ERS Charts of Note

U.S. agricultural exports contain a diverse variety of products

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The value of U.S. agricultural exports declined in 2015, reversing 5 consecutive years of export growth. Since 2000, developing countries—led by China—had been the main drivers of U.S. export gains. Horticultural exports were the only product group to grow in 2015, up about $266 million, increasing its share of total U.S. agricultural exports to about 25 percent. In fact, horticultural products had the largest share of any group—surpassing livestock products, grains/feeds, and oilseed/products, which had combined losses in 2015 that accounted for nearly all of the decrease in export values. The drop in export value in 2015 can be attributed, in part, to a stronger U.S. dollar relative to competitors, which made U.S. exports appear more expensive. Additionally, poultry exports were severely limited due to trade restrictions applied following the outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in several U.S. states in 2015. This chart is from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated October 2016.

Small family farms account for the majority of U.S. farms and half the farmland

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

In 2015, 99 percent of U.S. farms were family farms, where the principal operator and his or her relatives owned the majority of the business. Small family farms—those with less than $350,000 in annual gross cash farm income (GCFI)—accounted for about 90 percent of U.S. farms, half of all farmland, and a quarter of the value of production. Midsize and large-scale family farms, which have at least $350,000 in GCFI, made up only 9 percent of U.S. farms—but contributed most of the value of production (65 percent). Over the past 25 years, production has shifted to midsize and large-scale farms. Nevertheless, small family farms did produce a relatively large share of two commodities in 2015: poultry and eggs (57 percent) and hay (52 percent). This chart appears in the ERS report America’s Diverse Family Farms: 2016 Edition , released December 6, 2016.

Grocery store prices lower in the third quarter of 2016 from a year ago

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The food-at-home Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the third quarter of 2016 was 1.9 percent lower than the food-at-home CPI for the third quarter of 2015. Grocery store prices decreased, on average, across the board—with the exception of fresh fruits, which rose 2 percent. Egg prices saw the largest decrease, falling 35 percent, reflecting the recovery in the industry after the supply shock caused by late 2014 to June 2015 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreak. Beef and veal, dairy products, pork, and poultry also posted large decreases compared to third quarter 2015, reflecting larger supplies of cattle, raw milk, hogs, and broilers. In addition to increases in domestic supplies, lower oil and energy prices helped hold down retail food price inflation, while a strong U.S. dollar lowered costs for imported foods and decreased demand for U.S. exports, placing further downward pressure on U.S. retail food prices. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Spending section of ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials chart collection. More information on retail food prices and forecasted inflation can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated November 23, 2016.

Employment grows in 3 out of 5 rural counties

Monday, December 5, 2016

Employment grew in about 60 percent of rural counties (1,227 out of 1,976) between the first half of 2015 and the first half of 2016. Rural counties with rising employment levels were located in all regions of the country, but concentrated in the Midwest, the Southeast, and Pacific Northwest. Many counties with falling employment levels were located in States with significant oil and gas resources that had seen employment growth in past years, such as North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania; this trend reflects a recent decline in mining activity. Rural employment has risen modestly—including an increase of about 1.3 percent between 2013 and 2015—as the national economy has recovered since employment levels bottomed out in 2010. Employment grew another 0.5 percent between the end of 2015 and the second quarter of 2016, when it reached more than 20 million workers. Still, the overall rural employment level remains well below its pre-recession level. This map appears in the topic page for Rural Employment and Unemployment on the ERS website, updated November 2016.

As incomes grow, poultry consumption in South Africa rises

Friday, December 2, 2016

Like many middle-income countries, South Africa’s rising income has been accompanied by significant increases in per capita meat consumption. Poultry meat, being cheaper than other meats, accounts for most of the growth. Per capita poultry consumption more than doubled from 17 kilograms in 1994/95 to 40 in in the 2013/14 marketing year. In recent years, beef consumption has also risen, but poultry consumption remains dominant. Consumption of other meats has remained constant. South Africa’s real per capita income has maintained almost uninterrupted growth since 2000, only dropping in 2009 with the global recession. The initial surge in poultry consumption in the early 2000’s closely tracks the rapid rise in per capita income. While domestic production of poultry has expanded rapidly to accommodate demand, imports have grown at an even faster rate. This chart appears in the ERS Poultry Production and Trade in the Republic of South Africa: a Look at Alternative Trade Policy Scenarios special outlook report released in November 2016.

Cheese accounts for largest share of dairy cup-equivalents in U.S. diets

Thursday, December 1, 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.

