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Rotational grazing adoption varies by region

Monday, January 30, 2023

Rotational grazing is a management practice in which livestock are cycled through multiple fenced grazing areas (paddocks) to manage forage production, forage quality, animal health, and environmental quality. In a recent study, USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers found the highest rate of total rotational grazing adoption (49 percent of operations) in the Northern Plains and Western Corn Belt region, and the lowest level (25 percent of operations) in the Southern Plains region. The researchers classified two systems of rotational grazing: basic, in which average grazing periods are longer than 14 days per paddock; and intensive, in which grazing periods are 14 days or fewer per paddock. Researchers used detailed cow-calf operation data on grazing system management decisions to compare the adoption rates of basic rotational grazing systems with intensive systems. For four of the five regions analyzed in this research, basic rotational grazing was more common than intensive rotational grazing. The exception was the Appalachian region, where 25 percent of cow-calf operations used intensive rotational grazing and 22 percent used basic rotational grazing. Major drivers for regional differences in adoption could include varying forage types, which may respond better to rotational grazing than others, and differing climates. This chart draws on information in the ERS report Rotational Grazing Adoption by Cow-Calf Operations, published November 2022, and in the ERS Amber Waves article Study Examines How and Where U.S. Cow-Calf Operations Use Rotational Grazing, published in November 2022.

Retail food price inflation in 2022 surpassed 2021 rates in most categories

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Food-at-home prices increased by 11.4 percent in 2022, more than three times the rate in 2021 (3.5 percent) and much faster than the 2.0-percent historical annual average from 2002 to 2021. Of the food categories depicted in the chart, all except beef and veal grew faster in 2022 than in 2021. In 2022, price increases surpassed 10 percent for food at home and for nine food categories. Egg prices grew at the fastest rate (32.2 percent) after an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) throughout 2022. Prices for fats and oils increased by 18.5 percent, largely because of higher dairy and oilseed prices. Prices also rose for poultry (14.6 percent) and other meats (14.2 percent). Elevated prices for wholesale flour—attributed to the conflict in Ukraine and rising fertilizer prices—and eggs contributed to a 13.0-percent price increase for cereals and bakery products. Prices for beef and veal (5.3 percent), fresh vegetables (7.0 percent), and fresh fruits (7.9 percent) rose more slowly, but all categories exceeded their historical averages. Food prices grew more quickly than the overall rate of inflation (8.0 percent), as the HPAI outbreak, the Ukraine conflict, and economy-wide inflationary pressures contributed specifically to rising food prices. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers project food-at-home prices will increase 8.0 percent in 2023, with a prediction interval of 4.5 to 11.7 percent. ERS tracks aggregate food category prices and publishes price forecasts in the monthly Food Price Outlook data product, updated January 25, 2023.

Food retailing market concentration increased more at national level than county level over past three decades

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The U.S. food retail sector experienced substantial consolidation and structural change over the last three decades. Market concentration, as measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI), is a measure of the extent to which market shares are concentrated between firms of the retail food sector at the national, State, Metropolitan Statistical Area, and county levels in the United States. This analysis includes all establishments with a significant portion of food sales that are likely substitutes for each other: supermarkets and other grocery (except convenience) and warehouse clubs and supercenters. Although the national market is less concentrated than the average State level, according to the HHI, national market concentration increased substantially between 1990 and 2019 (458 percent). In comparison, average county-level market concentration has remained relatively constant over the past 30 years, increasing only 94 percent. While national measures provide information about larger trends, trends in localized markets are likely more relevant for consumers, food-retail competitors, and policymakers. This chart was drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service economic research report A Disaggregated View of Market Concentration in the Food Retail Industry, which uses data from the National Establishment Time Series (NETS) to calculate and examine the market conditions of food retailing from 1990 to 2019. The report published in January 2023.

Cattle and calf receipts accounted for largest portion of U.S. animal and animal product receipts in 2021

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

U.S. farm cash receipts from animals and animal products totaled $195.8 billion in 2021, led by receipts for cattle and calves at $72.9 billion (37 percent). Poultry and egg products made up the next largest share of 2021 cash receipts at $46.1 billion (24 percent), followed by dairy at $41.8 billion (21 percent), hogs at $28.0 billion (14 percent), and other animals and animal products at $7.0 billion (4 percent). As part of its Farm Income and Wealth Statistics data product, each year in late August or early September, USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) releases estimates of the prior year’s farm sector cash receipts from agricultural commodity sales. These data include cash receipt estimates by type of commodity, which can help in understanding the U.S. farm sector. The estimates may be revised as new information becomes available. Additional information and analysis are on the ERS Farm Sector Income and Finances topic page, updated December 1, 2022.

