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Insured acreages vary widely across fruit and nut specialty crops

Monday, September 26, 2022

There are two permanent Federal options for specialty crop farmers to protect themselves against losses from natural disasters, but usage varies widely across fruit and nut crops. The USDA Risk Management Agency offers Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP) products to cover specialty crops in counties with enough data available to offer an actuarially sound insurance product. For crops grown in counties without enough data to provide FCIP products, coverage is available through the USDA Farm Service Agency Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP). Using cherries as an example, FCIP is available for cherry growers who operate in counties with a high number of cherry acres. Because of this, farmers used FCIP to cover about 65 percent of all cherry acres. Cherry growers outside of those counties used NAP policies to cover about 20 percent of all cherry acres, leaving only 15 percent of acres not covered by any risk management program. For some crops, however, Federal agricultural risk management programs covered only a small portion of acres. Kiwifruits and strawberries had less than 15 percent of acres covered by either FCIP or NAP, while hazelnuts had less than 1 percent. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service bulletin Specialty Crop Participation in Federal Risk Management Programs, published in September 2022.

Grocery store sales of meat by volume spiked at the onset of COVID-19 pandemic

Thursday, September 22, 2022

The stay-at-home orders implemented during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic disrupted the U.S. meat and poultry industries as consumers shifted from purchasing food-away-from-home (FAFH) to food-at-home (FAH). In the weeks before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic, the volume of meat sold in grocery stores fluctuated modestly from between 3 percent below to 8 percent above 2019 sales. When the WHO declared a global pandemic the week ending March 15, 2020, the quantity of meat sold at grocery stores increased sharply to 75 percent above that week’s 2019 sales volume. Meat sales reached their pandemic peak the following week at 84 percent above 2019 sales. This increase in retail meat sales was consistent with overall consumer patterns in March–April 2020, when restaurant closures led to a surge in FAH sales relative to 2019 as FAFH sales fell. After the peak, weekly meat purchases slowed yet remained roughly 30 to 40 percent above 2019 sales for most weeks until mid-May. Sales may have slowed partly because consumers had stocked up on meat supplies in the previous weeks and because FAFH expenditures rose as COVID-related restrictions were lifted. For the remainder of 2020, total weekly sales of meat at retail remained higher than weekly 2019 sales for most weeks. This chart was drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service COVID-19 working paper, “COVID-19 and the U.S. Meat and Poultry Supply Chains,” published February 3, 2022.

U.S. rice imports in 2022/23 are projected at an all-time high

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

U.S. rice imports for the 2022/23 marketing year (August–July) are projected to rise 16 percent from a year earlier and to reach the highest volume on record at 44 million hundredweight. Imported rice is also projected to account for almost 32 percent of domestic use of rice in 2022/23, the highest share on record. Imports of long-grain and the combined classes of short- and medium-grain rice are projected at all-time highs. For long-grain rice, the dominant class of rice grown and consumed in the United States, growing consumer preference for Asian aromatic rice, such as jasmine rice from Thailand and basmati rice from India and Pakistan, has driven the increase in import purchases. In addition to the long-grain Asian aromatic varieties, the United States has been importing a much smaller volume of regular milled long-grain rice from South American suppliers. For the combined medium- and short-grain rice classes, a 41-percent expansion of imports is projected for 2022/23. Increasing imports are spurred by reduced production in California, where a second consecutive year of drought has reduced the size of the rice harvest and available domestic supplies. The California rice crop is forecast down 38 percent from a year earlier and is expected to be the smallest crop since 1977/78. California grows almost exclusively medium- and short-grain rice and typically accounts for around 70 percent of U.S. medium- and short-grain production. The United States regularly imports medium- and short-grain rice from Thailand, India, China, and Italy, with nearly all the rice from China going to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. The information in this chart is based on information in the USDA, Economic Research Service Rice Outlook, September 2022.