U.S. farm sector income forecasts down for 2016, led by lower animal/animal products receipts

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Net cash farm income and net farm income are two conventionally used and related measures of farm sector profitability. The first measure includes cash receipts, government payments, and other farm-related cash income net of cash expenses, while the second is more comprehensive and incorporates noncash transactions such as implicit rents, changes in inventories, and economic depreciation. 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 $90.1 billion and $66.9 billion, respectively, or $80.9 billion and $60.1 billion, respectively, when adjusted for inflation (in 2009 dollars). Cash receipts declined across a broad set of agricultural commodities in 2015, and are expected to fall further in 2016—primarily for animal/animal products. Production expenses are forecast to contract in 2016, but not enough to offset the commodity price declines. Net cash farm and net farm income are below their 10-year averages, which include surging crop and animal/animal product cash receipts from 2010 to 2013. Find additional information and analysis in ERS’ Farm Sector Income and Finances topic page, updated November 30, 2016.

Almost all U.S. sugarbeets and canola planted in 2013 used genetically engineered seeds

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Genetically engineered (GE), herbicide-tolerant (HT) varieties of crops were first developed in 1996 to survive herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds. The success of major GE crops—more than 90 percent of U.S. corn, soybean and cotton use GE seeds with HT or insect-resistant traits—enabled the commercialization of HT canola in 1998 and of HT alfalfa and sugarbeets in 2005. Two of these crops have seen rapid adoption in recent years: about 95 percent of U.S. canola and over 99 percent of sugarbeet acres planted in 2013 had HT traits. By comparison, only 13 percent of alfalfa acres harvested had HT traits that year. This slower adoption rate is expected—alfalfa is a perennial crop and only about one-seventh of the alfalfa acreage is newly seeded each year. This chart is based on the ERS report The Adoption of Genetically Engineered Alfalfa, Canola, and Sugarbeets in the United States, released November 2016.

Per capita wheat flour consumption declines along with other starches

Monday, November 28, 2016

After peaking in 1997, per capita wheat consumption has trended downward, falling from146.8 pounds per person to 133.0 in 2015. With the U.S. population growing at a faster rate than projected wheat food use for the 2016/17 marketing year, per capita wheat consumption is on track to decline again in 2016. Reduced per capita wheat food use in the U.S. has been attributed to rising consumption of gluten-free or multi-grain products and diet trends, such as the Atkins diet, that encourages reduced consumption of carbohydrates. These same changes in consumer taste and preferences created downward pressure on use for other plant-based starches such as potatoes. Over the past two decades, per capita potato consumption has fallen by an average of 1.6 pounds per year and compares to annual per capital declines of 0.7 pounds for wheat. This chart is drawn from the ERS Wheat Outlook report released in November 2016.

California has the highest value among U.S. States for agricultural exports

Friday, November 25, 2016

All U.S. States export some agricultural products to markets overseas. While the value of agricultural exports is relatively modest for States like Alaska, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire (less than $100 million in 2015), many States rely on agricultural exports for a large share of their market revenue. The largest beneficiary of overseas markets is California, which contributes 17 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports by value. The $23 billion worth of agricultural goods exported by California in 2015 is more than double the next largest State total, Iowa. Iowa and Illinois exported agricultural goods valued at $10 and $8 billion, respectively, in 2015. To put these numbers in perspective, the 2012 Agricultural Census calculated the total value of agricultural sales in California to be 44 billion dollars, while Iowa and Illinois were valued at 31 and 17 billion, respectively. In California, tree nuts account for the largest share of exports. Soybeans are the most valuable export in five of the top ten exporting States, including Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska. Other leading export products for States in the top ten exporters include cotton, wheat, and fruits. The data in this chart is drawn from the ERS State Export Data product updated in October 2016.

Yes, Thanksgiving really is a day of cooking

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

If you think Thanksgiving is a day spent cooking, eating, and socializing, you are correct. On this national holiday over a survey period of 2003-15, Americans spent an average of 128 minutes in meal preparation and cleanup—over three times the 34 minutes spent on these tasks on an average Saturday or Sunday. Time spent eating and drinking is greater as well--89 minutes on Thanksgiving versus an average of 71 minutes on a average weekend day. Socializing time is over twice the weekend average—148 minutes versus 64 minutes. All this cooking, cleaning, and socializing leaves less time for other weekend activities. The average time spent in sports and exercise is less on Thanksgiving, as is time spent on shopping, including online purchases. Less time is also spent on paid work (32 minutes versus 75 minutes) and travel (55 minutes versus 72 minutes) due to less commuting. Time spent watching television and movies, however, is about the same as the average weekend day. This chart uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey and draws from the ERS report, Americans’ Eating Patterns and Time Spent on Food: The 2014 Eating & Health Module Data.

