ERS Charts of Note

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Driven by growing per capita consumption in West Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to be a major rice consumer

Friday, October 20, 2017

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has undergone economic, social, and demographic transformations over the past 10-15 years. Among the poorest regions in the world, it faces major political and economic challenges and low food security. However, it has a young, fast-growing population and prospects for economic growth. Expanding urbanization and a rising middle class with higher incomes are driving changes in consumption patterns and preferences away from traditional staples and toward rice and other commodities. Rice consumption has expanded in the diets of many SSA consumers at the expense of sorghum, millet, and roots and tubers. On a per-capita basis, West African nations, collectively known as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have seen the largest increases in rice consumption. Excluding Nigeria, which reduced its rice consumption because of declining oil revenue and limited foreign exchange reserves, the remaining ECOWAS countries recently surpassed the global per capita rice consumption average. These countries are projected to increase their rice consumption further to nearly 70 kilograms per person by 2026. If the projections are realized, SSA as a whole has the potential to become the world’s leading rice importer. This chart appears in the October Amber Waves feature, "Sub-Saharan Africa Is Projected to Be the Leader in Global Rice Imports."

Distance to grocery stores and vehicle access influence where low-income households shop for food

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Households that struggle to get to large grocery stores may rely on close by sources of food such as convenience stores or fast-food restaurants that generally provide a smaller variety of healthy foods. A recent ERS study used data from USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to examine if food shopping behaviors of access-burdened households—those that live more than 0.5 of a mile from a SNAP-authorized supermarket or superstore and do not have a vehicle—differ from households that live within 0.5 of a mile of these stores or have their own vehicle (sufficient-access households). Looking only at SNAP and low-income non-SNAP households, the researchers found that 74 percent of access-burdened households visited a supermarket, superstore, or large grocery store during an average week in 2012, compared to 85 percent of sufficient-access households. Access-burdened households did not appear to substitute convenience stores and restaurants for visits to large grocers; only 63 percent of access-burdened households visited an eating place compared with 78 percent of sufficient-access households, and differences in convenience store visits were not statistically significant. The data for this chart are drawn from the ERS report, The Influence of Food Store Access on Grocery Shopping and Food Spending, released on October 18, 2017.

The Paris futures market has gained influence in wheat price discovery, but Chicago remains the leader

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Until recently, the United States led the world in the pricing and trade of wheat. But over time, a substantial share of world wheat exports shifted to Russia and Ukraine (collectively, the Black Sea region) and the European Union. At the same time, U.S. wheat futures (contracts for the purchase/sale of wheat at a given price on a future date) prices are being supplanted by new price benchmarks that more closely track supply and demand conditions in the Black Sea region and the European Union. While the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Soft Red Winter Wheat futures contract is the most active wheat futures market in the world, futures trading volume has grown substantially for the Euronext Milling Wheat contract traded in Paris. Rising volume indicates a market may be more important for price discovery, the process by which markets determine the value of wheat through trades between willing buyers and sellers. A new study by economists at ERS and Montana State University estimated the relative proportion of price discovery in the Chicago and Paris futures markets between 2008 and 2013. Findings suggest that while U.S. futures markets remain dominant in wheat price discovery, the Paris futures market has gained influence since 2010, moving from a 9-percent share of price discovery to nearly 25 percent. This chart appears in the October Amber Waves article, "Wheat Price Discovery Remains Concentrated in the United States, but Shifting to Europe."

Drought is typically the largest single driver of crop disaster assistance and indemnity payments

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

At any given time, some portion of the country faces drought conditions. In recent years, large areas of the United States have experienced prolonged drought, with significant impacts across entire agricultural sectors. A major drought can reduce crop yields, lead farmers to cut back planted or harvested acreage, reduce livestock productivity, and increase costs of production inputs such as animal feed or irrigation water. Since the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, drought has been an important focus of U.S. farm policy. Early Federal policy mitigated farmers’ drought-induced hardships primarily by providing ad hoc disaster assistance in response to a drought. With changes to the Federal crop insurance program in the 1990s, the emphasis of farm programs shifted from ad hoc disaster assistance to risk management, with a greater reliance on crop insurance to compensate farmers for drought losses. As a result, drought has been the largest individual driver of Federal indemnity payments and disaster assistance for over four decades. This chart appears in the June 2017 Amber Waves feature, "Farmers Employ Strategies To Reduce Risk of Drought Damages."