Agriculture and related industries contributed 5.4 percent to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021

Monday, January 23, 2023

Agriculture, food, and related industries contributed roughly $1.3 trillion to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021, a 5.4-percent share. The output of U.S. farms contributed $164.7 billion of this total—about 0.7 percent of U.S. GDP. Farming’s overall contribution to GDP is larger than 0.7 percent because sectors related to agriculture rely on inputs produced on farms, also adding value to the Nation’s economy. Sectors related to agriculture include food and beverage manufacturing; food and beverage stores; food services and eating or drinking places; textiles, apparel, and leather products; and forestry and fishing. This chart also appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service Charting the Essentials data product, updated in January 2023.

Growth of fruit and vegetable budget shares in 2020 indicates shift in U.S. diets

Thursday, January 19, 2023

At the beginning of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020, U.S. households shifted away from buying foods at restaurants and other food service venues to food-at-home (FAH) outlets such as grocery stores and other retail establishments. Overall, the share of the household food and alcohol budget spent on FAH increased 7.8 percentage points between the pre-pandemic (2016–19) level and 2020. The largest contributions to this change were the “other FAH” category (including desserts, prepared meals and salads, and chips and savory snacks), which increased 2.6 percentage points, and protein foods (red meat, poultry, eggs, and fish and seafood), which increased 1.5 percentage points. Even though those are the subgroups with the largest changes for household food and alcohol spending, the budget shares for fruits and vegetables showed the fastest growth from 2016–19 to 2020. The share of the average household food and alcohol budget spent on vegetables contributed only 1.2 percentage points to the total but increased 23 percent. The share spent on fruits increased 19 percent (from 4.7 to 5.6 percent). Increases in the share spent on grains, nonalcoholic beverages, and fats and oils also contributed to the overall FAH percentage point gain, but their growth during that period was relatively small. The faster growth of the fruit and vegetable shares in the food and alcohol budget indicates a slight shifting of diets to more produce during the first year of the pandemic. This chart was drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service report COVID-10 Working Paper: Consumer Food Spending Changes During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Horticultural products drive total U.S. agricultural import growth

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The value of U.S. agricultural imports (adjusted for inflation) grew an average of 4 percent a year between fiscal years 2012 and 2022 (October to September). Over that time, total U.S. agricultural imports rose from $139 billion to $194 billion, with growth concentrated in select commodity groups. Horticultural products grew at a rate of 6 percent a year during the period and, at $97.2 billion in value in 2022, accounted for 65 percent of the total growth in imports. Within the broad horticultural products group, fresh fruits were the largest contributor at $17.9 billion, growing at an annual rate of 9 percent over the period and accounting for 15 percent of total import growth. Key commodities in the fresh fruit group include avocados, berries, and citrus, which the United States imports mostly from Latin American countries such as Mexico, Chile, and Peru. Growth in demand for horticultural products, including fresh fruits, largely has been driven by consumer desire for year-round supply, changing consumer preferences, and foreign production that is increasingly competitive with domestically grown produce. Imports of the commodity groups livestock and meats, grains and feeds, and oilseeds and products, which together were about 60 percent of the value of horticultural product imports in 2012, each also grew at about 6 percent per year, contributing to a total of about 40 percent of the growth from 2012 to 2022. Sugar and tropical products, dairy and products, and other categories had below average growth rates and contributed less to agricultural import growth. This chart is drawn from the Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade published by USDA’s Economic Research Service, November 2022.

Rural job growth has shifted toward high-skill workers since 2001

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Over the last two decades, the strongest rural job gains were in smaller industries that tend to employ high-skill workers. The highest growth was in the real estate industry, which includes lessors of nonresidential buildings, real estate agents, brokers and property managers, and industrial machinery and equipment rental and leasing, as identified by the U.S. Census Bureau’s North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Also showing rapid growth was the administrative services industry, which includes office administration, facilities support, business support services, security services, conventions and trade shows, and waste management and treatment. Other rural industries that grew over the past two decades were health care and social assistance; professional, scientific, and technical services; educational services; and finance and insurance. The growth of these industries represented a shift in rural production toward industries that employ higher shares of high-skill workers. Consistent with this shift, the percent of rural college-educated workers increased from 21.5 percent in 2012 to 23.8 percent in 2019, although these rates have remained lower than the share of college-educated urban workers (38 percent in 2019). The six largest rural industries in terms of employment during this period were health care and social assistance; accommodation and food services; government; retail; agriculture; and manufacturing. Only the health and social assistance industry was at the same time one of the fastest-growing rural industries and one of the six largest rural industries in terms of employment. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report Rural America at a Glance: 2022 Edition, published in November 2022.

