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Fruits and vegetables top organic food sales

Friday, February 16, 2018

Although U.S. organic food sales account for a small share of total U.S. food sales, they have exhibited double-digit growth during most years since 2000, when USDA set national organic standards. In 2016, the Nutrition Business Journal estimated U.S. organic retail sales at $40.2 billion—with organic food accounting for about 5 percent of total U.S. at-home food expenditures, more than double the share in 2006. Organic sales in every food category have grown over the last decade. Fresh fruits and vegetables were still the top selling organic category in 2016, accounting for 40 percent of total organic sales that year. Dairy, the second top selling organic category, accounted for 15 percent of total sales. In 2014, Gallup included questions on organics in its annual food consumption survey for the first time and found that 45 percent of Americans actively tried to include organic foods in their diets. The share of Americans who actively tried to include organic foods was higher (over half) for Americans ages 18 to 29 than for those ages 65 and older (one third). This chart updates data found in the February 2017 Amber Waves feature "Growing Organic Demand Provides High-Value Opportunities for Many Types of Producers."

SNAP policy index captures trends in State policies for administering SNAP

Thursday, February 15, 2018

USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the Nation’s largest food assistance program. For much of the program’s history, administration of SNAP was largely uniform across States. However, welfare reform legislation in 1996 and subsequent legislative and regulatory changes have allowed States increased flexibility to administer some components of the program. ERS researchers recently developed an index that reflects how accommodative, or encouraging, State policies are to enrolling individuals in SNAP. This SNAP policy index is composed of 10 State policies related to eligibility, ease of enrolling and participating, participation stigma, and outreach to attract new participants. The index ranges between 1 and 10, with a higher number indicating more accommodative policies are in place. For the Nation as a whole, the index grew steadily from 1997 to 2014, meaning that States tended to adopt policies encouraging enrollment. Between 1997 and 2000, policies that relaxed eligibility and reduced stigma played the largest roles in the rising index. After 2000, policies that made enrolling and remaining in the program easier played a larger role. This chart appears in the ERS report, "Using a Policy Index to Capture Trends and Differences in State Administration of USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program", released on February 5, 2018.

Hurricane Irma further reduced already shrinking Florida citrus production

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

On September 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma made U.S. landfall on Cudjoe Key, FL. Despite weakening as it moved up the Florida coast, Irma’s high winds and damaging rains affected a large swath of the State, including key citrus and winter vegetable production areas. The citrus crop–consisting of oranges, grapefruit, and other citrus–was particularly hard hit as the hurricane knocked down ripening fruit, uprooted trees, and flooded citrus groves. Further, fruit that remains on hurricane-weakened trees is at increased risk of dropping. Before the hurricane, early projections reflected an ongoing contraction driven by the spread of citrus greening disease, a bacterial disease that can ultimately kill orange trees. In October, the USDA forecasted post hurricane Florida citrus production at nearly 60 million boxes. In January 2018, a clearer picture of the hurricane’s effect on citrus production emerged, and Florida’s production was trimmed to under 52 million, 34 percent below 2016/17 marketing year levels. This chart appears in the February 2018 Amber Waves finding, "Hurricane Irma Hits Florida’s Agricultural Sector."

Elder veterans relied more on agriculture for employment, while working age veterans relied more on manufacturing

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Nearly 19 million veterans lived in the United States in 2015. Almost 18 percent of them lived in rural (nonmetro) counties, compared to 15 percent of the U.S. adult civilian population. About 45 percent of rural veterans were working age (18 to 64 years old); the rest were elder veterans (65 years or older). Overall, about 21 percent of elder rural veterans reported currently working (full- or part-time) or having last worked (if retired or unemployed) in the agriculture industry. By comparison, less than 3 percent of working-age veterans reported the same. Instead, working-age veterans relied more on the manufacturing industry for employment. About 19 percent of working age veterans reported currently working or having last worked in manufacturing, compared to 7 percent of elder veterans. Both working age and elder veterans relied about equally for employment in some industries—including education and health, wholesale and retail trade, and construction. This chart appears in the September 2017 Amber Waves data feature, "Veterans Are Positioned To Contribute Economically to Rural Communities."

