ERS Charts of Note
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Thursday, February 29, 2024
U.S. sugar exports for fiscal year 2024 are forecast to be the largest in 6 years, rising to an estimated 160,000 short tons, raw value (STRV) in the February 2024 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report. About 88 percent of that volume is expected to go to Mexico, where sugar production has fallen to a 15-year low. This would put U.S. sugar exports to Mexico on par with those during 2008–13, when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was active. Under NAFTA, Mexico could import U.S. sugar without tariffs or quotas, and U.S. exports averaged 167,000 STRV while the trade agreement was in effect. At the time, most of the sugar was imported by Mexico-based manufacturers participating in a promotion program commonly known as IMMEX. The program provided tax incentives if the companies used imported U.S. sugar in food products that would be re-exported within a certain amount of time. In 2014, in response to U.S. investigations into subsidies affecting sugar imports from Mexico, the two countries reached agreements that suspended the investigations and restricted the price and quantity of Mexico’s sugar exports to the United States. Mexico then declared that sugar imported from the United States would no longer qualify for duty-free treatment under IMMEX if that sugar was the beneficiary of the U.S. version of a re-export program. After that, U.S. sugar exports to Mexico fell to below 50,000 STRV, on average, each fiscal year. In the last 2 years, however, the United States increased its sugar exports to Mexico as U.S. domestic beet and cane sugar production rose and Mexico experienced back-to-back years of low production related to drought and reduced fertilizer use. This chart is based on information in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook: February 2024.
Wednesday, February 28, 2024
The number of farms in the United States has fallen below 2 million for the first time since before the Civil War, according to the recently released 2022 Census of Agriculture. In 2022, there were 1,900,487 farms in the country, a 7-percent decline from the level reported in the 2017 Census. A farm is defined as an establishment that produced and sold, or would have sold in normal conditions, at least $1,000 in agricultural production in a year. The Census of Agriculture, conducted every 5 years by USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), includes producer responses to questions about their farming operations. The latest Census also reported that the total U.S. land in farms declined 2.2 percent to 880 million acres in 2022. This decline, when combined with the higher proportional decline in the number of farms, meant that the average farm size increased by 5 percent to 463 acres per farm. For more details from the 2022 Census of Agriculture, see the NASS Census of Agriculture website. For more information on farm structure and its relationship with agriculture, as well as other statistics on the financial performance of farms and ranches, see USDA, Economic Research Service’s recent report America’s Farms and Ranches at a Glance: 2023 Edition, published in December 2023, which draws on data from the NASS Agricultural Resources Management Survey of farm operations in 2022.
Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Farming activities in the United States accounted for 10.6 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2021. From 2020 to 2021, agricultural greenhouse gas emissions remained nearly constant but decreased from 11.1 percent to 10.6 percent as a share of total U.S. emissions because of changes in other industries. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that in 2021, agriculture emitted 312.6 MMT as nitrous oxide (N2O), 278.4 MMT as methane (CH4), 44.7 MMT as on-farm carbon dioxide (CO2), and 35.7 MMT emitted indirectly through the electricity that the agricultural sector uses. Emissions include activities that emit nitrous oxide, such as fertilizer application and manure storage and management, and methane from enteric fermentation (a normal digestive process in animals). Of the common economic sectors in the United States defined by the Energy Information Administration, industry accounted for the largest portion of total greenhouse gas emissions (30.1 percent), followed by transportation, commercial, residential, agriculture, and U.S. territories (no specific consumption data can be attributed within the territories, so they are listed as a group). Total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 were 2.3 percent lower than they were in 1990. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service topic page Climate Change.
