ERS Charts of Note
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Tuesday, February 21, 2023
Production and consumption of ethanol as a transportation fuel (largely sourced from corn) grew significantly over the last three decades in the United States before plateauing in recent years. The ethanol share of finished motor gasoline (FMG) has moved concurrently with consumption, leveling off near 10 percent in 2022. The Renewable Fuel Standard—which sets volumes of biofuels that must be blended with fossil fuels—influences ethanol’s share of FMG, along with other factors including relative prices. Steps taken in the spring of 2020 to combat the spread of COVID-19, such as increased remote work and school, and other social distancing efforts, resulted in sharp declines in a variety of ethanol market metrics. For example, from 2017–19, U.S. ethanol production averaged 1.33 billion gallons per month, while consumption averaged 1.18 billion gallons per month. During the pandemic lows, these values fell by 46 percent and nearly 40 percent, respectively, causing the ethanol share of FMG to decline to 9 percent. More recently, estimates for all three figures have largely recovered and leveled off. However, increasing adoption of hybrid and electric vehicles combined with continued fuel efficiency gains in gasoline vehicles are expected to put downward pressure on gasoline consumption and dampen prospects for renewed growth in fuel ethanol demand. This chart appeared in the USDA, Economic Research Service report, Global Demand for Fuel Ethanol Through 2030, February 2023.
Thursday, February 16, 2023
The organic market has seen continued growth in retail sales in the past decade. U.S. organic retail sales increased by an average of 8 percent per year and surpassed $53 billion in 2020 (inflation-adjusted to 2021 dollars). In 2021, sales were $52 billion, which was a 6-percent annual decline when adjusted for inflation, but a slight increase when not inflation-adjusted. Additionally, the number of certified organic acres operated increased gradually from 3.6 million in 2011 to 4.9 million acres in 2021. The number of certified farms with operating organic acres in the United States nearly doubled over the past decade to 17,409 from about 8,978. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of certified organic farms in the United States increased 5 percent, while total organic land decreased by 11 percent, driven by a 36-percent decrease in pasture and rangeland. These latest data were released in the 2021 Certified Organic Survey on December 15, 2022, by USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service with cooperation from USDA's Risk Management Agency, which is the first organic survey released by USDA since 2019. The U.S. organic retail sales data provided by Nutrition Business Journal were adjusted for inflation and are available on USDA, Economic Research Service’s Organic Agriculture topic page, updated February 2023.
Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Consumer prices for wheat-based products were up substantially in 2022 compared to 2021, as indicated by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) data published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Price levels of a variety of wheat products were up more than 10 percent from 2021, outpacing the rate of inflation in the broader “all food” category, which was up 9.9 percent, more than double the average increase of the previous decade. The average price level across the cereals and bakery products category was up 13 percent in 2022, well above the previous year’s increase (2.3 percent) and more than three times as large as any year in the past decade. Prices for flour and prepared flour mixes were nearly 19 percent higher in 2022, far exceeding the average from the previous decade (0.2 percent). Commodity prices for wheat were elevated in 2021 and 2022, but the increase in prices for wheat-based consumer products did not fully appear until 2022. Consumer price changes tend to lag price changes at the commodity level, partly based on the tendency of processors to purchase inputs well in advance. Rising input prices for non-wheat ingredients—such as eggs and butter, which tend to feature prominently in wheat food products—in addition to elevated labor and fuel expenses have all contributed to wheat food price inflation in 2022. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service Wheat Outlook, February 2023.
