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All-wheat food use is growing, lifts per capita utilization

Friday, June 8, 2018

U.S. all-wheat food use for the 2017/18 marketing year is now estimated at 963 million bushels, up 14 million from 2016/17. The strong rise in wheat food use reverses a multiyear trend of both declining per capita and aggregate wheat food use. For 2017, per capita wheat food use is projected at 131.8 pounds, up slightly from 131.7 pounds per capita in 2016. U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data indicate that real personal consumption expenditures, driven by rising incomes, have steadily increased and support growth in food service and accommodations expenditures. Wheat food use tends to increase as expenditures on food eaten away from home rise. Accordingly, the recent lift in wheat food use can, in part, be explained by increased demand for food services such as meals eaten at fast casual restaurants. The restaurant industry is projecting sustained, moderate growth through 2018, which in turn supports an upward revision of the 2017/18 wheat food use estimate to 963 million bushels. This chart is from the ERS Wheat Outlook: May 2018.

Export markets important for U.S. tree nut producers

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Unlike the fruit and vegetable sectors, the U.S. tree nut industry (as a whole) is a net exporter. While almonds, produced mainly in California, have been exported at high levels for decades, many other tree nuts have expanded the share of domestic supplies sold on the export market. U.S. almond, walnut, pistachio, and hazelnut production are dependent on exports for more than 50 percent of sales, for example. Expanding export demand has driven domestic grower prices higher, although record tree nut production in recent years has stabilized prices for most varieties. The largest markets for U.S. tree nuts include Hong Kong, India, Spain, but trade is widely dispersed across the European Union and Southeast and East Asia. Almonds represented 57 percent of all U.S. tree nut exports, by volume, in 2017. Although exports of tree nuts have grown at a faster rate, domestic use of tree nuts has expanded as well. Domestic use of tree nuts has doubled since 2000, while exports have tripled. This chart appears in the April ERS Amber Waves data feature, "Consumer Demand for Fresh Fruit Drives Increases Across Sector."

U.S. citrus production expected to fall further in 2017/18

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

U.S. citrus production continues to decline. At the current forecast of 6.16 million tons for the 2017/18 marketing year, ERS expects the U.S. citrus crop to drop 21 percent from the previous season. The decline reflects expected reductions in national production across all major citrus commodities and overall smaller crops in the four major-producing States (Florida, California, Texas, and Arizona). The drop in citrus production is expected to be the greatest in Florida, largely driven by crop losses from Hurricane Irma. At the same time, orange and grapefruit crops are anticipated to have the largest declines in national citrus output, with reductions of as much as 25 percent and 22 percent, respectively, if realized. Tight supplies have pushed citrus prices higher in the domestic market. January 2018 prices for fresh oranges, grapefruit, and lemons were at their highest average levels for the month since the 1990s. The long term downward trend in orange production is largely attributable to citrus greening disease, a bacterial disease that can ultimately kill orange trees. The majority of citrus farms in Florida have been battling the disease since the mid-2000s. This chart appears in the bi-annual ERS Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook newsletter, released March 2018.

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.

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

Thursday, October 5, 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.

Lower income people still fall short of protein consumption recommendations in world’s three most food-insecure regions

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Improvements in average diets are welcome developments, but lower income households continue to fall short of nutritional targets. A closer look at consumption of protein, fat, and fruits and vegetables for the three most food-insecure regions—Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), Latin America and Caribbean (LAC), and Asia (minus the Commonwealth of Independent States countries)—reveals insufficient food access for the lowest income groups in all regions. The disparity between low-income versus high-income intake levels within each region is particularly pronounced in the case of proteins. Here, average daily consumption in all three regions studied is close to the recommended level of 10 percent of total diets, with SSA’s consumption falling slightly below the threshold. While the highest income decile has a protein share 20 percent above the target, the lowest income consumers are 20-30 percent below, with the lowest level in LAC, followed by SSA. This example illustrates that food security is not only linked to a country’s average income levels, but also, importantly, to how this income is distributed within the country. While average incomes in LAC are higher than in SSA and Asia, income distribution is more unequal, leaving the lowest income households more vulnerable to food insecurity. This chart appears in the ERS International Food Security Assessment, 2017-27 report, released on June 30, 2017.

Global food insecurity is projected to decline across all regions by 2027

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Given projections for low food prices and rising incomes, food security is expected to improve through 2027 for 76 low- and middle-income countries covered by ERS’s International Food Security Assessment, 2017-27. The share of the population in the 76 countries that is food insecure, defined as not having access to at least 2,100 calories per day, is projected to fall from 17.7 percent in 2017 to 8.9 percent in 2027, with the number of food-insecure people declining from just below 650 million to about 370 million. Food security indicators differ greatly by region. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest share of food-insecure people, with 31.7 percent of the population food insecure in 2017. That share is projected to drop to around 20 percent of the region by 2027 as incomes rise. Asia is projected to significantly reduce its share of food insecure people by 2027 to less than 5 percent, a near three-fold decrease from the current 13.5 percent. Latin America and the Caribbean are expected to improve as well, but to a lesser degree. The most food secure region included in the study remains North Africa, which is expected to have only 1.3 percent of its population experiencing food insecurity by 2027. This chart appears in the ERS International Food Security Assessment, 2017-27 report, released on June 30, 2017.