Monday, February 26, 2024
Recent nationally representative survey data from 2022 revealed that nearly 2 in 10 (19.3 percent) U.S. residents who regularly shopped for groceries did so online at least once in the last 30 days. However, the frequency of online shopping varied. At the time of the survey, among those who bought groceries online in the past month in 2022, 30.2 percent did so once, 25.1 percent made 2 online grocery purchases, and 44.7 percent purchased groceries online 3 or more times. Time constraints were the main reason people bought groceries online, while the main reason for not shopping online for groceries was that people like being able to see and touch products in person, according to the survey. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) has collected data through the ERS-developed Eating and Health Module of the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey (ATUS) in 2006–2008, 2014–2016, and 2022–2023. In 2022, the Eating and Health Module captured for the first time nationally representative data concerning the prevalence and frequency of U.S. residents who report shopping for groceries online. This chart appears in the Amber Waves article New Survey Data Show Online Grocery Shopping Prevalence and Frequency in the United States, published in February 2024.
Thursday, February 22, 2024
Brazil’s beef exports to the United States have grown rapidly since the easing of U.S. restrictions on imports of fresh beef from Brazil in 2020. In addition, Brazil’s beef exports have shifted in seasonality toward a trend of late-year shipments caused by a tariff-rate quota that resets on January 1 of each year. With tariff-rate quotas, imports are first subject to a smaller tariff, then once a specific volume of imports is met, any additional imports are subject to a higher tariff. U.S.-bound beef exports from Brazil first surged in late 2021. After trailing off in 2022, exports to the United States surged again later that year then once again in late 2023. Brazil starts shipping product to the United States late in the year to arrive when the quota reopens on January 1. Once the quota is filled, the higher beef tariff reduces Brazil’s competitiveness in the U.S. beef market, causing exports to slow. Total U.S. imports, a measure of the shipments once they reach U.S. soil, were once strongest during the second or third quarter. However, large amounts of beef from Brazil now arrive in January, resulting in expectations for higher imports in the first quarter. The quarterly forecast for U.S. beef imports in 2024 reflects this new seasonality. As of February 12, the 2024 quota was already more than 85 percent filled, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commodity Status Report. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service’s February 2024 Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook.
Wednesday, February 21, 2024
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic affected employment in rural and urban areas differently. Before the pandemic, employment growth was higher and unemployment rates were slightly lower in urban areas. However, these trends reversed during the pandemic. In the second quarter of 2020, urban employment fell to 88 percent of prepandemic (Q1 2019) employment levels, while rural employment fell to 90 percent of prepandemic levels. Unemployment during the pandemic reached a high of 13.3 percent in urban areas and 11.4 percent in rural areas, compared with prepandemic rates of 3.8 and 4.2 percent, respectively. Rural and urban employment grew quickly in the third and fourth quarters of 2020 as many sectors of the economy reopened. Employment growth slowed in 2021, but more in rural areas than in urban. Urban employment recovered to prepandemic levels by the first quarter of 2022, and the urban unemployment rate dropped below the rural rate once again in the second quarter of 2022. Meanwhile, the slow employment growth rate in rural areas in 2022 (0.5 percent) was similar to rates in the years between the Great Recession of 2008 and the COVID-19 pandemic. From 2010 to 2019, the annual average employment growth rate in rural areas was 0.4 percent compared with 1.6 percent in urban areas. Rural employment recovered to prepandemic levels in the third quarter of 2023, more than one year after urban employment did. Rural unemployment rates in 2023 were at their lowest point (3.6 percent) since before 1990. This figure updates data in the USDA, Economic Research Service report Rural America at a Glance, published in November 2023.
Tuesday, February 20, 2024
The number of breastfed infants in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) began to increase around the start of infant formula supply chain disruptions in 2022. In February 2022, a voluntary recall of some powder infant formulas and a temporary closure of a formula manufacturing facility compounded Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic-related supply chain issues that limited the supply of infant formula. National monthly WIC participation data provide insights into how caregivers of WIC-participating infants responded to these challenges. In March 2022, the number of fully formula feeding infants decreased 5 percent, while the number of partially breastfed infants increased 4 percent and the number of fully breastfed infants increased 5 percent compared with the same month in the previous year. By October 2022, the number of fully formula feeding infants had decreased 8 percent, while the number of partially breastfed infants increased 15 percent and the number of fully breastfed infants increased 29 percent from one year before. The increases in the numbers of breastfed infants continued in fiscal year 2023, remaining above previous year numbers through September. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service report The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children: Background, Trends, and Economic Issues, 2024 Edition, published in February 2024.
