ERS Charts of Note
Friday, September 24, 2021
Processed chicken products whose labels show they were raised without antibiotics (RWA) were on average $2.23 per pound more expensive than conventional chicken products between 2012 and 2017, representing a 55-percent markup over conventional products. Processed chicken products include fresh or frozen chicken products that are cooked, marinated, breaded, or fried. A recent USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) report shows consumer awareness of antibiotic use in meat and poultry production has increased over the past decade, and a growing market has emerged for chicken products that carry an RWA label. Though raising animals without antibiotics can be costly, producers can benefit from doing so when consumers are willing to pay higher prices for RWA products. Analyzing national household scanner data and a constructed dataset of chicken product labels, ERS researchers also found prices for organic processed chicken products were higher than those with RWA labels. From 2012 to 2017, prices for organic processed chicken products were on average $5.13 a pound more than conventional chicken products, representing a 125-percent total markup. These price differences suggest there are significant market opportunities for production practices that fall somewhere between conventional and the standards required for organic production. This information is drawn from the ERS report, The Market for Chicken Raised without Antibiotics, 2012-17, released September 2021.
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
The American Families Plan (AFP) that President Joe Biden announced in April 2021 included a proposal to make accumulated gains in asset value subject to capital gains taxation when the asset owner dies. Under current law, asset value gains can be passed on to heirs without being subject to capital gains taxation because the value of the assets are reset to the fair market value at the time of inheritance. This adjustment in asset valuation, known as a “stepped-up basis,” eliminates capital gains tax liabilities on any gains incurred before the assets were transferred to the heirs. AFP also included a provision that would exempt from capital gains taxes $1 million in gains for the estates of individuals and $2 million in gains for the estates of married couples, as well as for gains on a personal residence of $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for married couples. Gains above these exemption amounts would be subject to tax at death. However, the transfer of a family farm to a family member who continues the operation would not result in a tax upon the death of the principal operator. Under the proposal, any remaining farm and business gains above the exemption amount would receive a “carry-over basis” that effectively defers any capital gains tax until the assets are sold or until the farm is no longer family-owned and operated. Using 2019 Agricultural Resource Management Survey data, USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers estimated that of the 1.97 million family farms in the United States, 32,174 estates would result from principal operator deaths in 2021. From these farm estates, the ERS model used to evaluate potential effects of the AFP proposal estimated that heirs of 80.7 percent of family farm estates would have no change to their capital gains tax liability upon death of the principal operator. Heirs of 18.2 percent of family farm estates would not owe taxes at the time of the principal operator’s death but could be subject to a future potential capital gains tax obligation on inherited farm gains if the heirs stop farming. Heirs of 1.1 percent of estates would owe tax on nonfarm gains upon death of the principal operator and have a future potential capital gains tax obligation resulting from inherited farm gains if the heirs stop farming. This chart can be found in the ERS report The Effect on Family Farms of Changing Capital Gains Taxation at Death, published September 2021.
Monday, September 20, 2021
Reduced supplies and rising demand for ground beef in the United States could potentially be reflected in the cost of fall tailgating parties across the Nation. While the United States is a major global supplier of beef, it also imports beef and processing-grade beef (used for ground beef) to meet a growing consumer demand. Historically, Australia is the predominant supplier of processing-grade beef to the United States, with smaller amounts coming from Brazil, Canada, and New Zealand, among other countries. As Australia rebuilds its cattle herd after a two-year drought, suppliers in that country are curtailing slaughter, limiting the amount of exportable beef and increasing the prices of those exports. In February 2021, imports from Australia reached a price of $240 per hundredweight (cwt) for 90-percent lean beef, and the volume dropped to under 17 million pounds, almost 27 million pounds lower than the 5-year average. In July 2021, that price rose to $274 per cwt. From January to July 2020, beef imports from Australia accounted for 20 percent of all U.S. beef imports whereas in 2021 Australia accounted for 12 percent. Intermittent monthly imports from other countries have partly offset reduced imports from this key partner. Meanwhile, as the economy reopens, the demand for beef and ground beef is expected to support beef prices. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service’s September 2021 Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook.
