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Cage-free egg inventory recovers following avian flu outbreak

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Cage-free hens make up an increasing portion of the total U.S. egg-laying flock. In March 2024, the cage-free flock was reported at about 40 percent (124.8 million layers) of the U.S. flock. However, a wave of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in egg-laying hens in late 2023 reduced the inventory of cage-free eggs into February 2024. An estimated 13.6 million birds, both cage-free and caged, were depopulated following an outbreak spanning November 2023 to January 2024. This depopulation included about 4 million hens from California’s cage-free flock. California laws require its retailers to source eggs from cage-free layers regardless of the State of origin. To make up for the shortfall, cage-free eggs from other States were shipped to the California market. The resulting spike in demand prompted the advertised national average retail price for cage-free eggs to peak at $5.26 per dozen on January 12, 2024. Weekly wholesale prices for eggs in California increased to a high of $5.59 per dozen in the following weeks. U.S. inventories of cage-free eggs have since recovered, up from their low the week of January 22, 2024, and continued to climb into April 2024. Prices of cage-free eggs have also returned to a typical range. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, March 2024, and has been updated with recent data.

Seafood consumption per capita drifts higher in the United States

Thursday, April 11, 2024

U.S. residents consumed an average of 20.5 pounds of seafood— finfish and shellfish—per capita in 2021. The U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Office of Science and Technology publishes annual consumption estimates for seafood produced through aquaculture and captive fisheries, domestically as well as those imported from other countries. Over the last three decades, demand for farm-raised and wild-caught seafood has expanded as consumers’ tastes and preference for finfish and shellfish have increased. Per capita seafood consumption grew 30 percent in this period, led by fresh and frozen seafood. Growth in fresh and frozen seafood consumption per capita climbed from about 63 percent in 1990 to almost 80 percent in 2021. In contrast, per capita consumption of canned seafood has declined from a 35-percent share in 1990 to an 18-percent share of the total seafood consumed nationwide in 2021. Cured seafood consumption remained constant throughout the period of observation. According to NOAA, about 80 percent of all seafood consumed in the United States is estimated to come from imported products. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service Aquaculture topic page.

Livestock Forage Disaster Program payments highest during years with severe, widespread drought

Monday, March 25, 2024

The USDA, Farm Service Agency administers the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), which provides payments to livestock producers affected by drought. From 2008 to 2022, the program distributed more than $12 billion (in 2022 dollars) in total to livestock producers throughout the United States. Annual LFP payments peaked in 2012 at more than $3 billion (in 2022 dollars) when severe, widespread drought conditions were prevalent throughout much of the central United States, where much of the Nation’s livestock production is concentrated. In general, years with widespread drought (such as in 2012, 2013, and 2022) are associated with larger total annual LFP payments. LFP eligibility is based on drought severity as reported by the U.S. Drought Monitor. If drought conditions become more severe and common in the future because of climate change, LFP payments may increase, with potential impact on the Federal Government’s budget. For more about the LFP and the potential impact of LFP payments on the Federal budget, see the USDA, Economic Research Service report The Stocking Impact and Financial-Climate Risk of the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, published in January 2024.

Iowa leads States in hog production

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Iowa is the top producer of hogs in the United States, with about $10.9 billion in cash receipts in 2022. Cash receipts represent the value of sales of hogs by farmers to processors or final users. Following Iowa are Minnesota, North Carolina, and Illinois, with cash receipts of $3.6 billion, $3.1 billion, and $2.1 billion, respectively. Iowa accounted for about 35.5 percent of the $30.6 billion in total U.S. cash receipts for hogs in 2022. The top 10 hog-producing States cumulatively accounted for 87.6 percent of hog receipts. The latest Hogs and Pigs report from USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service indicated there were nearly 75 million hogs in the United States as of December 1, 2023. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) estimates farm sector cash receipts—the cash income received from agricultural commodity sales—three times each year. These data include estimates broken down by State and commodity and offer background information on the Nation’s agriculture. The information in this chart is available in the ERS Farm Income and Wealth Statistics data product, updated in February 2024.