Thursday, February 15, 2024
The volume of U.S. meat exports in major categories is projected to grow through 2033, according to USDA long-term projection data. Rising incomes abroad and a moderately declining real exchange rate of the U.S. dollar against the currencies of major agricultural trade partners lend support to U.S. red meat and poultry exports. Notably, by 2028, pork exports are set to exceed exports of broiler chickens for the first time since 1976. Steady growth in U.S. pork production, driven by a combination of increasing slaughter weights, rising pigs per litter, and higher inventories, is projected to support rapid growth in exports. New environmental policies in the European Union (EU) are expected to impact regional pork production and reduce growth of EU’s exports, enhancing U.S. competitiveness. U.S. pork exports are projected to increase 34 percent from an expected 6.95 billion pounds in 2024 to a projected 9.34 billion pounds by 2033. By 2026, U.S. pork exports are expected to surpass the previous record of 7.28 billion pounds set in 2020, when import demand in China spiked at the height of China’s African swine fever epidemic. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service Amber Waves article, U.S. Pork Export Volumes Projected to Surpass Chicken in the Next Decade, February 2024.
Wednesday, February 14, 2024
In 2023, all food prices (representing both food at home and food away from home) increased by 5.8 percent on average compared with 2022. The USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) publishes food price forecasts in the Food Price Outlook (FPO) data product. Each month, the FPO forecasts the annual average change in prices for the current year, and the forecasts are presented as a midpoint and a prediction interval. The prediction interval, which represents uncertainty of the forecast, starts out wider at the beginning of the year and narrows as forecasts incorporate more months of observed data and the forecast period shortens. In January of each year, final data are available to assess the performance of the forecasts from the previous year. During the first few months of 2023, the all-food forecast midpoints were higher than the actual annual average change in all food prices, but the prediction interval from each forecast developed in 2023 contained the actual annual average change in prices. By July, the forecast midpoint converged on the actual average change in prices and remained within 0.1 percent through the remainder of the year. ERS researchers project all food prices to increase 1.3 percent in 2024, with a prediction interval of -1.4 to 4.2 percent. This chart is based on data from the ERS Food Price Outlook, updated January 25, 2024.
Tuesday, February 13, 2024
Technological developments in agriculture have enabled continued output growth without requiring much additional inputs. Innovations in animal and crop genetics, chemicals, equipment, and farm organization have made it possible for total agricultural output to nearly triple between 1948 and 2021. During that period, the amount of inputs used in farming declined slightly over time, meaning that the growth in agricultural output over the long term has depended on increases in total factor productivity (TFP). TFP measures the amount of agricultural output produced from the combined inputs (land, labor, capital, and intermediate inputs) employed in farm production. Therefore, growth in TFP indicates positive changes in the efficiency with which inputs are transformed into outputs. It can also be seen as an indicator of technical change. In the short term, total output growth and estimated TFP growth can be affected by random events, such as adverse weather. In the most recent TFP calculation period spanning 2020–21, agricultural output grew, which was due entirely to TFP growth, even as the amount of inputs used in farming fell. This figure appears in the Agricultural Productivity in the U.S.: Summary of Recent Findings updated in January 2024.
