ERS Charts of Note

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USDA funds helped livestock operations in the Chesapeake Bay reduce nutrient runoff

Friday, February 17, 2017

Some USDA programs offer financial and technical assistance to farmers who volunteer to implement conservation practices. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is one such program that provides assistance to livestock producers to improve nutrient management and to reduce manure nutrient runoff. Nationally, 60 percent of EQIP funding is designated for livestock producers. Between 2006 and 2013, EQIP issued 7,452 contracts to producers in Chesapeake Bay counties alone—totaling nearly $243 million (adjusted for inflation). On average, that amounted to 932 contracts and $30 million per year over that period (in 2013 dollars). Each EQIP contract may fund multiple conservation practices. The largest share of spending was for waste-storage facilities, followed by protection of heavy-use areas to reduce sedimentation and nutrient runoff. This chart appears in the ERS report, Comparing Participation in Nutrient Trading by Livestock Operations to Crop Producers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, released in September 2016.

Retail orange juice prices dropped swiftly to close out 2016

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Average retail prices for orange juice were above long-term averages for 2015 and most of 2016, but a surprising drop in October brought prices back in line with years prior. Retail prices increased because of declining domestic production, which has been below long-term averages since 2013. The United States also imports a large amount of orange juice with the majority coming from Brazil. Forecasts for Brazilian orange juice production are 30 percent higher for the 2016/17 marketing year compared to the prior year, and will likely lead to more robust exports from the country. October 2016 imports were more than double the previous year and likely signaled to retailers an increase in supply for the upcoming year. This chart is drawn from data reported in the ERS Fruit and Tree Nut dataset updated in January 2017.

Energy used by the U.S. food system declined with rising energy prices from 2002 to 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Energy used to produce and prepare the foods and beverages purchased by and for U.S. consumers reached 13.5 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in 2002. Electricity accounted for 59 percent of the energy used by the U.S. food system in 2002. In the years leading up to 2002, electricity prices paid by U.S. processing plants, grocery stores, restaurants, and other food system participants—including consumers for their kitchen appliances—were trending downward. As a result, between 1998 and 2002 the U.S. food system substantially increased its use of energy and accounted for over half of the increase in the Nation’s energy budget over this period. Between 2000 and 2010, the average price paid for electricity across the U.S. food system increased about 50 percent. Faced with this steep increase in electricity prices, food-related energy use declined over most of this period, falling to 11.9 quadrillion Btu in 2012. Food-related energy use accounted for 12.5 percent of the national energy budget that year. This chart is based on data reported in the ERS report, The Role of Fossil Fuels in the U.S. Food System and the American Diet, January 19, 2017.

Domestic use of high fructose corn syrup continues to decline

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Domestic use of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been generally in decline since 2006. With the exception of marketing year 2013/14, when there was a slight uptick, usage numbers generally leveled off since 2012/13. The latest yearly data, however, indicates that domestic HFCS use may still be trending lower. HFCS is marketed in two primary compositions: HFCS-55 and HFCS-42. HFCS-55 contains 55 percent fructose and is used primarily in soft drinks, while HFCS-42, which contains 42 percent fructose, is used in a broader range of goods, including other beverages and baked foods. The long-term decline in HFCS consumption has primarily been the result of a reduction in HFCS-42. The cause of this decline has been driven by consumer demand for healthier alternatives, rising exports, and greater availability of substitutes. This chart appears in the ERS Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook report released in January 2017.

Payments for energy production, and the share of farms receiving them, vary by State

Monday, February 13, 2017

Landowners can lease farmland for energy production, such as for oil exploration or wind turbines. For example, households that own the oil and gas rights for their property or for land in other States may lease these rights to an energy company. In 2014, the majority of income from royalties or leases associated with energy production was earned from selling or leasing these rights. In Oklahoma, Utah, and Kansas, about 20 percent of farms received income from energy production. In States with active development of shale oil or gas, about 12 percent of farms received an average income of $65,781 from energy production—compared with 6 percent and $56,162 for the entire United States. Average payments were highest in North Dakota ($157,000) and Pennsylvania ($154,000), mainly due to oil and gas drilling in the Bakken and Marcellus shales. Total payments from energy companies to farms reached $2.9 billion in 2014, up from $2.3 billion in 2011. This chart appears in the November 2016 Amber Waves article, Share of Farm Businesses Receiving Lease and Royalty Income From Energy Production Varies Across Regions.