Tuesday, February 14, 2023
Total caloric sweetener deliveries from domestic producers and importers to end-users and brokers—an indicator of sweetener consumption in the United States—rose by 1 percent in 2021 to 127.4 pounds per capita. Annual growth in per capita sweetener deliveries had not been observed since 2014 amid the backdrop of a long-term declining trend that started after peaking at 153.7 pounds in 1999. Growth in 2021 was driven by an increase in refined sugar deliveries per capita, the largest component, which were up 1.9 percent in 2021 at 69.8 pounds and the highest since 1995. This growth countered the 1.2 percent decrease in per capita high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) deliveries to 39.5 pounds. HFCS deliveries, the other major component, have been steadily decreasing since topping out at 65.9 pounds in 1999, driving the long-term decline in total sweetener deliveries. While per capita deliveries of other caloric sweeteners (glucose, dextrose, honey, other edible syrups) increased by 2.4 percent in 2021, the volumes have been relatively small, historically hovering at 20 pounds. Some of the sweetened food and beverage products that are consumed in the United States, such as soft drinks, ice creams, or even U.S.-branded chocolates that are manufactured overseas, are imported. The contribution of these imports to per capita sweetener consumption is relatively small compared to domestic sweetener deliveries, but their share and volume have been steadily increasing since 2013, reaching 7.1 pounds per capita in 2021, an increase of 16.4 percent. Including estimated sweeteners from the imported sugar-containing products, per capita sweetener deliveries totaled 134.5 pounds in 2021. More information can be found in two special articles on sweetener deliveries that appeared in the January 2023 Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook, published by USDA, Economic Research Service.
U.S. farm inputs have shifted from labor and land to capital, materials, and purchased services in past 70 years
Monday, February 13, 2023
U.S. farm output—the total amount of livestock, crops, and other farm-related outputs produced in a year—tripled in the seven decades from 1948 to 2019. At the same time, the total amount of inputs used in U.S. farm production only increased slightly by 4 percent, at an annual rate of 0.06 percent, partly because of a shift away from labor and land and toward non-land capital and other intermediate inputs. From 1948 to 2019, the amount of farm labor used in the production of U.S. agricultural commodities fell 74 percent, and land use declined 28 percent. On the other hand, the use of intermediate inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides, and purchased services grew 126 percent, and the use of capital inputs such as machinery and farm structures (chicken houses and greenhouses, for example) grew 79 percent. Over the years, technological changes have made inputs such as machinery and agricultural chemicals more affordable for farmers and have partially replaced labor and land inputs in the production process. As a result, increased productivity has been the primary source of growth in U.S. agricultural output. Over the 70 years, farm output grew at an average annual rate of 1.42 percent, and productivity contributed 1.36 percentage points to that growth rate. This chart appears in the Amber Waves article U.S. Agricultural Output Has Grown Slower in Response to Stagnant Productivity Growth, published in October 2022.
Thursday, February 9, 2023
Overall U.S. dairy consumption rose slightly from 1981 to 2021, but daily cheese consumption more than doubled and consumption of yogurt grew fivefold, according to loss-adjusted food availability data from the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS). In the data, ERS adjusts the amount of basic commodities available in the food supply by taking into account food spoilage, plate waste, and other losses to more closely approximate actual consumption. Overall loss-adjusted dairy availability totaled 1.5 cup-equivalents per person per day in 2021—half the recommended amount for a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet based on the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Daily cheese consumption grew to 0.74 cup-equivalents per person in 2021 from 0.36 cup-equivalents per person in 1981. Yogurt consumption increased to 0.05 cup-equivalents per person from nearly 0.01 cup-equivalents. Fluid milk consumption fell to 0.5 cup-equivalents per person in 2021 from 0.8 cup-equivalents per person in 1981. Several factors contributed to this decline, including competition from alternative beverages, an aging population with differing preferences across generations, and changing consumer attitudes regarding milk fats. This chart is from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated December 2022.
Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Retail prices for chicken wings have been trending lower in recent months and in time for national sporting events such as the upcoming Super Bowl and the college basketball championship tournaments (“March Madness”). Previously, a combination of limited supplies and strong demand led to a historic runup in wholesale and retail prices. Wholesale chicken wing prices reached a peak of $3.25 per pound in late May 2021, but retail prices continued to climb. At the start of the 2022 March Madness basketball tournament, the national average retail feature price (prices advertised in grocery flyers) was estimated at $4.29 per pound. Nearly a year later and just ahead of the 2023 Super Bowl and basketball tournament, the national average feature price is down nearly $1.70 per pound to $2.62 (price as of January 13). Increased production has boosted volumes of chicken wings in cold storage, so wholesale prices have fallen even further than retail prices. The average wholesale price in December 2022 was 89 cents per pound, down more than $2.50 per pound from the 2021 peak. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook: January 2023.
Tuesday, February 7, 2023
The USDA, Economic Research Service forecasts inflation-adjusted U.S. net cash farm income (NCFI)—gross cash income minus cash expenses—to decrease by $44.7 billion to $150.6 billion in 2023. This marks a 22.9 percent decline after reaching a forecast record high of $195.3 billion in 2022. U.S. net farm income (NFI) is forecast to decrease by $30.5 billion (18.2 percent) to $136.9 billion in 2023 after reaching a forecast of $167.3 billion in 2022, its highest level since 1973 after adjusting for inflation. (Calculations include rounding.) Net farm income is a broad measure of farm sector profitability that incorporates noncash items, including changes in inventories, economic depreciation, and gross imputed rental income. If these forecasts are realized, both NCFI and NFI would remain above their respective 20-year averages (2002–2021) in 2023. Underlying these forecasts, cash receipts for farm commodities are projected to fall by $38.9 billion (7.0 percent) from 2022 to $519.8 billion in 2023. During the same period, production expenses are expected to increase by $5.7 billion (1.3 percent) to $459.5 billion. Additionally, direct Government payments to farmers are projected to fall by $5.8 billion (36.2 percent) from 2022 levels to $10.2 billion in 2023, largely because of anticipated lower payments from supplemental and ad hoc disaster assistance programs. Find additional information and analysis on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s topic page Highlights from the Farm Income Forecast, reflecting data released on February 7, 2023.
Monday, February 6, 2023
Researchers at USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) examined rotational grazing systems on beef cow-calf operations and found that as average paddock size increased, farmers and ranchers tended to rotate their cattle less frequently. Rotational grazing systems are those in which livestock owners rotate animals among a series of paddocks (fenced pasture areas), allowing forage to recover before returning the cattle to graze in that spot again. A key decision for ranchers and farmers that affects forage growth is the number of rotations for a given number of paddocks. A large portion (84 percent) of intensive rotational grazing (IRG) operations with small paddocks (paddocks of 19 acres or less) rotated their cattle so that each paddock had four or more rotations per year. Intensive rotational grazing systems use an average grazing period of 14 or fewer days per paddock. In contrast, researchers found that about 52 percent of IRG operations using large paddocks (40 acres or more) rotated cattle four or more times per year. This pattern of smaller paddocks and more rotations was even more evident for basic rotational grazing (BRG) operations, which use an average grazing period longer than 14 days per paddock. Around 67 percent of BRG operations with small paddocks used four or more rotations per paddock per year, but the share drops to 35 percent for BRG operations with large paddocks. The relationships between rotation frequency, paddock size, and system intensity highlight the complexity underlying the practice of rotating cattle through multiple paddocks. This chart appears in the ERS report Rotational Grazing Adoption by Cow-Calf Operations, published in November 2022.
Thursday, February 2, 2023
In 2021, the average dollar spent by U.S. consumers on domestically produced food returned 39.4 cents as property income. Property income is income received by owners of capital assets such as land, equipment, and intellectual property after they pay for intermediate inputs, labor, and output taxes. The 39.4 cents as property income marked a 0.3-cent increase from a revised 2020 estimate of 39.1 cents and the second year in a row in which property income’s share of the food dollar set a record high for USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food Dollar Series. The share of the food dollar that compensates labor through salaries and benefits was 50.3 cents in 2021, a 1.2-cent decrease from 2020. The remaining food dollar shares were each at 5.1 cents for output taxes (excise, sales, property, and severance taxes less subsidies, customs duties, and other government fees) and imports, which include imported ingredients and other inputs needed for domestic food production. Annual shifts in the primary factor shares of the food dollar may occur for a variety of reasons, including changes in the mix of foods consumers buy, the balance of food consumed at home and away from home, and changes in primary factor markets for non-food production. The data for this chart are available for the years 1997 to 2021 and can be found in Food Dollar Series, updated November 17, 2022.
Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Among racial and ethnic groups (not including non-Hispanic White) in rural areas, Hispanic workers often lead employment in the six largest rural industries. In 2019, Hispanic workers performed 14.4 percent of rural jobs in agriculture and 12.8 percent in accommodation and food services. In rural manufacturing jobs, 8.7 percent of workers were Hispanic; in government, 7.8 percent; in retail, 7.5 percent; and in health care and social assistance, 6.2 percent. Rural Black workers were more evenly distributed with 9.7 percent of the workforce in manufacturing, 9.4 percent in health care and social assistance, 9.5 percent in hotels and restaurants, and 8.8 percent in government. Black workers were less represented in retail (7.0 percent) and in agriculture (2.4 percent). Asian workers constituted less than 2 percent of the rural workforce in most industries, except for accommodation and food services (3.3 percent). Similarly, American Indian or Alaska Native workers represented less than 2 percent of rural employment in most industries except government (3.4 percent). This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report Rural America at a Glance: 2022 edition.
Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Ukraine’s corn and wheat exports have almost returned to seasonal-average levels since summer 2022, when Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the United Nations signed the Black Sea Grain Initiative to reopen Black Sea routes. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 led to elevated security risks and infrastructure damage, causing Ukraine’s seaports to be almost completely cut off from March through July. The restrictions limited exports and led to an accumulation of corn and wheat stocks. As global exportable supplies diminished, international wheat export prices spiked. Signed in July 2022, the Black Sea agreement enabled the safe passage of Ukraine grain exports through three ports. That and ample corn and wheat stocks allowed Ukraine to export a larger combined volume of the two crops than the five-year average in September and October. In December, Ukraine was able to export more than 3.0 million metric tons of corn, the largest since the beginning of the war, and 1.6 million metric tons of wheat. The Black Sea Grain Initiative has increased the opportunities for Ukrainian grain to leave the country and has relieved some price pressures internationally, but uncertainty remains as the agreement is set to expire in mid-March 2023 and may not be extended. This chart was drawn from “Feature Article: Changes in Ukraine Wheat and Corn Export Patterns Since the Start of the Ukraine-Russia War,” which appeared in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Wheat Outlook: January 2023.
Monday, January 30, 2023
Rotational grazing is a management practice in which livestock are cycled through multiple fenced grazing areas (paddocks) to manage forage production, forage quality, animal health, and environmental quality. In a recent study, USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers found the highest rate of total rotational grazing adoption (49 percent of operations) in the Northern Plains and Western Corn Belt region, and the lowest level (25 percent of operations) in the Southern Plains region. The researchers classified two systems of rotational grazing: basic, in which average grazing periods are longer than 14 days per paddock; and intensive, in which grazing periods are 14 days or fewer per paddock. Researchers used detailed cow-calf operation data on grazing system management decisions to compare the adoption rates of basic rotational grazing systems with intensive systems. For four of the five regions analyzed in this research, basic rotational grazing was more common than intensive rotational grazing. The exception was the Appalachian region, where 25 percent of cow-calf operations used intensive rotational grazing and 22 percent used basic rotational grazing. Major drivers for regional differences in adoption could include varying forage types, which may respond better to rotational grazing than others, and differing climates. This chart draws on information in the ERS report Rotational Grazing Adoption by Cow-Calf Operations, published November 2022, and in the ERS Amber Waves article Study Examines How and Where U.S. Cow-Calf Operations Use Rotational Grazing, published in November 2022.