Drought conditions influence annual fluctuations in U.S. beef cattle herd size

Monday, March 11, 2024

Beef cattle operations that rely on precipitation to grow forage to feed their herds are particularly vulnerable to drought. When drought conditions diminish forage production and availability, beef cattle producers often must buy supplemental feed and forage or reduce their herd size. Periods of more intense drought are associated with decreases in the U.S. beef cattle herd size, such as when the national beef cattle herd shrank about 1 to 2 percent a year during drought between 2011 and 2015. This chart also shows that cattle numbers grew in the less intense drought years of 2015 to 2018. Other factors outside of drought conditions also influence changes in the beef cattle herd size, including feed and forage prices, extreme precipitation events, supply chain issues, and the natural life cycles of livestock (i.e., the cattle cycle). To support livestock producers negatively impacted by drought conditions, the USDA administers a range of programs such as the USDA, Farm Service Agency’s Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), which provides payments to livestock producers whose forage production is diminished by drought. LFP eligibility is determined by drought conditions reported by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Many livestock species, ranging from beef cattle to reindeer, are eligible for LFP payments. LFP payment rates are species specific and designed to cover about 60 percent of monthly feed and forage costs. For more about the U.S. beef cattle herd, the LFP, and the potential impact of LFP payments on the Federal budget, see the USDA, Economic Research Service report The Stocking Impact and Financial-Climate Risk of the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, published in January 2024.

U.S. trade rules shape new pattern of Brazil’s beef exports to the United States

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Brazil’s beef exports to the United States have grown rapidly since the easing of U.S. restrictions on imports of fresh beef from Brazil in 2020. In addition, Brazil’s beef exports have shifted in seasonality toward a trend of late-year shipments caused by a tariff-rate quota that resets on January 1 of each year. With tariff-rate quotas, imports are first subject to a smaller tariff, then once a specific volume of imports is met, any additional imports are subject to a higher tariff. U.S.-bound beef exports from Brazil first surged in late 2021. After trailing off in 2022, exports to the United States surged again later that year then once again in late 2023. Brazil starts shipping product to the United States late in the year to arrive when the quota reopens on January 1. Once the quota is filled, the higher beef tariff reduces Brazil’s competitiveness in the U.S. beef market, causing exports to slow. Total U.S. imports, a measure of the shipments once they reach U.S. soil, were once strongest during the second or third quarter. However, large amounts of beef from Brazil now arrive in January, resulting in expectations for higher imports in the first quarter. The quarterly forecast for U.S. beef imports in 2024 reflects this new seasonality. As of February 12, the 2024 quota was already more than 85 percent filled, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commodity Status Report. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service’s February 2024 Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook.

U.S. pork exports projected to surge, surpass broiler chicken exports

Thursday, February 15, 2024

The volume of U.S. meat exports in major categories is projected to grow through 2033, according to USDA long-term projection data. Rising incomes abroad and a moderately declining real exchange rate of the U.S. dollar against the currencies of major agricultural trade partners lend support to U.S. red meat and poultry exports. Notably, by 2028, pork exports are set to exceed exports of broiler chickens for the first time since 1976. Steady growth in U.S. pork production, driven by a combination of increasing slaughter weights, rising pigs per litter, and higher inventories, is projected to support rapid growth in exports. New environmental policies in the European Union (EU) are expected to impact regional pork production and reduce growth of EU’s exports, enhancing U.S. competitiveness. U.S. pork exports are projected to increase 34 percent from an expected 6.95 billion pounds in 2024 to a projected 9.34 billion pounds by 2033. By 2026, U.S. pork exports are expected to surpass the previous record of 7.28 billion pounds set in 2020, when import demand in China spiked at the height of China’s African swine fever epidemic. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service Amber Waves article, U.S. Pork Export Volumes Projected to Surpass Chicken in the Next Decade, February 2024.