Global food insecurity as a share of the population declined as cereal grain production and imports rose

Monday, February 12, 2018

Global food security—when people have access to at least 2,100 calories per day—has improved over the past 15 years. Two key drivers of past improvements in food security are increased agricultural production and trade. Increases in production and agricultural productivity—producing the same or more output with fewer inputs like fertilizer or land—have improved food security. In countries where climate or lack of land or water resources limit the potential for local production, food imports have played an important complementary role. Since 1990, among the 76 low- and middle-income countries studied, production and imports of cereal grains and their equivalent has increased by 16 and 115 percent, respectively—although imports started from a much lower quantity. During this period, the share of populations experiencing food insecurity fell from 42 to 12 percent. Despite past success, challenges remain. Maintaining agricultural productivity growth as the global population rises will require investments to generate and deliver new technologies as well as efforts to broadly spread their adoption in food insecure countries. This chart appears in the February 2018 Amber Waves finding, "Progress and Challenges in Global Food Security."

Counties with a higher number of independent grocery stores per capita are concentrated in rural areas

Friday, February 9, 2018

To examine the number and location of independent grocery stores, a recent ERS study used Nielsen’s TDLinx data on grocery stores—stores with a full line of major food departments and at least $1 million in sales. Independent grocery stores are those whose owners operate fewer than four stores. In 2015, 21,510 independent grocery stores generated $70 billion in sales, or 11 percent of U.S. grocery sales. The study found that independent grocery stores outnumber chain grocery stores in remote rural counties not adjacent to urban counties. In 2015, remote rural counties had an average of 2.1 independent grocery stores compared with 1.9 chain grocery stores. Of the 319 U.S. counties with more than three independent grocery stores for every 10,000 residents, 91 percent of them were remote rural counties or rural counties adjacent to an urban county. Close to half of these 319 counties were located in Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana. This map appears in "Despite Slow Growth From 2005 to 2015, Independent Grocery Stores Remain Important for Rural Communities" from the February 2018 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

2018 winter wheat seedings are projected to be the lowest in 109 years

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Winter wheat seedings—or seeds planted—for the next marketing year are projected to be the lowest in 109 years; however, the USDA estimate, based on 82,000 farmer surveys, generally exceeded industry expectations. Winter wheat seedings for the 2018/19 marketing year are estimated at 32.6 million acres, slightly below the 2017/18 seeding estimate of 32.7 million acres. In Kansas, the leading winter wheat producing State, planted area is up 200,000 acres for the 2018 marketing year. Planted area is also up slightly in Texas, though collectively, gains in these two States are not enough to offset winter wheat acreage losses elsewhere. Reduced profitability and agronomic factors, such as delayed seeding due to a late corn harvest, disease challenges, and below-average soil moisture levels, reduced winter wheat plantings in Colorado and Oklahoma. The current projection for 2018 is down less than 1 percent from 2017 and down 10 percent from 2016. Hard red winter wheat planted area is projected to total 23.1 million acres, a decline of 2 percent from 2017, while soft red winter planted area is forecast up 4 percent, year-to-year, to nearly 6 million acres. This chart appears in the latest ERS Wheat Outlook newsletter, released in January 2018.

Farm sector profits forecast to decline in 2018

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

U.S. net farm income is forecast to decline $5.4 billion (8.3 percent) to $59.5 billion in 2018, while U.S. net cash farm income is forecast to decline $6.7 billion (6.8 percent) to $91.9 billion (adjusted for inflation). The forecast declines are the result of changes in cash receipts and production expenses. Additionally, Government payments are forecast to decline $2.3 billion (20.0 percent) in inflation-adjusted terms; this is due largely to a forecast slight recovery in prices for many crops covered by the Price Loss Coverage program, combined with lower Agriculture Risk Coverage program revenue guarantees due to lower recent commodity prices for the crops covered under that program. If realized, 2018 net farm income would be the lowest since 2002 and net cash farm income would be at its lowest level since 2009. Both profitability measures remain below their 2000-16 averages, which included substantial increases in crop and animal/animal product cash receipts from 2010 to 2013. Net cash farm income includes cash receipts from farming as well as farm-related income, including government payments, minus cash expenses. Net farm income is a more comprehensive measure of profits that incorporates noncash items, including changes in inventories, economic depreciation, and gross imputed rental income. Find additional information and analysis on ERS’s Farm Sector Income and Finances topic page, released February 7, 2018.

