ERS Charts of Note
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Wednesday, May 4, 2022
The benefits of agricultural exports to the U.S. economy far exceed the value of shipments alone. The production, processing, storage, transportation, and marketing of farm and food products bound for the export market support many full-time jobs throughout the United States. Related job statistics are estimated annually by USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) by measuring the employment and output effects of trade in farm and food products. In 2020, U.S. agricultural exports supported the equivalent of more than 1.13 million jobs on and off the farm. With U.S. agricultural exports valued at more than $150 billion in 2020, every $1 billion of exports is estimated to create 7,550 jobs. Farm activities generated by U.S. exports—mainly crop and livestock production—supported a total of 439,500 jobs. These jobs included labor provided by farm operators and their family members, hired farmworkers, and contract workers. Off the farm, exports supported 423,900 total jobs in the services, trade, and transportation industries. Food-processing activities created 162,100 jobs, while other manufacturing activities, such as packaging, canning, and bottling, gave rise to 107,000 jobs. This chart is drawn from ERS’s Agricultural Trade Multiplier, released February 2022. See also the Amber Waves infographic, 2020 U.S. Agricultural Trade Multiplier for Soybeans.
Friday, March 4, 2022
Errata: On March 8, 2022, the graphic presented in this Chart of Note was revised to better represent the differences between the dollar amounts of the economic activities.
Exports constitute a significant market for U.S. farm and food products and send ripples of activity through the nation’s economy. For instance, exports of grain first generate economic activity on the farm through purchases of inputs such as fuel and fertilizer, spurring additional economic activity in the manufacturing, trade, and transportation sectors. Getting the grain to the export market requires transportation, storage, and marketing, among many other services. This additional economic activity is estimated annually by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) using an agricultural trade multiplier that measures the employment and output effects of trade in farm and food products on the U.S. economy. Despite the onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020, which depressed foreign sales for several months, exports rebounded starting in August and increased significantly afterward. U.S. agricultural exports valued at $150 billion in 2020 generated an additional $154 billion in economic activity, for a total of $304 billion in economic output. This means that on average, every $1 of U.S. agricultural product exported generated a total $2.03 of domestic economic activity. No sector outside of crop and livestock production benefited more from agricultural exports than the services, trade, and transportation sector, which generated $68 billion worth of additional economic activity. On the farm, agricultural exports supported an additional $32 billion of business activity beyond the value of the agricultural exports themselves. This chart is drawn from ERS’s Agricultural Trade Multiplier, released February 2022. See also the Amber Waves infographic, 2020 U.S. Agricultural Trade Multiplier for Soybeans.
Monday, February 14, 2022
In the United States, the exchange of chocolate candies and other cocoa-based confections is a popular Valentine’s Day tradition. With cocoa beans only grown abroad, trade is critical to meet the U.S. consumer’s fondness for cocoa-based treats. The United States imported an average of $5.06 billion a year worth of cocoa and products between 2017–21 (not adjusted for inflation), including cocoa beans, paste, butter, powder, as well as foods prepared with cocoa such as chocolate. Imported shipments of chocolate and other food preparations containing cocoa were the largest share of imports and were valued at almost $2.8 billion a year between 2017 and 2021. This category includes large bricks of chocolate that are further processed, in addition to smaller, retail-ready products. Cocoa beans, the raw seeds from the cacao tree that are processed into derivative products, were imported mostly from Cote d'Ivoire, Ecuador, and Ghana. The import value of cocoa beans averaged more than $1.1 billion annually over the 5-year period. Cocoa butter shipments, principally supplied by Indonesia and Malaysia, were valued at $576 million annually, while supplies of cocoa paste, mostly originating from Cote d’Ivoire, averaged about $293 million a year. The United States also exports chocolate and cocoa products to Canada and Mexico. This chart is drawn from the Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade published by USDA’s Economic Research Service, November 2021.