Friday, September 17, 2021
China is the world’s largest consumer of wheat, accounting for 19 percent of global wheat consumption in marketing year 2020/21 (July–June), more than four times the U.S. share. China also became a leading importer during 2020/21, with purchases estimated at 10.6 million metric tons, China’s highest import total since the 1990s. USDA forecasts China’s 2021/22 imports at 10 million metric tons. Before the 2010/11 marketing year, China’s wheat imports typically totaled 1 million metric tons or less. More recently, wheat imports totaled 3 to 5 million metric tons most years between marketing years 2011/12 to 2019/20. The surge in imports in 2020/21 can be attributed to China’s strong demand for wheat use in animal feed, replenishment of the Chinese Government reserves with high-quality wheat, and efforts to meet import commitments in the U.S.-China Phase One trade agreement. According to China’s customs data, the United States supplied 3 million metric tons of 2020/21 wheat imports—approximately a 28-percent share. This chart first appeared in the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) report, Potential Wheat Demand in China: Applicants for Import Quota, August 2021, and includes updated data from ERS’ Wheat Data product.
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
The USDA’s largest child nutrition programs—the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)—served about 7.9 billion meals in fiscal year (FY) 2020, the lowest number of meals served since FY 2001. This was a 17 percent decline from the average of 9.5 billion meals served annually by the programs from FY 2015 through FY 2019. The decrease is primarily attributable to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which disrupted in-person attendance at schools and childcare providers—through which NSLP, SBP, and CACFP typically operate—nationwide beginning in March 2020. To help facilitate the continued provision of meals to children and adolescents during these disruptions, USDA issued waivers allowing for greater flexibility in the administration of the child nutrition programs and expanded the scope and coverage of its summer feeding programs, including SFSP. Despite the overall decline in meals served, the number of meals served through SFSP rose substantially in FY 2020. The SFSP’s share of total meals served increased to 16.0 percent in FY 2020 from 1.5 percent in FY 2019. Comparatively, NSLP’s share of meals shrank to 41.0 percent in FY 2020 from 51.2 percent in FY 2019. Though less drastic, SBP’s and CACFP’s share of all meals served also decreased, to 23.1 percent in FY 2020 from 25.8 percent in FY 2019 for SBP and 19.8 percent in FY 2020 from 21.6 percent in FY 2019 for CACFP. Because of disruptions and changes to the child nutrition landscape in FY 2020, total spending on all four programs amounted to $21.1 billion, down from average annual expenditures of $22.9 billion in the previous five fiscal years. This chart is based on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s The Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report.
Monday, September 13, 2021
There are two methods to apply irrigation water to crops: gravity or pressurized irrigation systems. Gravity irrigation systems use on-field furrows, basins, or poly-pipe to advance water across the field surface through gravity means only. Pressurized systems apply water under pressure through pipes or other tubing directly to crops (e.g., sprinkler and micro/drip irrigation systems). Under many field conditions, pressurized irrigation systems use water more efficiently than gravity systems, as less water is lost to evaporation, deep percolation, and field runoff. Over the last 30 years, the number of acres irrigated using pressurized irrigation systems roughly doubled while the acreage irrigated using gravity systems declined substantially in the 17 Western States. In 2018, 72 percent of all irrigated cropland acres (28.96 million acres out of 40.31 million acres of total irrigated area) in 17 Western States used pressurized irrigation systems, up from 37 percent in 1984. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service topic page for Irrigation & Water Use, updated August 2021.
Friday, September 10, 2021
H-2A is a Federal program that allows employers in the United States to bring in foreign workers on short-term labor contracts when farm operators cannot find enough domestic workers. Over the last decade, H-2A positions certified by the U.S. Department of Labor increased 225 percent—from 79,175 in 2010 to 257,674 in 2019. Each position certified was placed within one of the five product categories: animal products, field crops, fruit and tree nuts, greenhouse and nursery, and vegetables and melons. All categories experienced some growth in program use over the period, but growth was highest in the vegetables and melons and fruit and tree nuts categories. The number of H-2A positions certified in the vegetables and melons category increased from 20,584 in 2010 to 88,863 in 2019—an increase of 332 percent. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service report, Examining Growth in Seasonal H-2A Agricultural Labor, released August 2021.
