Fruit and tree nuts are an important part of a person's diet.
The typical American consumes around 270 pounds of fruit and tree
nuts (fresh and processed, fresh-weight basis, excluding melons)
each year. Per capita consumption of fruits and tree nuts is the
third-largest among major food groups, after dairy products and
Consisting of a wide array of crops and products, the U.S. fruit
and tree nuts industry is an important component of the Nation's
farm sector. Production is harvested from less than 2 percent of
total harvested cropland, but generates, on average, around $18
billion in U.S. farm cash receipts annually. During the first
decade of the 2000s, fruit and tree nut cash receipts averaged 13
percent of all crop receipts and 6 percent of all farm cash
receipts (crops and livestock).
Domestic and international demand for fruit and tree nut
products grew in the 1990s and through most of the first decade of
the 2000s. U.S. growers have responded by continuing to expand
production, with average output for this decade 3 percent higher
than the previous decade. Technological innovations continue to
increase productivity per acre in U.S. fruit and tree nut farms.
According to the 2007 Census of
Agriculture, while the number of farms growing fruit and tree
nuts increased between 2002 and 2007, acreage continued to trend
Small, family, or individually run farm operations continue to
dominate U.S. fruit and tree nut production. Most of the production
and revenue, however, come from the few largest farms.
Despite year-to-year fluctuations, utilized fruit production
(excluding melons) in the United States during the 1990s and the
first decade of 2000s averaged 10-20 percent higher than in the
1980s. The growth was in response to several factors such as:
- Increased domestic consumption;
- Expanding export markets;
- Technological production changes, such as the adoption of close
- New propagation methods that decrease the time needed for new
trees to reach bearing age from 5-6 years to 2-3 years;
- Use of disease or pest-resistant, high-yielding varieties;
- Greater use of early- or late-season varieties that extended
typical marketing seasons for specific fruits so that growers may
take advantage of market windows.
Production declines in recent years can be attributed mainly to
weather and disease problems, mostly affecting citrus
The Nation's largest fruit-producing States are California,
Florida, and Washington. California accounts for about half of the
harvested fruit acreage, Florida almost one-fourth, and Washington
around one-tenth. Michigan, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and
Texas are also important fruit-producing States, and together these
States account for over one-tenth of the Nation's fruit
California is the largest producer of grapes, strawberries,
peaches, nectarines, and kiwifruit. It is also a major producer of
a variety of other noncitrus fruit, such as apples, pears, plums,
and sweet cherries and is second in citrus production. California's
fruit-friendly climate gives it an advantage over other
fruit-producing States. Florida's primary fruit crop is citrus.
Washington is the largest apple producer and an important producer
of grapes and pears.
Most fruits are grown to serve both fresh and processing
markets. The fresh-market sector accounts for more than half the
value of U.S. fruit production, with over three-quarters of that
generated by noncitrus fruits. California's production accounts for
more than half the value of all fresh fruits. The fresh market is
the destination for over half the volume of all U.S.-produced
avocados, bananas, nectarines, kiwifruit, strawberries, tangerines,
sweet cherries, apples, pears, and lemons. Meanwhile, some examples
of fruit that have a larger percentage of production going into
processing are oranges, grapefruit, grapes, apricots, figs, prunes,
peaches, tart cherries, and most berries, including blueberries and
Processed fruit products include canned, frozen, juice, and
dried fruit, as well as wine. At packinghouses, fruits are
inspected and graded for size, shape, and appearance. Some fruits
intended for the fresh market are diverted to processors because of
quality requirements. Most fruits for processing, on the other
hand, are not easily diverted to the fresh market because of the
same quality requirements. Most fruit destined for processing is
grown under contractual arrangement between growers and
Oranges, grapes, apples, bananas, and pineapples are
the top five fruits consumed in the United States during the first
decade of the 2000s (includes fresh and all processed products).
