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The share of households with wired broadband remains below 60 percent in nearly 800 rural counties, mostly in poor and remote regions

Friday, November 17, 2017

Internet service providers have been increasing access to broadband in rural areas by expanding DSL and cable technologies, wireless platforms, satellite systems, and (to a lesser extent) fiber-optic systems. Despite a slower growth rate in broadband subscriptions since 2010 compared with the previous decade, county-level data indicate that rural household connectivity continues to improve and expand geographically. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of rural counties in which wired broadband subscriptions exceeded the rural average (60 percent or more of households) increased from 281 to nearly 1,200. Rural counties newly above the 60-percent threshold for broadband are concentrated in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and the Intermountain West. Extensive parts of rural Appalachia also saw improvement in broadband access to above 60 percent. Broadband service remains more limited in two types of rural regions: (1) isolated, sparsely settled counties in the Great Plains, Nevada, New Mexico, Alaska, and elsewhere; and (2) high-poverty, high-minority regions, such as on tribal lands in the West and stretching from southern Virginia to east Texas in the South. This chart appears in the ERS report Rural America at a Glance, 2017 Edition, released November 2017.

The United States is the world’s second leading exporter of fresh cherries with Canada as its leading destination

Thursday, November 16, 2017

U.S. sweet cherries continue to be competitive in the international market, although the U.S. role in the global cherry export market has diminished slightly during the past two decades as other major exporters have gained ground. Once the world’s leading fresh cherry exporter, the United States now ranks second, next to Chile. The Nation accounted for nearly 20 percent of the world’s average export volume during 2014-16 and around one-quarter of the average world cherry export value. During this 3-year period, the United States exported an average of 175.2 million pounds, while Chile exported an average of 211.0 million pounds. Canada is now the largest export destination for U.S. fresh cherries, outranking Japan, which dominated this market during the 1990s and most years from 2000 to 2005. More than one-third of total annual U.S. cherry export volume went to Canada during 2010-16. South Korea, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are also key markets for U.S. fresh cherries and together receive over 40 percent of total export volume annually. This chart appears in the ERS Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook Special Article, "U.S. Cherries," released in September 2017.

The share of SNAP households that live far from a supermarket or large grocery store varies by county

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Distance from a supermarket or large grocery store offering a variety of affordable and nutritious foods can influence food choices and diet quality. Data from ERS’s Food Environment Atlas show that in 2015, 2.5 million households receiving benefits from USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) lived more than 1 mile from the nearest supermarket or large grocery store in urban areas or more than 10 miles from such stores in rural areas. In 98 counties—3 percent of the 3,143 U.S. counties—more than 10 percent of SNAP households lived more than 1 mile or 10 miles away from the nearest supermarket or large grocery store. The 10 counties with the highest shares of SNAP households living far from supermarkets and large grocery stores were in South Dakota, Alaska, Georgia, and Texas. For example, in Presidio County, Texas, 25 percent of SNAP households either lived more than 1 mile in urban neighborhoods—or 10 miles in rural areas—from the nearest supermarket or large grocery store. This map appears in USDA’s Food Environment Atlas, updated September 2017.

Productivity has driven the growth in U.S. agricultural output

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Technological developments in agriculture have been influential in driving changes in the farm sector. Innovations in animal and crop genetics, chemicals, equipment, and farm organization have enabled continuing output growth while using less inputs. As a result, even as the amount of land and labor used in farming declined, total agricultural output more than doubled between 1948 and 2015. During this period, agricultural output grew at an average annual rate of 1.48 percent, compared to 0.1 percent for total farm inputs (including land, labor, machinery, and intermediate goods). The major source of output growth is the increase in agricultural productivity, as measured by total factor productivity (TFP)—the difference between the growth of aggregate output and growth of aggregate inputs. Between 1948 and 2015, TFP grew at an average annual rate of 1.38 percent, accounting for more than 90 percent of output growth over that period. This chart appears in the ERS data product Agricultural Productivity in the U.S., updated October 2017.