Monday, January 24, 2022
In 2018, six U.S. trading partners—Canada, China, the European Union, India, Mexico, and Turkey—announced retaliatory tariffs affecting agricultural and food products. The agricultural products targeted for retaliation were valued at $30.4 billion in 2017, with individual product lines experiencing tariff increases ranging from 2 to 140 percent. USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) estimated trade losses from retaliatory tariffs by State and commodity using data in the ERS State Exports, Cash Receipts Estimates. Estimated annualized losses from mid-2018 through the end of 2019 totaled $13.2 billion across 17 commodity groups, led by soybeans, sorghum, and pork. While retaliatory tariffs affected all States, those in the Midwest experienced the largest losses. ERS researchers estimated Iowa lost $1.46 billion; Illinois, $1.41 billion; and Kansas, $955 million, all on an annualized basis. Iowa and Illinois, which together produce 25 to 30 percent of U.S. soybeans, both experienced trade losses in excess of $1 billion for soybeans alone. The retaliatory tariffs followed the issuance of U.S. tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from major trading partners and on a broad range of imports from China. This chart can be found in the ERS report, The Economic Impacts of Retaliatory Tariffs on U.S. Agriculture, published in January 2022.
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.
Monday, July 12, 2021
Raising the productivity of existing agricultural resources—rather than bringing new resources into production—has become the major source of growth in world agriculture. Farm productivity is measured by total factor productivity (TFP), an index that takes into account the land, labor, capital, and material resources employed in farm production and compares them with the total amount of crop and livestock output. If total output is growing faster than total inputs, then the total productivity of the factors of production (i.e., total factor productivity) is increasing. Using the latest available data through 2016, agricultural productivity has risen steadily in most industrialized countries at between 1 and 2 percent a year since at least the 1970s. Since the 1990s, many developing countries as well as transition economies that belonged to the former Soviet bloc also have increased their agricultural productivity. Long-term research investments to develop new technologies have been especially important to sustaining higher agricultural TFP growth rates in large, rapidly developing countries such as Brazil and India. Institutional and economic reforms, combined with technological changes, have led to significant benefits for Chinese agriculture. Additionally, Russian agriculture rebounded after the early 1990s economic transition from a planned to a market-based economy, and the southern region of the country achieved notable productivity improvement. In contrast, under-investment in agricultural research remains an important barrier to stimulating agricultural productivity growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. This chart appears in USDA, Economic Research Service data product for International Agricultural Productivity, updated November 2019.
Monday, June 21, 2021
The USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) estimates that inflation and income growth drove up the costs resulting from 15 foodborne illnesses in the United States by $2 billion from $15.5 billion in 2013 to $17.6 billion in 2018. For this estimate, ERS included medical care costs, the value of lost earnings, and a monetary measure of death based on individuals' willingness to pay to reduce the risk of dying from foodborne illness. The biggest factor behind the increase in the overall costs of foodborne illnesses was the effect of inflation and income growth on the value people place on preventing deaths. However, the value of prevented deaths as a share of overall costs decreased slightly in 2018 compared to 2013 due to the substantial inflation in medical costs. Health effects from foodborne illness can vary by pathogen (bacteria, viruses, and parasites), ranging from a few days of diarrhea to more serious outcomes, such as kidney failure, cognitive impairment, and even death. Determining the overall costs of these health effects provides a common metric to compare impacts of different pathogens, a way to aggregate impacts across illnesses, and a means of comparing the costs of experiencing those illnesses with the costs of preventing them. More information can be found in the ERS’s updated Cost Estimates of Foodborne Illnesses data product. This chart appears in the ERS’s Amber Waves article, “Economic Cost of Major Foodborne Illnesses Increased $2 Billion From 2013 to 2018,” April 2021.
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
China’s corn imports jumped to a record 11.3 million metric tons in 2020, more than twice the volume imported in past years. The increase reflected rapidly increasing Chinese corn prices and China’s commitment to buy U.S. agricultural products under the Phase One trade agreement between China and the United States. Corn is the predominant ingredient in China’s growing animal feed production and is widely used in other food, starch, and alcohol products. In past years, a cumbersome import quota made it difficult for Chinese feed mills and processors to import corn, so they often imported substitutes such as sorghum, barley, distillers’ grains, cassava, and field peas that have low prices and no quotas. Imports of all feed ingredients were relatively low during 2019 because of high tariffs on U.S. commodities and a lull in feed demand due to a disease epidemic that reduced China’s swine herd. In 2020, imports of corn and its substitutes increased to a combined total of more than 30 million metric tons. Large purchases by Chinese state-owned companies and a rapid increase in Chinese corn prices appear to have driven the increase in corn imports—which exceeded the quota for the first time. Rebuilding of the swine herd and waivers of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. sorghum may have contributed to the increase in imports of substitutes. However, imports of U.S. distillers’ grains were still constrained by high duties imposed by a 2016 Chinese anti-dumping investigation. This chart appeared in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Feed Outlook, May 2021.