U.S. seafood imports exceeded exports by $20.3 billion in 2023

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Consumer demand for seafood in the United States has risen over the last three decades. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, per capita consumption of seafood products (includes canned, fresh, frozen, and cured) reached an estimated 20.5 pounds per person in 2021. To meet rising consumer demand, the United States increasingly relies on global suppliers to supplement domestic production. About 80 percent of estimated U.S. consumption of seafood comes from abroad—primarily from Canada, Chile, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam. From 1995 to 2023, the value of U.S. seafood imports, adjusted for inflation, trended upward, with notable exceptions related to the global economic recession and the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. U.S. seafood exports dropped about 23 percent, while imports expanded about 87 percent during the same period. The expanding deficit in trade value (imports minus exports) peaked in 2021 at $25.8 billion (in 2023 dollars) and was recorded at $20.3 billion in 2023. As a supplier, the United States ranked 10th in 2022 in seafood exports worldwide. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service topic page on aquaculture.

Livestock Forage Disaster Program payments concentrated in the Western and Central United States

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Drought imposes significant costs on the U.S. agricultural sector, particularly for livestock producers who rely on precipitation to grow forage. USDA’s Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) provides payments to livestock producers whose pastures and rangeland are impacted by drought through the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP). The LFP was established by the 2008 Farm Bill and uses eligibility criteria based on county-level drought conditions reported by the U.S. Drought Monitor. FSA annually sets species-specific per head LFP payment rates designed to cover about 60 percent of monthly feed/forage costs for livestock. Livestock species eligible for LFP payments include traditional livestock, such as beef and dairy cattle, as well as more exotic varieties, such as reindeer and ostriches. Between 2008 and 2022, the program disbursed more than $12 billion (in 2022 dollars) of payments to livestock producers. Counties with the largest aggregate LFP payments per 1,000 head of livestock are concentrated primarily in the Western, Southern, and Central United States, where drought conditions are generally more severe and common. About 20 percent of counties in the continental United States received no LFP payments between 2008 and 2022. These counties are primarily located in urban regions and the relatively more humid Eastern United States. This chart was drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service report The Stocking Impact and Financial-Climate Risk of the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, published January 2024.

Large-scale family farms lead in terms of value of production for many commodities in 2022

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Large-scale family farms accounted for a majority of the value of commodity production in 2022, including cash grains and soybeans (51 percent), hogs (56 percent), cotton (65 percent), specialty crops (65 percent), and dairy (76 percent). On the other hand, small family farms accounted for 3 percent of the value of production for dairy, 4 percent for cotton, 7 percent for specialty crops, and 26 percent for beef, but they produced the majority of hay (53 percent) and 45 percent of poultry and eggs. The value of production by nonfamily farms ranged from 5 percent for both hay production and poultry and eggs production to 19 percent for specialty crop production. This chart uses data appearing in America’s Farms and Ranches at a Glance, published December 2023.

Value of U.S. milk production reaches $59 billion in 2022

Thursday, January 11, 2024

U.S. milk production, as measured in inflation-adjusted 2023 dollars, grew $13.0 billion (or 28 percent) to $59.2 billion in 2022, the highest level since 2014, according to data from the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS). ERS annually estimates farm sector cash receipts—the cash income received from agricultural commodity sales. This increase in receipts coincided with the U.S. all-milk price rising to $26.46 per hundredweight, a 28.6-percent gain from 2021. The all-milk price is a gross price dairy farmers receive per hundredweight of milk sold and does not include deductions for items like transportation charges, promotion costs, or co-op dues. In 2014, cash receipts for milk reached an all-time high of $62.4 billion once adjusted for inflation, about 5 percent more than the 2022 total. This chart was created using information found in the ERS Farm Income and Wealth Statistics data product updated in November 2023. Estimates of 2023 milk receipts will be released in August 2024.

