ERS Charts of Note

Subscribe to get highlights from our current and past research, Monday through Friday, or see our privacy policy.
See also: Editors' Pick: Charts of Note 2019 gallery.

Reset

Producers see negative net returns for corn, soybeans, and wheat in recent years

Friday, September 11, 2020

Producers of some of the U.S. major field crops have struggled to cover total costs of production over the past decade. The Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Commodity Costs and Returns product estimates this gap or surplus in the calculation of the value of production less total costs, referred to here as net returns. Total costs comprise operating costs, which include expenses such as fertilizer, seed, and chemicals, and allocated overhead (economic) costs, which include unpaid labor, depreciation, land costs, and other opportunity costs. Although revenue from selling crops can typically cover operating costs each year, net returns have often been negative. This suggests that, in some cases, allocated overhead costs are not covered. Corn’s net returns increased early in the decade, primarily due to a boom in the production of corn-based ethanol. Corn yields and acreage remained high after the boom, leaving supply high and leading, in part, to lower prices and returns over time. Net returns for soybeans shadowed those for corn during the ethanol boom, remaining higher than those for corn up until 2018. Wheat prices and returns also declined, due to strong international competition and several high-yield domestic crops. This chart is derived from data collected from the ERS Commodity Costs and Returns data product. Its data can also be viewed via ERS’s interactive data visualization product, U.S. Commodity Costs and Returns by Region and by Commodity.

United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) provides an opportunity for continued growth in agricultural trade among the three member countries

Monday, July 20, 2020

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is a new economic and trade agreement that modifies the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), adding provisions for continued growth in agricultural trade among the three member countries. Agriculture has a large and growing stake in interregional trade in the free-trade area created by NAFTA. The total value of intraregional agricultural trade (exports and imports) among all three NAFTA countries reached about $95.3 billion in 2019, compared with $16.6 billion in 1993 (the year before NAFTA’s implementation). Even after taking the effects of inflation into account, this expansion corresponds to an increase in intraregional agricultural trade of 252 percent. Under the ratified new agreement, which took effect on July 1, 2020, all agricultural products that had zero tariffs under NAFTA will continue to have zero tariffs under USMCA. The USMCA adds provisions on biotechnology; geographical indicators; and sanitary and phytosanitary measures, which are measures to protect humans, animals, and plants from diseases, pests, or contaminants. It also provides broader market opportunities for U.S. exports to Canada of dairy, poultry, and egg products. These new provisions, coupled with the continuation of intraregional free trade in almost all agricultural products, provides the foundation for further agricultural trade growth among the United States, Mexico, and Canada. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service’s Amber Waves article, “United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Approaches the Starting Block, Offers Growth Opportunities for Agriculture.”

Citrus Greening Disease caused falling production in Florida, but production is forecast to stabilize in 2019/20

Friday, May 15, 2020

A disease affecting citrus trees hit Florida’s groves especially hard in the past decade and a half. But despite the disease’s ravages, Florida citrus production levels for the 2019/20 season are forecast to be about steady with last year (2018/19). The United States is a major global citrus producer with the 2018/19 crop valued at $3.35 billion. The citrus industry is vulnerable to numerous threats, including Huanglongbing (HLB), which has attacked the industry since 2005. HLB, also known as citrus greening disease, impedes citrus trees’ ability to process nutrients, disrupts the maturation of fruit, and shortens tree life. Although now present in every commercial citrus-producing State, including California, Arizona, and Texas, HLB has spread most rapidly through Florida, the nation’s top producer of oranges and grapefruit; it is now estimated to have infected all groves in the State. Since HLB arrived in Florida, the State went from producing nearly 80 percent of the nation’s non-tangerine citrus fruit to less than 42 percent. Disregarding a temporary drop in production in 2017/18 caused by Hurricane Irma, production levels have been relatively stable for the last four years. This steady trend in production may suggest Florida growers are succeeding at retarding further spread of the disease and minimizing its effect on infected trees. This chart is based on the Economic Research Service (ERS) Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook Report, released March 2020, and ERS Fruit and Tree Nuts Yearbook Tables, released October 2019.

Milk sales accounted for nearly half of New York’s farm sector cash receipts in 2018

Monday, May 4, 2020

Each August, the Economic Research Service (ERS) produces and publishes estimates of the (farm sector) cash receipts—the cash income the farm sector receives from agricultural commodity sales—from the prior year. These data include State-level estimates, which can help offer background information about States subject to unexpected changes that may affect the agricultural sector, such as the current COVID-19 shelter-in-place restrictions in New York and other States. In 2018, U.S. cash receipts for all commodities totaled $373 billion. New York contributed about 1 percent ($5 billion) of that total, ranking 27th among all States. Receipts from milk accounted for the largest share of cash receipts in New York, at 49 percent ($2.5 billion). The State ranked third in milk cash receipts behind California and Wisconsin, accounting for 7 percent of milk cash receipts nationwide. New York also ranked third in apple cash receipts behind Washington and Michigan, accounting for 9 percent ($262 million) of apple cash receipts nationwide and 5 percent of New York’s total cash receipts. Receipts for corn and cattle/calves each accounted for 7 percent of the State’s total cash receipts. Although contributing a smaller amount to total cash receipts in the State, nationwide New York accounted for 18 percent ($26 million) of maple products receipts, 13 percent ($53 million) of cabbage receipts and 13 percent ($24 million) squash receipts. This chart uses State-level data from the ERS data product Farm Income and Wealth Statistics, updated February 2020.