Grass and forage crops lead applications for the Noninsured Crop Disaster Program, but vegetable crops lead for buy-up option

Monday, July 17, 2017

USDA operates a number of Federal crop insurance and disaster aid programs to mitigate the downside risks inherent to agricultural production (e.g., damaging weather, price, or yield disruptions). However, crop insurance is only available to certain commodities in specified areas. Producers have been able to enroll in the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), which has been managed by the USDA, Farm Service Agency, since 1994. This program insures producers in situations when Federal crop insurance is unavailable to them due to their crop or location. Participants can choose from a basic option that provides catastrophic coverage for only a service fee, or they can pay a premium for higher coverage with the NAP Buy-Up program. Applications for NAP increased from 66,000 to 138,000 between 2014 and 2015. In 2015, the first year that NAP Buy-Up was offered, 16 percent of applicants purchased buy-up coverage. The majority of buy-up applications were for specialty crops like vegetables and fruits and tree nuts. This chart appears in the ERS Amber Waves article, "Applications for the Noninsured Crop Disaster Program Increased After the Agricultural Act of 2014," released in July 2017.

Managed honeybee colony numbers increased since 2006 even as colony mortality remained high

Friday, June 23, 2017

About one-third of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators, such as managed honeybees and more than 3,500 species of native bees. These pollinators face a variety of stressors that can impact their health, such as insect pests, pesticide exposure, and habitat changes. Honeybee mortality, as measured by the loss of a honeybee colony, has remained high over the last decade. In 2006-07, approximately 30 percent of honeybee colonies were lost during the over-winter period (October 1 through April 1). The over-winter loss rate has since diminished (22 percent in 2014-15), but over-summer losses have grown. The net result is that about 44 percent of colonies perished in 2015-16, compared with 36 percent in 2010-11. While recent public attention has focused largely on colony mortality trends, overall colony numbers have increased since 2006. This was accomplished with intensified beekeeper management, including splitting colonies, adding new queens, and offering supplemental feeding. This chart is based on the ERS report Land Use, Land Cover, and Pollinator Health: A Review and Trend Analysis, released June 2017.

Herbicide-tolerant sugarbeets accounted for 98 percent of sugarbeet acreage by 2013

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The United States produced about 8 million metric tons of sugar in 2013. Over half of that sugar came from sugarbeets. However, weed infestations can reduce yields, lower forage quality, and increase the severity of insect infestations. Compared to conventional sugarbeets, planting genetically engineered, herbicide-tolerant (GE HT) sugarbeets simplifies weed management. Specific herbicide (such as glysophate) applications kill weeds but then leave the GE HT sugarbeets growing. Studies suggest that farmers who plant GE HT sugarbeets can increase yields, while reducing the costs of weed management. Once introduced commercially in 2008, U.S. farmers adopted GE HT sugarbeets quickly. That year, farmers planted GE HT sugarbeets on about 60 percent of all sugarbeet acreage; by 2009, that number had grown to 95 percent. As of 2013, approximately 1.1 million acres of GE HT sugarbeets (98 percent of all sugarbeet acreage), with a production value of over $1.5 billion, were harvested in the United States. Minnesota, North Dakota, Idaho, and Michigan accounted for over 80 percent of sugarbeet production that year. This chart is based on the ERS report The Adoption of Genetically Engineered Alfalfa, Canola, and Sugarbeets in the United States, released November 2016.

Productivity gains, declining acreage lower cotton production costs

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

USDA estimates commodity costs and returns based on periodic of commodity producer surveys. Cotton producers were surveyed in 1997, 2003, 2007, and most recently in 2015. Total economic costs estimated from these cotton surveys declined from about $1.40 per pound in 1997 to $0.92 in 2015. Declining real costs of cotton production reflect productivity gains in the industry that can be traced to the adoption of new cotton production technologies and changes in where cotton is grown. Productivity gains were particularly rapid during 1997-2003 as genetically modified (GM) cotton was widely adopted and real production costs fell nearly 20 percent. Between 2003 and 2015 real production costs fell another 20 percent, while cotton acreage declined 36 percent. Cotton became more concentrated in the low-cost Southern Plains region and declined in the high-cost areas of California and the Mississippi Delta region. This chart is drawn from the ERS Commodity Costs and Returns data product, updated in May 2017.