Although annual per capita fruit juice consumption has declined
since the 1990s, juice remains the number one form in which fruit
is consumed in the United States. On a fresh-weight basis, fruit
juice accounts for nearly half of the total per capita fruit
consumed annually; fresh use accounts for over one-third; and
canned, dried, and frozen fruit each represent less than
Increased domestic and world supplies, rising disposable
incomes, and a growing and more culturally diverse population will
continue to drive consumer demand for fruit and fruit products in
the United States over the next decade. Another important stimulus
is continued emphasis on health and nutrition. The Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention and the Produce for Better Health
Foundation, in conjunction with other organizations, have
established the National Fruit and Vegetable Program, which
promotes public health through increased fruit and vegetable
consumption. Its new public health initiative, "Fruit &
Veggies--More Matters," launched in March 2007, replaces the
National 5-A-Day campaign, which was established in 1992 through a
partnership between the National Cancer Institute and the Produce
for Better Health Foundation. Such efforts will likely result in
further gains in per capita use.
The average American consumer eats about 27 pounds of melons
each year. U.S. melon production predominantly comprises
watermelons, cantaloupes, and honeydews. These melons are consumed
fresh although some processed products are also present in the
market (examples: roasted watermelon seeds, pickled rinds, and
watermelon juice) for which no data are currently available.
Of the leading U.S.-produced melon crops, watermelons account for
more than half of per capita annual domestic melon use, while
cantaloupes and honeydews comprise most of the remaining use, and
miscellaneous melons, only a minute share.
With the domestic market serving as the primary market for the
three predominant types of U.S. melon crops, an increase in
domestic melon production during the 1970s through the 1990s led
directly to increasing domestic per capita melon use during that
period. Harvested U.S. melon acreage has been generally declining
since the early 1990s, but improved varieties and increased use of
irrigation have kept domestic production from moving along the same
path. Although imports have grown since the 1990s, domestic demand
for melons as measured by per capita use) has declined slightly
since the new millennium as U.S. production--still sold mostly in
the domestic market--and export sales both remained relatively
Over 200,000 acres of melons (includes watermelons, cantaloupes,
and honeydew) were harvested annually during the 2000s, producing
over 6.0 billion pounds on average and valued at over $800 million.
Melons are grown across the United States, but production is mostly
concentrated in California, Arizona, Georgia, Florida, and Texas.
Collectively these top five States account for more than
three-fourths of total harvested acreage and around 80 percent of
Watermelon is the leading U.S. melon crop in terms of harvested area, production, and per
capita use. Until 2004, cantaloupe tended to be the leading
melon crop in terms of crop value because
of higher unit values. More recently, the value of watermelon
production, which now averages over $450 million, has overtaken the
value of the cantaloupe crop, which averages over $300 million
U.S. tree nut production increased significantly over the past
three decades, from 306.4 million pounds (shelled basis) in 1970 to
over 2.0 billion pounds in the second half of the first decade of
the 2000s. Greater domestic and foreign demand are driving that
increase. U.S. per capita use of all tree nuts was over 3.0 pounds
(shelled basis) in recent years, up from 1.7 pounds in 1977.
Exports continued to gain a larger share of domestic supplies,
increasing from an average of 24 percent during the 1970s to over
40 percent during the 1990s and 2000s.
U.S. tree nut production since 2005 generated, on average,
nearly $4 billion in annual farm cash receipts, with almonds,
walnuts, pistachios, and pecans accounting for most of the sales.
California is the Nation's number one producer of tree nuts.
California orchards produce almost 90 percent of U.S. tree nuts
annually, including virtually all almonds ,
pistachios, and walnuts .
Producing only pecans, Georgia, New Mexico, and Texas each make up
1-2 percent of total tree nut output. Together, these three States
produce nearly three-quarters of the U.S. pecan crop.
Though small in terms of total tree nut production numbers,
hazelnuts are grown in Oregon and macadamia nuts are grown in
Year-to-year tree nut production levels are erratic. Besides
weather-related factors, annual fluctuations in production result
from the naturally fluctuating yield of most nut trees. Trees
producing a large crop in one year most often yield a smaller crop
the next year to restore nutrient reserves. Over the last two
decades, the fluctuating-bearing pattern in U.S. nut trees was
strongest in pecans, pistachios, and walnuts.
Similar to fruit and vegetables, increased demand for tree nuts
in the United States over the last several years can be attributed
to rising population and incomes, and heightened interest in health
and nutrition. Like fruit and vegetable growers, the U.S. tree nut
industry has been active in promoting the health benefits of tree
nuts. The top three nuts consumed in the United States are almonds,
walnuts, and pecans.