ERS Charts of Note
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Monday, October 24, 2022
About 100,000 U.S. public and private nonprofit schools participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), which served about 4.9 billion lunches in fiscal year 2019. The majority of foods served through the NSLP are bought through typical market channels, such as foodservice distributors, with USDA cash reimbursements to schools supporting their purchase. However, schools also make use of the USDA Foods in Schools Program (USDA Foods). Schools have two options for acquiring fruits and vegetables through USDA Foods: USDA Foods purchased by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which supplies mainly canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, and fresh fruits and vegetables distributed through the USDA Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (DoD Fresh). After school meal nutrition standards were updated in 2012, schools were required to serve more fruits and a wider mix of vegetables, including dark green and red/orange vegetables. Following the change in standards, schools obtained more fruits and vegetables through USDA Foods and especially through DoD Fresh. While there was no clear change in the types of foods chosen from 2006 to 2012, the percent of USDA Foods entitlement funds used for purchasing fruits and vegetables from DoD Fresh rose sharply from 6.7 percent of total USDA Foods in 2012 to 15 percent in 2017. Fruit obtained through AMS—mainly canned and frozen—rose from 9.4 percent of total USDA Foods spending in 2012 to 15.4 percent in 2017. Vegetables obtained from USDA’s AMS slightly rose from 2012 to 2017. As the percentage of spending on fruits and vegetables increased, the percentage spent on meat, poultry, and cheese dropped from nearly 74 percent in 2012 to 61 percent in 2017. This chart appears in the ERS report, Trends in USDA Foods Ordered for Child Nutrition Programs Before and After Updated Nutrition Standards, released September 1, 2022.
Friday, October 21, 2022
Real, or inflation-adjusted, monthly food spending in the United States has increased in 2022 as compared to the same period in 2019, before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Inflation-adjusted food spending measures the quantity of food spending after removing price increase effects. Real monthly food at home (FAH) spending, or food intended for off-premise consumption from retailers such as grocery stores, increased each month through August 2022 as compared to 2019 except in August, with the highest increase in January at almost 8 percent. This increase may be the result of U.S. consumers purchasing more foods or choosing more expensive grocery store options, such as pre-cut vegetables and fruits, imported out-of-season foods, organic products, and prepared dishes, than they did in 2019. Real monthly food away from home (FAFH) spending, or food consumed at outlets such as restaurants or cafeterias, also increased each month so far in 2022, with the highest increase in April at 12 percent. Similarly, the increase seen in 2022 in real FAFH spending may be the result of U.S. consumers purchasing more FAFH in general or shifting toward more expensive options, such as foods at full-service restaurants. The data for this chart come from the ERS’s Food Expenditure Series data product.
Thursday, October 20, 2022
Errata: On Oct. 25, 2022, a clarification was made for Florida's ranking in citrus production.
On September 28, 2022, Hurricane Ian made landfall as a category 4 hurricane on the southwest coast of Florida, the United States’ top producer of oranges. The hurricane crossed the peninsula, bringing severe winds and rainfall to some of the State’s foremost citrus-producing counties. Many of these same counties were affected by Hurricane Irma 5 years earlier. When Irma hit in September 2017, the State’s citrus production was already on a downward trajectory from diseases and other factors reducing acreage and yields. Florida’s citrus production fell by 1.3 million tons from the hurricane-free 2016/17 season, with the total value of production dropping 39 percent. On October 12, 2022, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released a citrus production estimate of about 1.4 million tons for the 2022/23 crop year. This forecast is 32 percent below total production from the previous season and does not take into consideration losses from Ian. While 2017 and 2022 hurricane events are distinct from one another, the effects of Irma can be used as a proxy to estimate the potential impact on value until the impact on the State’s total citrus production can be fully assessed. This chart is based on USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook Report, released September 2022, and ERS’ Fruit and Tree Nuts Yearbook Tables, released October 2021, and has been updated with recent data.
Wednesday, October 19, 2022
U.S. farmers who would like to hire temporary foreign workers through the H-2A visa program usually work with a third party (such as an agent, association, or lawyer) to make the application; employers themselves filed applications for only 15 percent of all jobs requested. Across the U.S., agents filed applications for 45 percent of all H-2A jobs, an association of farm enterprises filed for 21 percent of jobs, and 19 percent came from a lawyer representing the farmer. However, the usage rates for third parties differ across States. For instance, lawyers tend to file for most of the jobs in California, while agents and associations account for almost two-thirds of the job filings in Florida. The H-2A program allows farm operators who foresee a shortage of domestic workers to bring nonimmigrant foreign workers to the U.S. temporarily to perform agricultural labor or services. Many employers rely on specialized third parties to file H-2A applications on their behalf because of the perceived complexity of the process to certify their need for labor. Once a job is certified, the employer may then search for workers to employ. This chart appears in the ERS Economic Information Bulletin, The H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Program in 2020, published in August 2022.
