Editor's Pick 2016: Best of Charts of Note

This chart gallery is a collection of the best Charts of Note from 2016. 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 2016: Agricultural exports and trade balance are declining

Friday, December 23, 2016

The value of U.S. agricultural exports and imports increased each year from fiscal year (FY) 2009 (October 1-September 30), through FY 2014, when the agricultural trade balance reached an all-time high of $43.1 billion. In FY 2015 the value of agricultural exports fell by 8.3 percent while imports grew by 4.5 percent, cutting the trade balance to 25.7 billion. The forecast for FY 2016 is for this pattern to continue: lower exports and higher imports are expected to push the agricultural trade surplus below $10 billion for the first time since 2006. Lower commodity prices account for some of the decline in the value of exports, but a stronger U.S. dollar also plays a role. Unlike in 2009 when both exports and imports fell due to the global recession, in 2015 and 2016 imports are growing at the same time that exports are falling, reflecting the greater purchasing power of the U.S. dollar in international markets and the reduced purchasing power of foreign currencies to buy U.S. goods. This chart is from the USDA/ERS Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States (FATUS) dataset and the December Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade report.

Editor's Pick 2016: U.S. net farm income forecast to decline for third consecutive year in 2016

Friday, December 23, 2016

Net cash farm income and net farm income are two popular, but distinct, measures of farm sector profitability. The first measure tracks cash receipts and cash expenses, while the second also includes noncash transactions, including implicit rents, changes in inventories, capital replacement costs, and others. Following several years of high income, both measures have trended downward since 2013. ERS forecasts that net cash farm and net farm income for 2016 will be $90.9 billion and $54.8 billion, respectively, or $81.1 billion and $48.9 billion, respectively, in inflation-adjusted dollars. These amounts are below their respective 10-year average, in both nominal and inflation-adjusted terms. Before recent dips, the 10-year averages for both income measures have largely trended upward. Over the 2010 to 2013 period, surging crop and animal (including animal-product) cash receipts led net cash farm income and net farm income higher. Prices are expected to have declined for a broad set of agricultural commodities in 2015, and fall further in 2016. Production expenses are forecast to contract in 2016, but not enough to offset the commodity price declines. Find additional information and analysis in ERS’ Farm Sector Income and Finances topic page, released February 9, 2016.

Editor's Pick 2016: Cheese accounts for largest share of dairy cup-equivalents in U.S. diets

Friday, December 23, 2016

According to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans consumed just under 1.5 cup-equivalents of dairy products per person per day in 1974 and in 2014—half the recommended amount for a 2,000-calorie diet. While Americans are consuming the same number of cup-equivalents of dairy products, the mix has changed. Consumption of cheese has more than doubled during this time from 0.29 cup-equivalents per person in 1974 to 0.64 cup-equivalents per person in 2014, while yogurt consumption grew almost ten-fold to 0.05 cup-equivalents per person. Fluid milk consumption stood at 0.55 cup-equivalents per person in 2014, down from 0.90 cup-equivalents per person in 1974. Several factors have contributed to this decline, including competition from soft drinks, fruit juices, bottled water, and other beverages; generational differences in the frequency of milk drinking; and a more ethnically diverse population, some of whose diets do not normally include fluid milk. This chart is from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated October 11, 2016.

Editor's Pick 2016: Food insecurity fell in 2015 for minority-headed households and households with children

Friday, December 23, 2016

The prevalence of food insecurity in the United States declined from 14.0 percent of households in 2014 to 12.7 percent of households in 2015. Some types of households saw greater declines than others. Food insecurity for both Non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics dropped from 2014 to 2015: the former declined from 26.1 to 21.5 percent, while the latter from 22.4 to 19.1 percent. Households with children younger than 18 saw a significant decline in food insecurity—from 19.2 percent in 2014 to 16.6 percent in 2015. Among these households, those headed by single mothers saw their food insecurity prevalence drop from 35.3 percent to 30.3 percent. The prevalence of food insecurity for households with children under 6 years old dropped from 19.9 to 16.9 percent as well. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2015, published September 2016.

Editor's Pick 2016: Ten percent of all land in farms is expected to be transferred during 2015-19

Friday, December 23, 2016

The relatively advanced age of the U.S. farming population—about a third of principal farm operators in 2014 were at least age 65 compared with 12 percent of self-employed workers in nonagricultural businesses—has sparked interest in the manner in which land will be transferred to other landowners, including the next generation of farm operators. Farmland owners planned to transfer 93 million acres in the next 5 years (2015-19)--10 percent of all land in farms--through a variety of means. Landowners anticipated selling 3.8 percent of all farmland, with just 2.3 percent planned to be sold to non-relatives. A larger share of land (6.5 percent) is expected to be transferred through trusts, gifts, and wills. The share of farmland available for purchase by non-relatives during 2015-19 will likely rise above 2.3 percent as some individuals (or entities) that inherit land may choose to sell it. And, those who inherit land but don’t sell it may decide to rent it out to farm operators. In 2014, 39 percent of all farmland was rented and 61 percent was owned by farm operators. This chart comes from the ERS report U.S. Farmland Ownership, Tenure, and Transfer, released on August 25, 2016.