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
The USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the prevalence of food insecurity in U.S. households and breaks out data for households with children as well as children within these households. In 2020, the prevalence of food insecurity increased among U.S. households with children even though food insecurity for all households—those with and without children—remained about the same as the previous year. In 2020, 14.8 percent of households with children were food insecure, up from 13.6 percent in 2019. Children were food insecure in 7.6 percent of households with children in 2020, up from 6.5 percent in 2019. Households with food insecurity among children were classified as such because they were unable at times to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children. ERS researchers also found an increase in the most severe category of food insecurity—very low food security among children. In 2020, the share of households with children with very low food security among children was 0.8 percent, up from 0.6 percent in 2019. In that group, households reported that at times during the year children were hungry, skipped a meal, or did not eat for a whole day because there was not enough money for food. Monitoring children’s food security helps inform and improve USDA’s federally funded child nutrition programs. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2020, released September 8, 2021.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Over the last 20 years, the U.S. beekeeping industry has experienced significant changes that have included fluctuating honey bee colony numbers coupled with per colony honey yield declines. Through 2008, bee disease and elevated overwinter losses contributed to declining colony counts. In 2008, U.S. honey bee colonies totaled 2.3 million, the lowest on record. Reflecting the trend of retraction for much of the decade, the average number of U.S. colonies through the first 10 years of the 2000s totaled 2.49 million. As beekeepers adapted to bee disease challenges and overwinter losses lessened, the number of colonies began to steadily recover. The average number of colonies in the most recent decade was 2.7 million – nearly 8 percent more than in the prior 10 years. Even though colony numbers have largely recovered in the last decade, per colony honey yields have declined at a rate of about half a pound per year. From 2000 to 2009, the average U.S. colony produced 69 pounds of honey. In the most recent decade, that average slipped to 57 pounds. In addition to producing honey, honey bees provide pollination services, the demand for which has surged over the last 20 years. USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) recently reported that beekeepers now receive about as much of their income from providing pollination services as from producing honey. This chart is drawn from the ERS Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook, June 2021.
Friday, September 3, 2021
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) show that wage and salary employment in agriculture was stable in the 2000s. Starting in 2010, it gradually increased from 1.07 million jobs to 1.17 million jobs in 2020—a gain of 9 percent. From 2010-20, growth was fastest in the livestock sub-sector, which added 41,300 jobs, an 18 percent increase, and in crop support services, which added 38,000 jobs, a 13 percent increase. Firms in the crop and livestock support sub-sectors provide specialized services to farmers including farm labor contracting, custom harvesting, and animal breeding services. By comparison, employment of direct hires in the crop sub-sector, which has the largest number of hired farm workers, remained essentially unchanged. Data from QCEW is based on unemployment insurance records, not on surveys of farms or households. As a result, it does not cover smaller farm employers in States that exempt such employers from participation in the unemployment insurance system. However, survey data from sources such as the American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey also showed rising farm employment since the turn of the century. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service topic page for Farm Labor, updated August 2021.
Thursday, September 2, 2021
USDA’s Economic Research Service forecasts inflation-adjusted net cash farm income (NCFI)—gross cash income minus cash expenses—to increase by $19.8 billion (17.2 percent) from 2020 to $134.7 billion in 2021. U.S. net farm income (NFI) is forecast to increase by $15.0 billion (15.3 percent) from 2020 to $113.0 billion in 2021. Net farm income is a broader measure of farm sector profitability that incorporates noncash items, including changes in inventories, economic depreciation, and gross imputed rental income. If this forecast is realized, NFI would be 20.4 percent above its 2000–20 average and would be the highest since 2013. NCFI would be 18.9 percent above its 2000–20 average and would be the highest since 2014. Underlying these forecasts, cash receipts for farm commodities are projected to rise by $51.2 billion (13.8 percent) from 2020 to 2021, their highest level since 2015. Production expenses are expected to grow by $12.9 billion (3.5 percent) during the same period, somewhat moderating income growth. Additionally, direct Government payments to farmers are expected to fall by $19.3 billion (40.8 percent) in 2021 compared with 2020’s record high payments. This decline is largely caused by lower anticipated payments from supplemental and ad hoc disaster assistance for Coronavirus (COVID-19) relief. 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 2, 2021.
Monday, August 30, 2021
Apples held the top spot for total fruit available for consumption in 2019 at more than 25 pounds per person after adjusting for losses. The USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) loss-adjusted food availability data are derived from food availability data by adjusting for food spoilage, plate waste, and other losses to more closely approximate actual consumption. According to recently released estimates, people in the United States consumed an average of 12.6 pounds (equivalent to 1.4 gallons) of apple juice, roughly 10 pounds of fresh apples, and a total of 3.3 pounds of canned, dried, and frozen apples in 2019. Among the top seven consumed fruits in 2019, apples were the only fruit available in all five forms: fresh, canned, frozen, dried, and juice. Pineapples were the only other canned option among these seven fruits, while strawberries were the only other frozen fruit available. Bananas (13.4 pounds per person) topped the list of most popular fresh fruits, while orange juice (16.7 pounds or 1.9 gallons) remained America’s favorite fruit juice. The data for this chart come from the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series in the ERS Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, updated July 21, 2021.