Tuesday, October 18, 2022
The USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Online Purchasing Pilot allows households in participating States to use their SNAP or Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits to buy groceries online from authorized, participating retailers. The pilot launched with several retailers in 2019 and early 2020 before the onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In response to the pandemic, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) opened the pilot to additional States and retailers. The number of participating retailers (each of which may include delivery or pickup from many individual stores) expanded significantly in the first two years of the pandemic. By December 2020, FNS had authorized 13 retailers. This number grew to 116 in December 2021 and to 148 in March 2022, providing benefit recipients with more options for redeeming their benefits online. The value of benefits redeemed online also grew. In 2020, SNAP and P-EBT recipients redeemed $1.5 billion in benefits online. In 2021, this amount more than quadrupled to $6.2 billion. Online redemptions in the first quarter of 2022 totaled $1.9 billion, representing 5.7 percent of all redemptions occurring in-person or online. This chart is based on a chart appearing in ERS’s Amber Waves article “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Online Purchasing Expanded in First Two Years of Pandemic,” published September 2022.
Monday, October 17, 2022
U.S. production of durum—the primary class of wheat used to produce pasta—is expected to increase in the 2022/23 marketing year after last year’s drought reduced production to its lowest in 60 years. Production in 2022/23 is forecast at 64 million bushels, up 70 percent from the previous marketing year (2021/22), but below the average of the previous five years (2016/17–2020/21). Durum used for food in the 2022/23 marketing year is estimated at 80 million bushels, close to the historical average and slightly above 2021/22. Food use of durum was elevated in marketing years 2019/20 and 2020/21, fueled by surging consumer demand during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, when shoppers stocked up on pasta while in quarantine. While the surge in demand has since subsided, consumer prices for wheat-based products including pasta are up substantially in 2022. This year’s larger durum crop, along with larger Canadian production, has eased some supply pressure; however, high commodity prices in general and elevated input, labor, and energy costs have each contributed to higher prices for the manufactured products of wheat, including pasta. The United States imports and exports durum every year, with imports typically larger. Net imports rise in years when production is lower. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service Wheat Outlook, October 2022.
Friday, October 14, 2022
In rural areas, the level of educational attainment for women ages 25–34 continues to outpace young men. In 1990, 48 percent of rural young women had post-high school education, compared to 42 percent of rural young men. By 2020, this 6-percentage-point difference in post-high school educational attainment between the sexes increased to 14 percentage points, with 67 percent of rural, young women having post-high school education compared to 53 percent for their male counterparts. From 1990 to 2020, higher education rates for young, rural females increased almost 19 percentage points. The majority of that increase (10 percentage points) came from a rise in bachelor’s degrees, with another 6 percent coming from gains in advanced degrees, such as graduate or medical degrees. Educational attainment often has direct implications for earnings, with higher levels linked to increased wages and lower rates of unemployment, as discussed in Rural Education at a Glance, 2017 Edition. This is even more relevant for rural areas, where median earnings do not keep pace with urban area earnings. This chart updates information found in Rural Education at a Glance, 2017 Edition.
Thursday, October 13, 2022
USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) annually estimates the previous year’s farm sector cash receipts—the cash income received from agricultural commodity sales. This data includes State-level estimates, which offer background information about States subject to unexpected events that affect the agricultural sector, such as Hurricane Ian, which swept across Florida and surrounding States in late September 2022. In 2021, commodities produced in Florida contributed about $7.5 billion (1.7 percent) of the $434 billion in total U.S. cash receipts. Floriculture, the cultivation of flowers, accounted for the largest share of Florida’s cash receipts. Valued at $1.1 billion (14.9 percent of the State’s total), floriculture receipts for Florida were higher than for any other State in 2021. The next largest commodities in Florida in terms of cash receipts were oranges ($670 million), sugarcane ($553 million), cattle and calves ($546 million), milk ($470 million), strawberries ($399 million) and tomatoes ($324 million). Certain Florida crops accounted for large percentages of U.S. cash receipts in 2021, such as sugarcane with 51 percent and oranges with 42 percent, while bell peppers and grapefruit accounted for roughly a third of U.S. production. In addition to floriculture, Florida led the nation in cash receipts for sugarcane, cabbage, cucumbers, watermelon, sweet corn, and snap beans. This chart uses data from the ERS U.S. and State-Level Farm Income and Wealth Statistics data product, updated in September 2022.
