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Low-fat and nonfat ice cream production is heating up the market

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Production of ice cream in the United States totaled 1.3 billion gallons in 2023. While most frozen dairy product output is regular ice cream, consumer demand for lower-fat and lower-sugar options has increased production share and volume of low-fat and nonfat varieties over time. Average annual production of regular ice cream decreased after peaking in 2002 then increased again in 2019–23, while production of low-fat and nonfat ice cream increased during 2019–23 in part because of elevated ice cream demand during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In 2019–23, low-fat and nonfat ice cream production accounted for more than 35 percent of the total volume of ice cream churned in the United States, compared with 29 percent in 1999–2003. Production of frozen dairy treats such as sherbet and frozen yogurt remains relatively low by comparison. In aggregate, production of ice cream and other frozen dairy products have trended lower, declining from 1.5 billion gallons annually in 1999–2003 to 1.4 billion gallons in 2019–23. This decrease is in line with reduced deliveries of caloric sweeteners (an indicator of consumption of refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, among others) which peaked in 1999, reflecting shifting consumer preferences. This chart is drawn from Dairy Data and Sugar and Sweeteners Yearbook Tables, published by USDA, Economic Research Service.

Owner-operators and cash-rent farmers lead cover crop adoption

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Cash-renters and owner-operators adopt cover crops at rates higher than share-renters. Researchers with USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) explored whether adopting cover crops (a crop grown between two commodity or forage crops but unharvested/terminated with the intention of improving soil health) differed between farmers who owned the land they farmed and those who were renters, whether under a cash- or share-rent agreement. Using data from USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), researchers calculated national-level statistics for five crops. They found that owner-operated cotton fields had the highest rates of cover crop adoption for owned land, with 22 percent of owner-operated cotton fields having cover crops in 2019. Owner-operated fields nominally led cash-rented fields in cover cropping for cotton, corn, and sorghum, but trailed cash-rented fields for soybeans and barley. Owner-operated fields exceeded share-rented fields in cover crop adoption for all five commodity crops surveyed. About 40 percent of farmland in the contiguous 48 States is rented. Information on the use of various rental agreements, as well as conservation tillage and structural practice adoption, can be found in the ERS report Farmland Rental and Conservation Practice Adoption, published in March 2024.

Total participation in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) continued to increase in FY 2023

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) has provided supplemental food packages, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and health care referrals at no cost to low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants younger than 1 year old, and children 1 to 5 years old who are at nutritional risk since 1974. More than half of WIC participants are children (55.0 percent), followed by women (22.6 percent), and infants (22.4 percent). Total participation in WIC increased for the first time in more than a decade in fiscal year (FY) 2022, and this increase continued in FY 2023. Participation averaged 6.57 million people a month in FY 2023, a 5-percent increase from 6.26 million in FY 2022. This was the second increase in overall participation since the record high of 9.18 million people in FY 2010 and resulted from increased numbers of participants in all three groups (women, infants, and children). FY 2023 was the first year since 2009 that the number of infants participating in WIC increased. This chart appears on the WIC Program topic page and in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2023 Annual Report, released June 12, 2024, and was discussed in a recorded webinar.

2022 Census of Agriculture shows concentration of cash rent payments in the United States

Monday, July 15, 2024

The USDA, National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) 2022 Census of Agriculture shows that producer expenditures on cash rents were heavily concentrated in the upper Midwest, the northern Great Plains, and California’s Central Valley. In total, producers spent $27.3 billion on cash rent expenses in 2022, or 6.4 percent of total production expenses. This represents a nearly 10-percent increase in cash rents from the 2017 Agricultural Census, after adjusting for inflation. Many farmers rent farmland from landowners for a cash payment. This cash rent reflects the economic returns to land from farming. Cash rent per acre of land is influenced by several factors, such as cash receipts, government payments, land quality, and financing constraints. For more information, see the NASS 2022 Census of Agriculture website. For more information on how farmland cash rental rates vary across regions, see the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) Land Use, Land Value & Tenure topic page. See also the NASS publication Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Lands and the ERS report Farmland Values, Land Ownership, and Returns to Farmland, 2000-2016.