Millennials devote a higher share of their at-home food budgets to  prepared foods

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Millennials are now the largest living generation—surpassing Baby Boomers—in the United States. Their large collective buying power is only expected to expand as their earnings increase as they age. Food retailers, for example, increasingly respond to preferences for grocery store foods that are ready-to-eat or just need to be heated before consuming—preferences that Millennials clearly display. A recent ERS study found that across almost all income ranges, Millennials assigned more of their food-at-home budgets to prepared foods, such as canned soup or deli rotisserie chicken, when compared to older generations. With the exception of households with incomes of $20,000 to $28,332 per household member, the share of food-at-home expenditures devoted to prepared foods stayed relatively constant for Millennial-headed households at 7.5 to 8 percent. In contrast, Traditionalists, the oldest generation represented, generally allocated the least amount of their food budgets to prepared foods, with a small decline in the share for households with higher per capita incomes. This chart appears in "Millennials Devote Larger Shares of Their Grocery Spending to Prepared Foods, Pasta, and Sugar and Sweets Than Other Generations," in the December 2017 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

U.S. agricultural exports support a growing number of jobs outside farming

Monday, February 5, 2018

U.S. agricultural exports support output, employment, income, and purchasing power in the farm and nonfarm sectors. ERS estimates that every $1 billion of U.S. agricultural exports in 2016 required approximately 8,100 American jobs throughout the economy. At $134.7 billion in 2016, agricultural exports required 1,097,000 full-time civilian jobs. This included 764,000 nonfarm sector jobs. Starting around 2004, a divergence appeared between the estimated numbers of farm and nonfarm jobs, with the latter accounting for a rising share of total employment supported by agricultural exports. This growing importance of nonfarm jobs is consistent with the upward trend in the job numbers supported by non-bulk exports, which rely on a broader range of businesses (e.g. food processing, services, and other manufacturing) than bulk goods like soybeans, corn, and other feed grains. Non-bulk commodities account for the majority of U.S. agricultural exports and continue to support the majority of jobs dependent on agricultural exports. This chart appears in the ERS data product, Agricultural Trade Multipliers, updated in January 2018.

In 2016, 81 percent of SNAP benefits were redeemed in super stores and supermarkets

Friday, February 2, 2018

USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides participants with electronic benefits to purchase food in authorized retail food stores. In fiscal 2016, over $66 billion in SNAP benefits were redeemed, accounting for about 10 percent of the Nation’s spending on food at home. As of September 2016, 260,115 stores were authorized to accept SNAP. Convenience stores accounted for the largest share of SNAP stores (45 percent), but less than 6 percent of all SNAP benefits were redeemed in these smaller stores. Conversely, large super stores, which sell a wide variety of food and nonfood items, and supermarkets together accounted for only 14 percent of SNAP stores, but 81 percent of national SNAP redemptions. Super stores and supermarkets generally have a wider variety of foods and lower prices than smaller stores. Because SNAP benefits are for a fixed dollar amount, participants have an incentive to stretch their benefits by seeking out the best values when choosing where to spend their benefits. This chart appears in the ERS report, Design Issues in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Looking Ahead by Looking Back, released on January 25, 2018.

Cropland harvested declined by 3 million acres, largely due to uptick in crop failure

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The ERS Major Land Uses (MLU) series defines cropland used for crops as being comprised of three components: cropland harvested, crop failure, and cultivated summer fallow. Collectively, these components represent the land devoted to crop production in a given year. In 2017, cropland harvested declined to 314 million acres, 3 million acres less than the previous year’s area—the lowest recorded harvested cropland area since 2013 (311 million acres). A crop failure increase of 2 million acres largely contributed to this decline. The area that was double cropped, land from which two or more crops were harvested, held constant over the previous year at 6 million acres. Similarly, land used for cultivated summer fallow, which primarily occurs as part of wheat rotations in the semi-arid West, maintained its 2016 level of 12 million acres—the lowest recorded estimate since the start of the MLU series. The larger historical fluctuations in cropland used for crops are primarily attributable to Federal cropland acreage reduction programs, which affect the amount of idled cropland (cropland not directly involved in crop production in a given year). This chart uses historical data from the ERS Major Land Uses series, recently updated to include new 2017 estimates and revised 2016 estimates.