Specialty crop farms have the highest labor cost as a portion of total cash expenses

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

A farm's reliance on farm labor varies by commodity specialization. On average, labor costs (including contract labor, hired labor, and worker benefits such as insurance) accounted for about 14 percent of the total farm cash expenses in 2020. Farms specializing in the production of specialty crops, which include fruits, tree nuts, vegetables, beans (pulses) and horticultural nursery crops, had the highest labor costs across farm types, with labor accounting for almost 40 percent of total cash expenses. In contrast, operations specializing in corn and soybeans spent the least on labor costs as a percentage of total cash farm expenses (4 percent and 3 percent, respectively) in 2020. Corn and soybean farms have lower farm labor expenses resulting from higher adoption rates of labor-saving innovations, such as technology, chemical herbicides, etc. This chart updates data found in the Economic Research Service report Farm Size and the Organization of U.S. Crop Farming, published in August 2013.

Food insecurity rates differ across U.S. States

Monday, September 19, 2022

USDA monitors the extent of food insecurity in U.S. households at the national and State levels through an annual U.S. Census Bureau survey. State-level estimates are obtained by averaging 3 years of data. This approach generates a larger sample size in each State and provides more reliable statistics that allow more precise estimates and more power to detect differences across States. Food-insecure households are those that had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all members of the house due to a lack of resources. Food insecurity rates vary across States because of household-level characteristics, State-level characteristics, and State-level policies. The estimated prevalence rates of food insecurity during 2019-21 ranged from 5.4 percent in New Hampshire to 15.3 percent in Mississippi. The estimated national average was 10.4 percent. The prevalence of food insecurity was significantly higher than the national average in nine States (AL, AR, KY, LA, MS, OK, SC, TX, and WV) and lower than the national average in the District of Columbia and 14 States (CA, IA, MA, MD, MN, ND, NH, NJ, PA, RI, SD, VA, VT, and WA). In the remaining 27 States, differences from the national average were not statistically significant. An interactive food insecurity map can be found on ERS’s Interactive Charts and Highlights page that allows users to view two measures of food insecurity over multiple years for each State. Users can also hover over the map to see State trends in food insecurity, how States compare to national food insecurity prevalence rates, and how States compare to each other. This map appears in ERS’s Key Statistics & Graphics page.

Agriculture’s share of total U.S. export value climbed to a new high in 2021

Thursday, September 15, 2022

The value of total U.S. exports, excluding the re-export of foreign-origin goods, has grown at an average annual rate of 6 percent since 2002, reaching a record high of $1.4 trillion in fiscal year (FY) 2021. While the bulk of total U.S. exports was associated with industrial supplies and capital goods, agriculture’s share of total U.S. exports has steadily increased. Between fiscal years 2002 and 2021, the value of U.S. exports of agricultural products rose by an average of 11 percent annually, exceeding the overall rate of increase for total U.S. exports. In 2021, agricultural exports accounted for 12 percent of the total value, up from 9 percent in 2002. Growth in agricultural exports has largely been resilient to market shocks associated with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Even as total U.S. exports fell by 12 percent during COVID-19’s onset in fiscal year 2020, agricultural exports remained steady on the strength of surging shipments of soybeans, corn, and pork to China. In 2021, total U.S. exports rebounded by 14 percent as global demand recovered and trade restrictions were relaxed. However, exports of agricultural products surged 23 percent to $172 billion on increased demand for grains and feed, followed by oilseeds and animal products. Much of this demand came from China, but also Mexico and Canada, consistently among the top three importers of U.S. products. While China’s demand for U.S. soybeans, corn, and other feed products rose because of its hog sector rebuilding from the African swine flu outbreak, agricultural exports to Mexico and Canada were bolstered by their growing livestock and poultry sectors, integrated supply chains, and the ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Led by increases in corn, cotton, and soybean shipments, agricultural exports are forecast to reach a record $196 billion in FY 2022 and are projected to remain strong at $193.5 billion in FY 2023. This chart is drawn from the Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade published by USDA’s Economic Research Service, August 2022.