Dedicating land to energy crops (like switchgrass) would shift land use

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Crops dedicated for use in energy production, such as switchgrass, are potential renewable sources for liquid fuels or bioelectricity. Switchgrass is a perennial grass native to most of North America that grows well on rain-fed marginal land. However, markets do not presently exist for large-scale use of this energy resource. An ERS study simulated the agricultural land use impacts of growing enough switchgrass to generate 250 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually with a bioelectricity subsidy by 2030—approximately the amount generated by U.S. hydropower today. The introduction of dedicated energy crops on a large scale could affect other agricultural land uses, the prices of other crops, and trade in agricultural products. For example, the simulation predicted that land converted to switchgrass would come mostly from land used for crops like hay and corn. Pasture and forest land use would be affected at about the same level. An increase in U.S. land area for switchgrass would also lead to smaller changes in land use abroad due to agricultural product trade. This chart appears in the April 2017 Amber Waves finding, "Dedicating Agricultural Land to Energy Crops Would Shift Land Use."

Adoption of herbicide-tolerant alfalfa increased in recent years

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Alfalfa is the fourth largest U.S. crop in terms of acreage and production value, behind only corn, soybeans, and wheat. Most of the alfalfa grown in the United States is used as feed, particularly for dairy cattle. However, weed infestations can reduce alfalfa yields, lower forage quality, and increase the severity of insect infestations. Planting genetically engineered (GE), herbicide tolerant (HT) alfalfa reduces crop damage from specific herbicides. Alfalfa tends to be seeded (on average) once every 7 years, so GE HT alfalfa adoption rates have increased relatively slowly compared to other GE HT crops, such as corn, cotton, and soybeans. In 2013, about 810,000 acres were planted with GE HT alfalfa, approximately a third of newly seeded acres that year. This chart appears in the ERS report The Adoption of Genetically Engineered Alfalfa, Canola, and Sugarbeets in the United States, released November 2016.

Switchgrass potential as an energy crop varies across USDA regions

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Dedicated energy crops, such as switchgrass, are potential renewable feedstocks for liquid fuels or electricity generation. However, markets do not presently exist for large-scale use of this resource. Switchgrass is a perennial grass native to most of North America that grows well on rain-fed marginal land. It has the greatest growth potential in regions where it has a comparative yield advantage relative to other crops. An ERS study simulated the impact on farmland use from growing enough switchgrass to generate 250 TWh of electricity annually by 2030, an amount approximately equal to present U.S. hydroelectricity generation. The study found that such a significant increase in demand for switchgrass would entail shifting land from other crops to switchgrass, and that these effects would vary regionally. In the Appalachian region, for example, the crop most affected is hay, with smaller reductions in corn and soybeans. In the Southeast and Northern Plains, acreage reductions are shared among the crops more uniformly. In total, about 29 million acres of switchgrass may be grown annually in the United States under this scenario, representing 8 percent of cropland. This chart appears in the ERS report Dedicated Energy Crops and Competition for Agricultural Land, released January 2017.

Almost all U.S. sugarbeets and canola planted in 2013 used genetically engineered seeds

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Genetically engineered (GE), herbicide-tolerant (HT) varieties of crops were first developed in 1996 to survive herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds. The success of major GE crops—more than 90 percent of U.S. corn, soybean and cotton use GE seeds with HT or insect-resistant traits—enabled the commercialization of HT canola in 1998 and of HT alfalfa and sugarbeets in 2005. Two of these crops have seen rapid adoption in recent years: about 95 percent of U.S. canola and over 99 percent of sugarbeet acres planted in 2013 had HT traits. By comparison, only 13 percent of alfalfa acres harvested had HT traits that year. This slower adoption rate is expected—alfalfa is a perennial crop and only about one-seventh of the alfalfa acreage is newly seeded each year. This chart is based on the ERS report The Adoption of Genetically Engineered Alfalfa, Canola, and Sugarbeets in the United States, released November 2016.

India is the world's leading importer of soybean oil

Thursday, June 9, 2016

India is the world’s largest importer of soybean oil, surpassing China in 2013/14 as China’s expanding crushing industry began to focus on importing raw soybeans for processing into meal and oil. China’s soybean oil imports are projected to grow modestly over the next 10 years to reach 1.4 million tons by 2025/26, while India’s imports could reach 3.9 million tons over the same period. India’s large population and rising incomes, combined with poor soybean yields and limited area for expanding production, increase its reliance on imports to meet domestic vegetable oil demand. Despite its history of high import tariffs on vegetable oils—40 percent for soybean oil and as high as 85 percent for other oils—India has long been a major importer of vegetable oil. In 2008, in response to high food prices, India slashed its soybean oil tariffs, further contributing to the projected rise in imports. Argentina is the world’s largest exporter of soybean oil and the primary supplier to both India and China. The United States is the world’s second largest exporter of soybean oil, accounting for about 10 percent of global soybean oil trade, with most of that oil destined to markets in the Western Hemisphere. This chart is from the May 2016 Amber Waves article, “Major Factors Affecting Global Soybean and Products Trade Projections.”