Live cattle exports to Canada reached their highest levels in over a decade in November 2017

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The United States imports a significant amount of live cattle from Canada and Mexico for use in beef production. The country is not a major cattle exporter, due largely to its role as the largest global producer of beef. Historically, the United States has exported breeding cattle and small volumes of beef and dairy cattle, primarily to Canada. In 2016, exports of cattle to Canada averaged 3,000 head per month. Beginning in September, however, monthly U.S. cattle exports to Canada jumped to the highest levels in over a decade, driven by a large spread in the price offered for cattle in Canada relative to the United States. Additionally, drought conditions in the U.S. Northern Plains in the second half of 2017 may have encouraged those in the area to sell off calves at a faster rate because of concerns about grass availability for grazing. This chart appears in the ERS Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook newsletter, released in January 2018.

The regional composition of U.S. imports has remained stable over time

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The share of U.S. agricultural imports from regions consisting primarily of developed economies remained stable from 1995 to 2015, at just over 60 percent. This contrasts with the destinations for U.S. agricultural exports, which shifted further toward developing regions. There was a compositional shift in import shares, however, from one developed region to another. In particular, a decline in the share of U.S. agricultural imports supplied by Europe was offset almost exactly by an increase in the share supplied by Canada and Mexico. Canada (a high-income economy) and Mexico (an upper-middle-income economy) are partners of the United States in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), whose trade-liberalizing provisions were gradually applied to intraregional agricultural trade during the 1994-2007 period. With respect to other parts of the world, the import shares from fast-growing exporters in South America and the former Soviet Union declined, even as those regions increased their participation in the global agricultural market. There were modest increases in import shares from developing East Asia and South Asia, which is consistent with their growing roles in global trade. This chart appears in the ERS report The Global Landscape of Agricultural Trade, 1995-2014, released in November 2017.

Rural poverty is regionally concentrated, and expanded since the Great Recession to 71 new high-poverty counties

Monday, January 29, 2018

Rural poverty is regionally entrenched, especially in the South where nearly 22 percent of rural (nonmetro) residents live in families with below-poverty incomes. Rural poverty is also entrenched in parts of the Southwest and northern Great Plains. Over 300 rural counties (15 percent of all rural counties) are persistently poor, compared with just 50 urban counties (4 percent of all urban counties). Many of these counties are not entirely poor, but rather contain multiple and diverse pockets of poverty and affluence. Rural poverty rates rose during the Great Recession and in initial post-recession years. Persistent poverty is currently measured from 1980 to 2007-11, which captures the effects of the Great Recession (2007-09). More recent data identifies 71 new high-poverty rural counties in 2011-15 that were not high poverty at any point from 1980 to 2007-11. Most of these new high-poverty counties were outside current persistent regions, including northern California and counties in the Southeast and Midwest that were affected by the loss of manufacturing jobs during the Great Recession. This chart appears in the ERS report Rural America at a Glance, 2017 Edition, released November 2017.

Off-farm income contributes significantly to households operating farms of all sizes

Friday, January 26, 2018

Most farm households rely on off-farm income, such as wages from a job outside the farm. Typically, only commercial farm households receive a substantial share of their income from the farm. For example, in 2016, the median farm income was negative $2,008 for households operating residence farms (where the operator primarily works off-farm or is retired from farming), while median off-farm income was $83,400. Households operating intermediate farms (smaller farms where the operator’s occupation is farming) also earn the bulk of their income from off-farm sources. In contrast, households operating commercial farms—where gross cash income is $350,000 or more—derive most of their income from the farm (nearly $144,000 in 2016). Changes to their total household income follow profits from farming. Most agricultural production takes place on commercial farms. In 2016, residential and intermediate farms together accounted for over 90 percent of U.S. family farms and one-quarter of the value of production. By comparison, commercial farms accounted for 9 percent of family farms and three-quarters of production. This chart is based on data from the ERS data product Farm Household Income and Characteristics, updated November 2017.