Friday, August 27, 2021
Soaring demand for organic livestock and processed food products has stimulated production of organic corn and soybeans in the United States. Organic farming of these two commodities constitutes a small though growing portion of total corn and soybean harvested acreage. From 2008 to 2019, harvested acreage of organic corn for grain increased 124 percent while acreage for organic soybeans rose 73 percent. Despite the upward trend, the organic share of total domestic corn and soybean acreage accounted for less than 1 percent of total harvested acres for each crop in 2019. Organic farming typically costs more than conventional agriculture because of the production practices required for USDA to certify products as organic. Costs for organic corn are estimated to be $83–$98 higher per acre than their conventional counterparts and costs for organic soybeans are estimated at $106–$125 higher. Organic corn and soybeans normally draw a higher price as well; however, in late 2020, the organic premiums for these two commodities declined. Organic soybean price premiums appear to have recuperated since the beginning of 2021, while the corn premium has yet to do so. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s Feed Grains Outlook, August 2021.
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
Total spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs increased 32 percent from $92.5 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2019 to $122.1 billion in FY 2020. The way spending was distributed reflects changes to the food assistance landscape in FY 2020 resulting from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and subsequent economic downturn and Federal response. Spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased because of greater participation and additional benefit issuance, accounting for 65 percent of total spending. Combined spending on the four largest child nutrition programs fell in FY 2020, as did spending on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Together these programs accounted for 21 percent of total spending. As part of the Federal response to the pandemic, two new assistance programs were created: Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. In FY 2020, P-EBT benefits totaled $10.7 billion, and Food Box Program spending totaled $2.5 billion. Together, these two programs accounted for 11 percent of overall food and nutrition assistance spending. This chart is based on data available as of January 2021 that is subject to revision and on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report, released August 24, 2021.
Monday, August 23, 2021
Across all races and ethnicities, U.S. poverty rates in 2019 were higher at 15.4 percent in nonmetro (rural) areas than in metro (urban) areas at 11.9 percent. Rural Black or African American residents had the highest incidence of poverty in 2019 at 30.7 percent, compared with 20.4 percent for that demographic group in urban areas. Rural American Indians or Alaska Natives had the second highest rate at 29.6 percent, compared with 19.4 percent in urban areas. The poverty rate for White residents was about half the rate for either Blacks or American Indians at 13.3 percent in rural areas and 9.7 percent in urban settings. Rural Hispanic residents of any race had the third highest poverty rate at 21.7 percent, compared with 16.9 percent in urban areas. Non-Hispanic White residents had the lowest poverty rates in both rural (12.7 percent) and urban (8.2 percent) areas in 2019. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service topic page for Rural Poverty & Well-Being, updated June 2021.
Friday, August 20, 2021
A conservation crop rotation involves a sequence of crops grown on the same ground over a period of time for conservation purposes, such as soil erosion control, soil health, and increased crop diversity. To meet the conservation practice standard for a conservation crop rotation as determined by USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a given field must include crops, such as many small grains, that generate greater residue (crop materials such as stalks, stems, or leaves that are left in the field after the crop has been harvested) and meet crop diversity requirements across years. Cropping systems that include cover crops are more likely to meet the standard. Cover crops are typically added to a crop rotation between two commodity or forage crops to provide living, seasonal soil cover. For corn, 70 percent of acres with cover crops in 2016 were in fields that met the criteria for a conservation crop rotation, compared to 26 percent of acres without a cover crop that also met the criteria. For cotton in 2015, 34 percent of acres that used a cover crop were in a conservation crop rotation, compared to only 4 percent of acres without a cover crop that met conservation crop rotation criteria. For soybeans in 2018, 94 percent of acres that used a cover crop met conservation crop rotation criteria, compared to only 13 percent of acres without a cover crop that also met those criteria. The association between cover crops and the use of conservation rotations in corn and cotton is more limited than for soybeans because corn and cotton fields may not include a legume or other crop with low-nitrogen fertilizer demands. This chart appears in the ERS report Cover Crop Trends, Programs, and Practices in the United States, released February 2021.