Single-parent households face higher food insecurity than married-couple households with children

Monday, November 13, 2017

In 2016, 12.3 percent of U.S. households were food insecure—they had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of money or other resources for food. While the prevalence of food insecurity has been falling since 2008, some types of households had levels of food insecurity in 2016 at or above levels prior to the 2007-09 recession. For example, food insecurity among households with children headed by a single mother was 31.6 percent in 2016, higher than this group’s 2007 rate of 30.2 percent. By the same token, the prevalence of food insecurity among single father households was 21.7 percent in 2016, well above the 17 percent prevalence in 2006. Both single mother and single father households had higher food insecurity rates than married couple households with children, reflecting the generally lower incomes of single mother and single father households. Married couple households with children and households with children under the age of 6 had 2016 food insecurity prevalence rates similar to their pre-recession levels. This chart is part of a set of interactive charts on food insecurity trends on the ERS Web site.

California leads all States in agricultural export value

Thursday, November 9, 2017

In October, ERS released its annual update of the State Export Data product, which estimates a State’s agricultural export value for selected commodities and its total export value. Tracking agricultural export products back to their original source of production can be complicated, since U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not collect data on agricultural exports by State. To resolve this, ERS estimates State export values using each State’s share of farm cash receipts for a given commodity. In 2016, California remained the leading State for agricultural exports, totaling over 12 billion dollars in value. The majority of California’s exports come in the form of tree nuts (like almonds), fruits, and vegetables. California’s key commodities are in contrast to other leading States like Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota, where the majority of export value comes from grains and oilseeds, like corn and soybeans, along with animal products like pork. Total U.S. agricultural export value in 2016 was $134 billion with the selected States representing 58 percent. This chart is drawn from the ERS State Export Data product, updated in October 2017.

Rural veteran population continues to decline despite rise in post-9/11 veterans

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Over the last 10 years, the rural veteran population that served during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars (known as post-9/11 veterans) more than doubled—rising from just under 200,000 in 2006 to over 400,000 in 2016. During the same period, their share of the total rural veteran population grew from about 4 to 13 percent. Despite that growth, the rural veteran population continued its trend of long-term decline, which has accelerated in recent years. This is likely due to the aging of the rural veteran population, the majority of whom last served during the Vietnam War (38 percent of all rural veterans in 2016). Between 2006 and 2016, the pre-9/11 rural veteran population decreased by 1.4 million (33 percent). That means that, even after accounting for the growth in the post-9/11 veteran cohort, the total rural veteran population shrank by 1.1 million people (about 26 percent). Given the relative size of the veteran population that served in prior conflicts—87 percent of nearly 3.2 million rural veterans in 2016—and future losses because of natural decrease (more deaths than births), it’s unlikely that an increase in post-9/11 veterans in the coming years will reverse the trend of rural veteran population decline. This chart updates data found in the ERS report Rural Veterans at a Glance, released November 2013.

California, New York, and Texas lead in number of food and beverage processing plants

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

In 2015, five States—California, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Illinois—accounted for 38 percent of the 34,661 U.S. food and beverage processing plants operating that year. These States also have the highest populations and lead in agricultural production and manufacturing. California, with 5,531 food processing plants, had more than double that of second place New York (2,508 plants). California holds an important national position in several food processing industries—including fruit and vegetables, sugar, wine, and coffee—because of its favorable climate for growing a variety of crops and its ports. The State also has numerous dairy processing plants to serve its large population. In New York, bakery manufacturing accounts for the most food and beverage processing plants, followed by wineries and animal slaughter and processing plants. Texas ranked third for the most food processing plants (2,175); bakery manufacturing and animal slaughter and processing industries accounted for 39 percent of Texan food and beverage processing plants in 2015. This chart is from "Number of Food and Beverage Processing Plants Varies Across the United States" in the November 2017 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

In the past decade, participation in USDA’s School Breakfast Program has grown by more than 5 million