Share of household spending devoted to food and calorie availability vary by country

Friday, February 10, 2017

Countries vary in how much their citizens spend on food at home as a share of consumption expenditure. Consumption expenditure includes all household spending, but not savings. High-income countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, have higher food spending in absolute terms, but their food spending share is low. These two countries spent less than 10 percent of their consumption expenditure on food purchased from supermarkets and other food stores in 2015, while the share approached 50 percent in low-income countries such as Kenya. Per capita calorie availability follows the reverse pattern. According to the most recent available data, U.S. per capita calorie availability was among the highest at 3,639 calories per day, while Kenya’s was estimated at only 2,206 calories. This chart appears in Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials on the ERS website.

Steady increases in at-home consumption of berries resulted in a rising share of U.S. berry consumption occurring at home

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Flavor, healthfulness, convenience, and year-round availability have contributed to increasing consumer demand for strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and other berries, with per capita loss-adjusted availability growing from an average of 4.5 pounds per person per year during 1994-98 to 6.6 pounds during 2007-08 and to 9.9 pounds in 2014. Linking ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data with food intake surveys from 1994-2008 reveals that berries, like other fruit, are mainly consumed at home rather than away from home at eating out places. The increase in berry consumption comes exclusively from purchases at grocery stores (the food-at-home market). The at-home share of berry consumption rose from 83 percent during 1994-98 to 89-91 percent during 2003-08. The loss-adjusted availability of berries consumed at home rose from 3.7 pounds per person per year during 1994-98 to 5.9 pounds during 2007-08, while away-from-home consumption stayed just shy of 0.8 pounds per person. This chart appears in the ERS report U.S. Food Commodity Availability by Food Source, 1994-2008, December 2016.

Wheat producers are eligible to receive loan deficiency payments as prices drop

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

When wheat prices posted at county elevators fall below the annual county and class-specific marketing assistance loan rate, producers become eligible to receive loan deficiency payments (LDP). An LDP is a direct payment to farmers that covers the difference between the current local price and the pre-determined county loan rate. A 2016/17 marketing year drop in the price of all wheat has made producers eligible to receive government support from the LDP program, provided they meet basic requirements. Producers are not required to sign up ahead of time to be eligible. This is the first time that LDPs have been made for wheat since the 2010/11 marketing year. USDA reports that LDPs in the 2016/17 marketing year to date are $117 million. Payments have been made on a total of 560 million bushels of wheat with an average LDP of almost 21 cents per bushel. Per bushel payments (to date) are highest in Oklahoma, at near 26 cents per bushel. The State with the largest number of bushels to receive an LDP is Kansas. To date, about 271.5 million bushels of wheat or about 58 percent of the total volume of wheat produced in the State during the current marketing year has received an LPD. This map appears in the ERS Wheat Outlook report released in January 2017.

U.S. farm sector’s net farm income forecast to continue to decline in 2017

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Net farm income is a conventional measure of farm sector profitability that is used as part of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product calculation. Following several years of record highs, net farm income trended downward from 2013 to 2016. For 2017, ERS forecasts net farm income will fall to $62.3 billion ($54.8 billion in inflation-adjusted terms). If realized, this would be an 8.7 percent decline from the prior year and a decline of 49.6 percent from the record high in 2013. The expected decline in 2017 net farm income is driven by a forecast reduction in the value of production. Crop value of production is forecast down $9.2 billion (4.9 percent), while the value of production of animal/animal products is forecast to decline by less than $1 billion (0.5 percent). Find additional information and analysis in ERS’ Farm Sector Income and Finances topic page, released February 7, 2017.

Cattle dressed weights increased 9 percent since 2011, but leveled off in 2016

Monday, February 6, 2017

Federally inspected cattle dressed weights averaged 843 pounds in November. Average dressed weights increased annually for the last 5 years, and since 2011, have been up more than 9 percent. However, the rate of increase slowed in 2016, with all cattle dressed weights through November averaging about the same as year-earlier weights for the same period. Heifer weights increased during this period, but steer weights and cow weights were lower. In addition to genetic advancements and efficiency gains, cattle weights are influenced by feed prices and the price for fed cattle. Since 2014, low feed prices have helped drive more rapid weight gains in recent years. Additionally, tighter supplies of cattle in 2014 and 2015 put pressure on producers to increase weights. In 2016, cattle numbers rebounded slightly. This recovery potentially reduced the need for added weight per animal. This chart appears in the ERS Livestock Dairy and Poultry Outlook report released in January 2017.