Monday, February 12, 2024
The USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) routinely forecasts U.S. farm sector financial health. For each calendar year, there are four forecasts of profitability measures before ERS releases an official estimate. The first forecast for each year occurs in February and is partially based on historical data and trends since planting intentions of crops such as corn and soybeans are unknown. It also incorporates early commodity price and production projections from USDA and projections by other entities, such as energy price forecasts by the Energy Information Administration. In 2022, for instance, the initial forecast of 2022 farm income occurred on February 4, 2022, and the forecast projected net farm income of $113.7 billion. The second forecast occurs in late August/early September and is based on observed data from the production cycle, such as input and output price information and planting areas with related output projections. The second forecast also includes revised projections of direct Government payments and insurance indemnities and projections from USDA’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report. For calendar year 2022, Forecast 2 occurred on September 1, 2022, and the forecast projected net farm income of $147.7 billion. The third data release, in late November/early December, further refines the forecast based on the most recent data and projections, including additional administrative data on direct Government payments. The last forecast is made in February of the following year. It is still a forecast because the data are still being collected and refined. The first official estimate of 2022 farm income (of $183.0 billion) was published on August 31, 2023, and completed a 19-month cycle. That data release incorporated the first information available from the USDA’s most recent annual Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), which improves analysis of production expenses. State-level farm income data for the calendar year are released for the first time as a part of the estimates. Adjustments to the U.S. and State-level estimates may be made in future data releases, but they are typically small. On February 7, 2024, ERS released the first forecast of 2024 and the last forecast of 2023 U.S. farm sector financial health. The first estimates of calendar year 2023 will be published on September 5, 2024, together with Forecast 2 for calendar year 2024. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, The Evolution of U.S. Farm Sector Profitability Forecasts in 2020.
Thursday, February 8, 2024
Consumer demand for seafood in the United States has risen over the last three decades. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, per capita consumption of seafood products (includes canned, fresh, frozen, and cured) reached an estimated 20.5 pounds per person in 2021. To meet rising consumer demand, the United States increasingly relies on global suppliers to supplement domestic production. About 80 percent of estimated U.S. consumption of seafood comes from abroad—primarily from Canada, Chile, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam. From 1995 to 2023, the value of U.S. seafood imports, adjusted for inflation, trended upward, with notable exceptions related to the global economic recession and the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. U.S. seafood exports dropped about 23 percent, while imports expanded about 87 percent during the same period. The expanding deficit in trade value (imports minus exports) peaked in 2021 at $25.8 billion (in 2023 dollars) and was recorded at $20.3 billion in 2023. As a supplier, the United States ranked 10th in 2022 in seafood exports worldwide. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service topic page on aquaculture.
Wednesday, February 7, 2024
USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) forecasts that U.S. net cash farm income (NCFI), defined as gross cash income minus cash expenses, will decrease by $42.2 billion (25.8 percent) to $121.7 billion in 2024 in inflation-adjusted dollars. This is after NCFI decreased in 2023 by a forecast $50.2 billion to $163.9 billion. Net farm income (NFI) is forecast to decrease by $43.1 billion (27.1 percent) to $116.1 billion from 2023 to 2024. NFI is a broader measure of farm sector profitability that incorporates noncash items, including changes in inventories, economic depreciation, and gross imputed rental income. The forecasted 2024 NFI decrease follows a decrease of $37.2 billion from 2022 to $159.2 billion in 2023. These decreases are from record levels in 2022, and if forecasts are realized, NCFI and NFI would fall below their respective 2003–22 averages in 2024. Underlying these forecasts, cash receipts for farm commodities are projected to fall by $32.2 billion (6.2 percent) to $485.5 billion in 2024. During the same period, production expenses are expected to increase by $7.2 billion (1.6 percent) to $455.1 billion in 2024. Also, total commodity insurance indemnity payments are forecast to fall by $1.5 billion (6.6 percent) in 2024, and direct Government payments to farmers are projected to fall by $2.2 billion (17.7 percent) from 2023 levels to $10.2 billion in 2024. Find additional information and analysis on the USDA, ERS topic page for Farm Sector Income and Finances, reflecting data released on February 7, 2024.