Monday, November 6, 2017

USDA’s School Breakfast Program makes healthy breakfasts available to all students in participating schools, with children from low-income households receiving the meals for free or at a reduced price. The program has grown considerably in the past 11 years, with participation increasing from 9.4 million children on a typical school day in fiscal 2005 to 14.6 million in fiscal 2016, an increase of 5.2 million children daily. Most of that growth in participation has been among students qualified to receive free breakfasts. Free breakfast participation rose from 6.8 million children in fiscal 2005 to 11.5 million in fiscal 2016, an increase of 4.7 million children. In fiscal 2016, 79 percent of breakfasts served were free, 6 percent were provided at a reduced price, and 15 percent were full price. Federal spending for the program totaled $4.2 billion in fiscal 2016—an increase of 7 percent over fiscal 2015. The data for this chart are from the Child Nutrition Programs topic page on the ERS Web site, updated October 2017.

Nearly half of U.S. counties had at least one farmers’ market that accepted credit cards in 2016

Friday, November 3, 2017

If you want to use a credit card when you buy your fall apples at a farmers’ market this year, you may be in luck. With the increase of technology in our everyday lives, there has been a gradual transition from cash to credit cards. Farmers’ markets are no exception. Accepting credit cards widens the customer base to include the growing number of Americans who prefer to use credit cards for their purchases. Data from USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service show that 72 percent of U.S. counties reported having at least one farmers’ market in 2016 and 68 percent of those counties—48 percent of all 3,143 U.S. counties—reported having one or more farmers’ markets that accepted credit cards. The number of farmers' markets in a county that report accepting credit cards is one of the new statistics in ERS’s updated Food Environment Atlas. The Atlas assembles statistics on over 275 food environment indicators at the county or State level that can influence food choices and diet quality. According to the Atlas, 1,521 counties had 1 or more farmers’ markets that accepted credit cards and 77 counties had more than 10 farmers’ markets that accepted credit cards as a form of payment for goods. This map appears in USDA’s Food Environment Atlas, updated September 2017.

Global ethanol production still largely driven by the United States and Brazil

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Ethanol production has increased rapidly over the last two decades, making ethanol an important component of today’s transportation fuels. From 2001 to 2016, global ethanol production grew 400 percent, from 5 billion gallons to almost 27 billion gallons. Historically, the United States, Brazil, and the European Union (EU) were the world’s major ethanol markets. In the United States alone, ethanol makes up 10 percent of total gasoline use. Government blending mandates (requirements to add a specified percentage of ethanol to gasoline) have helped fuel increases in ethanol production and consumption worldwide. Despite the global increase in ethanol production, however, many countries do not meet their mandates. Of the ethanol-producing countries outside of the United States, Brazil, and the EU, five countries—Argentina, Canada, China, India, and Thailand—account for 80 percent of the remaining production. This chart appears in the ERS report, "Global Ethanol Mandates: Opportunities for U.S. Exports of Ethanol and DDGS," released in October 2017.

Compliance incentives under the 2014 Farm Act would be lower without link to crop insurance premium subsidy

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

To be eligible for most U.S. farm program benefits, participating farmers must apply soil conservation systems on cropland that is particularly vulnerable to soil erosion. The 2014 Farm Act re-linked crop insurance premium subsidies to this provision, known as Highly Erodible Land Compliance (HELC), for the first time since 1996. These premium subsidies account for a significant share of Compliance incentives—typically between 30 and 40 percent, depending on crop prices. The 2014 Act also included major changes in other Compliance-linked programs, including the elimination of Direct Payments, a large program under the 2008 Farm Act. On individual farms, Compliance-linked benefits could be higher or lower than they would have been under a continuation of the 2008 Act. Under the 2014 Act (blue bars), ERS researchers estimated that less than 10 million acres are on farms that would have experienced a 50-percent or larger decline in Compliance incentives between the two Farm Acts given crop prices similar to 2010 levels. If premium subsidies were not subject to Compliance (green bars), more than 40 million acres of cropland in HEL fields would be on farms where Compliance incentives would decline by 50 percent or more. This chart appears in the July 2017 Amber Waves feature, "Conservation Compliance in the Crop Insurance Era."