Despite inflation, food-away-from-home spending continued to accelerate in 2023

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Food spending in the United States reached an all-time high in 2023. However, accounting for food price inflation and population growth reveals a nuanced narrative over time. Even after adjusting for inflation (known as constant terms), per capita food-away-from-home (FAFH) spending rebounded after a 15.6-percent drop in 2020 with an average annual increase of 10 percent since 2021. This trend resulted in an 11.9-percent increase in FAFH spending in 2023 compared with 2019, outpacing prepandemic trends. In contrast, constant per capita food-at-home (FAH) spending declined 2.3 percent in 2022 and 3.1 percent in 2023, following stable annual increases averaging 2.8 percent from 2016 to 2021. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food Expenditure Series data product, updated in June 2024, and Interactive Charts: Food Expenditures, updated in September 2023.

2022 Census of Agriculture: Vegetable acreage destined for processing varies by crop

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

In the United States, the share of harvested acres dedicated to vegetables intended for sale in the processing market varies widely by crop. Some vegetables lend themselves readily to processing, such as tomatoes for sauces and canning. Others are largely destined for the fresh market and have only a small percentage processed, such as broccoli. Using data from the 2022 Census of Agriculture, the share of harvested acres for processing is estimated to range from around 90 percent for green peas and horseradish to less than 5 percent for cauliflower and broccoli. More than half of harvested acres for potatoes (56 percent) and sweet corn (55 percent)—the top two vegetables by acres harvested—was devoted to processing production. Processing accounted for 39 percent of total melon, vegetable, potato, and sweet potato harvested area in 2022 (excluding mushrooms and pulse crops), down from 44 percent at the 2012 census. The greatest total number of harvested acres devoted to processing was for potatoes (600,169 acres), followed by sweet corn (258,781 acres) and tomatoes (248,318 acres). The number of acres of vegetables, potatoes, and melons harvested by U.S. growers has decreased since the 2007 census. With fresh-market acreage relatively flat, the declines have been concentrated in processing acreage. This chart is based on the USDA, Economic Research Service Vegetables and Pulses Outlook Report released April 2024.

Temporary Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Program issued more than $70 billion in benefits from 2020 to 2023

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

USDA’s temporary Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program issued $70.9 billion in benefits from its inception in March 2020 through September 2023. Federal legislation passed in March 2020 authorized USDA to create the P-EBT program at the onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in response to disruptions to onsite instruction at schools and the operation of the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. The P-EBT program provided benefits to qualified households with children in the 50 States, Washington, DC, and U.S. territories for the value of school meals that were forgone because of pandemic-related disruptions. These benefits could be used to help pay for groceries at retailers authorized to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Initially, P-EBT program eligibility was limited to households with school-aged children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals (those with incomes up to 185 percent of the Federal poverty line). Subsequent legislation increased the amount qualifying households received and expanded the program to include more children (such as some households with children not yet enrolled in school) and to cover the summer months when schools typically are closed for instruction. Legislation also extended the program’s operations through September 2023. P-EBT benefits were distributed at different times, depending on pandemic-related disruptions to in-person instruction at schools and the timeliness of when States and territories were able to issue benefits. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s The Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2023 Annual Report and Amber Waves article, USDA’s Temporary Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Program Issued $70.9 Billion in Benefits From 2020 to 2023, and was discussed in a recorded webinar.

Majority of farms with debt have loans from a commercial bank

Monday, July 8, 2024

Not all farms use debt to finance their operations, but of those that do, the majority used commercial banks. Researchers with USDA, Economic Research Service examined direct loans reported from five different sources in 2022: the Farm Credit System, USDA Farm Service Agency, commercial banks, trade credit, and other lenders. More than half of each farm type reported loans owed to a commercial bank. Among borrowers, small family farms using debt had the highest proportion receiving financing through other lenders (28 percent). Among all the lending sources, the Farm Service Agency serviced between 8 and 10 percent of farms with loans, making it the least likely to provide a direct loan. Not reflected, however, are actions by the Farm Service Agency to provide a loan guarantee for some of those operations reporting loans from commercial banks and the Farm Credit System. This chart appears in America’s Farms and Ranches at a Glance, published December 2023.

Home-grilled cheeseburger costs grew 1.8 percent from 2023 to 2024

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Consumers planning Fourth of July cookouts might wonder how the cost of a burger stacks up to last year. If you like yours with lettuce and tomato, the cost of ingredients for a home-prepared quarter-pound cheeseburger totaled $2.22 per burger in May 2024. The same cheeseburger cost $2.18 to prepare in May 2023, an increase of 4 cents (1.8 percent). Prices rose over the year for ground beef (by 3.8 percent), tomato (3.4 percent), and bread (1.0 percent) and fell for Cheddar cheese (-5.0 percent) and iceberg lettuce (-0.5 percent). Ground beef accounted for more than half of the total burger cost, at $1.29 per 4-ounce patty, which was a 5-cent increase from 2023. The cost of a tomato slice grew one cent to $0.23 in May 2024. These higher prices were partially offset by the lower cost of Cheddar cheese in May 2024, which sliced 2 cents off the total burger cost by falling from $0.37 to $0.35. USDA Radio featured a related sound bite, The Cost of that Fourth of July Burger, in June 2024. USDA, Economic Research Service tracks aggregate food category prices and publishes price forecasts in the Food Price Outlook data product, last updated on June 25, 2024.