Wednesday, October 12, 2022
Almost a quarter of farm operations are run by a principal operator who is under 55 years old. The principal operator is the person most responsible for making day-to-day decisions. In comparison, 63 percent of U.S. self-employed workers in nonagricultural industries are younger than 55, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2020, midsize family farms, which have a gross cash farm income of $350,000 to $999,999, and off-farm occupation farms, which are small operations whose principal operators report a primary occupation other than farming, had the largest percentage of farms managed by principal operators younger than 55 years, at 36 percent and 38 percent, respectively. Retirement farms had the smallest percentage (2 percent) of farms managed by a younger principal operator. For many family farms, the farm is also the home, and the principal operator can gradually phase out of farming or transition management to the next generation. Improved health and advances in farm equipment also allow principal operators to farm later in life than in previous generations. This figure updates information from the 2015 ERS report America’s Diverse Family Farms.
Tuesday, October 11, 2022
Access to food by the world’s most vulnerable households becomes constrained when food commodity prices are high, especially when the foods they purchase are sourced through international trade. USDA’s International Food Security Assessment (IFSA) model estimates how food prices and incomes affect food demand and access in 77 low- and middle-income countries. Food security is then evaluated by estimating the population unable to access sufficient calories to sustain a healthy, active lifestyle. Of the people in countries included in the 2022 IFSA, almost 119 million more people are estimated to be food insecure compared to 2021. That marks a nearly 10-percent year-to-year increase. The upward trend in international prices for wheat, coarse grains, and vegetable oils during the 2021/22 marketing year has been further exacerbated by Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine which reduced exports of these commodities from the Black Sea region. Domestic prices of major grains in 2022 are projected to rise in 70 of the 77 countries included in the IFSA, with the North Africa region being the most affected. North Africa, which is dependent on imports of wheat and corn, is estimated to see an increase in the prevalence of food insecurity by nearly 25 percent, relative to 2021. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report, International Food Security Assessment, 2022-32, released September 15, 2022.
Thursday, October 6, 2022
The USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP) was permanently authorized as a Child Nutrition Program in 1946. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, the program served about 29.6 million children each school day across 97,127 schools and residential childcare institutions. Any student in a participating school can get an NSLP lunch. Depending on their household’s income, students may be eligible for either a free, reduced-price, or full-price lunch. Students can receive a free lunch if their household’s income is at or below 130 percent of the Federal poverty line (FPL), a reduced-price lunch if their household’s income is between 130 and 185 percent of the FPL, and a full-price lunch if their household’s income is above 185 percent of the FPL. From 1971 through FY 2021, the program has served about 224.0 billion lunches. Of these meals, 126.4 billion were served for free or at a reduced price. The onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in March 2020 interrupted the operations of many schools, disrupting the provision of lunches through the NSLP in FY 2020 and FY 2021. As a result, about 3.2 billion lunches were served through the program in FY 2020 and 2.2 billion in FY 2021, fewer than the 4.9 billion served in FY 2019. This drop reflects the use of a USDA pandemic waiver allowing schools to serve meals through the Summer Food Service Program instead of the NSLP and the creation of the temporary Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, which reimbursed eligible families for the value of school meals missed because of pandemic-related disruptions to in-person school attendance. A higher share of the meals served in FY 2020 and FY 2021 were served free or at a reduced-price, attributable in large part to a USDA pandemic waiver allowing for meals to be provided free of charge to all students. This chart appears on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s National School Lunch Program page on the Child Nutrition Programs topic page.
Wednesday, October 5, 2022
The U.S. hog industry has experienced structural change, productivity growth, and increased output since the early 1990s. The average U.S. hog farm has become larger, more specialized, and focused on contract production. Hog and pig producers sold more than nine times the volume of hogs per farm in 2015 than in 1992, ending at 8,721 head of hogs per farm in 2015. Over the same period, feeder-to-finish operations—those specializing in raising feeder pigs from 30-80 pounds to market weights of 225-300 pounds—became the majority, growing from 19 to 60 percent of all hog operations. Hog operations also became increasingly likely to use production contracts. A sharp increase in contract production occurred from 1992 to 2004, but contract production leveled off near 70 percent between 2004 and 2015. By 2015, the majority of hogs and pigs were being produced on specialized operations (89 percent) and under contract production (69 percent). From 1992 to 2015, production contract use increased from 3 to 53 percent of operations, with roughly 71 percent of feeder-to-finish operations engaged in contract production by 2015. These agreements were attractive because contractors typically provided the hogs and feed, made many management decisions, transported animals to market, and decided where and when hogs were to be sold. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s report U.S. Hog Production: Rising Output and Changing Trends in Productivity Growth, published August 2022.