Editor's Pick 2016: Trade liberalization and regulatory cooperation have facilitated growth in United States-Mexico agricultural trade beyond the NAFTA Period

Friday, December 23, 2016

As the United States and Mexico liberalized their bilateral trade, they continued to cooperate on sanitary, phytosanitary, and other regulatory issues affecting the agricultural sector. For example, new phytosanitary protocols (measures for the control of plant and animal diseases) enabled the export of Mexican avocados to the United States, while a coordinated campaign by all three NAFTA governments established a harmonized approach to mitigating the risks associated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, often referred to as mad cow disease). Together, this trade liberalization and continuing regulatory cooperation provided the policy setting for an increase in U.S.-Mexico agricultural trade. Between 1993 and 2015, U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico grew from $3.6 billion to $17.7 billion, while Mexican agricultural exports to the United States increased from $2.7 billion to $21.0 billion. This chart appears in the ERS report, Opportunities for Making U.S.-Mexico Agricultural Trade More Agile released in August 2016.

Editor's Pick 2016: Emerging markets account for most of the growth in U.S. agricultural exports

Friday, December 23, 2016

Growth in demand for food, and by extension for agricultural imports, is particularly sensitive to growth in per capita incomes in developing countries, where relatively large shares of rising incomes are typically spent on increasing both the amount and diversity of foods consumed. In contrast, consumers in more developed countries, where per capita incomes and food intake are already relatively high, are less likely to spend as much of new income on increasing the amount of food they eat. Emerging markets averaged higher rates of real per capita gross domestic product growth and accounted for all of the volume growth in U.S. exports of bulk and intermediate agricultural prod¬ucts and most of the growth in U.S. exports of consumer-oriented products during 2000-15. The volume of U.S. exports of bulk and intermediate agricultural goods to developed countries actually declined during the period, and U.S. exports of consumer-oriented goods to developed markets grew only about a third as fast as to emerging markets. This chart is from the ERS report, Global Macroeconomic Developments Drive Downturn in U.S. Agricultural Exports, released July 12.

Editor's Pick 2016: China’s demand for imported soybeans expected to remain strong

Friday, December 23, 2016

China is the world’s largest importer of soybeans. The country’s dominance as an importer reflects government policies that favor imports of soybeans over feed grains, coupled with dietary shifts toward more animal proteins, which creates a strong demand for soybean meal used for livestock feed rations. In 1995, China adopted a policy of 95 percent self-sufficiency for grains, and from 2008 to 2012 the country increased price supports for wheat, rice, and corn at higher rates than those for soybeans, making soybean production less attractive to farmers and resulting in an 18-percent decline in domestic production while soybean imports jumped 50 percent. China’s border policies also favor soybean imports. Import tariffs for soybeans are lower than those for soybean meal or oil, resulting in China’s oilseed-crushing industry becoming the largest in the world, and supplied mainly with imported soybeans. With China’s policies continuing to favor grain production over soybeans and its feed and livestock industries expected to continue growing, the country’s demand for imported soybeans is projected to remain strong over the next decade, increasing from 83 million tons in 2016/17 to 109.5 million tons in 2025/26. This chart is from the May 2016 Amber Waves article, “Major Factors Affecting Global Soybean and Products Trade Projections.”

Editor's Pick 2016: Three post-farm industry groups account for about 61 cents of the U.S. food dollar

Friday, December 23, 2016

In 2014, total food-away-from-home expenditures of U.S. consumers, businesses, and government entities surpassed at-home food sales for the first time. This outcome is reflected in the 32.7-cent foodservices share of the U.S. food dollar claimed by restaurants and other eating-out places—its highest level during 1993 to 2014. It is also reflected in the 12.9-cent retail-trade share claimed by grocery stores and other food retailers, which is at its lowest level since 2002. ERS uses input-output analysis to calculate the value added, or cost contributions, from 12 industry groups in the food supply chain. Annual shifts in food dollar shares between industry groups occur for a variety of reasons, ranging from the mix of foods that consumers purchase to relative input costs. A growing share of the food dollar has gone to farm producers, up 1.7 cents since 2009 to 10.4 cents in 2014, while food processing’s share is down 2.1 cents since 2009. This chart is available for years 1993 to 2014 and can be found in ERS’s Food Dollar Series data product, updated on March 30, 2016.

Editor's Pick 2016: Productivity in U.S. agriculture, not increased input use, has fueled agricultural output growth

Friday, December 23, 2016

Agricultural total factor productivity (TFP) is the difference between the aggregate total output of crop/livestock commodities and the combined use of land, labor, capital and material inputs employed in farm production. Growth in TFP implies that the adoption of new technology or improved management of farm resources is increasing average productivity or efficiency of input use. From 1948 to 2013, U.S. farm sector output grew by 170 percent with about the same level of farm input use over the period, and thus the positive growth in farm sector production was substantially due to productivity growth. While aggregate input use in agriculture has been relatively stable over time, the composition of agricultural inputs (not shown in this chart) has shifted. Between 1948 and 2013, labor use declined sharply by 78 percent, land use in agriculture dropped by 26 percent, while the use of intermediate goods (such as energy, agricultural chemicals, purchased services, and seed/feed) and capital (farm machinery and buildings) expanded. Long-term agricultural productivity is fueled by innovations in animal/crop genetics, chemicals, equipment, and farm organization that result from public and private research and development. This chart is found in the ERS data product Agricultural Productivity in the U.S., updated December 2015.