Editor's Pick 2015: Best of Charts of Note

This chart gallery is a collection of the best Charts of Note from 2015. These charts were selected by ERS editors as those worthy of a second read because they provide context for the year’s headlines or share key insights from ERS research.


Editor's Pick 2015, #1:<br>One in five rural counties had child poverty rates over 33 percent

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Child poverty rates varied considerably across nonmetropolitan (rural) counties according to 2009-13 county averages (data on poverty for all U.S. counties are available from the American Community Survey only for 5-year averages). According to the official poverty measure, one in five rural counties had child poverty rates over 33 percent. Child poverty has increased since the 2000 Census (which measured poverty in 1999) and the number of rural counties with child poverty rates of over 33 percent has more than doubled. Improving young adult education levels tended to lower child poverty rates over the period, but increases in single-parent households and economic recession were associated with rising child poverty. Metropolitan counties had average child poverty rates of 21 percent in 2009-13. This map appears in the July 2015?Amber Waves?feature,?Understanding the Geography of Growth in Rural Child Poverty.

Editor's Pick 2015, #6:<br>Genetically engineered seeds planted on over 90 percent of U.S. corn, cotton, and soybean acres

Thursday, December 17, 2015

U.S. farmers have adopted genetically engineered (GE) seeds in the 20 years since their commercial introduction, despite their typically higher prices. Herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops, developed to survive the application of specific herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds, provide farmers with a broader variety of options for weed control. Insect-resistant crops (Bt) contain a gene from the soil bacterium?Bacillus thuringiensis?that produces a protein toxic to specific insects, protecting the plant over its entire life. "Stacked" seed varieties carry both HT and Bt traits, and now account for a large majority of GE corn and cotton seeds. In 2015, adoption of GE varieties, including those with herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, or stacked traits, accounted for 94 percent of cotton acreage, 94 percent of soybean acreage (soybeans have only HT varieties), and 92 percent of corn acreage planted in the United States. This chart is found in the ERS data product, Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., updated July 2015.

Editor's Pick 2015, #7:<br>Dairy production is concentrated in climates that expose animals to less heat stress

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Above a temperature threshold, an animal may experience heat stress resulting in changes in its respiration, blood chemistry, hormones, metabolism, and feed intake.? Dairy cattle are particularly sensitive to heat stress; high temperatures lower milk output and reduce the percentages of fat, solids, lactose, and protein in milk. In the United States, dairy production is largely concentrated in climates that expose animals to less heat stress. The Temperature Humidity Index (THI) loadprovides a measure of the amount of heat stress an animal is under. The annual THI load is similar to ?cooling degree days,? a concept often used to convey the amount of energy needed to cool a building in the summer. The map shows concentrations of dairy cows in regions with relatively low levels of heat stress: California?s Central Valley, Idaho, Wisconsin, New York, and Pennsylvania. Relatively few dairies are located in the very warm Gulf Coast region (which includes southern Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida). This map is drawn from the ERS report,?Climate Change, Heat Stress, and Dairy Production, September 2014.

Editor's Pick 2015, #2:<br>China's meat imports surge, driven by rising domestic demand and prices

Thursday, December 17, 2015

As China enters a new phase of its economic development, its demand for higher-valued products like meat and dairy products is growing rapidly. China?s imports of meats during 2013-14 were more than double the volume imported during the early 2000s. Growing demand and higher prices of domestic meat products?have driven the growth in China?s meat imports over the past few years.?China?s meat imports have shifted from items like chicken feet and animal offal to?muscle meat, as living standards rose and China opened its market to more beef and mutton imports. The U.S. is currently the top supplier of China?s poultry and pork imports. U.S. exports of meat, dairy products, and other consumer-oriented products, such as fruits, nuts, and wine to China rose from $234 million in 2000 to $3 billion in 2013, comprising nearly 12 percent of the value of total U.S. agricultural exports to China that year. The growth in China?s meat imports could mean new opportunities?for U.S. exporters.?This chart is based on the ERS report,?China?s Growing Demand for Agricultural Imports.