Growth in greenhouses: Controlled environment agriculture production, operations on the rise

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

From 2009 to 2019, controlled environment agriculture (CEA), also referred to as “protected agriculture” or “protected culture,” saw significant growth in both the number of operations and production of fresh produce in the United States. CEA systems grant producers control of factors such as temperature, wind, lighting, and/or precipitation. These systems help to increase production while limiting factors that could inhibit growth, such as adverse weather conditions and common pests. In the United States, CEA operations—which include greenhouses, vertical agriculture, hydroponics, aquaponics, and other controlled production methods—increased by more than 100 percent from 1,476 operations in 2009 to 2,994 in 2019. Production volumes increased by 56 percent during the same time to 7.86 million hundredweight. Approximately 60 to 70 percent of the crops grown in CEA systems in 2009 and 2019 were tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers, with hydroponic systems being the most common method of cultivation. Updated data from the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Census of Horticultural Specialties are expected in December 2024. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service report Trends, Insights, and Future Prospects for Production in Controlled Environment Agriculture and Agrivoltaics Systems, January 2024.

2022 Census of Agriculture: Sales of organic agricultural products concentrated in California

Monday, July 1, 2024

The 2022 Census of Agriculture showed that California led the Nation in organically produced agricultural commodities sold from farms. Census data include certified organic operations as well as those exempt from certification because of their small size (farms and businesses with less than $5,000 in gross annual organic sales). Certified and exempt organic operations both use agricultural production practices that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices to foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. In 2022, U.S. organic sales reached $9.6 billion, almost $1 billion more than in 2017, when adjusted for inflation to 2022 dollars. Organic sales are highly concentrated along the West Coast, particularly in California, which had more than $3.7 billion in organic sales in 2022, almost 40 percent of the Nation’s organic sales. Organic sales in California increased by 12 percent when adjusted for inflation from 2017 to 2022. Organic product sales are also concentrated in the upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions, as well as southeast Pennsylvania and central North Carolina. Since many counties have few sellers of organically produced agricultural commodities, USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) withholds information at the county level to keep data private for individual farms. Counties with published sales at the county level make up $8.3 billion in organic sales (86 percent of the total), while 14 percent of total production occurs in the gray areas of the map. For example, Alaska and Delaware have no organic sales reported at the county level but report 2022 sales of $841,000 and $8.3 million at the State level, respectively. Some States, such as California, New York, and Washington, have more than 98 percent of State-level sales reported via county-level data. This chart was drawn from the NASS 2022 Census of Agriculture. For more on organic sales, see the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Organic Agriculture topic page.

Food-away-from-home price growth outpaced food at home and overall inflation over past decade

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Prices for food away from home (FAFH), or eating out, grew more quickly from 2014–24 than food at home (FAH), and the overall rate of inflation. Prices for all consumer goods and services across the economy, as measured by the all-items Consumer Price Index, rose by 34.3 percent between January 2014 and May 2024. FAFH prices climbed steadily over the past decade and were 49.5 percent higher in May 2024 than January 2014, while prices for FAH, or groceries, rose 29.9 percent. Although FAH prices grew at a faster rate than the overall inflation rate at times, particularly between 2020 and 2023, FAH also had periods of minimal price change from 2015 to 2019 and since 2023, as illustrated by the relatively flat slope of the line. Food prices can be affected by economy-wide inflationary factors, such as rising input and energy prices, but the distinct services and industries that contribute to FAFH and FAH costs can lead to differing price patterns over time. USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Food Dollar Series shows that the food services industry group contributes the largest share of FAFH costs, and salaries and benefits account for a majority of costs in that industry group. In contrast, the industries contributing the largest shares of FAH costs are food processing and retail and wholesale trade. The ERS Food Price Environment: Interactive Visualization, last updated in February 2024, presents annual FAH and FAFH inflation over time and provides context for the Food Price Outlook data product.