Since 2015, total household income has risen for commercial farms

Thursday, January 12, 2023

From 2015 to 2021, the median total household income for commercial U.S. farms rose an estimated 16 percent, to $278,339 from $238,994. Commercial farms earn more than $350,000 gross cash farm income regardless of the principal operator’s occupation. In 2021, the median total household income for commercial farms remained above the median income of $75,201 for all U.S. households. Farm households rely on a combination of on-farm and off-farm sources of income. On-farm income is determined by farm costs and returns that vary from year to year, and in any given year a majority of farm households report negative farm income. Off-farm sources—including wages, nonfarm business earnings, dividends, and transfers—are the main contributor to household income for most farm households. Because households operating commercial farms rely mostly on on-farm sources of income, they experience the largest shocks in household income when farm sector income rises or falls. This chart uses data from the new USDA, Economic Research Service and USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) webtool, released in December 2022, as shown through the ARMS Farm Financial and Crop Production Practices data product.

Avian influenza outbreaks reduced egg production, driving prices to record highs in 2022

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI)—a disease infecting birds and poultry—struck egg-laying hens throughout 2022. As a result of recurrent outbreaks, U.S. egg inventories were 29 percent lower in the final week of December 2022 than at the beginning of the year. By the end of December, more than 43 million egg-laying hens were lost to the disease itself or to depopulation since the outbreak began in February 2022. Losses were spread across two waves: from February to June (30.7 million hens) and from September to December (12.6 million hens). On constrained supplies, wholesale egg prices (the prices retailers pay to producers) were elevated throughout the year. The HPAI recurrences in the fall further constrained egg inventories that had not recovered from the spring wave. Moreover, the latest outbreak wave came at a point when the industry seasonally adjusts the egg-laying flocks to meet the increasing demand for eggs associated with the winter holiday season. Lower-than-usual shell egg inventories near the end of the year, combined with increased demand stemming from the holiday baking season, resulted in several successive weeks of record high egg prices. The average shell-egg price was 267 percent higher during the week leading up to Christmas than at the beginning of the year and 210 percent higher than the same time a year earlier. During the last week of 2022, inventory sizes started to rise, and prices fell. Going forward, wholesale prices are expected to decrease as the industry moves past the holiday season and continues rebuilding its egg-laying flocks. This chart first appeared in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: December 2022.

One-third of U.S. food dollar spent on food services in 2021, a record high

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

In 2021, 33.6 cents of an average dollar spent on domestically produced food went to foodservice establishments, which include restaurants and other food-away-from-home outlets. At more than one-third of the 2021 food dollar, the foodservice share increased 3.5 cents over 2020 to reach its highest value in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Food Dollar Series. The share for food services does not include expenses paid to other industry groups, such as food, energy, and financial services. The shares for energy, advertising, finance and insurance, and legal and accounting changed less than 0.1 cent from their 2020 values, while the declines among remaining industry group shares ranged from 0.1 cent lower (packaging) to 1.0 cent lower (food processing). Annual shifts in the food dollar shares between industry groups occur for a variety of reasons, including changes in the mix of foods consumers buy, costs of materials, ingredients, and other inputs, as well as changes in the balance of food at home and away from home. The 2021 changes in the industry group shares reflect shifts toward pre-pandemic trends that were interrupted when consumers spent more on food-at-home during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The industry group shares food dollar chart is available for 1993 to 2021 and can be found in ERS’s Food Dollar Series data product, updated November 17, 2022.

Wages and salaries are largest contributors to off-farm income

Monday, January 9, 2023

For most U.S. farm households, off-farm sources are the main sources of income. In 2021, earnings from farming accounted for an estimated 23 percent of the average income of farm operator households. Of the off-farm income, 57 percent came from wages earned by farm operators and their spouses. The rest is income from other nonfarm businesses, interest and dividends, transfers, and other miscellaneous nonfarm sources (43 percent). Transfer income, such as retirement benefits, makes up 25 percent of off-farm income, with most coming from public sources. For farm households, off-farm income can help manage risks associated with farm income variability. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s topic page Farm Household Well-being, reflecting data released December 1, 2022.