Editor's Pick 2015, #5:<br>Rural employment yet to recover to prerecession levels

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Employment fell by roughly 5 percent in urban areas and 6 percent in rural areas between the first quarter of 2008 and the fourth quarter of 2009?a period that includes the Great Recession. In 2010, the first full year of the economic recovery, urban and rural employment levels grew at comparable rates, and rural areas experienced modest growth the following year. This was followed by 2 years of near-zero employment change before growth resumed in early 2014. An annual growth of more than 1 percent between mid-2014 and mid-2015 has brought the number of employed rural residents (total rural employment) back above 20 million people for the first time since 2008. As of mid-2015, that number remained more than 3 percentage points below its prerecession peak in 2007. This chart is found in the 2015 edition of?Rural America At A Glance, released November 30, 2015.

Editor's Pick 2015, #3:<br>Single-mother households consistently have higher rates of food insecurity than other households with children

Thursday, December 17, 2015

In 2014, 14.0 percent of U.S. households were food insecure. These food-insecure households had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. During the Great Recession and its aftermath, the prevalence of food insecurity rose from 11.1 percent in 2007 to 14.9 percent in 2011, before falling as the economy improved and unemployment declined. Food insecurity rates for single-parent households are substantially higher than the national average, especially for single-mother households. In 2014, 35.3 percent of single-mother households and 21.7 percent of single-father households in the United States were food insecure. While food insecurity rates for single-father households and married couples with children have fallen over the last few years, the rate for single-mother households remains high. This chart appears in ERS?s?Interactive Chart: Food Security Characteristics, released September 9, 2015.

Editor's Pick 2015, #8:<br>Inflation-adjusted prices for a few food categories have fallen since 1985

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Over the past 30 years, grocery store prices have risen 4.5 percent above economy-wide prices, indicating that food prices have risen faster than some other consumer goods, such as housing and transportation. Inflation-adjusted (real) prices for poultry and dairy products have been stable, while real prices for red meats, eggs, and fresh fruits and vegetables grew by 18, 21.5, and 40 percent between 1985 and 2014, respectively. Over the same time period, real prices for fats and oils, sugar and sweets, and nonalcoholic beverages fell. A main ingredient in many nonalcoholic beverages is corn sweeteners, which have decreased in price nearly 20 percent since 1985. Processed foods, many of which are included in the sugar and sweets category, are less affected by commodity-level price swings and are generally more closely linked to the costs of inputs such as electricity and wages. Industrial electricity costs and manufacturing wages both increased at a rate about 10 percent lower than overall inflation since 1985. This chart appears in ?Growth in Inflation-Adjusted Food Prices Varies by Food Category? in ERS?s July 2015?Amber Waves?magazine.?

Editor's Pick 2015, #9:<br>New cage size regulations contribute to widening egg price gap

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Over the last 2 months of 2014, egg prices in most markets experienced a brief and very sharp price spike. Egg prices traditionally are strong in the fourth quarter, but the spike in 2014 was larger than usual, considering that table egg production increased in November 2014. The high prices nationwide in the fourth quarter of 2014 are likely the result of both strong exports of table eggs to Mexico in November and uncertainties about the future of the table egg market in California due to new cage size regulations that went into effect on January 1, 2015. In the short term, the new regulations have widened the price difference between the California market and other parts of the United States. At the end of October 2014, the difference between the wholesale prices of Grade A large eggs in the Southern California market and the New York City market was around 12 cents per dozen. Prices in Southern California rose to average $2.68 per dozen by the middle of December. Like in other markets, prices then began to decline, but by the beginning of 2015 had only fallen to around $2.28 per dozen, resulting in a price differential between the Southern California market and the New York City market of over $1.00 per dozen. This chart is based on information from the January 2015?Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook.?