Early data indicates that 2016 meat trade will rebound to 2014 levels

Friday, February 3, 2017

Compared to 2015, preliminary data indicates that 2016 marked an improvement in export and import levels. The year 2015 was characterized by increased imports and reduced exports for the major meat commodities. The primary cause was a rapid appreciation of U.S. currency relative to competitors in late 2014 into 2015. A stronger U.S. currency can make exports appear more expensive and imports cheaper. Additionally, the U.S. poultry market was heavily impacted by a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak that led to sweeping trade restrictions. In 2016, U.S. exchange rates stabilized for much of the year, although they increased again in November and December. The majority of HPAI-related trade restrictions were also lifted by the start of 2016. As a result, beef, pork, and poultry exports increased compared to 2015 when beef and pork imports decreased (poultry imports historically are negligible). This chart is drawn from data discussed in the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook report released in January 2017.

Developing countries, such as China and Brazil, lead global productivity growth

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Raising productivity, rather than expanding resources, has become the major source of growth in global agriculture. Higher productivity has helped make food cheaper and more abundant, and saved resources such as forests from being converted to cropland. However, large differences remain in productivity performance between countries. For example, between 1971 and 2013, U.S. agricultural productivity growth averaged about 1.5 percent a year. Over the past few decades, China and Brazil have emerged among the world leaders in agricultural productivity growth. In Sub-Saharan Africa, on the other hand, agricultural productivity has been relatively stagnant. According to ERS research, strengthening the capacity of national agricultural research and extension systems has been a key factor in improving productivity growth. Long-term investments in agricultural research were especially important to sustaining higher growth rates in large, rapidly developing countries like Brazil and India. Under-investment in agricultural research remains an important barrier to stimulating productivity. The broader environment—such as institutions, infrastructure, and economic and trade policies—has also played an important role in raising agricultural productivity in many parts of the world. This chart appears in the topic page for International Agricultural Productivity, updated January 2016.

2016 estimates of cropland harvested return to 2014 levels, highest since 1997

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The ERS Major Land Uses (MLU) series estimates land in various uses, including the acres devoted to crop production in a given year. These acres, collectively referred to as “cropland used for crops,” include acres of cropland harvested, acres on which crops failed, and cultivated summer fallow. At 318 million acres, cropland harvested in 2016 is estimated to have increased by 2 million acres from the previous year—returning to levels in 2014 and matching the highest cropland harvested area since 1997 (321 million acres). The area that was double cropped (two or more crops harvested) declined by 1 million acres, while land that experienced crop failure held constant at 7 million acres in 2016—remaining well below its 20-year average of 10 million acres. Cultivated summer fallow, which primarily occurs as part of wheat rotations in the semiarid West, continued its long-term decline and reached its lowest level (12 million acres) since the start of the MLU series. The larger historical fluctuations seen in cropland used for crops are largely attributable to Federal cropland acreage reduction programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Initiated in 1985, the CRP pays farmers to keep idle environmentally sensitive land that could otherwise be used in crop production. This chart uses historical data from the ERS MLU series, recently updated to include 2016 estimates.

Annual per capita vegetable and legume availability reached 424 pounds in 2004

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Vegetables and legumes are widely recognized as a good source of many vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. According to ERS’s food availability data, the supply of vegetables and legumes available to eat on a per person basis grew from 328 pounds in 1970 to 424 pounds in 2004. Between 2004 and 2014, per person vegetable and legume (pulses and beans) availability fell by 39 pounds to 385 pounds. Fresh and processed potatoes—frozen, canned, dehydrated, and chips—accounted for 59 percent of the 2004-14 decline. Over the longer period of 1970 to 2014, fresh vegetable availability rose by 20 percent; fresh bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, broccoli, and cucumbers combined grew by 36 pounds during that time. Per person availability of canned, frozen, and other processed vegetables and legumes increased from 174 pounds in 1970 to 225 pounds in 1998, then began a decline to 200 pounds in 2014. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, U.S. Trends in Food Availability and a Dietary Assessment of Loss-Adjusted Food Availability, 1970-2014, released on January 27, 2017.

Oilseed prices continued downward trajectory in the 2015/16 marketing year

Monday, January 30, 2017

Oilseeds like soybeans, canola, and peanuts are strong substitutes for one another, particularly when used to produce cooking oils. As a result of their substitutability, their prices often move in similar directions. The rise in one oilseed’s price typically drives up the price of its alternatives. For example, if the price of soybeans increases, alternative oilseeds, like canola, would be more attractive to buyers. Subsequently, the price for canola would likely increase too. Prices for all major oilseeds have been moving steadily downward since peaking between 2011 and 2013. Data from the 2015/16 marketing year show that oilseed prices haven’t been this low since at least 2009/10. The price reduction for farmers is largely attributed to record domestic and global production of soybeans, peanuts, and other oilseeds in recent years. This chart is drawn from data discussed in the latest Oil Crops Outlook report released in January 2017.