Rented U.S. farmland was concentrated in the Corn Belt, Northern Plains, and Delta States

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Of the 914 million acres of land in U.S. farms in 2012 (the latest data), 61 percent were owner-operated. The remaining land was rented, either from another farm operator or from a non-operator (an owner not actively engaged in farming). Farmland tenure arrangements vary across the country, with higher shares of renting and non-operator ownership in the Midwest and Plains regions. This geographic pattern is due to commodity specialization: the majority of land used to grow cotton and cash grains (such as rice, corn, soybeans, and wheat) is rented. According to data from the 2014 TOTAL Survey, cropland (54 percent) is more likely to be rented than pastureland (28 percent). This pattern is attributable to several factors, including the relatively low cost of purchasing pastureland compared to cropland. This chart appears in the August 2017 ERS report Major Uses of Land in the United States, 2012.

Pumpkin production in Illinois rebounds, while New York drops further in 2016

Monday, October 30, 2017

With Halloween soon approaching, many consumers spent the weekend searching for pumpkins at the nearest pumpkin patch. Pumpkin production is widely dispersed throughout the United States. All U.S. States produce some pumpkins, but according to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture, about one-half of pumpkin acres were grown in six States. Illinois is consistently the Nation’s largest pumpkin producer, the majority of which are used for pies and other processed foods. Record rainfall devastated the State’s pumpkin crop in 2015, but Illinois production rebounded in 2016. All other reported States produce primarily decorative (or carving) pumpkins, and all but New York saw around 20 percent decreases in production during 2012-16. New York production stands out, however, having dropped 50 percent over the time period. While 2017 production has not yet been surveyed, media reports indicate a strong Midwest crop but challenges for some growers in New York and Pennsylvania who were hit with cold, wet weather that is less optimal for pumpkin growth. This chart is drawn from data presented in the ERS Pumpkins: Background & Statistics page.

U.S. per capita fresh pear use continues to decline

Friday, October 27, 2017

In August, USDA forecast the 2017 U.S. pear crop to decline for a fourth consecutive year to 1.41 billion pounds, down 4 percent from the previous year. If realized, this year’s production will be the smallest production reported since 1980, pointing to stronger pear prices during the 2017/18 marketing season (July-June). Forecast lower production in Washington State (down 20 percent from the previous year), the largest pear-producing State, is driving the smaller overall U.S. crop. One cause for Washington State and the greater Pacific Northwest’s decline, was a long winter and cold spring, which delayed the growth of pears during that period. Declining production and higher prices have translated into reduced per capita pear consumption, which has trended downward for most of the last 20 years except for a temporary resurgence in the mid-2000s. Higher prices from lower pear output in 2017 are expected to diminish demand, leading to a projected per capita use of just over 2.5 pounds per person. This would be the lowest total since 1984. This chart appears in the ERS Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook newsletter, released on September 29, 2017.

Survey data point to Americans eating out less often in 2013-14 compared with 2007-08

Thursday, October 26, 2017

ERS developed the Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey (FCBS) module, which, starting in 2007, has been part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The FCBS questions are designed to collect data on U.S. consumers’ dietary knowledge, attitudes, and habits, including their eating out habits. ERS researchers used FCBS data to get a sense of how often Americans purchase or acquire meals prepared away from home in places such as restaurants, fast-food places, food stands, grocery stores, and vending machines. In 2013-14, adults age 20 and older reported that they purchased or acquired an average of 3.6 away-from-home meals in the past 7 days—down from 4.0 meals in 2007-08. This decline in eating out could potentially reflect tighter food budgets due to the Great Recession (December 2007 to June 2009) and the slow economic recovery afterwards. The number and share of away-from-home meals reported as coming from a fast-food or pizza place was about the same in both periods. Data for this chart are from the Food Consumption & Demand topic page on the ERS Web site, updated on September 18, 2017.