Rising farm worker wages suggest tightening farm labor markets

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Between 2000 and 2022, the real (inflation-adjusted) hourly wage rate of hired farm workers increased by 28 percent. Growth in the average wage rate of hired farm workers during that period outpaced hourly wage growth of nonfarm workers by 11 percentage points. Further, the gap between real farm wages (which tend to be lower) and real nonfarm wages had narrowed. In 2011, the hourly wage of farm workers was 57 percent of the nonfarm wage rate; by 2021 this had increased to 63 percent. Increases in farm workers’ wages have been observed across the entire U.S. agricultural sector, suggesting the tightening of farm labor markets. The U.S. fresh fruit and vegetable industry is more exposed to rising wages because produce cultivation tends to be labor-intensive and labor costs represent a significant share of production expenses. Agricultural producers are managing tight labor markets by hiring foreign farm workers, reducing labor needs through mechanization, or in some cases, decreasing production of labor-intensive crops such as cantaloupe, fresh field-grown tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, and raisin grapes. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service’s report Adjusting to Higher Labor Costs in Selected U.S. Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Industries, published in August 2022.

Domestic migration patterns foster strong ties between many nonmetro and metro areas

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Human movements between places vary considerably across space, so their contribution to the spread of COVID-19 also varied spatially. For instance, some rural communities have long histories as recreation or tourist destinations and more established migration connections to larger cities. In examining county-to-county migration patterns, researchers organized nonmetropolitan (nonmetro) counties into four equal groups, or quartiles, based on the rate at which people moved to or from metropolitan (metro) counties. The counties in the lowest quartile (lightest blue on the map) have the weakest migration connections with metro regions, meaning few people move back and forth proportionately. Remote counties far from any metro region, such as in the central and northern Great Plains, fall in the lowest quartile. Those counties in the fourth quartile (darkest blue) have the strongest migration connectivity and are typically adjacent to metro centers, such as southern New Hampshire, along the Front Range in Colorado, and in parts of Texas adjacent to Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Antonio. However, some very remote areas have high migration ties to metro counties, such as areas of Wyoming, Idaho, and North Dakota. These are places that have unique economic conditions that tie them to urban areas. Western North Dakota had a burgeoning energy sector from 2012 to 2016 (when these migration flows were measured), and there are established amenity destinations in the Colorado Rockies; Sun Valley, Idaho; Jackson, Wyoming; and along the Washington and Oregon coasts. Nonmetro counties with higher migration connectivity to metro areas were more likely to experience outbreaks of COVID-19 during the first few weeks and months of the pandemic compared with less-connected nonmetro counties. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report COVID-19 Working Paper: Migration, Local Mobility, and the Spread of COVID-19 in Rural America, published in November 2022.

Child food insecurity declined significantly among Hispanic households with children in 2021

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Households with food insecurity among children are defined as those that were unable at times to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children because of a lack of resources. In 2021, food insecurity among children showed an overall statistically significant decline for U.S. households with children. A household is classified by the race and ethnicity of the household reference person, or the adult in whose name the housing unit is owned or rented. The prevalence rates of child food insecurity for Hispanic and Black, non-Hispanic households with children historically have been higher than the rate for all households with children, a trend that continued in 2021. For households with children headed by Hispanic reference persons, food insecurity among children fell to 9.7 percent from 12.2 percent in 2020, a statistically significant decline. For Black, non-Hispanic households with children, the 12 percent rate of food insecurity among children in 2021 was not significantly different from the 13 percent reported in 2020. Food insecurity among children in households with White, non-Hispanic reference persons also had a significant decline. Households that fall into the Other, non-Hispanic category are headed by reference persons that identify as Native American, Asian American, multiple-race American, or other. Other, non-Hispanic households experienced food insecurity rates among children near the national average in 2021 and not significantly different from 2020. This chart appears in USDA, Economic Research Service’s Interactive Charts and Highlights.

Local work-related commuting in farming-dependent counties remained high during initial days of COVID-19 pandemic

Thursday, December 15, 2022

In the early weeks of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, when local and State authorities were issuing stay-at-home orders, employees in farming-dependent counties maintained a relatively high level of onsite work and commuting. Researchers at USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) and Middlebury College divided all rural (nonmetro) counties into four equal groups based on how much work-related local travel was reduced. The four groups were: greatest reduction, second-greatest, second-least, and least reduction. Those in the “least reduction” group had mobility levels similar to pre-pandemic levels. In mid-April 2020, 7 weeks after the virus first arrived in a rural county and a month after stay-at-home orders were issued, there were three times as many farming-dependent counties in the “least reduction” group as in the “greatest reduction” group. Counties dependent on government and recreation jobs showed the greatest mobility reductions during the early months of the pandemic. These differences in mobility reduction help explain differences in the initial spread of COVID-19 within counties. By the third week of April 2020, “least reduction” counties were experiencing infection rates nearly double those in counties with greater reductions in work-related mobility. This chart appears in the ERS report Migration, Local Mobility, and the Spread of COVID-19 in Rural America, published in November 2022.