Low-income countries had the highest rate of agricultural growth, but middle-income countries had the highest rate of productivity growth

Monday, October 16, 2017

During 2001-14, low-income countries accounted for only 5 percent of global agricultural production. But these countries achieved a higher rate of agricultural output growth than middle- or high-income countries, at nearly 4 percent per year during that period. Most of that development came from increasing the use of land and other inputs, rather than from raising the total productivity of those inputs. Middle-income countries, on the other hand, accounted for 40 percent of global agricultural production and achieved growth that was nearly as high (more than 3.5 percent per year), largely because of improving productivity. For high-income countries, which accounted for 25 percent of global production, agricultural growth averaged under 2 percent per year, even as land and other inputs employed in the sector fell. Improvements in productivity account for all the output growth in high-income countries. Overall, most gains in global agricultural productivity have come from middle-income countries. Strengthening the capacity of national agricultural research and extension systems in large middle-income countries (such as Brazil and India) has been a key determinant of their agricultural productivity performance. This chart appears in the ERS topic page for International Agricultural Productivity, updated October 2017.

The fall apple harvest is expected to dip slightly this year, but still plenty to go around

Friday, October 13, 2017

As the fall season commences, the apple harvest reaches its peak, marked by harvest festivals around the country. This year, the forecast for total apple production is down slightly relative to the near-record harvest of the 2016 marketing year, but is still the sixth highest total since 2000. The slight dip in production is expected to provide a boost to U.S. apple prices, leading to greater returns to producers in key apple-producing States like Washington, New York, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Unlike other popular fruits like bananas or blueberries, the majority —over 90 percent—of domestic fresh apple consumption is supplied by U.S. producers. In addition to supplying the domestic market, nearly one-third of the fresh market crop is exported to countries like Mexico, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia. Apples are traditionally eaten as a fresh fruit, although uses extend over many processed forms, such as juice and cider, applesauce, frozen, dried, and fresh slices. This chart appears in the ERS Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook newsletter, released on September 29, 2017.

SNAP benefits play a strong role in the food budgets of participant households with children and those in deep poverty

Thursday, October 12, 2017

USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is designed to increase the food purchasing power of program participants. The program provides low-income households with monthly benefits for purchasing food from authorized food stores (referred to as “food at home”). A recent ERS study found that SNAP benefits accounted for 63 percent of the average food-at-home spending of SNAP households in 2012, with households using other resources, such as their own income or benefits from other programs, to pay for the remaining 37 percent. SNAP’s contribution to food-at-home spending was higher than the average for SNAP households with children, those with no elderly members, and those in poverty. SNAP is designed so that benefits increase with household size and decrease with income, and households with lowest incomes per household member receive higher SNAP benefits. SNAP benefits accounted for 80 percent of food-at-home spending of SNAP households with incomes below 50 percent of the Federal poverty guidelines in 2012. This chart appears in the ERS report, Food Spending Patterns of Households Participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Findings from USDA’s FoodAPS, August 2017.

Texas accounted for 6 percent ($21 billion) of U.S. farm sector cash receipts in 2016

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Each August, as part of the its Farm Income data product, ERS produces estimates of the prior year’s cash receipts—the cash income the farm sector receives from agricultural commodity sales. This data product includes State-level estimates, which can help offer background information about States subject to unexpected changes that affect the agricultural sector, such as the recent hurricane that struck Texas. In 2016, U.S. cash receipts for all commodities totaled $352 billion. Texas contributed about 6 percent ($21 billion) of that total, behind only California and Iowa. Cattle and calves accounted for 40 percent ($8 billion) of cash receipts in Texas, compared to 13 percent nationwide. Only Nebraska had higher cash receipts for cattle and calves in 2016. Texas led the country in cash receipts from cotton at almost $3 billion (13 percent of the State’s receipts), accounting for 46 percent of the U.S. total for cotton. Milk and broilers each accounted for 9 percent of cash receipts in Texas. The State ranked sixth in both milk and broiler cash receipts nationwide. This chart uses data from the ERS U.S. and State-Level Farm Income and Wealth Statistics data product, updated August 2017.