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Exports constitute a large market for U.S. farm and food products and send ripples of activity through the nation’s economy. For instance, farm purchases of fuel and fertilizer spur economic activity in the manufacturing, trade, and transportation sectors, and the movement of these agricultural exports requires data processing, financial, legal, managerial, and administrative services. This additional economic activity is estimated annually by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) using an agricultural trade multiplier that measures the employment and output effects of trade in farm and food products on the U.S. economy. In 2019, U.S. agricultural exports valued at $142 billion generated an additional $160 billion in economic activity, for a total of $302 billion in economic output. This means that on average, every dollar of U.S. agricultural product exported generated an additional $1.13 of domestic economic activity. No sector outside of crop and livestock production benefited more than the services, trade, and transportation sector, which generated $88 billion worth of additional economic activity because of U.S. agricultural exports. On the farm, agricultural exports supported an additional $31 billion of business activity beyond the value of the agricultural exports themselves. This chart is drawn from ERS’s Agricultural Trade Multiplier, released April 2021. Note: ERS’s agricultural trade multiplier relies on an estimate of $141.6 billion for U.S. agricultural exports in 2019. This value includes exports of biodiesel, which USDA does not classify as an agricultural product, in addition to the $141.2 billion of exports identified by USDA as agricultural using the World Trade Organization’s definition of agricultural products.
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
The United States is a major exporter of agricultural products, with about 20 percent of its farm output sold abroad. Economic crises in foreign markets typically reduce U.S. export sales. Economic crises decrease countries’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and consumer demand, including demand for imported agricultural goods. Crises also often weaken, or depreciate, countries’ currency against the U.S. dollar, which lowers their imports by making foreign products more expensive compared with domestically produced substitutes. To examine how a worldwide economic crisis might affect U.S. agricultural exports, researchers at USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) simulated a hypothetical economic crisis in the eight largest U.S. foreign agricultural markets. The exercise indicated that the value of U.S. exports of the seven commodities given in the chart could decline in the year of an economic crisis by $4 billion, an export drop of 6.6 percent (using average 2017-19 export volumes as the base). Model results show the value of U.S. exports of soybeans, beef, and pork falling by around 8 percent, and exports of wheat and corn by about 5 percent. The export value for a good equals its export volume multiplied by the trade price. Export values in the ERS exercise drop by a greater percentage than export volumes because the global economic crisis substantially decreases world demand, and thereby lowers prices, for traded agricultural products. The results of this exercise can provide insight into how the current world economic crisis caused by Coronavirus COVID-19 is affecting U.S. agricultural exports. This chart appears in the Economic Research Report Economic Crises and U.S. Agricultural Exports, released in April 2021.
Thursday, November 12, 2020
Researchers at USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) recently evaluated the potential impacts of the European Commission (EC)’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies initiative that calls for restrictions in the use of agricultural inputs such as land, antimicrobials, fertilizers, and pesticides in European Union (EU) agricultural production. The proposal pledges to use EC trade policies and other international efforts to promote a vision of sustainability in agriculture, suggesting intentions to extend the reach of the policy beyond the EU. A mandated reduction in these inputs impacts food prices in three ways: production costs could increase as farmers substitute labor for other inputs; production could decrease as a result of fewer inputs being used; and prices on the international market could increase due to tightening of available supplies. Depending on how broadly these measures to reduce the use of agricultural inputs would be adopted globally, U.S. food prices could rise by 1 to 62 percent, and worldwide food prices could grow by 9 to 89 percent. These rising costs could affect consumer budgets and ultimately reduce worldwide gross domestic product (GDP) by $94 billion to $1.1 trillion, and consequentially, increase the number of food-insecure people in the world’s most vulnerable regions by 22 million to 185 million. This chart is drawn from the ERS report, Economic and Food Security Impacts of Agricultural Input Reduction Under the European Union Green Deal’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies.