Farmers earned a bigger bite of U.S. households’ spending on fresh vegetables in 2015

Friday, January 27, 2017

Over the past decade, the farm share for a basket of 16 fresh vegetables—the ratio of prices received by growers (farm value) to grocery store prices (retail value)—has averaged about 25 percent. In 2015, the basket’s annual farm value rose by 11 percent to $62.12, while its annual retail value rose by 1.6 percent to $225.80, causing farm share for the basket of fresh vegetables to increase from 25 to 28 percent. Farm-level prices rose in 2015 as drought reduced shipment volumes from California, the Nation’s leading State for fresh vegetable production. However, lower oil prices and a strong U.S. dollar mitigated retail price increases. According to ERS forecasts, while U.S. production of fresh-market vegetables was expected to recover somewhat in 2016, it was also expected to remain below 2014 values, putting continued upwards pressure on farm prices. This chart is based on the Price Spreads from Farm to Consumer data product on the ERS website, updated December 13, 2016.

Nearly 40 percent of U.S. farms run by multiple operators

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Commercial-sized farms often require more management and labor than an individual can provide. Additional operators can offer these and other resources, such as capital or farmland. Having a secondary operator may also provide a successor when an older principal operator phases out of farming. In 2015, 39 percent of all U.S. farms (811,000 farms) had secondary operators. Because nearly all farms are family-owned, family members often serve as secondary operators; nearly two-thirds of all secondary operators were spouses of principal operators. Multiple-operator farms are most prevalent among nonfamily farms, accounting for 85 percent of that group. Some multiple-operator farms are also run by multiple generations. About 6 percent of all farms (and 16 percent of all multiple-operator farms) were multiple-generation farms, with at least 20 years’ difference between the ages of the oldest and youngest operators. Very large family farms had the highest share of operators from multiple generations: about 28 percent of these farms. This chart appears in the topic page for Farm Structure and Organization, updated December 2016.

Updated ERS Atlas allows users to map low-income and low-supermarket access areas

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Limited access to healthy and affordable food may impede some Americans from achieving a healthy diet. ERS’s Food Access Research Atlas provides a common measure of neighborhood access to healthy, affordable food for the entire Nation. The Atlas allows users to map low-income and low-supermarket access census tracts for 2015 and compare the results with those for 2010. Individuals can choose four measures of low-supermarket access based on residents’ distances from the nearest supermarket (more than 0.5 or 1 mile in urban areas or more than 10 or 20 miles in rural areas) and vehicle access. One measure considers a tract to be low-income and low-access if it is low-income and contains a substantial number of vehicle-less households that live more than 0.5 miles from the nearest supermarket. Using this measure, the number of low-income and low-access census tracts in Wayne County, Michigan, rose 35 percent from 2010 to 2015. Twenty-two percent of Wayne County households lived in these tracts in 2015, and 4 percent of them lived more than 0.5 miles from a supermarket and did not have a vehicle. This map was created using ERS’s Food Access Research Atlas, updated January 17, 2017.

Even as the leading producer, China still leads among global pork importers

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

China produces roughly half of the world’s pork, but it has nevertheless become a leading importer of the meat. China first emerged as a significant importer of pork during 2007-08, when a swine disease epidemic reduced its domestic supply. Imports declined during 2009-10, when China banned pork from the United States—the main supplier at the time—over an alleged disease concern, but imports rebounded after the ban was lifted. From 2011 to 2015, China consistently imported large volumes of pork each year. Imports soared during 2016, as shrinking Chinese pork supplies helped push the country’s pork prices to record levels. China and Hong Kong together now constitute the world’s largest import market for pork. The United States was the leading supplier of China-Hong Kong pork imports during 2007-12, and the second-leading supplier behind Germany during 2013-15. This chart appears in the ERS report China’s Pork Imports Rise Along with Production Costs, released in January 2017.

Rural counties’ economies depend on different industries

Monday, January 23, 2017

Local economies and employment levels are more sensitive to economic trends that have a pronounced effect on their leading industries. For example, trends in agricultural prices have a disproportionate impact in farming-dependent counties, which accounted for nearly 20 percent of all rural counties and 6 percent of the rural population in 2015. The boom in U.S. oil and natural gas production increased employment in many mining-dependent rural counties; more recently, lower oil and gas prices have led to reduced oil exploration and economic activity in these counties. Meanwhile, the decline in manufacturing employment has particularly affected manufacturing-dependent counties, which accounted for about 18 percent of rural counties and 23 percent of the rural population. This chart appears in the ERS report Rural America at a Glance, 2016 Edition, released November 2016.