In 2016, 73 percent of USDA school lunches were free or reduced price

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

On a typical school day in fiscal 2016, 30.4 million children participated in USDA’s National School Lunch Program and 73 percent of them received the meals for free or at a reduced price. The number of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches has grown from 18.5 million in 2008 to 22.1 million in 2016. Some of this increase may be attributable to the 2007-09 recession and the slow recovery that followed. Declining incomes likely led more families to qualify and/or apply for free or reduced-price lunches. In addition, since 2014, the Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act has made it possible for more schools to offer free meals to all their students. Between 2008 and 2011, the increase in free and reduced price participation more than offset the decline in full-price participation, with total participation increasing from 31.0 million to 31.8 million children daily. After 2011, however, declining full-price participation resulted in total daily participation falling. This chart appears in the Child Nutrition Programs topic page on the ERS Web site, updated on October 2, 2017.

Over half of manufacturing plants survived (still had paid employees) between 1996 and 2011

Friday, October 06, 2017

The number of U.S. manufacturing plants is declining, and plant startups and shutdowns are at their lowest since records began in 1977. Using a nationally representative sample of manufacturing plants, recent ERS research found that over half of plants survived (still had paid employees) between 1996 and 2011. Rural plants were slightly more likely to survive than those in urban counties: 57 percent versus 53 percent. Independent plants—single-unit manufacturing plants or firms with only one physical location—were more likely to survive than multi-unit plants. In rural counties, independent plants had an average survival rate of 62 percent, while multi-unit plants had a survival rate of 50 percent. Survival rates varied some by subsector, but rural textile mills and apparel product manufacturers had significantly lower survival rates (26 percent) than the average for all rural manufacturers (57 percent). This chart appears in the October 2017 Amber Waves feature, "Rural Manufacturing Survival and Its Role in the Rural Economy."

Brazil is a key trade partner for U.S. ethanol markets

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Brazil, the world’s second largest ethanol producer after the United States, plays a large role in U.S. ethanol markets. Not only is Brazil one of the nation’s customers, it is also a competitor and a supplier. Brazilian ethanol is derived from sugar, which is desirable because it is categorized as an advanced biofuel under the renewable fuel standard. Through July of this year, the United States exported 770 million gallons of ethanol, with 40 percent of it going to Brazil. Of the 24 million gallons of ethanol imported into the United States, nearly all originated in Brazil. During this period, the Brazilian government took measures to lower fuel prices, causing sugar mills to switch from producing ethanol to sugar, because of higher returns. The resulting ethanol shortage has been filled by expanding imports from the United States. In response, the Brazilian government announced the imposition of a 20-percent duty on U.S. ethanol imports above the tariff rate quota of 160 million gallons (less than 4 months of shipments at current export levels). This will sharply reduce the competitiveness of U.S. corn-starch ethanol in Brazil and significantly reduce U.S. exports. Brazil is also implementing a new energy policy, called RenovaBio, which will increase ethanol production and consumption as part of greenhouse gas reduction commitments made under the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. This chart is drawn from the ERS Feed Outlook newsletter, released in September 2017.

Likelihood of low-income adults having a chronic disease increases as food security worsens

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

ERS researchers recently used health, demographic, and food security information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey to examine the relationship between 10 chronic diseases in low-income working-age adults and the food security status of their households. The researchers controlled for a variety of household and individual characteristics that may be associated with health—such as income, health insurance, and marital status—to get a clearer picture of the strength of the association between food security status and health. In all cases, the likelihood of having the particular health condition increased as household food security worsened. Among the 5 most common of the 10 chronic diseases examined, predicted illness prevalences were 4.3 to 11.2 percentage points higher for low-income adults ages 19-64 in very low food secure households (eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced) compared with those in high food secure households (households had no difficulty consistently obtaining adequate food). This chart appears in "Adults in Households With More Severe Food Insecurity Are More Likely To Have a Chronic Disease" in the October 2017 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Declines in pollinator forage suitability concentrated in the Midwest

