ERS Charts of Note
Thursday, May 28, 2020
Conserving natural resources starts with identifying where they are used. A recent Economic Research Service (ERS) study examined how much of 5 of the Nation’s natural resources were used in 2007 to feed Americans aged 2 and above. (2007 data were the latest available with the level of detail needed for the analysis.) The researchers looked at the entire U.S. food system from production of farm inputs—such as fertilizers and feed—through points of consumer purchases in grocery stores and eating-out places to home kitchens. Their estimates show that agricultural land use in the U.S. food system was 25.5 percent of the country’s 2.3 billion acres of total land. Although the study does not account for other food-related land use, such as by forestry and mining industries serving the food system, it does show that about half of agricultural land is dedicated to food production for the U.S. market, and the other half was devoted to nonfood crops, like cotton and corn for producing ethanol, and to export crops, like soybeans. The U.S. food system also accounted for an estimated 28 percent of 2007’s freshwater withdrawals, 11.5 percent of the fossil fuel budget, and 7.2 percent of marketed forest products. Air is a natural resource that is degraded by the addition of greenhouses gases. The food system accounted for an estimated 18.1 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2007. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, Resource Requirements of Food Demand in the United States, May 2020 and the Amber Waves feature article, “A Shift to Healthier Diets Likely To Affect Use of Natural Resources.”
Monday, March 23, 2020
Farm real estate, including land and the structures on that land, typically accounts for more than 80 percent of the total value of U.S. farm sector assets. Farmers often use the value of their real estate as collateral for farm loans. After a long period of appreciation following the farm crisis of the 1980s, farm real estate values have leveled off since 2015. U.S. farm real estate value in 2019 remained near its historic high, averaging $3,160 per acre—a modest increase of 0.2 percent over 2018. The Economic Research Service (ERS) forecast farm income to increase nationwide in 2019. This increase, combined with historically low interest rates, contributes to the ability of the farm sector to support higher farmland values. Regional farmland real estate values vary widely because of differences in general economic conditions, local farm economic conditions, government policy, and local geographic conditions. For example, farm real estate values in the Corn Belt are nearly twice the national average, while values in the Mountain region are less than half the national average. This chart appears in the ERS topic page for Farmland Value, updated March 2020.
Thursday, October 31, 2019
Farm real estate (including farmland and the structures on the land) accounts for over 80 percent of farm-sector assets and represents a significant investment for many farms. Beginning in the mid-2000s, higher farm incomes and lower interest rates contributed to rapid appreciation. Nationally, average per-acre farm real estate values more than doubled when adjusted for inflation, from $1,483 in 2000 to $3,010 in 2016. Two major uses of farmland are cropland and pastureland. From 2003 to 2014, U.S. cropland values doubled, appreciating faster than pastureland and reflecting a rise in grain and oilseed commodity prices. However, the value of cropland and farm real estate dipped slightly in 2008–09, reflecting the effect of the Great Recession and the downturn in the U.S. housing market. In contrast, average U.S. pastureland values remained relatively flat. This chart appears in the February 2018 ERS report, Farmland Values, Land Ownership, and Returns to Farmland, 2000–2016. This Chart of Note was originally published May 23, 2019.
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Nationally, 4.3 percent of farmland operators and 4.9 percent of non-operator landlords in 2014 reported receiving oil and gas payments. In counties that produced oil or gas that year, about 10 percent of operators and 13 percent of non-operator landlords reported receiving this income. Not all operators or non-operator landlords own their oil and gas rights, and of those who do, not all of them choose to lease out these rights to energy companies for oil and gas production. Out of those who reported owning oil and gas rights with positive value, non-operator landlords were 21 percentage points more likely than operator landowners to lease their rights to energy firms. Non-operator landlords who lived in the same county as their tenant were more likely to allow energy development to occur than non-operator landlords who lived in a different county. Operator landowners, who live on the property and farm it, may be less likely than non-operator landlords to lease their oil and gas rights because they would experience the costs associated with drilling and oil and gas production—including air pollution, increased truck traffic, and risk of water and soil contamination. This chart appears in the June 2018 ERS report, Ownership of Oil and Gas Rights: Implications for U.S. Farm Income and Wealth.
Friday, June 7, 2019
The ERS Major Land Uses series defines “cropland used for crops” as comprising three types: cropland harvested, crop failure, and cultivated summer fallow. In 2018, cropland harvested declined to 312 million acres—the lowest recorded harvested cropland area since 2013 (311 million acres) and 2 million acres less than in 2017. A 2-million-acre increase in crop failure due to drought conditions in several crop-producing areas contributed to the 2018 decline in cropland harvested. Land used for cultivated summer fallow, which primarily occurs as part of wheat rotations in the semi-arid West, also increased by 1 million acres to 16 million acres, continuing the reversal, which began in 2017, of a long-term decline in this category. The area that was double-cropped (i.e., two or more crops harvested) held constant over the previous year at about 6 million acres. This chart uses historical data from the ERS data product Major Land Uses, recently updated to include new 2018 estimates and revised 2017 estimates.