Contract broiler growers have higher median but a greater range of household income compared to all U.S. farms and households

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Farm households that raise broilers under contract have higher median incomes than U.S. farms and households overall. In 2020, the median income among all U.S. households was $67,251, while the median income among farm households was $80,060. The median for contract broiler growers was higher, at $106,694. These figures include on- and off-farm income. However, median income does not tell the whole story. The range of household incomes earned by contract broiler growers is wider than other groups. The bottom 20 percent of contract broiler growers earns $170,871 less than those in the top 20 percent, compared to $123,094 for all farm households, and $114,084 for all U.S. households. The wider range reflects, in part, the financial risks associated with contract broiler production. Grower compensation per bird can vary widely based on the productivity of the farm and the type of compensation system found in most broiler grower contracts. Sometimes called tournament-based systems, fees paid to the grower are based on the grower’s performance compared to other growers who provide birds to processing plants at the same time. This chart updates information found in the August 2014 Amber Waves feature “Financial Risks and Incomes in Contract Broiler Production.

Organic trade reaches $3.4 billion in 2021

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The U.S. Department of Commerce actively tracks organic food in 37 export and 57 import categories. Tracked exports and imports of organic products in the United States reached $3.4 billion in 2021. Since 2011, there has been an uptick in the total value of imported organic products, partially because more products are being tracked and partially because more high-value organic products, such as blueberries and squash, are being imported into the United States. The United States also exports organic food, and those exports have been steadily rising since 2011, reaching $0.7 billion in 2021. For example, the United States exported 2.4 thousand metric tons of organic fresh cultivated blueberries, with more than 90 percent headed to Canada in 2021. In the same year, the United States imported 41.5 thousand metric tons of organic fresh cultivated blueberries primarily from Peru (40 percent of the total imports), Chile (32 percent), and Mexico (25 percent). Importers of organic products must either be USDA-certified or belong to a trading partner with an organic recognition agreement with the United States, which allows foreign Governments to accredit certifying agents to USDA organic standards. Countries with such agreements include Canada, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. This chart appears in the ERS topic page Organic Agriculture.

Food insecurity in U.S. households with children reached two-decade low in 2021

Monday, September 12, 2022

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the prevalence of food insecurity in U.S. households with children by measuring food insecurity for the household overall, as well as for adults and children separately. The first measure, food insecurity in households with children, indicates that at least one person in the household—whether an adult, a child, or both—was food insecure. The second measure, food insecurity among children, indicates that households were unable at times to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children. Both annual measures improved in 2021. In 2021, 12.5 percent of households with children were food insecure, a significant decrease from 14.8 percent in 2020 and the lowest point in two decades. The decline means that in 2021 nearly 2.5 million fewer children lived in households that had difficulty at times providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources. Food insecurity among children in these households declined significantly as well. The prevalence of food insecurity among children in 2021 was 6.2 percent, down from 7.6 percent in 2020. The most severe category of food insecurity, called very low food security among children, affected 0.7 percent of households with children in 2021, not significantly different from the 2020 prevalence rate of 0.8 percent. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2021, released September 7, 2022.

Fees paid to growers for raising broiler chickens varied widely in 2020

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Almost all broiler chickens (99.5 percent in terms of the value of production in 2020) are raised under a production contract in which a farmer is paid a fee to raise animals owned by the contractor. In the broiler industry, growers are paid relative to other growers in what is often called a “tournament” pay system. Under tournament systems, broiler companies who manage each stage of the supply chain (also known as “integrators”) contract with farmers who grow birds to be delivered to a processing plant. Integrators provide chicks to multiple growers at the same time, for delivery to a processor in the same week. The growers provide housing, equipment, utilities, and labor. Integrators provide chicks, feed, transportation, veterinary services, and technical guidance. Once a flock of broilers is ready for processing, the integrator weighs the flock and tallies the cost of the inputs to determine the flock’s performance compared to other growers in the same tournament. Growers whose costs are lower than the average for all growers receive a premium over the contract’s base fee; those whose costs exceed the average for all growers receive a deduction from the base. The amount of the premium or deduction reflects the size of the cost difference. In 2020, the median payment to growers was 6.79 cents per live-weight pound delivered. But actual fees varied widely, from 4.29 cents paid to the bottom 10 percent of growers to 9.64 paid to growers to the top 10 percent. This chart uses data from the 2020 Agricultural Resource Management Survey to update the chart that appeared in the 2014 Amber Waves article “Financial Risks and Incomes in Contract Broiler Production.”