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
The Agricultural Trade Multipliers, one of many data products offered by the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS), provide annual estimates of the effects of trade in farm and food products on the U.S. economy. These effects, when expressed as multipliers, reflect the amount of economic activity and jobs generated by agricultural exports. Similarly, the agricultural trade multiplier can be utilized to evaluate impacts of shocks such as COVID-19 on the agricultural sector. As this Chart of Note shows, exports constitute a large market for U.S. farm and food products and send ripples of activity through the nation’s economy. For instance, farm purchases of fuel and fertilizer to produce agricultural commodities for export spur economic activity in the manufacturing, trade, and transportation sectors, and the movement of these exports requires data processing, financial, legal, managerial, and administrative services. In 2018, U.S. agricultural exports valued at $139.6 billion generated an additional $162.9 billion in economic activity, for a total of $302.5 billion in economic output; thus, on average, every dollar of U.S. agricultural product exported generated $1.17 of additional domestic economic activity. No sector benefited more than the services, trade, and transportation sector, which realized $88.2 billion worth of additional economic activity due to U.S. agricultural exports. On the farm, agricultural exports supported an additional $22.1 billion of business activity beyond the value of the agricultural exports themselves. This chart is drawn from ERS’s Effects of Trade on the U.S. Economy, released March 2020.
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.”
Monday, April 20, 2020
Exports constitute a large market for U.S. farm and food products and send ripples of activity through the nation’s economy. For instance, farm purchases of fuel and fertilizer to produce agricultural commodities for export spur economic activity in the manufacturing, trade, and transportation sectors, and the movement of these exports requires data processing, financial, legal, managerial, and administrative services. This additional economic activity is estimated annually by the Economic Research Service (ERS) using an agricultural trade multiplier that measures the employment and output effects of trade in farm and food products on the U.S. economy. Similarly, the agricultural trade multiplier can be utilized to evaluate impacts of shocks such as COVID-19 on the agricultural sector. In 2018 U.S. agricultural exports valued at $139.6 billion generated an additional $162.9 billion in economic activity, for a total of $302.5 billion in economic output; thus, on average, every dollar of U.S. agricultural product exported generated $1.17 of additional domestic economic activity. No sector outside of crop and livestock production benefited more than the services, trade, and transportation sector, which generated $88.2 billion worth of additional economic activity due to U.S. agricultural exports. On the farm, agricultural exports supported an additional $22.1 billion of business activity beyond the value of the agricultural exports themselves. This chart is drawn from ERS’s Effects of Trade on the U.S. Economy, released March 2020.
Friday, April 3, 2020
The growth rate of the world’s agricultural output has varied over the decades. Output growth slowed in the 1970s and 1980s, but then accelerated in the 1990s and 2000s. In the latest period for which estimates are available (2001-16), global output of total crop and livestock commodities grew by an average rate of 2.45 percent per year. The different bar colors in the chart show the sources of this output growth. In the decades prior to 1990, most output growth came about from intensification of input use (more labor, capital, and material inputs per acre). Bringing new land into agriculture production and extending irrigation to existing agricultural land were also important sources of growth. During the periods of 1991-2000 and 2001-16, however, the rate of growth in input use significantly slowed. Instead, improvements in agricultural productivity—getting more output from existing resources—drove global output growth. Total factor productivity (TFP) grew from the adoption of new technologies, management practices, and other efficiency improvements in farming around the world. Between 2001 and 2016, TFP accounted for 77 percent of the total growth in agricultural output worldwide. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service topic page for International Agricultural Productivity Summary Findings, updated November 2019.
Monday, January 27, 2020
For 2019, increased imports are expected in many non-cotton-producing countries, as well as some producing ones. Although China—a major producer—is projected as the leading importer in 2019, its upcoming imports are expected to be below those from a year ago, as cotton mill use in China is forecast to decline for the second consecutive year. In contrast, all other major importers are anticipated to secure additional imports this year. For Bangladesh and Vietnam, higher cotton imports are seen as supporting the recent textile and apparel industry expansion. At the same time, a 3-decade-low production forecast for Pakistan in 2019 is expected to result in record-high cotton imports to help sustain its spinning industry. Meanwhile, higher imports are also forecast for Turkey and others in 2019. In fact, global cotton imports are forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to rise for the fourth consecutive year in 2019 to 43.8 million bales, nearly 4 percent (1.6 million bales) above last year’s volume. The growing trend is significant for the United States, as more than 80 percent of U.S. cotton production is exported to numerous countries around the world, with the U.S. share of 2019 global trade forecast at 38 percent. The 2019 global import forecast would be its highest since 2012’s record of 47.6 million bales. This chart is based on data in the ERS Cotton and Wool Outlook Tables, released in January 2020.
