share of food grains is among the highest of specific commodity groups.

Q: What types of farm operations receive government payments?

A: Diversity within the farm sector results in an unbalanced distribution of all government payments (including commodity and conservation programs). Farm size (acreage), location, types of commodities produced, and operator and household characteristics are among the factors associated with allocation of government payments. ERS provides a wide range of data on government payments and the farm sector. Use ERS's Farm Business and Household Survey Data to create customized summaries of payments for diverse types of farm operations.
Note: In step 1 select "Farm Business Income Statement," and then "Government Payments."
In steps 3 and 4, select the category of farms or farm households.

Q: What is the farm share of the U.S. retail food dollar?

As of 2010 (latest year of data currently available), the farm share was 14.1 cents of each food dollar expenditure, and the marketing bill was 85.9 cents, accounting for the remainder of the food dollar.

Proceeds from each food dollar expenditure are divided into two sub-components of market value:

  • Farm share measures proceeds of farm commodity sales tied to a food dollar expenditure and sold to non-farm establishments.
  • Marketing bill is the market value added to farm commodities that are embodied in a food dollar expenditure.

ERS updates the food dollar series annually.

Q: What was the impact of the recent recession on rural America?

  • The nonmetro unemployment rate declined gradually over the course of 2010 and 2011.In the 4th quarter of 2011 the rate stood at 8.4 percent (according to the Current Population Survey, seasonally adjusted), compared with 8.8 percent in metro areas.
  • This improvement in part reflects declines in the estimated size of the nonmetro population and labor force.The share of nonmetro adults who were employed was flat in 2010, at just over 55 percent. It appears to have declined in 2011, although there is some uncertainty about the most recent employment and population estimates in the CPS.
  • The duration of unemployment associated with this recession has been higher than in any previous recession since 1948, although it has declined in recent quarters.As of the second half of 2011, the median duration of unemployment was 17 weeks in nonmetro areas, compared with 22 weeks in metro areas.  An estimated 28.5 percent of nonmetro job-seekers had been unemployed for a year or more (compared with 32 percent in metro areas).
  • Nonmetro industries that have added jobs since the second half of 2009 include agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and professional services.  Employment losses continued in most other industries, including ongoing losses in construction (138,000 jobs). Nonmetro employment in health and education, which had not fallen between 2007 and 2009, fell by an estimated 267,000 between the second half of 2009 and the second half of 2011.
  • Source: Rural America at a Glance, 2011 Edition, updated with the latest data from the CPS.

Q: How does U.S. agricultural policy address agricultural-environmental issues?

A: U.S. agricultural-environmental policy addresses a range of environmental concerns including soil quality, water quality, wildlife habitat, air quality, and other issues of concern. The United States uses a number of policy instruments, notably land retirement programs, but relies most heavily on financial incentives and technical assistance to agricultural producers who agree to adopt practices designed to improve their environmental performance.

Q: Is population in nonmetropolitan areas increasing, or decreasing?

A: The population of nonmetro counties has been trending upward, the result of in-migration from metropolitan areas and from abroad. ERS provides data on demographic trends in nonmetro areas, including how "nonmetro" is defined.

Q: How important is agriculture to the overall economy?

A: In 2012, agriculture and related industries had a 4.8 percent value-added share of nominal GDP, consisting of a 1.0-percent share for farms; a 1.4-percent share for processed food, beverage, and tobacco products; a 1.9-percent share for food service and drinking establishments; a 0.2-percent share of textiles and leather apparel; and a 0.2-percent share for forestry, fishing, and hunting.

  Value added by Industry as Percent of GDP
  2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Farms 0.9 0.8 0.9 1.1 1.0
Forestry, fishing, and hunting 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2
Processed foods, beverages, and tobacco 1.4 1.7 1.5 1.4 1.4
Textile mills and textile product mills 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Apparel and leather and allied products 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Food services and drinking places 1.9 1.9 1.9 1.9 1.9
Ag-Related as a percent of GDP 4.5 4.7 4.7 4.7 4.8

Commerce Dept. Bureau of Economic Analysis
Gross Domestic Product by Industry Accounts
Value Added by Industry as a Percentage of Gross Domestic Product
Release date January 23, 2014
Note on measuring Ag's contribution to GDP

Q: How many jobs in America are related to agriculture?

A: USDA does not have an official estimate of the number of jobs associated with specific industries or sectors. Published U.S. Government data are available for direct farm employment and for employment in selected industries or sectors related to agriculture. The Bureau of Economic Analysis publishes data on the number of full- and part-time jobs for agricultural and related industry sectors. The table (below) shows the data for the last five years. These are defined as follows:

  • Farms (including both farm proprietor self-employment and hired labor)
  • Forestry, fishing, and related activities (including forestry and logging; fishing, hunting and trapping; and agriculture and forestry support activities)
  • Food and beverage and tobacco manufacturing
  • Textile mills and textile mill products
  • Apparel and leather and allied products
  • Food services and drinking places
  2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Number of Full- and Part- Time Jobs
Farm Employment1 2,635,000 2,633,000 2,657,000 2,626,000 2,616,000
Forestry, fishing and related activities2 855,200 829,400 846,400 847,600 864,700
Food Manufacturing 1,528,900 1,512,200 1,492,300 1,519,300 1,530,200
Beverage and Tobacco product manufacturing 207,700 202,700 195,800 199,600 206,600
Textile mills 156,100 129,100 125,600 128,800 125,900
Textile product mills 154,200 134,400 129,500 129,800 130,100
Apparel manufacturing 230,400 210,700 198,000 183,300 176,000
Leather and allied product manufacturing 38,800 36,100 34,300 40,600 44,700
Food Services and drinking places 10,302,600 10,081,500 10,147,600 10,390,100 10,799,300
Total Farm and Agriculture-Related 16,108,900 15,769,100 15,826,500 16,063,100 16,493,500

1Includes farm proprietor employment and hired labor

cIncludes: Forestry and Logging; fishing, hunting and trapping; agriculture and forestry support activities.


Last updated: Thursday, March 13, 2014

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