New Releases

Race and Ethnicity in Rural Areas

A new briefing room on the ERS website, 'Race and Ethnicity in Rural America,' describes the demography, geographic dispersion, household structure, educational attainment, labor force activity, and economic well-being of rural Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Whites. Policy implications and related sites are also included.

Understanding Rural Population Loss and Growth

In the Winter 2002 issue of Rural America, ERS's recently retired magazine of rural economics, ERS researchers take a new look at rural population change based on 2000 census data. The lead article shows that the counties most likely to lose people in the 1990s had low population densities and few amenities and were distant from metro centers—all characteristics that discourage development. A companion article discusses 330 recreation counties, many with high amenities, that have grown faster than most county types, largely from inmigration. Most can be classified according to their principal attraction, such as casinos, reservoir lakes, or ski resorts. Other articles examine regional rural development efforts, such as the Delta Regional Authority created in 2000, and review the most recent data on nonmetro migration, rural poverty, and rural earnings. Carolyn Rogers

Future Food Expenditures

In Food Expenditures by U.S. Households: Looking Ahead to 2020 (AER-821), ERS researchers estimate that projected demographic shifts combined with an assumed increase in inflation-adjusted incomes of 1 percent per year in the United States will increase per capita food spending by 7.1 percent and total food spending by 26.3 percent by 2020. The study uses recent Bureau of Census data, incorporating demographic factors such as age, race, income, region of residence, diet-health knowledge, and household size and composition.

Future Food Consumption

As the American population becomes older and more racially and ethnically diverse, the volumes and types of foods preferred can be expected to shift. Food and Agricultural Commodity Consumption in the United States: Looking Ahead to 2020 (AER-820) examines the volume of individual foods eaten by Americans between 1994 and 1998, and projects what those volumes will be by the year 2020, taking into account population and demographic shifts as well as trends in economics and immigration. The researchers used a food-commodity translation database to convert food consumption to commodity consumption for 25 food groups and 22 commodity groups. Biing-Hwan Lin

U.S. Organic Farming Small, But Growing

U.S. farmland managed under organic systems expanded rapidly over the last decade as farmers strove to meet consumer demand in both local and national markets. USDA implemented national standards on organic production and processing in October 2002, and the new standards are expected to facilitate further growth in organic farming. While less than 3 million acres of cropland use organic practices, an increasing number of U.S. farmers are adopting these systems. U.S. Organic Farming in 2000-2001: Adoption of Certified Systems (AIB-780) updates USDA estimates of land farmed with organic practices during 1997 with estimates for 2000 and 2001, and provides new estimates on the number of certified organic operations in each State. Catherine Greene

Demand for Farm Credit Expands, But Farm Lenders Remain Cautious

Commercial banks, the Farm Credit System, the Farm Service Agency (FSA), and life insurance companies provide credit to the farm sector and keep a cautious eye on farm debt trends, interest rates, and farm debt repayment capacity. According to the recently released Agricultural Income and Finance (AIS-80), all major lender groups, including FSA, report low levels of delinquencies and loan problems. The stability of their farm loan portfolios is benefiting from large government payments, off-farm income, and an enhanced crop and revenue insurance program. Total farm business debt increased 5.1 percent in 2002. The expected 3.9-percent increase in 2003 will be the 11th consecutive annual increase. Despite price and weather problems facing some commodities, the supply of farm credit remains adequate, and lenders appear confident about most of their farm customers.

China’s Water Policies: Effects on Production and Trade

ERS is embarking on a collaborative project with China's Ministry of Water Resources and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, among others, to examine how China's water policies might affect agricultural production potential and trade. This collaboration builds on the recently released ERS publication China's Agricultural Water Policy Reforms: Increasing Investment, Resolving Conflicts, and Revising Incentives (AIB-782). The central component of the collaboration will be to assist the Ministry of Water Resources to build a hydrological-economic model of the Yellow River Basin to predict the effects of water policies on crop production. This effort will serve to increase our understanding of how water allocation policy reform will affect China's ability to maintain self-sufficiency in grains.

Commodity Markets and Trade

ERS Outlook reports provide timely analysis of major commodity markets and trade, including special reports on hot topics. All reports are available on the ERS website, and include a calendar of future releases.

Competing in the 21st Century

USDA's annual Outlook Forum in February was attended by over 1,300 industry, academic, and government analysts. ERS developed, or helped develop, nine of the Forum's 31 sessions, which ranged in content from 'Competition in the Asian Marketplace' to 'What's Happening in the Retail Food Sector?'