U.S. acres planted with industrial hemp expanded rapidly in 2019

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

After a hiatus of almost 45 years, the Agricultural Act of 2014, Public Law 113-79 (the 2014 Farm Bill) reintroduced industrial hemp production in the United States through State pilot programs. Industrial hemp is a strain of Cannabis sativa that is low in active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. It is grown specifically for a variety of industrial products. Production of industrial hemp beyond the pilot programs was legalized in the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, Public Law 115-334 (the 2018 Farm Bill). By mid-2019, 47 States had passed legislation to allow some form of hemp production and planted acreage reported to the USDA Farm Service Agency increased from zero in 2013 to 32,464 in 2018 to 146,065 in 2019. Hemp competes for acreage against crops with established markets and decades of agronomic research and industry experience. Through 2019, the largest hemp acreage is found in States that are not leading producers of conventional field crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, or cotton. This chart is based on information in the Economic Research Service report, Economic Viability of Industrial Hemp in the United States: A Review of State Pilot Programs.

United States losing dominance in the South Korean corn import market

Friday, February 21, 2020

Since 2010, the United States has been losing its dominant position as a corn import supplier to South Korea. Although Mexico is the largest foreign market for U.S. corn, before 2011 South Korea was a large and stable purchaser. However, the U.S. share in South Korea’s corn imports has dropped from 84 percent during the years of 2007-2011 to 46 percent during 2015-2019. In 2012, drought in the United States contributed to the loss in its corn export share vis-à-vis South Korea (and the entire world market) in that year. Yet, the main reason for the decline in U.S. corn export share with South Korea since 2012 has been that the amount of corn supplied by export competitors—in particular, Brazil and Argentina—has risen as large crops in those countries increased their price competitiveness (with some annual fluctuation). South Korea is a very price-sensitive grain importer, and Brazil and Argentina have been supplying corn at attractively low prices. The U.S. loss of corn import share in South Korea is part of a general trend of declining U.S. corn export share in the world, despite higher global corn trade and slightly growing U.S. corn production. This chart was previously published in the ERS Feed Outlook report released in January 2020.

Most corn production in U.S. and Mexico is geographically concentrated

Friday, October 18, 2019

As the leading crop produced by both Mexico and the United States, corn is grown in many parts of each country, but cultivation is concentrated in areas best suited to corn production. In the United States, corn is cultivated primarily in the country’s Midwestern States, stretching from Nebraska to Ohio, a region dubbed the “Corn Belt.” Nearly 80 percent of U.S. corn area is rainfed, with irrigated production occupying much of corn-growing areas in Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, and Texas. The largest quantities of production occur in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, and Minnesota, States that also lead in yields. U.S. corn production is almost exclusively of the yellow corn variety, with the majority used for purposes other than human consumption (e.g. feed, ethanol). In contrast, Mexico produces mainly white corn, and a greater share of Mexican corn than U.S. corn is used for food. Although white corn is grown in all of Mexico’s 32 States, 10 States account for 84 percent of production, and two States (Sinaloa and Jalisco) account for over one-third. This chart appears in the ERS report, The Growing Corn Economies of Mexico and the United States, released in July 2019.

U.S. production of fresh vegetables decreased but rose for processed vegetables and pulses in 2018

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Consumer demand for fresh vegetables remains high, but domestic fresh vegetable production fell 10 percent from 2017 to 2018, marking the largest year-to-year decline of the last 20 years (1999–2018). Furthermore, for the same 20-year period, 2018 domestic fresh vegetable production reached its lowest level at 359 billion pounds, largely the result of diminishing harvested area. The production decline from 2017 to 2018 coincided with a drop in both area harvested and yields of most fresh-market vegetables—partially driven by above average heat during the growing season. In contrast, production of processed vegetables grew by over 7 percent in from 2017 to 2018. The increase was almost entirely due to a 17-percent increase in tomato production, which made up 75 percent of processed vegetable volume in the United States. Divergent trends in the latest year’s production of fresh and processed vegetables can be partially explained by differing states and crop mixes, and each represent a return to approximately 4-year ago levels. Although pulse production is much smaller on a volume basis, production growth relative to 2017 was equally strong. Driven mainly by increases in chickpea production, production of pulses (e.g., chickpeas, lentils, and dry beans) grew by nearly 7 percent from 2017 to 2018. This chart appears in the ERS Vegetables and Pulses Outlook newsletter, released in May 2019.