Pork exports to China surged as African swine fever curtailed China’s pork output

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The 2018 spread of African swine fever (ASF) to China had reverberations in the global pork market. ASF—a virus often fatal to swine—caused an estimated loss of 27.9 million metric tons in China’s pork output from late 2018 to early 2021 and led to a doubling of China’s domestic pork prices. These high prices attracted a surge of pork exports from four major suppliers—the European Union (EU), United States, Brazil, and Canada. While the EU was the top supplier, U.S. pork exports were sizable and reached a record high of more than 287,000 metric tons in the second quarter of 2020. After surging, exports by all suppliers began declining during 2021 as China’s domestic production rebounded and associated prices plummeted. According to a recent report from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), pork exports to China might have increased even more during the ASF outbreak if not for several factors. Specifically, China banned pork from some EU countries that also had ASF outbreaks. In addition, U.S. pork faced high retaliatory tariffs because of trade tensions, and China rejected some Canadian pork shipments. Also, during the COVID-19 pandemic, China launched stringent inspections of foreign meat suppliers and required decontamination of meat at Chinese ports. In aggregate, pork imports replaced about an estimated one-fifth of the domestic pork supplies lost in China during the ASF epidemic. Official data indicate that China’s pork production returned to its pre-ASF level in 2021. While exports to China are down from their peak, China is still one of the top 3 overseas markets for U.S. pork, with sales in the first 6 months of 2023 exceeding annual totals posted in years before ASF hit China. This chart first appeared in the ERS report How China’s African Swine Fever Outbreaks Affected Global Pork Markets, published November 2023.

Most U.S. butter and cheese is consumed domestically, while most dry skim milk products are exported

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The United States is a large producer and exporter of dairy products. Some dairy products are exported more than others. Exports-to-production ratios, which indicate the share of total U.S. production destined for export each year, show that U.S. dry skim milk products are increasingly exported. In 2022, U.S. exports of dry skim milk products (nonfat dry milk, skim milk powder, and dry skim milk for animal use) were equivalent to 69 percent of production by volume. Since 2000, the exports-to-production ratio of dry skim milk products has increased, more than tripling from 2000 to 2022. By contrast, U.S.-produced cheese and butter mostly are kept for use in domestic markets. Though the exports-to-production ratios of butter and cheese also have trended upward, U.S. exports of butter equated to less than 9 percent of 2022 production, and exports of cheese were equivalent to about 7 percent of production. Differences between exports of butter and cheese and exports of dry milk products partly can be explained by shelf stability and ease of transport. Dry skim milk products are much easier to ship internationally and have a lower risk of spoilage than fresh and/or refrigerated dairy products. Although relatively low proportions of U.S. cheese are exported, in 2022 the United States was the second largest exporter of cheese by value worldwide, with total cheese exports estimated at nearly $2.3 billion. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service report U.S. Trade Performance and Position in Global Meat, Poultry, and Dairy Exports published in April 2023.

Turkey prices falling in time for holiday season

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Just in time for the 2023 holiday season, wholesale prices of whole frozen turkeys are declining. Prices for frozen whole hens—the birds typically served for holiday dinners—averaged $1.27 per pound in August 2023. Prices dropped further to $1.25 per pound in September, down 43 cents from a year earlier, and the lowest monthly average price since July of 2021. The price reprieve comes after an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in 2022 resulted in major losses for the commercial turkey flock. Turkey production fell 6 percent to 5.222 billion pounds in 2022, down from about 5.558 billion in 2021, and prices rose to historic highs. The outbreak persisted for more than a year, winding down in April 2023. Even as the outbreak continued in the spring, turkey production had already begun to recover from the mid-2022 low point, when depopulation resulted in sharply lower turkey numbers. Since April 2023, production has been above the previous year’s levels, partly because birds were being slaughtered at heavier weights. Detections of HPAI in commercial turkey flocks in early October 2023 are not expected to have a major effect on the availability of turkeys in the 2023 holiday season. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook, September 2023.