Tuesday, February 6, 2024
Through the end of 2022, consumer spending at quick-service restaurants on carryout and delivery remained persistently higher than the first observable Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic period (March–May 2020). USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers recently examined consumer spending trends on carryout and delivery from quick-service restaurants by mobile application types (including mobile website equivalents) from December 2019–February 2020 through October–December 2022. Consumers quickly adopted alternative methods to spend money on and acquire food at the beginning of the pandemic. In June–August 2020, carryout spending at quick-service restaurants via restaurant-specific apps doubled from prepandemic levels, and spending on delivery via third-party apps more than tripled. Third-party apps typically offer food from a variety of restaurants, while restaurant-specific apps are operated by the restaurant or establishment. App spending on carryout and delivery peaked in March–May 2021, reaching a total of $4.4 billion, with third-party app delivery and restaurant-specific app carryout spending each reaching about $1.6 billion. Most recently, total app spending on both carryout and delivery reached roughly $3.9 billion, where restaurant-specific carryout spending and third-party app delivery spending accounted for $1.6 and $1.4 billion, respectively. This chart appears in the ERS Amber Waves article, Pandemic-Related Increase in Consumer Restaurant Spending Using Mobile Apps Continued Through 2022, published January 2024.
Monday, February 5, 2024
Red or white wine? Red wine varieties accounted for the largest share of grapes crushed in 2022 in California, the top wine grape-producing State. California growers raise more than 100 different varieties of wine grapes, according to the annual California Grape Crush Report. In 2022, Cabernet Sauvignon, a red varietal, accounted for California’s largest share of grapes crushed at 15 percent. White varietal, Chardonnay, came in second among wine grape varieties at 14 percent and was the top white wine variety by volume crushed. Other table grape and raisin-type grape varieties collectively represented 5 percent of the 3.7 million tons of grapes crushed for wine, concentrate, juice, vinegar, and brandy. California producers grow about 94 percent of the total U.S. grape crop, with nearly 70 percent of the State’s grape acreage dedicated to wine-type grapes. In the past few seasons, the value of the wine grape crop, both red and white, in California exceeded $3.6 billion. This chart is based on the USDA, Economic Research Service Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook Report, released September 2023.
Friday, February 2, 2024
USDA identifies farmers and ranchers as limited resource (LR) producers as those who, for two consecutive years, operate a farm with gross farm sales less than $180,300 (in 2020 dollars) and have total household income either below the Federal poverty level for a family of four or less than half of the median household income in the county where they live. Between 2017 and 2020, 9.3 percent of all U.S. farms had an LR principal operator, according to the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS). Of the remaining farms, 76.3 percent had farm sales low enough to meet LR status, but did not meet other requirements, while 14.3 percent had gross farm sales above the LR threshold. The ARMS data also reveal that the share of farms that were LR varied geographically, with lower proportions in the Plains region and higher proportions in the Atlantic and West regions. There were also within-region differences in the share of farms that were LR farms, such as the Midwest, where 4 percent of farms in Iowa and Illinois were LR while Missouri had roughly 12 percent. This highlights differences in the scale of production, as well as differences in off-farm income and county median incomes. ARMS is the only nationally representative survey that collects the information needed to determine whether the principal operator on a farm meets the LR criteria. This chart is found in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s report An Overview of Farms Operated by Socially Disadvantaged, Women, and Limited Resource Farmers and Ranchers in the United States, published in February 2024.