Thursday, May 23, 2019
Farm real estate (including farmland and the structures on the land) accounts for over 80 percent of farm-sector assets and represents a significant investment for many farms. Beginning in the mid-2000s, higher farm incomes and lower interest rates contributed to rapid appreciation. Nationally, average per-acre farm real estate values more than doubled when adjusted for inflation, from $1,483 in 2000 to $3,010 in 2016. Two major uses of farmland are cropland and pastureland. From 2003 to 2014, U.S. cropland values doubled, appreciating faster than pastureland and reflecting a rise in grain and oilseed commodity prices. However, the value of cropland and farm real estate dipped slightly in 2008–09, reflecting the effect of the Great Recession and the downturn in the U.S. housing market. In contrast, average U.S. pastureland values remained relatively flat. This chart appears in the February 2018 ERS report, Farmland Values, Land Ownership, and Returns to Farmland, 2000–2016.
Friday, October 12, 2018
Oil and gas production disproportionally occurs in areas where large shares of land are operated by farmers and ranchers. In 2014, the value of oil and gas production on land operated by farms amounted to $226 billion, or about 67 percent of the total $338 billion in oil and gas production in the contiguous United States. Oil and gas production on farmland was concentrated in California, in a band from North Dakota to Texas, and in the Marcellus Shale, which reaches into Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. Most nonoperator landlords (who rent out the farmland they own to farmers) and most farm operators do not own the oil and gas rights associated with their land and are thus unable to receive payments. In the 1,080 counties with oil and gas production in 2014, only 13 percent of nonoperator landlords and 10 percent of farm operators reported receiving oil or gas payments. Payments to farmland owners (operators and nonoperator landlords) amounted to $7.4 billion—but ERS estimates this could have been as high as $40 billion if all farmland owners had also owned the oil and gas rights associated with their farmland. This chart appears in the June 2018 ERS report, Ownership of Oil and Gas Rights: Implications for U.S. Farm Income and Wealth.
Monday, October 1, 2018
Farm real estate (including land and the structures on the land) generally accounts for over 80 percent of U.S. farm sector assets, and often serves as collateral for farm loans. The value of U.S. farm real estate is thus a critical barometer of farm financial performance. After a long period of appreciation following the farm crisis of the 1980s, farm real estate values have leveled off in recent years. ERS research indicates that, in general, the substantial growth in farm real estate values since 2000 was attributable to high farm earning potential and historically low interest rates. In 2000, after adjusting for inflation, average U.S. farm real estate values were $1,541 per acre—and reached a historic high of $3,178 per acre in 2015. By 2018, U.S. farm real estate values averaged $3,140 per acre, with the leveling off in recent years coinciding with declines in farm sector income. Regional variation is significant, owing to factors such as differences in regional production potential and the demand for land in alternative uses, such as residential housing. This chart appears in the ERS topic page for Farmland Value, updated September 2018.
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
For many farmers, farm real estate represents a substantial share of total household wealth and is the most important source of equity used to secure loans. Recent ERS research tested the extent to which owning a larger share of their land allowed farmers in different age groups to borrow more, buy more land, or expand operations. Younger farmers (under age 50 in 1997) may need more credit (because they are in a growth phase of the business) and may be more constrained by their wealth (because they have less of it). For younger farmers, owning an additional 1 percent of one’s land increased the growth rate of interest expenses on real estate-secured debt by 1.44 percentage points between 1997 and 2007. Younger farmers with larger land wealth gains also bought more land: owning an additional 1 percent of one’s land increased the growth rate in land owned by 1.01 percentage points. For the average farm in the sample, that would increase interest expenses by $281, debt by $3,465, and land owned by 4.9 acres. There was no significant effect for older farmers. This chart appears in the February 2018 Amber Waves feature, “Changing Farmland Values Affect Renters and Landowners Differently.”
Friday, July 27, 2018
From 2005 to 2014, high energy prices and innovation in extraction methods enabled U.S. production of oil and gas to grow by 69 percent, with almost 67 percent of overall production occurring on farmland. The growth generated tens of billions of dollars of additional revenue for owners of oil and gas rights and increased the value of those rights. In 2014, farm operators owned $19.1 billion in oil and gas rights that generated $3.8 billion in payments through leases with energy firms. These payments accounted for about 4 percent of net cash farm income nationally in 2014, but made up a more substantial portion of farm income (11 percent) in oil and gas production regions. The share attributable to royalty income was particularly noteworthy in Texas, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania, where oil and gas payments amounted to about 30 percent of net cash farm income. These States are host to productive shale plays, including the Marcellus, Barnett, Eagle Ford, and Woodford plays. This chart appears in the June 2018 ERS report, Ownership of Oil and Gas Rights: Implications for U.S. Farm Income and Wealth.