For turkey producers, Thanksgiving is a year round job

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Americans consume a lot of turkey every Thanksgiving. So much so that producers spend the whole year building up stocks to meet robust demand every November. Since 2010, turkey meat production has averaged just under 500 million pounds per month. While that’s enough turkey to meet the needs of consumers during an average month, it is not enough to cover Thanksgiving demand. In order to make up for this deficit, producers build up stocks in cold storage throughout the year in order to sell them when November comes around. Turkey stocks reach a low point each year after November and then begin building back up throughout the following year, reaching a high point around September just in time to begin the process all over again. The process also helps explain the gap in prices between fresh and frozen turkeys at the grocery store. Since demand is met, in part, by frozen product built up throughout the year, only a limited portion can be bought fresh leading to a premium at the checkout line. The data in this chart is drawn from the ERS Livestock and Meat Domestic Data tables updated in October 2016.

Remoteness presents economic challenges for many American Indian and Alaska Native communities

Monday, November 21, 2016

Less than 1 percent of the U.S. population (2.3 million people) identify solely as American Indians or Alaska Natives, according to the latest Census population estimates. A third of American Indians and Native Americans live in counties where they make up 10 percent or more of the population. These 122 counties are located in either historic tribal areas or in areas of reservation resettlement. Almost all are sparsely populated rural counties located in remote regions of the country, such as Alaska, the American Southwest, the Great Plains, or along the Canadian border from Washington to Michigan. They include only two urbanized centers with 50,000 or more people: Flagstaff, Arizona and Farmington, New Mexico. High poverty and low employment prospects present considerable challenges to many American Indians and Alaska Natives living in remote settings. The unemployment rate in these counties was 6.6 percent in 2015 compared with 5.3 percent nationally. This map is based on data found in the Atlas of Rural and Small Town America, updated to 2015.

Americans began to adjust their food spending patterns about a year before the 2007-09 recession

Friday, November 18, 2016

A recent ERS analysis found that between 1999 and 2006, the share of the average household food budget allocated to basic and complex ingredients fell steadily from around 24.7 to 20.8 percent, but then began to climb reaching 24.2 percent in 2010. Basic ingredients, such as milk and fresh meats, and complex ingredients, such as mayonnaise and bread, are grocery store foods used to prepare a meal or snack. The food budget share—defined as total expenditures at grocery stores and eating-out places—spent on ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat grocery store foods followed a somewhat similar, but muted, pattern. The upturn in food budget share devoted to ingredients and ready to eat/cook grocery foods began almost a year before the 2007-09 recession and its aftermath—a time when many consumers cut back on eating out, especially fast food meals and snacks. The share of the total food budget spent in fast-food outlets where customers order and pay at a counter grew until 2007 to 30.6 percent, then declined to 25.7 percent in 2010. This chart appears in “Purchases of Foods by Convenience Type Driven by Prices, Income, and Advertising” in the November 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Production of sweet potatoes—a Thanksgiving favorite—is on the rise

Thursday, November 17, 2016

U.S. production of sweet potatoes has increased substantially in recent years, achieving a new record-high of 3.1 billion pounds in 2015—a 4.8- percent increase over 2014’s 3.0 billion pounds. The largest producer of sweet potatoes in the United States is North Carolina which harvested 1.6 billion pounds in 2015 and has been responsible for most of the gains in recent years. California, Mississippi, and Louisiana are also notable sweet potato-producing States. In 2014 and 2015, sweet potato production rose by an average of about 6 percent per year, bolstered by growth in exports and domestic demand. Between 2000 and 2015, domestic consumption of sweet potatoes grew considerably with per capita availability rising from 4.2 pounds to 7.5 pounds. The marked rise in domestic demand has been encouraged by promotion of the tuber’s health benefits. Sweet potatoes are a good source of fiber and vitamin C, and they are an especially rich source of vitamin A. This chart is drawn from the ERS Vegetables and Pulses Outlook report and the ERS Vegetables and Pulses data.

