Features, Findings, & Statistics

  • Statistic

    Pollination Service Fees

    While still a small share of food production costs, pollination service fees are now the largest source of beekeeper revenue
  • Statistic

    U.S. Cropland Is Consolidating Into Larger Farms

    Cropland in the United States has shifted to larger farms. Large crop farms (with 2,000 acres or more) accounted for 36 percent of U.S. cropland in 2012, compared to 15 percent in 1987. Most of that cropland shifted from midsize crop farms (with 200 to 999 acres). Midsize farms operated 47 percent of U.S. cropland in 1987, but that share fell to 29 percent by 2012.
  • Statistic

    A Primer on Land Use in the United States

    Land use and land-use change have important economic and environmental implications for commodity production and trade, soil and water conservation, and other policy issues. The ERS Major Land Uses (MLU) series is the longest running, most comprehensive accounting of all major uses of public and private land in the United States. The U.S. land area totals just under 2.3 billion acres.
  • Finding

    Although Small, Markets Have Been Expanding for GE Crops With Traits That Increase Nutrient Content or Improve Taste

    Genetically engineered (GE) crops are plants with genetic material that has been altered to achieve one or more desirable features. Although small, markets have been recently expanding for GE crops with traits that increase nutrient content or improve the taste of certain foods for consumers.
  • Finding

    Applications for the Noninsured Crop Disaster Program Increased After the Agricultural Act of 2014

    A recent ERS report examined impacts of the Buy-Up coverage addition to the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) on expected payments, producers' risk reduction, and NAP enrollment by type of producer and crops.
  • Finding

    Declines in Pollinator Forage Suitability Were Concentrated in the Midwest, the Over-Summering Grounds for Many Honeybees

    While most agricultural commodities are wind-pollinated, about one-third of total U.S. food consumption either require or benefit from insect pollination. Managed honeybees alone provide over $350 million worth of pollination services each year. Recently, however, the health of pollinators has suffered.
  • Feature

    The California Leafy Greens Industry Provides an Example of an Established Food Safety System

    The California Leafy Greens Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA) was established in 2007 to provide a minimum food safety standard for that industry. A recent ERS case study examined the 2012 food safety practices and costs of seven large LGMA participants.
  • Feature

    Farmers Employ Strategies To Reduce Risk of Drought Damages

    Farmers can improve their drought resilience by making different crop choices, enrolling in crop insurance and other farm risk management programs, and investing in soil health. USDA conservation programs—intended primarily to improve on-site and off-site environmental quality—may also help producers adapt to drought risk.
  • Statistic

    Understanding Irrigated Agriculture

    The irrigation of agricultural crops accounts for most of the Nation’s water consumption. To better understand irrigation characteristics, such as acreage and water use, USDA conducts the Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey (FRIS) every 5 years. Most irrigated farms are low-sales operations, but large farms use most of the water.
  • Finding

    Genetically Modified Alfalfa Production in the United States

    In 2013, approximately 18 million acres of alfalfa—with a production value of $10.7 billion—were harvested in the United States. Weed infestations can reduce alfalfa yields, lower forage quality, and increase the severity of insect infestations. Planting genetically modified, herbicide tolerant alfalfa allows for more effective and flexible weed control without damaging crops.
  • Feature

    Managing Agricultural Risk Under Different Scenarios: Selected 2014 Farm Act Programs

    The 2014 Farm Act introduced several new programs for crop and livestock producers. A recent ERS study analyzed how these programs provide options for risk management under different scenarios.
  • Statistic

    Energy Consumption and Production in Agriculture

    A new ERS infographic looks at energy production and consumption in U.S. agriculture.
  • Finding

    Changes in Farmers’ Financial Status May Affect Crop Insurance Demand

    Many farmers in the U.S. use crop insurance to manage the risk of crop failure or low prices. ERS finds that, when examined over multiple years, farmers’ demand for crop insurance is driven more by a farmer’s wealth and the available financial options than by a farmer’s attitude toward risk.
  • Finding

    Voluntary Labeling of Chicken “Raised Without Antibiotics” Has Posed Challenges for Firms and Consumers