2022 Census of Agriculture: More cropland covered by crop insurance

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

U.S. cropland is increasingly being covered by crop insurance, according to data from the 2022 Census of Agriculture published by USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service. From 2017 to 2022, the share of cropland acres covered by any Federal, private, or other crop insurance program grew, particularly among small- to medium-sized farms. While percent share of cropland acres with crop insurance across all farms has risen by almost 9 percent, smaller farms have experienced higher growth rates. Farms operating 70 to 99.9 acres saw the largest gains in coverage, with the share of insured acres rising by more than 20 percent from 2017 to 2022. This trend is consistent across other small to medium-sized farm sizes, notably those between 10 to 69.9 acres, which on aggregate saw growth rates in coverage surpassing 15 percent. Rising participation rates indicate expanding use of crop insurance products to manage risks faced by smaller agricultural operations. For more information, see the USDA, Economic Research Service topic page, Crop Insurance at a Glance.

Forecast estimates 2 in 1,000 farm estates created in 2023 likely owed Federal estate tax returns

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Created in 1916, the Federal estate tax is a tax on the transfer of property to a person’s heirs upon death. In 2023, the Federal estate tax exemption amount was $12.92 million per person, and the Federal estate tax rate was 40 percent. By law, the estate of a person who owns assets above the exemption amount at death must file a Federal estate tax return. However, only returns that have an estate above the exemption after deductions for expenses, debts, and bequests will pay Federal estate tax. Researchers from USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) estimate that 39,988 estates would have been created from principal operator deaths in 2023. ERS forecasts that 330 (about 0.8 percent) of those estates would have been required to file an estate tax return, and 89 (about 0.2 percent) would likely have owed Federal estate tax. Total Federal estate tax liabilities from the 89 farm estates owing taxes are forecast to be $473 million in 2023. The exemption amount increased to $13.61 million per person in 2024, because of an annual inflation adjustment. This chart appears in the ERS topic page Federal Estate Taxes, published in April 2024.

2022 Census of Agriculture: Average farmland value higher on coasts and in Corn Belt

Monday, June 24, 2024

Data from the USDA Census of Agriculture report that farmland values tend to be higher along the coasts and a stretch from Iowa to Ohio, often called the Corn Belt. Lower average county farmland values in the Mountain States (States that encompass the Rocky Mountains) and Great Plains (the area just east of the Rocky Mountains) are likely because of their high share of pastureland, typically valued below that of cropland. Conducted every 5 years by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the Census of Agriculture includes producer responses to questions about their farming operations on a range of topics, including the value of farmland they operate. The national average value per acre of farmland (including buildings) was $3,846 in 2022. Farmland values increased 10 percent after adjusting for inflation (using the Gross Domestic Product Price Index) when compared with the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Farmland tends to be more valuable in States where cropland is more productive and the value of production is higher, such as in the Corn Belt. The map also shows that farmland values increase in counties in the immediate vicinity of urban areas or with higher population density overall, reflecting competition with residential and other nonagricultural land uses. For more details on farmland values, see USDA, Economic Research Service’s Farmland Value topic page. For more details from the 2022 Census of Agriculture, see the NASS Census of Agriculture page.

Greenhouse tomatoes fuel U.S. import growth in fresh tomatoes

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Since 2000, U.S. fresh tomato import volumes have grown by 176 percent. Over the last two decades, nearly all import growth has stemmed from tomatoes that were grown in greenhouses. In the early 2000s, greenhouse fresh tomatoes represented about 14 percent of fresh tomato import volume and 23 percent of value. By the early 2020s, greenhouse tomatoes represented 60 percent of total fresh tomato import volume and 59 percent of value. The increase was driven primarily by expansion of year-round greenhouse tomato production in Mexico, the foremost supplier of tomatoes to the United States. While greenhouse tomato production in the United States has also expanded during this time, imports accounted for an estimated 88 percent of the domestic greenhouse tomato supply in 2023. The share of greenhouse-grown tomato imports varies by tomato variety. In 2023, almost 80 percent of all cherry and grape tomato imports were greenhouse-grown, compared with one-third of total Roma tomato imports. This chart is based on the USDA, Economic Research Service Vegetable and Pulses Outlook: April 2024.