Counties with continuous high poverty since 1960 are largely rural

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

In 1960, 78 percent (2,412) of U.S. counties had poverty rates of 20 percent or more. Among them, 28 percent (680) continued to have high poverty through 1980. After enactment of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, commonly known as the War on Poverty initiatives, many counties reported reduced poverty rates. Between 1980 and 2019, poverty rates were relatively stable, mainly fluctuating with cyclical changes in the macroeconomy. As of 2019, there were 304 counties—13 percent of the counties with high poverty in 1960—that consistently had poverty rates of 20 percent or more over the last 60 years. The majority—264 counties—are rural counties and are clustered in the Appalachian States; the Black Belt in the South; the Mississippi Delta; the Ozarks region of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and southeast Kansas; the Southwest; and in counties with large American Indian and Alaska Native populations. This chart is a version of an interactive map on USDA, Economic Research Service’s Poverty Area Measures data product, updated November 2022.

Baking ingredient prices rose in 2022

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

As people sift through holiday baking recipes and head to the store, they will find key ingredients cost more this year. The total cost for five baking staples – flour, sugar, milk, butter, and eggs – was about 22 percent higher through the first 10 months of 2022 compared with the same period in 2021. A 5-pound bag of flour, 4-pound bag of sugar, gallon of whole milk, pound of butter, and a dozen eggs cost a total $16.55 in 2022, compared with $13.55 in 2021, an increase of $3.00. Egg prices increased the fastest (60 percent) and cost about $0.98 more per dozen compared with 2021, as the egg industry was affected by the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak. Prices for flour and butter each rose by about 20 percent, adding about $0.40 to the price of a bag of flour and $0.71 to a pound of butter. Prices increased more slowly for milk (16 percent) and sugar (13 percent) in 2022, although price increases for all products were above historical averages. USDA, Economic Research Service tracks aggregate food category prices and publishes price forecasts in the monthly Food Price Outlook data product, which predicts food-at-home prices will increase between 11 and 12 percent in 2022.

Africa’s food and beverage sector attracts global investors

Monday, December 12, 2022

Increasing incomes, populations, and urbanization in Africa have generated new agricultural investment opportunities for foreign firms. Foreign direct investments (FDI) in the food and beverage sector are one mechanism to build and extend Africa’s agricultural value chains, the processes connecting food production, delivery, and the consumer. A key type of these investments is greenfield FDI, which are investments made by a foreign firm to start a new venture or subsidiary in another country. From 2016 to 2020, the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, United States, and Belgium were the largest sources of greenfield FDI in the food and beverage sector in Africa. U.S. food and beverage greenfield FDI has been consistent over time, ranging between $1.5 to $2 billion during each 5-year period from 2006 through 2020. Investments made by companies in Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, and Lebanon from 2016 to 2020 were also sizable, followed by Singapore and the United Kingdom. Notably, China’s greenfield FDI activity in this sector was relatively small, reaching just under $500 million in 2016 to 2020. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service report Foreign Direct Investment in Africa: Recent Trends Leading up to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Number of U.S. hog operations declined between 1997 and 2017, while farm size and contract production increased

Friday, December 9, 2022

The structure of the U.S. hog sector changed between 1997 and 2017, shifting hog production to fewer, but larger, farms. According to data from the Census of Agriculture, which is administered by the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, the number of hog operations with inventory declined 37 percent between 1997 and 2002 and continued to drop through 2012. Despite ticking upward in 2017, the number of operations with inventory ended at roughly 66,000 operations, 47 percent less than in 1997. In contrast, the average farm size roughly doubled over those two decades, as measured by the number of head of hogs in inventory per farm. The share of the U.S. hog inventory on farms with 5,000 or more head rose from 40 percent in 1997 to 73 percent in 2017. Overall, the U.S. hog inventory increased by 18 percent over the period, and the average hog farm size rose to more than 1,000 head of hogs. Reductions in the number of hog operations and increases in hog farm size have occurred alongside increases in production contract use. For example, by 2017, the percentage of hogs sold under a production contract rose to more than 50 percent in Iowa and Minnesota (combined) and in North Carolina, three hog-producing States that together contributed to more than half the hogs sold in the United States. From 2012 to 2017, contract production rose from 51 to 59 percent in Iowa and Minnesota and from 83 to 91 percent in North Carolina. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report U.S. Hog Production: Rising Output and Changing Trends in Productivity Growth, published in August 2022.