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

About one-third of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators like bees. Managed honeybees in the United States alone provide over $350 million worth of pollination services each year. Pollinators rely on the land to provide forage, the pollen and nectar of flowering plants that pollinators feed on to survive. If forage is inadequate, pollinator health may be poor. ERS developed a forage suitability index (FSI) to examine how broad trends in land use have affected the availability of forage for pollinators. Findings show the national average FSI increased by about 2 percent from 1982 to 2002, due in part to the introduction of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in 1986. The mix of species farmers agree to plant on CRP land often improves pollinator forage. However, the national average FSI plateaued between 2002 and 2012. The FSI had a greater-than-average decline in North Dakota and South Dakota—the summer foraging grounds for many managed honeybee colonies. Decreases in CRP acreage and increases in soybean acreage, which provide poor forage for pollinators, helped drive this decline. This chart appears in the July 2017 Amber Waves finding, "Declines in Pollinator Forage Suitability Were Concentrated in the Midwest, the Over-Summering Grounds for Many Honeybees."

Consumers are increasing their purchases of whole milk in lieu of lower fat milks

Monday, October 02, 2017

Through the 1980s whole milk sales quantities fell at a rapid pace, as reduced fat milk sales grew. Whole milk sales continued to fall through 2013, although at a lesser rate than the 1980s. Since 2013, however, whole milk sales grew, while reduced fat and low fat milk sales declined. The growth in whole milk sales in recent years has been attributed to changing consumer perceptions about the health effects of consuming milk fats. This period has coincided with increases in butter consumption, indicating that consumer concerns over dairy fat have declined. While whole milk sales increased, the overall trend for fluid milk sales remains negative, as losses to the lower fat categories exceed gains made for full fat milk. This downward trend in fluid milk consumption has been occurring for many years. Possible reasons include the declining proportion of young children in the U.S. population, the availability of alternatives, and changing consumer preferences. This chart is drawn from the ERS Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook newsletter released in September 2017.

Rail disruptions following Hurricane Harvey nearly halt grain deliveries to Texas Gulf ports

Friday, September 29, 2017

On August 25, Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast, bringing record levels of rainfall to the Houston metropolitan area and nearby counties. Rainfall totals in some areas of Texas exceeded 50 inches. Not surprisingly, the resulting widespread flooding reduced rail service along the Gulf Coast and all but halted regional grain exports through the first week of September. Interruptions in grain transportation in the Gulf region have the potential to be particularly impactful on shipments of the U.S. wheat crop. The Federal Grain Inspection Service reports that an average of 46 percent of total U.S. wheat exports ship from Gulf ports in Texas and Louisiana. For the week ending August 31, there were virtually no wheat inspections reported for Gulf ports due to the shutdown of rail and port operations. For the week ending September 7, no wheat was inspected for export at either South Texas or East Gulf ports, while North Texas inspected a relatively modest 50,318 metric tons of hard red winter wheat, down from 160,512 metric tons for the same week in 2016. Wheat export inspections are anticipated to accelerate as rail service that provides access to Gulf loading facilities is restored. Although some railroad repairs may take months, others are expected to be restored more quickly. This chart appears in a special article in the latest Wheat Outlook newsletter released in September 2017.

Rural veterans earned more than rural nonveterans in most industries in 2015

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Veterans tend to have higher earnings compared to nonveterans. In 2015, rural veterans who were full-time wage and salary workers had median earnings of about $50,000. That’s $11,000 more than the median earnings of their nonveteran counterparts. Earnings for veterans and nonveterans varied by industry, however. For example, compared to nonveterans, the median earnings for veterans was $29,000 higher in financial services, $20,000 higher in education and health, and $11,500 higher in transportation and utilities. Differences in median earnings by industry between veterans and nonveterans generally track closely with educational attainment. However, in 2015, even in industries where fewer veteran than nonveteran earners had a college degree, the median income for veterans was near or greater than that of nonveterans. This may be explained by a variety of factors, including differences in demographic composition and job skills. For example, veterans tend to be older and are predominantly male, and thus on average more likely to have higher earnings than the general population. This chart appears in the September 2017 Amber Waves data feature, "Veterans Are Positioned To Contribute Economically to Rural Communities."