Growing share of egg-laying hens are cage-free

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Cage-free hens, which unlike caged hens are free to roam during the laying cycle, comprise a growing percentage of the U.S. egg-laying flock. The cage-free flock has grown as States have passed and enacted legislation banning confinement of hens and as multiple retailers and food service providers have pledged to only source eggs from cage-free operations. Additional State bans are planned to take effect between 2023 and 2026. According to the USDA, Monthly Cage-Free Shell Egg report, the cage-free egg-laying flock (including certified organic hens) increased by more than 10.5 million hens in the first 6 months of 2023. As a result, cage-free hens increased as a proportion of the total U.S. laying flock, expanding from 36 percent in January to 38 percent in June. A closer look at USDA’s data reveals that the nonorganic cage-free flock accounted for most of this increase, while the organic egg-laying flock accounted for a smaller share of growth. The same report estimates cage-free hens’ productivity. Starting in late 2021, cage-free lay rates have been moving mostly above or at similar levels to the lay rates in the overall table egg-laying flock, a departure from the previous trend. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook, August 2023.

Smaller cow-calf operations still outnumber large operations, but herd sizes have increased

Thursday, August 17, 2023

In the United States, most cow-calf operations are relatively small and have fewer than 50 cows though a few very large operations (with more than 1,000 cows) can be found. On cow-calf farms, calves are birthed, raised, and weaned on site. While some calves remain on the farm until they reach slaughter weight, most are either moved directly to feedlots after weaning or retained on-farm for additional weight gain before being sold to feedlots. Unlike many other animal production operations, cow-calf farms generally do not require a major upfront investment in capital assets specific to cow-calf production, such as housing. The combination of relatively lower cow-calf specific startup costs and pasture as a primary source of feed has resulted in a variety of operation sizes on a range of land types for both full- and part-time farmers. Data from USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Census of Agriculture indicate that between 1997 and 2017, most cow-calf operations remained small. In 2017, 54 percent of farms with beef cows had fewer than 20 cows, slightly down from 1997. However, across the two decades, the overall number of cow-calf operations in the United States decreased by 19 percent, while the average herd size of operations grew. These changes in farm number and herd size, while notable, have not been as significant as industry shifts in hog and dairy production. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service report Structure, Management Practices, and Production Costs of U.S. Beef Cow-Calf Farms, published in July 2023.

Most manure applied to corn fields is not incorporated into the soil

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Corn farmers most frequently apply manure to the soil surface without incorporating it, rather than using other methods. Manure types vary based on water content, such as lagoon liquid, slurry liquid, and dry or semi-dry. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers found that irrespective of manure type, corn farmers used surface application most often, tending not to incorporate the manure with tillage afterward. With incorporation, manure is first spread on the soil surface and then mixed into the first few inches with a tillage implement, thus increasing its contact with the soil. Less than 30 percent of all surface-applied manure on corn fields is incorporated. Surface application without incorporating into the soil or applying manure through an irrigation system results in less nutrient retention and lower fertilizer value. Farmers gauge manure moisture content to determine which application method to use when addressing crop nutrient needs. On operations such as swine or dairy farms, it is common to use water to wash manure out of barns, creating lagoon and slurry liquid manure with a high water content. Liquid manure is usually applied to the land’s surface, but roughly 20 percent is injected into the soil using specialized equipment like a manure injector. Only a small portion of liquid manure stored in lagoons is sprayed through irrigation systems. Poultry and beef feedlot manures are typically dry or semisolid. Almost all dry or semisolid manures are surface applied. In 2020, more acres were planted to corn (90.8 million acres) in the United States than any other crop, and a larger percentage of corn acres (16.3 percent) received manure than any other crop. This chart appears in the ERS report Increasing the Value of Animal Manure for Farmers, published in March 2023.