U.S. household food insecurity in 2021 unchanged from 2020

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the food security status of households in the United States through an annual nationwide survey. In 2021, 89.8 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the entire year, meaning they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining 10.2 percent of households were food insecure at least some time during the year, including 3.8 percent that experienced very low food security. In households reporting very low food security, the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for obtaining food. The 2021 prevalence of food insecurity, at 10.2 percent, was statistically unchanged from 2020. Very low food security was not significantly different from its 3.9-percent rate in 2020. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2021, released September 7, 2022.

Food insecurity in Africa spiked early in COVID-19 pandemic, with limited recovery a year later

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

At the start of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, global projections indicated the number of people experiencing food insecurity would increase due to the pandemic. In a recent USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) study, researchers used World Bank household survey data collected during the pandemic to assess how real-life experiences with food insecurity changed during the first year of the pandemic in four sub-Saharan Africa countries. Researchers tracked three levels of food insecurity intensity—mild, moderate, and severe—based on household responses to the Food Insecurity Experience Scale, which poses eight questions on a household’s experience with food security. They observed a sharp increase in reported food insecurity in the early months of the pandemic. In Ethiopia and Nigeria, two countries in which data were available from the early months of the pandemic, the rate of moderate food insecurity reported by households increased from about zero to between 30 and 70 percent by June 2020. In Burkina Faso and Malawi, where data was available beyond 2020, researchers observed gradual declines in food insecurity. At the end of June 2021, about 15 percent of households in Burkina Faso still reported moderate food insecurity, as did about 50 percent of Malawi households. This chart appeared in the ERS COVID-19 Working Paper: Food Insecurity During the First Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Four African Countries, published in July 2022. For further reading, see USDA ERS - Mali’s Rural-Urban Gap in Food Security Vanished Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic.

U.S. farm sector profits forecast to reach near-record highs in 2022

Thursday, September 1, 2022

USDA’s Economic Research Service forecasts inflation-adjusted U.S. net cash farm income (NCFI)—gross cash income minus cash expenses—to increase by $13.5 billion (8.7 percent) from 2021 to $168.5 billion in 2022. This is the highest level since 2012. In comparison, U.S. net farm income (NFI) is forecast to fall by $0.9 billion (0.6 percent) from 2021 to $147.7 billion in 2022. This comes after NFI increased by $44.4 billion (42.6 percent) in 2021 to the highest mark since 2013. NFI is a broader measure of farm sector profitability that incorporates noncash items, including changes in inventories, economic depreciation, and gross imputed rental income. Both cash receipts and expenses are forecast to increase. Cash receipts for farm commodities are projected to rise by $66.3 billion (14.4 percent) from the previous year to $525.3 billion in 2022, their highest level on record. At the same time, production expenses are expected to increase by $44.4 billion (11.3 percent) to $437.3 billion in 2022, offsetting some of this income growth. Additionally, direct Government payments to farmers are projected to fall by $14.3 billion (52.5 percent) from 2021 to $13.0 billion in 2022, primarily because of lower anticipated USDA and non-USDA payments for Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic assistance. Find additional information and analysis on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s topic page for Farm Sector Income and Finances, reflecting data released on September 1, 2022.

Textile manufacturing shifts out of China as global cotton exports directed to Asian competitors

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

China’s position as the top global cotton importer is weakening as cotton shipments flow into flourishing textile industries in competing countries. Soon after China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, the nation’s textile manufacturers became the world’s leading importers of cotton. Following years of rising production costs, volatility from government intervention in the market, and government caps on the volume of imports, China’s cotton imports dropped from their peak of 24.5 million bales in 2011 to 4.4 million bales in 2015, before rebounding to 9.5 million bales in 2021. Meanwhile, competing countries, including Vietnam, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Turkey, expanded their textile industries and boosted cotton imports over the same period. These countries’ combined imports now exceed China’s volume of cotton imports. This increasing geographic diversification of global cotton demand has helped U.S. cotton exports to remain relatively robust despite volatility in China’s imports over the past decade. Growth in textile production outside of China supports the USDA projection that U.S. cotton exports will rise by about 1.4 million bales between 2021–30. USDA also projects that combined cotton imports by Vietnam, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Turkey will rise by 8.1 million bales from 2021 to 2030 while China’s imports will rise by a more modest 3.5 million bales. In 2030, China is forecast to account for 24 percent of total global cotton imports, while the other five destinations are projected to account for 47 percent of world cotton imports. This chart is drawn from the USDA Economic Research Service report, China Cotton: Textiles, Imports, and Xinjiang, published August 2022.