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
Widespread drought across the northern and western regions of the United States has dampened prospects for projected production and exports in the 2021/22 marketing year of three classes of U.S. wheat: hard red spring, white, and durum. Cultivation of hard red spring wheat, typically the second largest class of U.S. wheat, is concentrated in the Northern Plains, where about 99 percent of production is being grown in an area experiencing drought. Harvest of this class is projected to fall 42 percent from the previous year to the lowest level in more than 30 years, while exports are expected to contract to the lowest volume in more than a decade. U.S. durum production, which is also concentrated in the Northern Plains, is also projected to fall substantially in the 2021/22 marketing year to the lowest level in 60 years. With the United States generally a net importer of durum, larger imports from Canada are expected. Drought has also affected the Pacific Northwest region, where the majority of U.S. white wheat is produced, resulting in a 29 percent year-to-year decline in production of that class. With white wheat production at the lowest level on record dating back to the 1974/1975 marketing year, exports—mainly destined for markets in Asia—are projected down 41 percent from the prior marketing year. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service Wheat Outlook, published in August 2021.
Monday, August 16, 2021
Local food producers had high levels of internet access in 2015 according to a recently released report by USDA, Economic Research Service researchers. They found that 72 percent of local food producers had internet access, either at the farm or at the principal farm operator’s residence. A local food producer is defined as a farming operation that produces and sells edible agricultural products directly to consumers, retailers, institutions, or intermediate markets. Geographic proximity of local food producers to urban areas may account for high levels of internet access. Less-experienced local food producers had greater internet access than those with more farming experience. Eighty-nine percent of first-year farmers had internet access, compared with 82 percent of inexperienced farmers (2 to 10 years of farming experience) and 70 percent of experienced farmers (more than 10 years of farming experience). In 2015, the most popular use of the internet by all local food producers was to buy items for the farm (44 percent of producers), including input supplies, commodities, and equipment. A larger share of first-year farmers used the internet to buy farm inputs (76 percent) and access price and market information from non-USDA sources (60 percent), followed by inexperienced farmers (62 percent and 46 percent, respectively) and experienced farmers (41 percent and 32 percent, respectively). This information is drawn from the ERS report, “Marketing Practices and Financial Performance of Local Food Producers: A Comparison of Beginning and Experienced Farmers,” released August 10, 2021.
Friday, August 13, 2021
Full-service and limited-service restaurants (fast food restaurants)—the two largest segments of the commercial foodservice market—accounted for 70 percent of all food-away-from-home (FAFH) spending on average from 1987 to 2020. Consumers spent the other 30 percent at places such as hotels and schools. Full-service restaurants had the highest share of FAFH sales in every year of that period except 1995, 2010, 2019, and 2020. In 2020, the share of sales at full-service restaurants dropped from 36.5 percent in 2019 to 31 percent, resulting from a 29.4 percent decline in sales, partly because of safety closures during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Full-service establishments typically have wait staff and other amenities such as ceramic dishware, non-disposable utensils, and alcohol service. In contrast, limited-service restaurants, use convenience as a selling point; they have no wait staff, menus tend to be smaller, and dining amenities are relatively sparse. Given their minimal physical interactions with customers, fast food restaurants adapted to COVID-19 restrictions more quickly during 2020 and assumed a larger share of total FAFH sales at 42.7 percent, compared with 36.8 percent in 2019. Despite the increase in the relative share of FAFH sales, fast food sales decreased by 3.6 percent in 2020 compared with 2019. All other FAFH establishments, such as school and college cafeterias, reported a 17.9 percent decline in sales in 2020 and accounted for 26.3 percent of total FAFH sales. This chart appears on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Market Segments topic page and its data come from the Food Expenditure Series data product.
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
A recent USDA, Economic Research Service study of U.S. poverty identified 310 counties—10 percent of all counties—with high and persistent levels of poverty in 2019. High and persistent poverty counties had poverty rates of 20 percent or more in 1980, 1990, 2000, and on average for 2007-2011 and 2015-2019. Of those 310 counties, 86 percent, or 267 counties, were rural (nonmetro). These rural counties were concentrated in historically poor areas of the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia, the Black Belt, and the southern border regions, as well as on Federal Indian reservations. More than 5 million rural residents, or about 12 percent of the U.S. rural population, lived in counties that had high and persistent poverty rates in 2019. Of those, 1.5 million individuals had incomes below the Federal poverty threshold, accounting for 20 percent of the total rural poor population. Rural residents who identify as Black or African American and American Indian or Alaska Native were particularly vulnerable. Nearly half the rural poor within these groups lived in high and persistent poverty counties in 2019. By comparison, 20 percent of rural poor Hispanics and 12 percent of rural non-Hispanic Whites lived in those counties. This chart appears in the August 2021 Amber Waves finding, Rural Poverty Has Distinct Regional and Racial Patterns.