Wednesday, January 31, 2024
Drought imposes significant costs on the U.S. agricultural sector, particularly for livestock producers who rely on precipitation to grow forage. USDA’s Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) provides payments to livestock producers whose pastures and rangeland are impacted by drought through the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP). The LFP was established by the 2008 Farm Bill and uses eligibility criteria based on county-level drought conditions reported by the U.S. Drought Monitor. FSA annually sets species-specific per head LFP payment rates designed to cover about 60 percent of monthly feed/forage costs for livestock. Livestock species eligible for LFP payments include traditional livestock, such as beef and dairy cattle, as well as more exotic varieties, such as reindeer and ostriches. Between 2008 and 2022, the program disbursed more than $12 billion (in 2022 dollars) of payments to livestock producers. Counties with the largest aggregate LFP payments per 1,000 head of livestock are concentrated primarily in the Western, Southern, and Central United States, where drought conditions are generally more severe and common. About 20 percent of counties in the continental United States received no LFP payments between 2008 and 2022. These counties are primarily located in urban regions and the relatively more humid Eastern United States. This chart was drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service report The Stocking Impact and Financial-Climate Risk of the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, published January 2024.
Tuesday, January 30, 2024
U.S. policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions have encouraged the production of biofuels—fuels derived from crops and animal fats. The policy framework has supported expansion in the production of biomass-based diesel. Biomass-based diesel includes biodiesel and renewable diesel, which now captures the second-largest share of biofuel production, after ethanol. With vegetable oils as the main feedstock in biomass-based diesel production, demand for major vegetable oils (soybean, corn, and canola) for the 2022/23 marketing year (October-September) reached a high of 19.1 billion pounds, up nearly 4.5 billion pounds from 2021/22. Use of soybean oil accounts for more than 40 percent of total feedstocks used for biomass-based diesel production. It increased from 5 billion pounds in 2014/15 to 12.5 billion pounds in 2022/23. Corn and canola oils also are increasingly used in biofuel production, though in lesser amounts. To date, U.S. production of soybean, corn, and canola oils has not been sufficient to cover the rise in domestic use. Rising domestic demand is supported by increasing imports, which now supply more than 29 percent of domestic vegetable oil consumption. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s Oil Crops Outlook, December 2023.
Monday, January 29, 2024
In 2022, farm establishments received 14.9 cents per dollar spent by consumers on domestically produced food for the sale of farm commodities. However, this amount, called the farm share, does not all remain on the farm. Farm commodity production requires many inputs from nonfarm establishments. Some inputs, such as fertilizer, seed, and equipment, are supplied by establishments in the Agribusiness industry group. These inputs to farm commodity production cost 2.1 cents per dollar spent on food in 2022. Inputs from industry groups such as Energy and Transportation are also used on the farm and throughout the food supply chain. In 2022, the cost of these inputs at the farm level was 4.9 cents per dollar spent on food. The remaining 7.9 cents from the farm share (just more than half) are for farm production, which is equal to the value added by farm establishments through their use of labor, equipment, and materials. The remaining 85.1 cents per dollar spent on food in 2022 went to industries to get food to various points of purchase after it left the farm. This portion is called the marketing share. This chart was drawn from the Amber Waves data feature “ERS Food Dollar’s Three Series Show Distributions of U.S. Food Production Costs,” published in December 2023.
Thursday, January 25, 2024
Food-at-home prices increased by 5.0 percent in 2023, much lower than the growth rate in 2022 (11.4 percent) but still double the historical annual average growth from 2003 to 2022 (2.5 percent). All product categories shown grew more slowly in 2023 compared with 2022. Food price growth slowed in 2023 as economy-wide inflationary pressures, supply chain issues, and wholesale food prices eased from 2022. In 2023, prices for fats and oils grew the fastest (9.0 percent), followed by sugar and sweets (8.7 percent), and cereals and bakery products (8.4 percent). Pork prices declined 1.2 percent in 2023, and prices for several categories grew more slowly than their historical averages, including beef and veal (3.6 percent), eggs (1.4 percent), fresh vegetables (0.9 percent), fresh fruits (0.7 percent), and fish and seafood (0.3 percent). Egg price growth receded in 2023 after a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak affected the industry in 2022. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers project overall food-at-home prices will decrease 0.4 percent in 2024, with a prediction interval of -4.5 to 4.0 percent. ERS tracks aggregate food category prices and publishes price forecasts in the monthly Food Price Outlook data product, updated January 25, 2024.