Households that buy directly from farmers spend more money on fruits and vegetables

Thursday, January 25, 2018

ERS researchers recently used USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) data to investigate the relationship between spending for fruits and vegetables and shopping at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and other direct-to-consumer (DTC) outlets. The researchers looked at two groups of households—those that bought fresh and processed fruits and vegetables exclusively at nondirect food stores and those that purchased these foods at both DTC outlets and stores. Households that bought fruits and vegetables directly from farmers spent an average of $12.15 per week at DTC outlets on these foods. They spent another $16.21 on fruits and vegetables at food stores, about as much as households that bought fruits and vegetables exclusively at stores. The study measured the impact that buying directly from farmers has on a household’s overall fruit and vegetable expenditures and found evidence of a positive impact, even after controlling for other demand determinants like income, education, and a household’s attitudes toward food and nutrition. The data for this chart are from the ERS report, The Relationship Between Patronizing Direct-to-Consumer Outlets and a Household’s Demand for Fruits and Vegetables, released on January 24, 2018.

The share of indemnities from Federal crop insurance for each farm type roughly mirrors its share of harvested cropland

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

In recent Farm Acts, emphasis has shifted to a greater reliance on risk management through insurance and less reliance on income support through Government payments from commodity programs. Indemnities—payments from Federal crop insurance to compensate for losses—are roughly proportional to acres of harvested cropland. In 2016, midsize family farms and large family farms together accounted for 66 percent of indemnities and 61 percent of harvested cropland. These farms’ high share of indemnities reflects their high participation in Federal crop insurance. About two-thirds of midsize farms and three-fourths of large farms participated in Federal crop insurance, compared with only one-sixth of all U.S. farms. Grain farms—the most common specialization among midsize and large family farms—accounted for 67 percent of all participants in Federal crop insurance and 64 percent of harvested cropland in 2016. This chart appears in the ERS report America’s Diverse Family Farms, 2017 Edition, released December 2017.

Healthy weight adults spend more time eating than do overweight and obese adults

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Data from the newly released Eating and Health Module of the American Time Use Survey reveal findings about time spent eating and body weight that are that consistent with patterns from studies in other countries. On an average day in 2016, healthy weight adults age 20 and older spent more time eating than did overweight and obese adults. Compared with overweight adults, healthy weight adults spent 10 percent more time eating (88 minutes versus 80 minutes per day). Differences in the time spent eating between healthy weight and obese adults were larger. Healthy weight adults spent 11.4 percent more time eating than adults with low-risk obesity and 20.5 percent more time eating than adults with higher risk obesity on an average day. Total time spent eating includes both time spent eating and drinking as a primary, or main, activity (primary eating) and time spent eating while doing something else, such as watching television or driving (secondary eating). The differences in total time spent eating by body weight category were driven by differences in primary, not secondary eating. Time use information can be found in ERS’s Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product, updated December 2017.

Millennials spend less per person than other generations on grocery store foods

Friday, January 19, 2018

A recent ERS analysis of 2014 grocery store data found that compared to older generations, Millennial-headed households spent the least per person on food at home. However, like the other generations analyzed, Millennial households with higher incomes tended to spend more on grocery store foods than Millennial households with lower incomes. This is likely because poorer households have less income to spend on food at home. Even with this lower spending, lower income households still spend a higher share of their total food budgets in grocery stores. Traditionalists and Baby Boomers spent more per person on food at home in each of 10 income groups than Millennials and Gen X’ers. For example, of households earning between $14,000 and $20,000 per household member annually, Millennials spent just under $80 per month per person on food at home and Gen X’ers spent $85, whereas Baby Boomers in that income group spent $135 and Traditionalists spent $154. Differences in food-at-home spending between the generations may reflect the younger generations’ stronger preference for eating out, which may change as they age. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, Food Purchase Decisions of Millennial Households Compared to Other Generations, released on December 29, 2017.

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