New Releases

Contracting Takes Over Flue-Cured Tobacco Sales

In 2002, 79 percent of flue-cured tobacco was sold under contract—a dramatic change from just 4 years earlier, when virtually no tobacco production was contracted. A new ERS report, Contracting in Tobacco? Contracts Revisited (TBS-254-01), traces this shift to Philip Morris—the largest buyer of U.S. leaf—which indicated in a 1999 press release that tobacco sold in auction markets did not satisfy its quality requirements, necessitating a shift to contracting. Contracts typically provide farmers with incentives for producing high-quality output via higher prices. In 2001, contract prices for high-quality tobacco exceeded auction market prices, and contract prices for low-quality tobacco were less than auction market prices.

Sugar Increasingly Enters U.S. in Imported Products

Demand for U.S. and imported sugar by food manufacturers has flattened since 1999, following robust growth over most of the preceding decade. For the largest sector—bakery and cereal manufacturing—sugar deliveries in 2002 are down 9 percent from 2001. Sugar consumption on a per person basis has also stagnated, reflecting a slowdown in the economy and changing dietary preferences and resulting in increased industry competition. As detailed in a recent ERS study, Measuring the Effect of Imports of Sugar-Containing Products on U.S. Sugar Deliveries (SSS-237-01), additional competition is coming from products that contain sugar. The economic incentive to import products that contain a high percentage of sugar can be enormous, as U.S. sugar is far more expensive than sugar from sources outside the United States. Sugar appears to be increasingly entering the U.S. in manufactured products that are not subject to tariff-rate quotas, such as items packaged for retail sale. Steve Haley

Tracking Livestock Shipments

Because shipping animals is often cheaper than shipping the feed needed to raise them to slaughter weight, moving livestock from growing areas to finishing areas results in a more efficient use of feed and forage (grass or hay) supplies, which vary in availability by region and season. Interstate Livestock Movements (LPDM-10801) analyzes factors influencing animal shipping patterns and provides web access to over 300 maps illustrating State-to-State movements by species, compiled from never-before-assembled veterinary certificates issued by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Information on the volume and direction of livestock movements has many uses. The effects of potential disease outbreaks, for example, are highly dependent on livestock movements. By better understanding such movements, potential outbreaks can be contained regionally, perhaps minimizing their economic impacts. Ken Mathews

Low-Income Households Spend Less on Food

Exploring Food Purchase Behavior of Low-Income Households: How Do They Economize? (AIB-747-07, part of the collection of reports titled Current Issues in Economics of Food Markets), a comparison of purchases by U.S. households of different income levels, finds that low-income shoppers spend less on food purchases despite facing generally higher purchase prices. Households can economize on food spending by purchasing more discounted products, favoring private-label products over brand name products, pursuing volume discounts, or settling for a less expensive product within a product class. These economizing practices allow the poor to spend less for food, despite the slightly higher prices that other studies have shown they face, on average, when shopping for food, while possibly choosing a less nutritious combination of food products to consume. Ephraim Leibtag

USDA Food Assistance Programs in 2003: How Are We Doing?

Nearly 1 in 6 Americans is served by 1 or more of the 15 domestic food assistance programs administered by USDA at some point during the year. These programs provide needy persons with access to a more nutritious diet, provide opportunities to improve the eating habits of the Nation’s children, and help America’s farmers by creating an outlet for the distribution of food purchased under farmer assistance authorities. The Food Assistance Landscape, September 2003 (FANRR-28-3) summarizes trends in USDA food assistance programs through the midpoint of fiscal year 2003, and discusses two recent ERS studies on WIC cost containment practices and the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program. Vic Oliveira

Research on Child Nutrition

A new ERS publication series, Food Assistance Research Briefs (FANRR-34), highlights, summarizes, and explains key findings from research literature related to food assistance and child nutrition. The research briefs are topical and relevant to current debate on child nutrition, child obesity, and the role of USDA child nutrition programs in addressing child health issues. The initial 13 briefs provide analysis and information related to costs, participation, eligibility, and other aspects USDA’s food assistance programs. Each issue brief within the series provides a succinct summary of ERS research on a policy- relevant topic, as well as a short resource list identifying relevant ERS research publications, web addresses, and subject matter specialists. Joanne Guthrie

Analyzing Fertilizer Trade

ERS has developed an interactive database on fertilizer imports and exports, by fertilizer type, country, and year. This unique data source is now available on the web for the first time. Data on quantities of fertilizers exported and quantities and values of fertilizers imported are currently available for 1990-2002 and will be updated each year. The data are compiled from U.S. Department of Commerce Foreign Trade Statistics.

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 electronically, along with a calendar of future releases.