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
The ability of landowners to profit from oil and gas development on their land depends on whether they own the oil and gas rights associated with their property. Nationally, 5.4 percent of farm operators reported owning oil and gas rights in 2014. In counties with oil and gas production, the share was higher at 11.4 percent. The share of operators who reported owning oil and gas rights exceeded the national average in States where oil and gas counties were abundant—including Oklahoma and Pennsylvania (about 14 percent each) and Kansas, Texas, Arkansas, and North Dakota (about 10 percent each). Separate ownership of the surface and subsurface rights is more common in the Western United States, particularly when shale formations lie above or below conventional oil and gas fields with a history of drilling, because oil and gas rights may have been sold previously. By comparison, the Marcellus shale play extends into areas of Pennsylvania with little history of drilling. Unified ownership is likely much higher there, increasing that State’s share. This chart appears in the June 2018 ERS report, Ownership of Oil and Gas Rights: Implications for U.S. Farm Income and Wealth.
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Farm real estate (including farmland and the structures on the land) accounts for over 80 percent of farm sector assets and represents a significant investment for many farms. Two major uses of farmland are cropland and pastureland. From 2003 to 2014, U.S. cropland values appreciated faster than pastureland—with cropland values doubling in real terms. However, cropland appreciation varied over time and by region. Between 2003 and 2008, cropland values appreciated almost uniformly across regions. Between 2009 and 2014, cropland appreciation was highest for the Northern Plains, Lake States, Corn Belt, and Delta States. This reflected the relatively steep rise in commodity prices for the grain and oilseed often grown in those regions, which made the cropland more valuable. However, between 2015 and 2017, the Northern Plains and Corn Belt experienced negative cropland appreciation, reflecting falling commodity prices and farm income. Regional differences in land values may also be due to varying demands for farmland for nonagricultural purposes, such as demand for oil and gas development in shale areas. The leveling or decline of cropland values observed in the Northeast, Southeast, and Pacific regions from 2009 to 2014 was likely a result of the Great Recession, which negatively influenced the value of cropland in close proximity to urban areas. This chart updates data found in the February 2018 ERS report, Farmland Values, Land Ownership, and Returns to Farmland, 2000-2016.
Friday, February 23, 2018
Farm real estate (including land and the structures on the land) accounts for over 80 percent of farm sector assets and represents a significant investment for many farms. U.S. farm real estate values have been rising since the farm crisis of the 1980s, reaching record high values in 2015. Beginning in the mid-2000s, higher farm incomes and lower interest rates contributed to rapid appreciation. Nationally, average per-acre farm real estate values more than doubled when adjusted for inflation, from $1,483 in 2000 to $3,060 in 2015. Cropland appreciated faster than pastureland (reflecting the relatively steep rise in grain and oilseed commodity prices), while farmland in the Midwest appreciated faster than other areas of the country. However, farmland appreciation slowed considerably from 2015 to 2016, with some regions experiencing small declines caused by falling commodity prices and net cash farm income. This chart appears in the February 2018 ERS report Farmland Values, Land Ownership, and Returns to Farmland, 2000-2016.
Thursday, February 1, 2018
The ERS Major Land Uses (MLU) series defines cropland used for crops as being comprised of three components: cropland harvested, crop failure, and cultivated summer fallow. Collectively, these components represent the land devoted to crop production in a given year. In 2017, cropland harvested declined to 314 million acres, 3 million acres less than the previous year’s area—the lowest recorded harvested cropland area since 2013 (311 million acres). A crop failure increase of 2 million acres largely contributed to this decline. The area that was double cropped, land from which two or more crops were harvested, held constant over the previous year at 6 million acres. Similarly, land used for cultivated summer fallow, which primarily occurs as part of wheat rotations in the semi-arid West, maintained its 2016 level of 12 million acres—the lowest recorded estimate since the start of the MLU series. The larger historical fluctuations in cropland used for crops are primarily attributable to Federal cropland acreage reduction programs, which affect the amount of idled cropland (cropland not directly involved in crop production in a given year). This chart uses historical data from the ERS Major Land Uses series, recently updated to include new 2017 estimates and revised 2016 estimates.