Thursday, January 26, 2023
Food-at-home prices increased by 11.4 percent in 2022, more than three times the rate in 2021 (3.5 percent) and much faster than the 2.0-percent historical annual average from 2002 to 2021. Of the food categories depicted in the chart, all except beef and veal grew faster in 2022 than in 2021. In 2022, price increases surpassed 10 percent for food at home and for nine food categories. Egg prices grew at the fastest rate (32.2 percent) after an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) throughout 2022. Prices for fats and oils increased by 18.5 percent, largely because of higher dairy and oilseed prices. Prices also rose for poultry (14.6 percent) and other meats (14.2 percent). Elevated prices for wholesale flour—attributed to the conflict in Ukraine and rising fertilizer prices—and eggs contributed to a 13.0-percent price increase for cereals and bakery products. Prices for beef and veal (5.3 percent), fresh vegetables (7.0 percent), and fresh fruits (7.9 percent) rose more slowly, but all categories exceeded their historical averages. Food prices grew more quickly than the overall rate of inflation (8.0 percent), as the HPAI outbreak, the Ukraine conflict, and economy-wide inflationary pressures contributed specifically to rising food prices. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers project food-at-home prices will increase 8.0 percent in 2023, with a prediction interval of 4.5 to 11.7 percent. ERS tracks aggregate food category prices and publishes price forecasts in the monthly Food Price Outlook data product, updated January 25, 2023.
Food retailing market concentration increased more at national level than county level over past three decades
Wednesday, January 25, 2023
The U.S. food retail sector experienced substantial consolidation and structural change over the last three decades. Market concentration, as measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI), is a measure of the extent to which market shares are concentrated between firms of the retail food sector at the national, State, Metropolitan Statistical Area, and county levels in the United States. This analysis includes all establishments with a significant portion of food sales that are likely substitutes for each other: supermarkets and other grocery (except convenience) and warehouse clubs and supercenters. Although the national market is less concentrated than the average State level, according to the HHI, national market concentration increased substantially between 1990 and 2019 (458 percent). In comparison, average county-level market concentration has remained relatively constant over the past 30 years, increasing only 94 percent. While national measures provide information about larger trends, trends in localized markets are likely more relevant for consumers, food-retail competitors, and policymakers. This chart was drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service economic research report A Disaggregated View of Market Concentration in the Food Retail Industry, which uses data from the National Establishment Time Series (NETS) to calculate and examine the market conditions of food retailing from 1990 to 2019. The report published in January 2023.
Cattle and calf receipts accounted for largest portion of U.S. animal and animal product receipts in 2021
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
U.S. farm cash receipts from animals and animal products totaled $195.8 billion in 2021, led by receipts for cattle and calves at $72.9 billion (37 percent). Poultry and egg products made up the next largest share of 2021 cash receipts at $46.1 billion (24 percent), followed by dairy at $41.8 billion (21 percent), hogs at $28.0 billion (14 percent), and other animals and animal products at $7.0 billion (4 percent). As part of its Farm Income and Wealth Statistics data product, each year in late August or early September, USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) releases estimates of the prior year’s farm sector cash receipts from agricultural commodity sales. These data include cash receipt estimates by type of commodity, which can help in understanding the U.S. farm sector. The estimates may be revised as new information becomes available. Additional information and analysis are on the ERS Farm Sector Income and Finances topic page, updated December 1, 2022.
Agriculture and related industries contributed 5.4 percent to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021
Monday, January 23, 2023
Agriculture, food, and related industries contributed roughly $1.3 trillion to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021, a 5.4-percent share. The output of U.S. farms contributed $164.7 billion of this total—about 0.7 percent of U.S. GDP. Farming’s overall contribution to GDP is larger than 0.7 percent because sectors related to agriculture rely on inputs produced on farms, also adding value to the Nation’s economy. Sectors related to agriculture include food and beverage manufacturing; food and beverage stores; food services and eating or drinking places; textiles, apparel, and leather products; and forestry and fishing. This chart also appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service Charting the Essentials data product, updated in January 2023.