Tuesday, October 4, 2022
USDA encourages schools to serve locally grown and raised foods, including fresh produce and meat. During the 2018–19 school year, approximately two-thirds of U.S. school districts participated in farm to school activities, according to USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s 2019 Farm to School Census. Of the participating school districts, 78 percent reported purchasing some quantity of local food during the school year. About 43 percent of school districts reported purchasing local foods from produce distributors. USDA’s Department of Defense (DoD) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (USDA DoD Fresh) was an equally common procurement source for school districts. USDA DoD Fresh allows districts to use USDA funds to obtain fresh fruits and vegetables through the DoD and provides information to districts on the food sources. USDA Foods, which refers to the commodities donated by USDA to school districts for use in school meals, was the third-most common source with 36 percent of respondents indicating they used the program to source local foods, followed by 26 percent of respondents that sourced from individual food producers. Broadline distributors (distributors offering several types of products), grocery stores, and school or community gardens and farms were each used by about 17 percent of respondents as local food sources. This chart is updated from one that appeared in Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems released January 29, 2015.
Monday, October 3, 2022
U.S. agricultural employers who anticipate a shortage of U.S. domestic workers can fill seasonal farm jobs with temporary foreign workers through the H-2A visa program. The Department of Labor certified around 317,000 temporary jobs in fiscal year (FY) 2021 under the H-2A visa program, more than six times the number certified in 2005. Only about 80 percent of the certified jobs in 2021 resulted in the issuance of a visa. The program has grown partly in response to current U.S. domestic workers finding jobs outside of U.S. agriculture and a drop in newly arrived immigrants who seek U.S. farm jobs. The H-2A program continued to expand in FY 2020 despite the jump in U.S. unemployment caused by lockdowns associated with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Six States accounted for about half of the H-2A jobs filled in 2021 certified: Florida, Georgia, Washington, California, North Carolina, and Louisiana. Nationally, the average H-2A contract in FY 2020 offered 24 weeks of employment and 39.3 hours per week at an average hourly wage of $13. This chart updates information in the ERS bulletin The H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Program in 2020, published in August 2022.
Thursday, September 29, 2022
National Coffee Day is today, September 29, and according to a National Coffee Association survey, 66 percent of U.S. adults are coffee drinkers. Consumers who get through the daily grind with a 12-ounce cup of black coffee they brewed at home paid, on average, 23.6 cents in the first 8 months of 2022, compared to 19.3 cents in 2021. For those who prefer their daily joe with milk or sugar, adding an ounce of whole milk costs 3.2 cents in 2022, up from 2.7 cents in 2021. Each teaspoon of sugar added 0.7 cents to the cost of a cup of coffee in 2022, compared to 0.6 cents in 2021. Average ground coffee prices through the first 8 months of 2022 were 21.9 percent higher compared to the same period in 2021. Prices rose more slowly for milk (15.9 percent) and sugar (11.0 percent) compared to coffee during those same months. More information on USDA, Economic Research Service’s food price data can be found in the Food Price Outlook data product, updated September 23, 2022.
Wednesday, September 28, 2022
From sweet and juicy to tart and crisp, apples grown in the United States vary with a wide range of characteristics. Prices received by apple producers reflect consumer preferences for these varied attributes, as well as production-related factors, including volume harvested, cultivation methods, and storability. In the State of Washington, where two-thirds of all U.S. apples are grown, price and production data for more than 20 different apple varieties are collected and published by the Washington State Tree Fruit Association. The iconic Red Delicious apple led production among varieties in Washington in the 2018/19 marketing year. This variety alone accounted for more than 29 million 40-pound boxes, or 25 percent of Washington State’s apple production for both domestic and international use. Red Delicious apples are usually harvested with a single pass through the orchard and are the easiest and least expensive variety for growers to harvest. In 2018/19, the price of a 40-pound box was $17.65, among the lowest of all varieties surveyed. Over the last two decades, varieties including Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Honeycrisp have gained popularity among consumers. Honeycrisp apples are prized for their firm flesh and balance of both sweet and tart flavors—making them a popular snacking apple. Growing consumer demand has helped to elevate Honeycrisp production to more than 12 million 40-pound boxes in 2018/19 and supports both a retail- and farm-price premium. In 2018/19 Honeycrisp was Washington’s highest priced apple at $53.39 for a 40-pound box. Farm prices for Honeycrisp apples are higher, in part, because of elevated labor costs associated with harvest. Because this cultivar does not uniformly ripen, up to five passes through the orchard are required to harvest a crop of Honeycrisp apples. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service’s “Supplement to Adjusting to Higher Labor Costs in Selected U.S. Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Industries: Case Studies,” August 2022.