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
U.S. agricultural exports are projected to total $134.5 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2019 (October 2018–September 2019), while agricultural imports are expected to total $129.3 billion, according to ERS’s recent Outlook for U.S. Agricultural trade. The $5.2 billion surplus projected for FY 2019 is the lowest since FY 2006, when the U.S. exported $4.6 billion more in agricultural goods than it imported. Unlike overall U.S. trade in goods and services, U.S. trade in the agricultural sector consistently runs at a surplus. Although agricultural exports have increased in value since 2016, the value of imports has risen at a slightly faster rate, leading to a declining trade balance. Compared to the previous Outlook for Agricultural Trade forecasts in May 2019, exports were revised downward by $2.5 billion while imports were raised by $0.3 billion. The decline in expected export value was primarily due to lowered expectations for corn and soybean exports. For imports, the increase in the forecast was due in part to an increase in the expected value of horticultural imports, such as fruits and vegetables. Initial projections for the FY 2020 suggest a small recovery in the agricultural trade balance to $8.0 billion, with exports valued at $137.0 billion and imports valued at $129.0 billion. This chart is drawn from data discussed in the ERS quarterly Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade, released in August 2019.
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Forecasts for U.S. pork exports for 2019 and 2020 were recently raised, due in large part to expectations of continued significant growth in Chinese demand for U.S. pork. China’s demand for imported pork has accelerated as African Swine Fever (ASF) spread throughout China during 2018-19. While ASF does not affect human beings, it kills most infected swine and presently has no vaccine nor a cure. In September 2019, China’s inventory of swine was down 41 percent from a year earlier, as many farmers slaughtered swine to prevent herds from becoming infected. By mid-October, China’s hog and pork prices had roughly doubled from previous-year levels as pork supplies tightened. To partially fill its supply shortfall, China increased pork imports from the United States and about 10 other countries. Despite 2018 retaliatory tariffs and taxes imposed by the Government of China of up to 78 percent on most U.S. pork products, 2019 U.S. exports of pork to China have increased 91 percent, through August. Total U.S. pork exports in 2019 are forecast at 6.85 billion pounds, 12 percent higher than a year earlier. In 2020, total U.S. pork exports of 7.3 billion pounds are anticipated to be 11 percent above 2019. These charts were compiled from data in various 2019 issues of the USDA, Economic Research Service’s monthly “Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook.”
Thursday, September 26, 2019
As International Coffee Day approaches, Americans continue to demonstrate high demand for this caffeinated staple. However, the United States produces a minimal amount of coffee. The limited domestic production comes from Kona coffee grown in Hawaii and represents less than 1 percent of U.S. consumption. The rest is imported from coffee-growing regions around the world, including South and Central America and Southeast Asia. By a large margin, Colombia and Brazil are the largest sources of imports. In 2017, imports of unroasted coffee from Colombia were valued at over $1.2 billion, with just under $1.1 billion worth of coffee imported from Brazil. Other key markets are Vietnam and Indonesia in Southeast Asia, and Guatemala and Honduras in Central America. By value, these six countries represent 72 percent of all U.S. coffee imports. In all, 50 countries exported coffee valued at $1 million or more to the United States in 2017, with an additional 54 exporting lower valued amounts. This chart is drawn from the ERS U.S. Food Imports data product, updated in May 2018. This Chart of Note was originally published September 26, 2018.
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
In March 2019, historic flooding led to a major disaster declaration covering 121 counties in Iowa and Nebraska. The disaster declaration covers nearly half of the population in Iowa and 93 percent of the population in Nebraska. Of the 3.3 million people living in one of the designated disaster counties in 2017, over 37 percent (1.2 million) lived in rural areas. In 2017, Iowa and Nebraska were the second- and fourth-ranked States, respectively, in agricultural cash receipts. Iowa also ranked second in total agricultural exports and was the top exporter of soybeans, pork, corn, and feed grains. Nebraska led the Nation in beef and veal exports, and ranked third among States in corn, processed grain products, and feed grain exports. Based on the 2017 Census of Agriculture, designated disaster counties produced 66 percent of the market value of agricultural products sold in Iowa and 75 percent of those sold in Nebraska. Together, the designated disaster counties accounted for 9.2 percent of the total U.S. market value of agricultural products sold in 2017. This chart uses data from the ERS State Facts Sheet data product, updated March 2019. This Chart of Note was originally published April 25, 2019.