Thursday, January 19, 2023
At the beginning of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020, U.S. households shifted away from buying foods at restaurants and other food service venues to food-at-home (FAH) outlets such as grocery stores and other retail establishments. Overall, the share of the household food and alcohol budget spent on FAH increased 7.8 percentage points between the pre-pandemic (2016–19) level and 2020. The largest contributions to this change were the “other FAH” category (including desserts, prepared meals and salads, and chips and savory snacks), which increased 2.6 percentage points, and protein foods (red meat, poultry, eggs, and fish and seafood), which increased 1.5 percentage points. Even though those are the subgroups with the largest changes for household food and alcohol spending, the budget shares for fruits and vegetables showed the fastest growth from 2016–19 to 2020. The share of the average household food and alcohol budget spent on vegetables contributed only 1.2 percentage points to the total but increased 23 percent. The share spent on fruits increased 19 percent (from 4.7 to 5.6 percent). Increases in the share spent on grains, nonalcoholic beverages, and fats and oils also contributed to the overall FAH percentage point gain, but their growth during that period was relatively small. The faster growth of the fruit and vegetable shares in the food and alcohol budget indicates a slight shifting of diets to more produce during the first year of the pandemic. This chart was drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service report COVID-10 Working Paper: Consumer Food Spending Changes During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
The value of U.S. agricultural imports (adjusted for inflation) grew an average of 4 percent a year between fiscal years 2012 and 2022 (October to September). Over that time, total U.S. agricultural imports rose from $139 billion to $194 billion, with growth concentrated in select commodity groups. Horticultural products grew at a rate of 6 percent a year during the period and, at $97.2 billion in value in 2022, accounted for 65 percent of the total growth in imports. Within the broad horticultural products group, fresh fruits were the largest contributor at $17.9 billion, growing at an annual rate of 9 percent over the period and accounting for 15 percent of total import growth. Key commodities in the fresh fruit group include avocados, berries, and citrus, which the United States imports mostly from Latin American countries such as Mexico, Chile, and Peru. Growth in demand for horticultural products, including fresh fruits, largely has been driven by consumer desire for year-round supply, changing consumer preferences, and foreign production that is increasingly competitive with domestically grown produce. Imports of the commodity groups livestock and meats, grains and feeds, and oilseeds and products, which together were about 60 percent of the value of horticultural product imports in 2012, each also grew at about 6 percent per year, contributing to a total of about 40 percent of the growth from 2012 to 2022. Sugar and tropical products, dairy and products, and other categories had below average growth rates and contributed less to agricultural import growth. This chart is drawn from the Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade published by USDA’s Economic Research Service, November 2022.
Tuesday, January 17, 2023
Over the last two decades, the strongest rural job gains were in smaller industries that tend to employ high-skill workers. The highest growth was in the real estate industry, which includes lessors of nonresidential buildings, real estate agents, brokers and property managers, and industrial machinery and equipment rental and leasing, as identified by the U.S. Census Bureau’s North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Also showing rapid growth was the administrative services industry, which includes office administration, facilities support, business support services, security services, conventions and trade shows, and waste management and treatment. Other rural industries that grew over the past two decades were health care and social assistance; professional, scientific, and technical services; educational services; and finance and insurance. The growth of these industries represented a shift in rural production toward industries that employ higher shares of high-skill workers. Consistent with this shift, the percent of rural college-educated workers increased from 21.5 percent in 2012 to 23.8 percent in 2019, although these rates have remained lower than the share of college-educated urban workers (38 percent in 2019). The six largest rural industries in terms of employment during this period were health care and social assistance; accommodation and food services; government; retail; agriculture; and manufacturing. Only the health and social assistance industry was at the same time one of the fastest-growing rural industries and one of the six largest rural industries in terms of employment. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report Rural America at a Glance: 2022 Edition, published in November 2022.