    Many consumers want information about how their food is produced, including how farmers raise the animals they eat. Challenges may arise for firms as well as consumers when firms introduce label claims about farm practices (for example, how animals were raised) in the absence of universally accepted definitions or requirements for such claims.
  • Finding

    Cost Savings From Precision Agriculture Technologies on U.S. Corn Farms

    Information-based technologies are growing in popularity with farmers because their use can lead to closer monitoring of farm production management decisions and possible cost savings. According to USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey, four technologies are the most commonly used: yield mapping, soil mapping, auto-guidance machinery steering, and variable-rate technologies.
  • Finding

    Farm Production Practices To Preserve Non-Genetically Engineered Product Markets

    To receive the price premiums associated with organic and conventional non-GE crops, producers must minimize the unintended presence of GE materials in their crops. USDA organic surveys show that producers commonly use buffer strips or delay crop planting until after any nearby GE crops are planted to minimize accidental crop mixing.
  • Finding

    No-Till or Strip-Till Use Varies by Region

    No-till and strip-till are two of many tillage methods farmers use to plant crops. During 2010-11, roughly 56 percent of all U.S. land used for corn, cotton, soybeans, and wheat was located on farms that used no-till/strip-till on at least some portion of this cropland.
  • Feature

    Restrictions on Antibiotic Use for Production Purposes in U.S. Livestock Industries Likely To Have Small Effects on Prices and Quantities

    Antibiotics are used widely in livestock production for control, prevention, and treatment of disease, and for “production purposes” such as growth promotion. The most recent estimates suggest that approximately 40 percent of finishing hogs in 2009 and up to about half of broilers in 2011 received antibiotics for production purposes.
  • Finding

    Stacking of Herbicide-Tolerant and Insect-Resistance Traits in Seeds Has Increased

    In the 20 years since their commercial introduction, genetically engineered (GE) seeds have become increasingly common in U.S. agriculture. Adoption of "stacked" trait corn and cotton (those with both herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant traits) has also increased.
  • Statistic

    Long-Term Response to Water Scarcity in California

    California's current 4-year drought is, by almost any measure, the most severe since detailed recordkeeping began in the late 1800s. Given such severe shortages in surface-water availability, agricultural production in California is currently focused on the shortrun challenge of finding the right mix of planted acreage reductions, deficit irrigation, and increases in groundwater withdrawals.
  • Finding

    California’s Irrigation Varies by Crop

    Farmers in California grow a wide variety of crops using off-farm surface water, groundwater, and to a limited extent, on-farm surface water. Differences in the source of irrigation water play a major role in how vulnerable different crops are to shortfalls in surface water supplies due to drought. Farmers of different crops also have differing levels of investment in irrigation technologies.
  • Feature

    Managing Glyphosate Resistance May Sustain Its Efficacy and Increase Long-Term Returns to Corn and Soybean Production

    Widespread use of the glyphosate on major crops, particularly soybeans, has contributed to the evolution of weed resistance to this herbicide. Managing glyphosate resistance (by using other herbicides) is more cost-effective than ignoring resistance, and returns are greater when neighboring farmers also manage resistance.
  • Finding

    Livestock Forage Disaster Program Payments Increase in 2014

    ERS’s current farm income forecast for 2014 includes $4.3 billion in Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) payments, an almost 700 percent increase from total LFP payments made during the previous 5 years combined. LFP, which is accounted for in farm income accounting under “ad hoc and disaster assistance payments,” is expected to be over 40 percent of total direct payments.
  • Finding

    Profit Margin Increases With Farm Size

    Given the broad USDA definition of a farm, most U.S. farms are not profitable as ongoing businesses. One commonly used measure of profitability is the farm’s operating profit margin (OPM), the ratio of operating profit to gross farm income.
  • Statistic

    Milk Production Continues Shifting to Large-Scale Farms

    Production has shifted to larger farms in most agricultural commodity sectors over the last two decades. This is especially true for dairy farms, where a major transformation of the sector has reduced the number of dairy farms by nearly 60 percent over the past 20 years, even as total milk production increased by one-third.