Spending on USDA’s two major school nutrition programs dropped from 2019 to 2021 as other programs filled pandemic-related gaps

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

The USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) typically make up the largest share of child nutrition program (CNP) expenditures. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, spending on the two programs amounted to about $18.7 billion, nearly 80 percent of the $23.6 billion spent on all CNP in that year. As a result of pandemic-related disruptions to school operations beginning in the second half of FY 2020, spending on the two programs declined to $13.9 billion in FY 2020 and $12.4 billion in FY 2021, making up about 43 percent of the $32.5 billion spent on CNP in FY 2020 and about 22 percent of the $56.7 billion spent in FY 2021. These declines were in part due to many schools transitioning to the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the creation of the temporary Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program (P-EBT), which increased CNP expenditures. Spending on SFSP increased from nearly $500 million in FY 2019 (about 2 percent of CNP expenditures) to $10.7 billion in FY 2021 (about 19 percent of CNP expenditures). P-EBT spending reached $10.7 billion in FY 2020 (about 33 percent of CNP expenditures) and $28.3 billion in FY 2021 (about 50 percent of CNP expenditures). Although spending on the Child and Adult Care Food Program was relatively stable across the three years, the program’s share of CNP spending declined from about 16 percent in FY 2019 to 7 percent in FY 2021 as overall expenditures increased. This chart is based on data available as of April 2022 that is subject to revision and made available on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Child Nutrition Programs topic page, updated August 2022.

Interest expense ratio for farm sector stays even with 20-year average despite pandemic

Monday, August 29, 2022

The interest expense ratio is one indicator of the financial well-being of the farm sector. For 2020, the ratio was 0.04, remaining in line with the long-term trend and initial forecasts despite the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on reduced demand for agricultural commodities. The interest expense ratio is calculated by dividing interest expenses by the sum of the value of production and Government payments for a given year. Interest expenses are the costs incurred by farm operations when debt is used to finance farm activities. A lower interest expense ratio is preferable as it indicates that farmers are spending a smaller share of total revenue on interest expenses. A USDA forecast in February 2020 predicted interest expenses for 2020 at $18.0 billion, with a predicted interest expense ratio of 0.04. By February 2022, interest expenses for 2020 were estimated to be slightly higher than predicted at $19.4 billion. The February 2022 estimates also showed that while the value of production was lower than initially forecast, Government payments were higher. This resulted in an upward revision to the sum of the value of production and Government payments, offsetting the upward revision to interest expenses. That meant the interest expense ratio for 2020 remained consistent with the predicted value as well as the 20-year average of 0.04. The interest expense ratio was highest at 0.06 in 2000 and trended downward to a low of 0.03 multiple times from 2000 to 2020. This chart is drawn from data in the USDA, Economic Research Service COVID-19 Working Paper: Farm Sector Financial Ratios: Pre-COVID Forecasts and Pandemic Performance for 2020, published August 24, 2022.