China's demand for imported soybeans expected to remain strong

Monday, May 16, 2016

China is the world’s largest importer of soybeans. The country’s dominance as an importer reflects government policies that favor imports of soybeans over feed grains, coupled with dietary shifts toward more animal proteins, which creates a strong demand for soybean meal used for livestock feed rations. In 1995, China adopted a policy of 95 percent self-sufficiency for grains, and from 2008 to 2012 the country increased price supports for wheat, rice, and corn at higher rates than those for soybeans, making soybean production less attractive to farmers and resulting in an 18-percent decline in domestic production while soybean imports jumped 50 percent. China’s border policies also favor soybean imports. Import tariffs for soybeans are lower than those for soybean meal or oil, resulting in China’s oilseed-crushing industry becoming the largest in the world, and supplied mainly with imported soybeans. With China’s policies continuing to favor grain production over soybeans and its feed and livestock industries expected to continue growing, the country’s demand for imported soybeans is projected to remain strong over the next decade, increasing from 83 million tons in 2016/17 to 109.5 million tons in 2025/26. This chart is from the May 2016 Amber Waves article, “Major Factors Affecting Global Soybean and Products Trade Projections.”

Soybeans dominate expansion of cropland in Argentina

Friday, May 13, 2016

Land planted to soybeans in Argentina grew from fewer than 5 million hectares in 1992/93 (April-March) to 20 million hectares in 2015/16, while wheat and corn area has seen little or no growth over this period (1 hectare = 2.47 acres). Soybean meal is a major component of livestock feed, and growing demand for meat and livestock products worldwide has supported increased soybean production and trade. In Argentina, tax policies have played a role in soybean production as well. In 2002, the country imposed taxes on its agricultural exports as a way to generate government revenue. Argentina applies lower export taxes on soybean meal and oil than it does on raw soybeans, which stimulated the construction of large oilseed crushing facilities and, consequently, led to more soybean meal and oil exports. In 2008, the Government of Argentina increased export taxes and imposed a permitting system that further restricted exports of products such as corn, wheat, and beef. Soybean products face fewer obstacles in export markets and abundant opportunities to expand planted area through double cropping and adjusting crop-pasture rotations on marginal lands in the northwest part of Argentina. As a result, Argentina’s soybean area has expanded rapidly and is projected to reach over 22 million hectares by 2025/26. This chart is from the May 2016 Amber Waves article, “Major Factors Affecting Global Soybean and Products Trade Projections.”

Composition of production expenses varies by farm commodity specialization

Friday, June 19, 2015

The variation in the percent of total expenses represented by individual expenses across different types of farms reflects how specialized U.S. agriculture has become. While wide differences generally exist between crop and livestock farms, USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) allows a breakdown of expense shares within the major farm types. Livestock purchases are the largest component of total expenses for beef cattle farms, primarily because of the relatively high cost of feeder steers. Because of the lower cost of their animal purchases, feed expenses are the largest component of total expenses for other animal farms (primarily hog, poultry, and dairy). Specialty crop farms (fruit/nuts, vegetables, and nursery/greenhouse) have a higher share of labor expenses than field crop farms, because they occupy fewer acres and are less mechanized. In contrast, field crop farms, especially corn farms, have higher shares of expenses going to principal crop-related expenses (fertilizer, seeds, and chemicals), and rent. Fuel expenses are relatively consistent, varying between 3 percent of total expenses for other animal farms to 8 percent for other field crop farms. This chart is based on results from USDA’s ARMS Farm Financial and Crop Production Practices data.

Lower energy prices reduce crop production expenses

Friday, June 12, 2015

Oil and natural gas prices dropped in the latter half of 2014, with expectations that energy prices would remain lower than previously projected through 2016. Lower energy prices affect crop production expenses, which in turn influence planting decisions and commodity prices. The effect of energy prices on the cost of producing particular crops depends on the level and share of production costs for direct energy inputs such as fuel and oil, as well as for inputs such as energy-intensive nitrogen fertilizers and agricultural chemicals. Rice, cotton, and corn have high energy-related production expenses, so lower energy prices are expected to reduce operating expenses for those crops the most. Lower production costs provide an incentive to plant additional acreage, so plantings of most crops are expected to rise from what they would have been without the decline in energy prices. The exception is soybeans, whose plantings are estimated to fall initially due to relatively small production cost changes and large cross-commodity influences from corn, as they often compete with one another. Nonetheless, the estimated acreage changes due to lower energy prices are small. This chart is based on information found in Effects of Recent Energy Price Reduction on U.S. Agriculture, BIO-04, June 2015.

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