Just under 40 percent of low-income U.S. households were food insecure in 2016

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Poverty is one of the primary characteristics associated with food insecurity. While 12.3 percent of all U.S. households were food insecure in 2016, the prevalence of food insecurity among low-income households was much higher. Of the 13.9 million U.S. households with incomes below the Federal poverty line in 2016, 38.3 percent (5.3 million households) were food insecure. A food insecure household is one that has difficulty providing enough food for all its members because of a lack of money or other resources for food. Twenty-one percent of households with incomes below poverty (2.9 million households) had low food security and 17.3 percent (2.4 million households) experienced very low food security, a more severe range of food insecurity where food intake of one or more household members was reduced and normal eating patterns disrupted. By comparison, 7.4 and 4.9 percent of all U.S. households had low and very low food security, respectively. The data for this chart come from Household Food Security in the United States in 2016, released September 6, 2017.

Per capita sweetener deliveries steadily declining due to reduced high fructose corn syrup demand

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Total caloric sweetener deliveries in 2016 totaled over 41 billion pounds on a dry weight basis (water content removed), down marginally from 2015. This translates to 128.1 pounds per person, a 0.7-percent decline from the previous year. Refined sugar continues to make an increasing share of per capita deliveries as corn-based sweeteners, particularly high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), has trended downward since the early 2000s. On a per person basis, deliveries of HFCS have fallen 34 percent since 2000, while refined sugar increased by 6 percent over the same period. This period coincided with higher input prices from global commodity price spikes; the growth of the corn-based domestic ethanol production; increased availability of sugar supplies because of increased imports from Mexico; and greater attention to food labels by food manufacturers and consumers. Other caloric sweeteners, such as the corn sweeteners dextrose and glucose, honey, maple syrup, molasses syrups, and fructose syrups, make up a relatively minor share of total deliveries. This chart appears in the ERS Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook newsletter, released in August 2017.

A perk with today’s home-brewed coffee—it costs less than 30 years ago

Monday, September 25, 2017

Friday, September 29 is National Coffee Day, and according to a National Coffee Association survey, 62 percent of adult Americans are coffee drinkers—either brewed at home or purchased on the go or as part of a restaurant meal. For those waking up to the aroma of home-brewed coffee, they can also enjoy the fact that their cup of morning coffee costs less today than it did 30 years ago, when adjusted for inflation. In 2017, a 12-ounce cup of coffee costs, on average, 19.1 cents to brew at home. That same cup of coffee cost 12.2 cents in 1987. But when adjusted for inflation, that 12.2 cents is equivalent to 26.3 cents in 2017 dollars. For those who prefer their daily joe with milk and sugar, that adds 3.1 cents in 2017 compared with 4.5 cents in 1987 in 2017 dollars. Thus, the cost of a home-prepared cup of coffee has declined by just over a fourth over the past three decades. So, sit back and enjoy a second cup this Friday. More information on ERS’s food price data can be found in the Food Price Outlook data product, updated September 25, 2017.

Pork imports slow in China as domestic pork production rebounds

Friday, September 22, 2017

China produces roughly half of the world’s pork, generating 55 billion pounds per year since 2013. But, over the past decade it has nevertheless become a leading importer of the meat. Domestic pork production contracted in 2015 and 2016 because of lower pig supplies. That period followed 7 years of growth that drove prices below profitable levels. Imports soared during 2016, as shrinking Chinese pork supplies helped push the country’s pork prices to record levels. But, the most recent data show that imports have fallen about 52 percent from a year ago, reflecting an ongoing recovery in Chinese domestic production. Over the past year, the country reduced its pork imports from all major pork exporting countries, including the United States (-38.0 percent), Canada (-51.6 percent), the E.U. (-56.3 percent), and Brazil (-60.6 percent). In addition, a dozen or more feed and livestock companies have announced aggressive expansion plans within China. With higher domestic hog and pork production, supplies in China appear more than adequate, as the prices for feeder pigs, pork, and live hogs are all below the levels of a year ago. The chart appears in the September Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook report.

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