Farmers mostly use manure sources from their own operations

Monday, July 24, 2023

In 2020, manure was applied to about 8 percent of the 240.9 million acres planted to 7 major U.S. field crops. Most manure applied to U.S. cropland (78 percent) comes from animals raised on the same operation, while 14 percent is purchased and 8 percent is obtained at no cost from other animal operations. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) survey data show that crop farmers received compensation from animal producers for taking manure for less than 1 percent of the manure applied, noted as “Obtained with compensation” in the chart. For most crops, farmers use manure that either comes from their own farm or at no cost from other farms. However, cotton and peanut producers are the most likely to purchase manure, typically from poultry growers. Among all animal manure types, poultry litter has the highest nutrient content, making it less costly to transport. Manure markets tend to be highly localized. When manure is obtained by a crop producer at no cost from the animal producer, that can indicate an excess supply of manure in the local area. Animal producers who apply their operations’ manure to their own crops account for a high proportion of manure used on oats, corn, and barley crops, followed by soybean and wheat. This chart appears in the USDA, ERS report Increasing the Value of Animal Manure for Farmers, published in March 2023.

Wholesale egg prices tumble as egg supplies recover

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Wholesale egg prices reached record highs in 2022 after avian flu resulted in significant reductions in egg-laying flocks. Avian flu, also known as highly pathogenic avian influenza, is a disease that spreads rapidly in birds and poultry and is often lethal. Cumulative losses attributable to the disease amounted to more than 43 million egg-laying hens. At the height of the disease, in the last weeks of December 2022, weekly egg inventories were 29 percent lower than at the beginning of the year, and prices reached a high of $5.37 per dozen. With no new outbreaks reported in 2023, the size of the egg-laying flock has gradually increased since late 2022, and egg inventories have been steadily recovering. In turn, wholesale prices have fallen sharply, reaching $0.89 per dozen in the first week of May 2023 after a seasonal increase in the weeks leading up to Easter. As of the week ending June 30, 2023, egg inventories were about 24 percent higher than the lowest 2022 values. During the same week, the average price was $1.23 per dozen, about 77 percent lower than the highest average weekly price in 2022. During the summer months, demand for eggs tends to level off as people bake less often. As a result, minimal fluctuation in wholesale egg prices is expected during this period. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, June 2023. See also the ERS Chart of Note, Avian influenza outbreaks reduced egg production, driving prices to record highs in 2022, published in January 2023.

Ice cream consumption melts from 2000 to 2021

Thursday, July 6, 2023

In 2021, U.S. residents consumed 20.3 pounds of frozen dairy products per capita, nearly 6 pounds less than in 2000. Per capita consumption of frozen dairy products, which includes ice creams and frozen yogurt among other frozen dairy products, has been declining since the 1990s, dipping to its lowest point in 2021. Consumption of regular ice cream in 2021 was estimated at 12.0 pounds per person, a drop of about 4 pounds from 2000. At 6.4 pounds, per capita consumption of low-fat and nonfat ice cream was roughly the same in 2021 as in 2000. Consumption of other dairy products, including frozen yogurt, sherbet, and miscellaneous frozen dairy products, decreased from 3.4 pounds per person in 2000 to 1.9 pounds in 2021. This downward trend in frozen dairy product consumption is in line with a decline in consumption of caloric sweeteners from 150.9 pounds per capita in 2000 to 127.4 pounds in 2021, reflecting shifting preference among consumers. This chart is drawn from Dairy Data, published by USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS), which provide annual data for per capita consumption of dairy products from 1975 to 2021. Information concerning caloric sweeteners is from ERS’ Sugar and Sweeteners Yearbook Tables. The data for this chart do not account for spoilage, waste, and other losses. For data that take these losses into account, see ERS’ Loss-Adjusted Food Availability.