All food categories experienced higher inflation through July in 2022 compared with 2021

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Retail food prices increased 8.9 percent in the first seven months of 2022, higher than the rate over the same period in 2021 (1.9 percent) and 2020 (3.1 percent). The 20-year historical average for the same months from 2001 to 2020 was 1.7 percent. All 13 food categories depicted in the chart experienced faster price increases so far in 2022 compared with both the same period in 2021 and historical average price increases through July. All food categories saw price increases of at least 4 percent in the first seven months of 2022. Prices for three food categories increased by more than 10 percent: eggs (20.9 percent), fats and oils (13.4 percent), and poultry (11.8 percent). Inflationary pressures differ by food category. For example, eggs and poultry prices are currently much higher than their historical average in part because of an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Fresh vegetables historically experienced higher midyear average price increases compared to most categories, but prices for fresh vegetables increased the least of all categories over the first seven months of both 2022 (4.9 percent) and 2021 (0.4 percent). Prices will continue to change during the remainder of 2022 and may significantly affect the annual inflation rate. For example, prices increased for all food categories in the second half of 2021, and some increased more rapidly than the first half of 2021. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers project food-at-home prices will increase between 10 and 11 percent in 2022. Forecasts for all food categories, including for 2023, are available in ERS’s monthly Food Price Outlook data product, updated August 25, 2022.

Households in rural counties with persistent poverty have less access to internet at home

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Households in rural (nonmetropolitan) persistently poor counties were the least likely to have home internet in 2015-19, with more than 3 in 10 households lacking internet access at home. In comparison, only 2 in 10 households in rural counties that were not persistently poor had no internet access at home. A similar pattern was observed in urban (metropolitan) areas, with 2 in 10 households in persistently poor counties lacking home internet access. Only a little more than 1 in 10 households in urban counties that were not persistently poor had no internet access at home. These data illustrate two major trends. First, rural households were less likely to have internet subscriptions at home than urban households. Second, in persistently poor counties, whether rural or urban, a higher share of households lacks internet adoption than in counties that are not persistently poor. For households with internet access at home, service was mainly through a subscription, which includes a range of access from dial-up to broadband to cellular data plans. These gaps in at-home internet access and subscriptions suggest that households in persistently poor counties—and more specifically, households in rural persistently poor counties—had additional barriers to internet adoption. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report Rural America at a Glance: 2021 Edition, published in November 2021.

Fruits and vegetables top the list of locally produced foods purchased by U.S. school districts

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Many U.S. school food authorities—the entities that operate school food services in public, private, and charter schools—purchase local foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, and proteins for their district’s cafeterias. In addition to buying locally produced foods, many school districts participate in other farm to school activities, such as product-specific promotions, taste tests of local foods, onsite edible gardens, and field trips to farms. Approximately two-thirds of U.S. school districts participated in farm to school activities during the 2018-19 school year, according to USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service 2019 Farm to School Census. Of the school districts that participated, 78 percent reported purchasing any local foods during the school year. Fruits and vegetables topped the list of local foods purchased in 2018-19, at 85 percent and 82 percent of school districts, respectively. Further, 68 percent of school districts reported buying locally produced milk and 29 percent reported buying local grains, including baked goods. Approximately a third of school districts reported purchasing other local dairy products, such as cheese, yogurt, and sour cream (31 percent), and about a quarter purchased locally produced proteins like meat, eggs, seafood, nuts, and seeds (27 percent). This chart is updated from one that appeared in the March 2015 Amber Waves article, “Many U.S. School Districts Serve Local Foods”.

Adult obesity increased during first year of COVID-19 pandemic

Monday, August 22, 2022

U.S. adults ages 20 and older reported a 3 percent higher prevalence of obesity during the first year of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a recent study conducted by a researcher at the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS). The study analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from March 13, 2020, to March 18, 2021, compared to a pre-pandemic baseline period of January 1, 2019, to March 12, 2020. Four behaviors that can influence the risk of obesity—exercise, hours of sleep, alcohol use, and cigarette smoking—were also examined to help explain the change in the adult obesity rate during the pandemic. Participation in exercise rose 4.4 percent over the period and people slept 1.5 percent longer, both associated with reducing obesity. Meanwhile, the number of days in the period of a month in which alcohol was consumed was 2.7 percent higher, and cigarette smoking dropped by 4 percent. Research shows that higher alcohol intake and reduced cigarette smoking can lead to obesity and therefore may have contributed to the higher rate of obesity among U.S. adults during the pandemic. This chart appears in the ERS’s Amber Waves article, "Adult Obesity Prevalence Increased During the First Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic", published July 2022.