Differences between rural and urban economies reflect differences in their industrial composition

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Many of the differences between rural and urban economies reflect differences in their industrial composition. While service industries account for the largest share of jobs and earnings in both rural and urban areas, rural areas are more dependent on manufacturing and industries producing primary goods—such as farming, forestry, and mining. Industries producing primary goods provide more than 11 percent of rural jobs, but only 2 percent of urban jobs. Manufacturing accounts for nearly 15 percent of rural earnings and just over 9 percent of urban earnings. In contrast, urban areas are more heavily dependent on producer services—such as finance, insurance, and real estate—which account for about 28 percent of urban jobs, but less than 16 percent of rural jobs. The disparity in earnings is even greater: the producer services sector contributed 31 percent of urban earnings, but only about 12 percent of rural earnings. This difference reflects higher earnings per job in urban areas, where that sector provides more highly specialized services and employs more managerial and professional staff. This chart appears in the ERS report Rural America at a Glance, 2016 Edition, released November 14, 2016.

One in six U.S. households with children were food-insecure at some time in 2015

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

In 2015, 16.6 percent of U.S. households with children (6.4 million households) were food insecure at some time during the year. In about half of these households, only adult household members were food insecure as the children had normal or near-normal diets and meal patterns. However, in 7.8 percent of households with children (3.0 million households) both children and adults were food insecure. In 0.7 percent of households with children (274,000 households), food insecurity among children was so severe that caregivers reported that children were hungry, skipped a meal, or did not eat for a whole day because there was not enough money for food. In some households with very low food security among children, only older children may have experienced the more severe effects of food insecurity while younger children were protected from those effects. In 2014, 1.1 percent of households with children reported very low food security among children. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2015, September 2015.

Private sector R&D in food and agriculture rose sharply as public sector funding declined

Monday, November 14, 2016

U.S. private sector spending on food and agricultural research and development (R&D) has risen rapidly over 2003-2013, surpassing public sector funding. This is a relatively new phenomenon; historically, the public sector has led funding. From 1971 to the early 2000s, total public and total private R&D on food and agriculture followed each other closely. Throughout, the private sector funded R&D for agricultural inputs (such as tractors and pesticides) and food manufacturing in roughly equal measure, while the public sector focused primarily on agricultural inputs. In 2003, however, the two series began to diverge. Total private R&D—in both the food and agricultural input sectors—increased from a total of $6.0 billion (adjusted for inflation) in 2003 to $11.8 billion in 2013. Meanwhile, total public R&D fell from $6.0 billion to around $4.5 billion. By 2010, private agricultural input R&D alone had surpassed total public R&D. Multiple factors have contributed to this change, including the extension of intellectual property rights to different crop varieties, greater potential profits from new scientific opportunities, and increased demand for new agricultural products in developing markets. This chart appears in the November 2016 Amber Waves feature, “U.S. Agricultural R&D in an Era of Falling Public Funding.”

Net exports of total red meat and poultry to increase in 2016 and 2017

Thursday, November 10, 2016

USDA forecasts for net exports (exports minus imports) of U.S. red meat and poultry in 2016 and 2017 show successive increases, largely due to higher beef production and expectations of solid growth in poultry exports. U.S. beef exports are expected to increase by almost 9 percent in 2016 and by almost 7 percent in 2017, as the beef sector recovers from a multi-year drought in major beef-producing States and U.S. production increases. U.S. beef imports are forecast to decline by about 10 percent in 2016 and 11 percent in 2017, as supplies in Oceania tighten with herd rebuilding and larger supplies of U.S. beef become available at lower prices. U.S. net poultry exports (broiler meat and turkey) are forecast to increase in both 2016 and 2017 reflecting higher production, lower prices, and strong foreign demand for relatively low-priced meat protein. In total, U.S. net exports of red meat and poultry are expected to be 10.3 billion pounds in 2016 and 11.5 billion pounds in 2017. This chart appears in the ERS Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook report released in October 2016.

SNAP access rates in Texas are typically lower for Spanish speakers from linguistically isolated households

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A household’s lack of English proficiency can pose a barrier to the receipt of needed food assistance. The U.S. Census Bureau developed the concept of “linguistic isolation” to measure the numbers and characteristics of households that might have difficulty interacting with government and social services. According to the Census Bureau definition, a household is considered linguistically isolated if all adults speak a language other than English and none speaks English “very well.” Estimates from Texas administrative records for USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) linked to the American Community Survey reveal that in six of Texas’ largest counties, SNAP access rates are typically lower for Spanish-speaking households that are linguistically isolated relative to those that are not (i.e., at least one adult in the household speaks English “very well”). One exception is Hildago County, in which the SNAP access rates for the two groups are roughly equal. County-level estimates like these—generated by linking survey data and administrative records—can provide SNAP administrators with important information about areas in which language barriers or other household characteristics may be linked to lower SNAP participation rates. This chart appears in “Illuminating SNAP Performance Using the Power of Administrative Data” in the November 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.