U.S. cattle dressed weights are down slightly in 2017, but remain above long term averages

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Seasonality of steer dressed weights are largely determined by biological factors and weather-related impacts on animal growth. Seasonally, steer weights tend to increase from the spring months, then decline from late fall into the early spring months. The long-term trend, which has been marked by sustained growth in dressed weights, is due to improvements in cattle genetics through selective breeding and the implementation of modern production systems. For steers, several factors interact to influence year-over-year changes in carcass weights including: producers’ responses to market prices of outputs and inputs (feed and feeder animals); weights and age at which animals are placed into feedlots; and animals’ biological responses to abnormal weather. Steer weights in 2017 are lower than a year ago, driven by aggressive marketing of slaughter-ready animals in feedlots, especially compared to a year ago. This is due to greater profit margins for retail meat packers than in 2016. Still, steer weights remain above their 10-year average, a period in which 2011-13 corn price averaged more than 6 dollars per bushel. This chart appears in the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook newsletter released in October 2017.

Younger adults generally have higher educational attainment than older ones

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Americans are increasingly educated, but gains in educational attainment vary between urban and rural areas and across demographic groups such as age. In 2015, younger working-age adults generally had higher educational attainment. For example, 36 percent of urban adults ages 25 to 34 had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 32 percent of those ages 45 to 64. Rural adults, on the other hand, had a bachelor’s degree or higher at roughly the same share (19 to 20 percent) across all age groups. Older age groups in both rural and urban areas generally had a higher share of adults with a high school diploma or less (the bottom two bar segments). About half of the rural adults ages 45 to 64 had a high school diploma or less, compared to 39 percent of their urban peers. This chart appears in the April 2017 ERS report Rural Education at a Glance, 2017 Edition.

Oranges and apples are America’s top fruit and fruit juice choices

Monday, October 23, 2017

Americans consumed an average of 115.4 pounds of fresh and processed fruit per person in 2015, according to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data. This data series takes per capita supplies of food available for human consumption and adjusts for some of the spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in eating places, grocery stores, and the home to more closely approximate consumption. Apple juice consumption at 14 pounds (1.6 gallons) per person in 2015, combined with fresh apples at 10.7 pounds per person, and canned, dried, and frozen apples (3.3 pounds per person), puts apples in the #1 spot for total fruit consumption. While orange juice leads juice consumption at 23.7 pounds (2.7 gallons), total orange consumption—juice and fresh—came in second. Americans consumed 11.3 pounds of fresh bananas per person in 2015, almost a pound more than fresh apple consumption. Consumption of grapes reached 7.9 pounds per person, and strawberries, watermelon, and pineapple rounded out the list of America’s top fruit choices. This chart appears in ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated September 2017.

Driven by growing per capita consumption in West Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to be a major rice consumer

Friday, October 20, 2017

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has undergone economic, social, and demographic transformations over the past 10-15 years. Among the poorest regions in the world, it faces major political and economic challenges and low food security. However, it has a young, fast-growing population and prospects for economic growth. Expanding urbanization and a rising middle class with higher incomes are driving changes in consumption patterns and preferences away from traditional staples and toward rice and other commodities. Rice consumption has expanded in the diets of many SSA consumers at the expense of sorghum, millet, and roots and tubers. On a per-capita basis, West African nations, collectively known as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have seen the largest increases in rice consumption. Excluding Nigeria, which reduced its rice consumption because of declining oil revenue and limited foreign exchange reserves, the remaining ECOWAS countries recently surpassed the global per capita rice consumption average. These countries are projected to increase their rice consumption further to nearly 70 kilograms per person by 2026. If the projections are realized, SSA as a whole has the potential to become the world’s leading rice importer. This chart appears in the October Amber Waves feature, "Sub-Saharan Africa Is Projected to Be the Leader in Global Rice Imports."

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