Georgia, recently affected by Hurricane Michael, in 2017 ranked 15th among States in U.S. farm sector cash receipts

Monday, November 5, 2018

Each August, ERS estimates the previous year’s farm sector cash receipts—the cash income received from agricultural commodity sales. Historical State-level estimates provide baseline information that can be useful in gauging the financial impact of unexpected events that affect the agricultural sector, such as the recent hurricane that struck Georgia and surrounding States. In 2017, cash receipts for all U.S. farm commodities totaled $374 billion. Georgia contributed about 2 percent ($9 billion) of that total, ranking 15th among all States. Broilers (chickens that are raised for meat) accounted for the largest share of cash receipts in Georgia at $4.4 billion (49 percent of Georgia’s cash receipts)—followed by cotton at $878 million (10 percent of Georgia’s receipts. Georgia led the Nation in cash receipts from broilers and ranked second in cotton cash receipts, behind Texas. Georgia also led the country in cash receipts from peanuts and pecans—accounting for 47 percent and 38 percent, respectively, of the U.S. totals for those commodities—although they amounted to a smaller share of the State’s total cash receipts. This chart uses data from the ERS U.S. and State-Level Farm Income and Wealth Statistics data product, updated August 2018.

North Carolina, recently affected by Hurricane Florence, accounted for an estimated 3 percent ($11 billion) of U.S. farm sector cash receipts in 2017

Monday, September 24, 2018

Each August, as part of the its Farm Income data product, ERS produces estimates of the prior year’s farm sector cash receipts—the cash income the sector receives from agricultural commodity sales. State-level estimates provide background information about States subject to unexpected changes that affect the agricultural sector, such as the recent hurricane that struck North Carolina and surrounding States. In 2017, cash receipts for all U.S. farm commodities totaled $374 billion. North Carolina contributed about 3 percent ($11 billion) of that total, ranking eighth among all States. Broilers (chickens that are raised for meat) accounted for the largest share of cash receipts in North Carolina at 31 percent ($4 billion), compared to 12 percent nationwide—followed by hogs at 21 percent ($2 billion), compared to 11 percent nationwide. The State ranked third in the nation in cash receipts for both broilers and hogs. North Carolina led the country in cash receipts from tobacco, sweet potatoes, and turkeys—accounting for 50, 47, and 15 percent of the U.S. total for those commodities, respectively—although they contributed a smaller share of the State’s total cash receipts. This chart uses data from the ERS U.S. and State-Level Farm Income and Wealth Statistics data product, updated August 2018.

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."

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.

Vietnam, Pakistan, and Burma expected to drive global rice exports upward in 2018

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Global rice trade is projected to increase 1 percent to 42.3 million tons in 2018, the third highest on record and the second consecutive year of expanded trade. A major factor behind the expanded trade in 2018 is increased exports from three of the top six exporters—Vietnam, Pakistan, and Burma. Vietnam’s 2018 exports are expected to increase 400,000 tons to 6.0 million tons due to increased demand from Southeast Asia, especially from the Philippines. China is again forecasted to be the largest export market for Vietnam’s rice. Pakistan is projected to export 4.1 million tons of rice in 2018, up 0.1 million from a year earlier, a result of a slightly larger crop. Burma is expected to export 1.7 million tons of rice in 2018, up 100,000 tons from 2017, primarily due to stronger demand from regional buyers and the European Union. In contrast, India’s exports are projected to drop 500,000 tons in 2018 due to a smaller crop and stronger domestic use. Thailand’s exports are expected to be flat in 2018, while U.S. rice exports are projected to decline 50,000 tons as a result of higher prices and tighter supplies. This chart appears in the ERS Rice Chart Gallery updated in June 2017.

Fresh sweet cherries expected to be plentiful this summer

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

In June, USDA forecasted that the 2017 U.S. sweet cherry crop will reach 432,760 tons, up 24 percent from last year and the second largest on record, if realized. Production increases are forecasted in the top two producing States—Washington and California—ranging from 21 to 80 percent. While forecasted down slightly, sweet cherry crop production in Oregon, also a major grower, will be among the largest the State has generated. Sweet cherries make up the vast majority of U.S. fresh-market cherries, while tart or “sour” cherries are mainly processed and used in cakes, pies, and tarts or dried for additional uses. Yields in California benefitted from winter rains, following multiple seasons with drought conditions. An early May freeze, however, dampened crop expectations in Michigan. Significantly higher shipment volumes than last season have been reported in California, driving down cherry prices since late spring. The harvest has now moved to the Northwest, with ample summer supplies expected to meet the generally growing market domestically and abroad, barring any weather problems. Crop marketability and quality could change drastically upon maturity because cherries are highly susceptible to cracking from rains near or at the harvest-ready stage. This chart provides an update to data found in the ERS Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook newsletter released in June 2016.

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.

Charts of Note header image for left nav