Tuesday, September 27, 2022
As of September 19, 2022 the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) classified more than 18 percent of land in the Western States as experiencing extreme or exceptional drought. Data reported by USDM show that drought in the Western States during the summers of 2021 and 2022 exceeded the intensity of all past droughts in the region since 2000. Drought conditions in the Western States gradually subsided in the latter months of 2021 but began intensifying again during the first half of 2022. The USDM categorizes drought in a region according to soil moisture, streamflow, and precipitation levels. Regional designations are primarily based on historical weather patterns. For agriculture, drought can mean diminished crop and livestock outputs, as well as reduced farm profitability. Drought also reduces the quantity of snowpack and streamflow available for diversions to irrigated agricultural land. These impacts can reverberate throughout the local, regional, and national economies. Find additional information on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s newsroom page Drought in the Western United States.
Monday, September 26, 2022
There are two permanent Federal options for specialty crop farmers to protect themselves against losses from natural disasters, but usage varies widely across fruit and nut crops. The USDA Risk Management Agency offers Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP) products to cover specialty crops in counties with enough data available to offer an actuarially sound insurance product. For crops grown in counties without enough data to provide FCIP products, coverage is available through the USDA Farm Service Agency Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP). Using cherries as an example, FCIP is available for cherry growers who operate in counties with a high number of cherry acres. Because of this, farmers used FCIP to cover about 65 percent of all cherry acres. Cherry growers outside of those counties used NAP policies to cover about 20 percent of all cherry acres, leaving only 15 percent of acres not covered by any risk management program. For some crops, however, Federal agricultural risk management programs covered only a small portion of acres. Kiwifruits and strawberries had less than 15 percent of acres covered by either FCIP or NAP, while hazelnuts had less than 1 percent. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service bulletin Specialty Crop Participation in Federal Risk Management Programs, published in September 2022.
Thursday, September 22, 2022
The stay-at-home orders implemented during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic disrupted the U.S. meat and poultry industries as consumers shifted from purchasing food-away-from-home (FAFH) to food-at-home (FAH). In the weeks before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic, the volume of meat sold in grocery stores fluctuated modestly from between 3 percent below to 8 percent above 2019 sales. When the WHO declared a global pandemic the week ending March 15, 2020, the quantity of meat sold at grocery stores increased sharply to 75 percent above that week’s 2019 sales volume. Meat sales reached their pandemic peak the following week at 84 percent above 2019 sales. This increase in retail meat sales was consistent with overall consumer patterns in March–April 2020, when restaurant closures led to a surge in FAH sales relative to 2019 as FAFH sales fell. After the peak, weekly meat purchases slowed yet remained roughly 30 to 40 percent above 2019 sales for most weeks until mid-May. Sales may have slowed partly because consumers had stocked up on meat supplies in the previous weeks and because FAFH expenditures rose as COVID-related restrictions were lifted. For the remainder of 2020, total weekly sales of meat at retail remained higher than weekly 2019 sales for most weeks. This chart was drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service COVID-19 working paper, “COVID-19 and the U.S. Meat and Poultry Supply Chains,” published February 3, 2022.
Wednesday, September 21, 2022
U.S. rice imports for the 2022/23 marketing year (August–July) are projected to rise 16 percent from a year earlier and to reach the highest volume on record at 44 million hundredweight. Imported rice is also projected to account for almost 32 percent of domestic use of rice in 2022/23, the highest share on record. Imports of long-grain and the combined classes of short- and medium-grain rice are projected at all-time highs. For long-grain rice, the dominant class of rice grown and consumed in the United States, growing consumer preference for Asian aromatic rice, such as jasmine rice from Thailand and basmati rice from India and Pakistan, has driven the increase in import purchases. In addition to the long-grain Asian aromatic varieties, the United States has been importing a much smaller volume of regular milled long-grain rice from South American suppliers. For the combined medium- and short-grain rice classes, a 41-percent expansion of imports is projected for 2022/23. Increasing imports are spurred by reduced production in California, where a second consecutive year of drought has reduced the size of the rice harvest and available domestic supplies. The California rice crop is forecast down 38 percent from a year earlier and is expected to be the smallest crop since 1977/78. California grows almost exclusively medium- and short-grain rice and typically accounts for around 70 percent of U.S. medium- and short-grain production. The United States regularly imports medium- and short-grain rice from Thailand, India, China, and Italy, with nearly all the rice from China going to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. The information in this chart is based on information in the USDA, Economic Research Service Rice Outlook, September 2022.