2022 Census of Agriculture: Black-operated farm size continues to grow

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

The average size of Black- or African-American-operated farms reached a record high of 163 acres in 2022. USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Census of Agriculture data report Black or African-American producers operated 32,700 farms and ranches covering about 5.3 million acres in 2022. A farm is defined as Black- or African-American-operated if at least one producer identifies as Black or African American alone or in combination with other races. The number of Black- or African-American-operated farms rapidly decreased from 1920 through 1978, after which the number of farms varied with a downward trend. Since 1997, there has been a gradual increase in the number of acres operated by Black farmers, although it remains below the 41.4 million acres operated in 1920. Black- or African-American-operated farms are most concentrated in the South (46.5 percent are in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina) compared with all other U.S. regions in 2022. Black or African-American farmers are more likely to produce livestock than White farmers, as the latter are more likely to be in crop production. For more details from the 2022 Census of Agriculture, see the NASS Census of Agriculture website. For more information on Black or African-American farmers, see USDA, Economic Research Service’s Socially Disadvantaged, Beginning, Limited Resource, and Female Farmers and Ranchers topic page.

Cover crops planted by dairy producers are often harvested

Monday, June 17, 2024

More than half of dairy operations that plant cover crops reported harvesting all their cover crop acreage for forage or other on-farm use between 2018 and 2020. While not all dairy operations have cropland, many of those who plant cover crops use them to provide feed for their herd, such as by harvesting a cover crop like cereal rye or triticale for silage to later feed to dairy cattle. Cover crops can also be planted and left unharvested to improve water quality and soil health. From 2018 to 2020, the Agricultural Resource Management Survey asked producers how many acres of cover crops they harvested for forage or other on-farm use, and how many acres of cover crops went unharvested. Exclusively harvesting cover crops was relatively more common in the Fruitful Rim and Heartland regions, where 63 percent of dairy operations only harvested acreage of cover crops in each region. The Northern Crescent had a higher proportion of dairy operations that only reported unharvested cover crops (31 percent). Information on cover crop practices can be found in the USDA, Economic Research Service report Cover Crops on Livestock Operations: Potential for Expansion in the United States, published in May 2024.

Hawaii, Nevada, and Washington, DC, had highest shares of food-away-from-home sales

Thursday, June 13, 2024

The share of food spending at restaurants and similar food-away-from-home (FAFH) establishments has generally increased over time in the United States, although this trend varies across States. Hawaii, Nevada, and Washington, DC, stand out as outliers in terms of the share of per capita FAFH sales. In 1997, FAFH sales stood notably higher in Washington, DC at 73.5 percent, Nevada at 59.0 percent, and Hawaii at 56.2 percent than in other States at 41.6 percent. Each of those numbers grew by 2023 to 76.2 percent in Washington, DC, 63.9 percent in Nevada, 63.5 percent in Hawaii, and 53.0 percent in other States. The three outliers experienced more significant disruptions in food spending patterns in 2020 during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In Washington, DC, the share of FAFH sales fell 9.1 percentage points from 2019 to 2020, while Hawaii and Nevada’s share decreased 9.0 percentage points and 7.5 percentage points, respectively. The eating-out share in other States decreased 4.6 percentage points in that period. In most States, the FAFH share grew rapidly from 2020 to 2023. Nevada’s and Hawaii’s share grew at least 8 percentage points over the three years, while all other States grew 6.9 percentage points, on average. While Washington, DC’s FAFH share grew 7 percentage points over the period, it remained more than 12 percentage points higher than Nevada’s and Hawaii’s in 2023. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s State-level Food Expenditure Series and the Amber Waves article Analyzing Food Sales Trends at the State Level Using New Series, published June 2024.

USDA spending on food and nutrition assistance programs declined further in FY 2023

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Federal spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs totaled $166.4 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2023, down 13 percent from $191.1 billion in FY 2022 and 18 percent from the peak of $202.4 billion in FY 2021 when adjusted for inflation to 2023 dollars. In FY 2023, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) spending fell 9 percent from the previous year’s inflation-adjusted amount to $112.8 billion despite an increase in participation and maximum benefit levels. This decline occurred because of the nationwide end of emergency allotments, which had temporarily raised all recipients’ benefits to at least the maximum for their household size beginning in March 2020. Spending on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) totaled $6.6 billion—an increase of 11 percent from inflation-adjusted spending in FY 2022—reflecting increases in program participation and food costs per participant. Combined spending on child nutrition programs totaled $26.9 billion in FY 2023, falling 24 percent from the inflation-adjusted total in the previous year. FY 2023 marked the first full fiscal year of child nutrition program operation after Federal waivers allowing schools to serve free meals to all students and raising Federal reimbursements for each free meal served expired at the end of June 2022. Combined spending on other programs fell in FY 2023 primarily because of lower spending on Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) in its final year of operation. This chart is based on data available as of December 2023 and appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2023 Annual Report, released June 2024.