Friday, December 8, 2017
The U.S. land area totals just under 2.3 billion acres. Land used in agriculture has become less common over time, declining from 63 percent in 1949 to 52 percent in 2012 (the latest data available). Gradual declines have occurred in cropland, while grazed forestland has decreased more rapidly. In 2012, 392 million acres of agricultural land were in cropland (18 percent less than in 1949), 655 million acres were in pasture and range (4 percent more), 130 million acres were in grazed forestland (59 percent less), and 8 million acres were in farmsteads and farm roads (45 percent less). In contrast, land used for rural parks and wilderness (included in nonagricultural special uses) has increased by 226 million acres since 1949, contributing to the relative growth in nonagricultural land use over time. Urban land, which represents a relatively small share of the U.S. land base, has nearly tripled in area since 1949 to accommodate economic and population growth. This chart appears in the December 2017 Amber Waves data feature, "A Primer on Land Use in the United States."
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Of the 914 million acres of land in U.S. farms in 2012 (the latest data), 61 percent were owner-operated. The remaining land was rented, either from another farm operator or from a non-operator (an owner not actively engaged in farming). Farmland tenure arrangements vary across the country, with higher shares of renting and non-operator ownership in the Midwest and Plains regions. This geographic pattern is due to commodity specialization: the majority of land used to grow cotton and cash grains (such as rice, corn, soybeans, and wheat) is rented. According to data from the 2014 TOTAL Survey, cropland (54 percent) is more likely to be rented than pastureland (28 percent). This pattern is attributable to several factors, including the relatively low cost of purchasing pastureland compared to cropland. This chart appears in the August 2017 ERS report Major Uses of Land in the United States, 2012.
Tuesday, October 3, 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."
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
The ERS Major Land Uses (MLU) series is the longest running, most comprehensive accounting of all major uses of public and private land in the United States. The series was started in 1945, and has since been published about every 5 years using the latest data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Census of Agriculture. In the 2012 MLU data (the latest available), grassland pasture and range was the most common land use in the United States, representing 29 percent of U.S. land. The second most common was forest-use—land capable of producing timber or covered by forest and used for grazing—at 28 percent. The distribution of land use varies substantially across the country, based on factors such as soil, climate, and Federal and local policies and programs. Cropland is concentrated in the Corn Belt and Northern Plains regions, where several States (including Iowa, Kansas, and Illinois) have more than half of their land base devoted to cropland. Grassland pasture and range accounted for a large share of land in the Mountain (60 percent) and Southern Plains (59 percent) regions. The share of forest-use land was highest along the eastern seaboard in the Southeast (62 percent), Northeast (59 percent), Delta States (58 percent), and Appalachia (57 percent) regions. This chart appears in the ERS report Major Uses of Land in the United States, 2012, released August 2017.
Monday, August 7, 2017
Farmers growing crops that depend on pollination can rely on wild pollinators in the area or pay beekeepers to provide honeybees or other managed bees, such as the blue orchard bee. In 2016, U.S. farmers paid $354 million for pollination services. Producers of almonds alone accounted for 80 percent of that amount—over $280 million. By comparison, producers of apples and blueberries paid about $10 million each. Pollination services helped support the production of these crops—which, in 2016, had a total production value of about $5.2 billion for almonds, $3.5 billion for apples, and $720 million for blueberries. Between 2007 and 2016, the production value of almonds grew by 85 percent in real terms, while the production value of both apples and blueberries grew by about 15 percent. Over the same period, the number of honey-producing colonies grew by 14 percent. This chart uses data found in the ERS report Land Use, Land Cover, and Pollinator Health: A Review and Trend Analysis, released June 2017.
Friday, June 30, 2017
In recent years, farm real estate (including farmland and buildings) has accounted for about 80 percent of the value of U.S. farm assets—amounting to about $2.4 trillion in 2015. Strong farm earnings and historically low interest rates have supported the increase in farmland values since 2009. Since 2014, farm real estate values in many regions have leveled off; and, in 2016, the national average per-acre value declined slightly. This is partly a response to the recent declines in farm income, which may temper expectations of future farm earning potential. In addition, the 2016 USDA 10-year commodity outlooks suggest that the prices of major commodities will all stabilize at, or grow modestly from, their current price levels—which are significantly lower than those in 2011. Expectations of interest rate increases, which have been noted in some U.S. farm regions, also put downward pressure on land values. Given that farm real estate makes up such a significant portion of the balance sheet of U.S. farms, changes in its value can affect the financial well-being of individual farms and the farm sector. Over 60 percent of U.S. farmland was owner-operated in 2014; for these owners, increases in real estate values make it easier to obtain credit and service debt. For the farmers who rent the remaining 39 percent of farmland, higher real estate values can lead to higher rent expenses. This chart appears in the ERS topic page for Farmland Value, updated April 2017.