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Farms involved in rural development related activities vary by type of activity

Thursday, March 28, 2013

While rural development efforts generally focus on the nonfarm economy in the United States, over the last 10 years, several USDA Rural Development programs have put increased emphasis on funding farm-related business activities associated with renewable energy, local/regional food industries, and the use of farm and ranch natural resources. Using data from the 2007 Agricultural Resource Management Survey, the characteristics of farms involved in organic farming, value-added agriculture, direct marketing, agritourism, and energy/electricity production are compared in this chart. Household wealth and income are important indicators of financial capacity, or the ability to make financial investments in farm activities. Average farm household net worth was highest for agritourism farms ($2.0 million) and lowest for direct marketing farms ($631,000). Total household income exhibited a different pattern and was highest for energy/electricity farms ($165,000 annually) and value-added farms ($90,000 annually), on average. The income generated by these rural development-related activities is considered part of farm income (which was highest, on average, for energy/electricity and organic farms, and negative for agritourism farms). This chart comes from the ERS report, Farm Activities Associated With Rural Development Initiatives, ERR-134, May 2012.

Consumer demand drives growth in the organic food sector

Friday, February 8, 2013

Organic food sales in the United States have increased from approximately $11 billion in 2004 to an estimated $27 billion in 2012, according to the Nutrition Business Journal. Organic food products are still gaining ground in conventional supermarkets as well as natural foods markets, and organic sales accounted for more than 3.5 percent of total U.S. food sales in 2012. Markets for organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs have been developing for decades in the United States, and fresh produce is still the top-selling organic category in retail sales. Although the annual growth rate for organic food sales fell from the double-digit range in 2008 as the U.S. economy slowed, its 7.4-percent growth rate in 2012 was more than double the annual growth rate forecast for all food sales in 2012. This chart appears in Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 2012 Edition, EIB-98, August 2012.

Organic and conventional operations differ in their characteristics and practices

Friday, November 2, 2012

The organic label is the most prominent food eco-label in the United States. In 2000, USDA published national organic standards that reflected decades of private-sector development. USDA regulations define organic farming as an ecological production system that fosters resource cycling, promotes ecological balance, and conserves biodiversity. In 2005, USDA began to include targeted oversamples of organic producers in its Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), which collects detailed information about farmers' production practices, as well as costs and returns in major farm sectors. Some of the differences in practices and characteristics of organic and conventional production systems are apparent from survey responses by soybean, wheat, apple, and corn producers. In general, organic acres are more likely to be owned by the operator, enrolled in a conservation program, have planting and harvest dates adjusted to control for pests, and use compost and manure. This chart can be found in the ERS report, Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 2012 Edition, EIB-98, August 2012.

Young operators are not uncommon on farms involved in rural development-related on-farm activities

Monday, August 13, 2012

Five on-farm rural development-related activities were examined in a recent ERS study. Using data from the 2007 Agricultural Resource Management Survey, the characteristics, such as operator age, of farms participating in organic farming, value-added agriculture, direct marketing, agritourism, or renewable energy/electricity production were considered. With the exception of agritourism farms, younger farmers (under 45 years of age) were more likely to operate development-related farms than they were for all other farms. Young operators were most common on energy/electricity farms (26 percent). Older farmers (65 years of age and older) played a larger role as operators of agritourism farms (40.4 percent) than for the other farm activities. This chart comes from Farm Activities Associated With Rural Development Initiatives, ERR-134, May 2012.

Coffee dominated U.S. organic import value for selected commodities in 2011

Thursday, April 12, 2012

As Americans have become more health conscious, the demand for organically grown food has increased. In response to this increased demand, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection began officially collecting data on trade of organic agricultural products last year. The chart compiles data now available for selected imports, including fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea, grains, and soybeans. For calendar year 2011, organic agricultural imports totaled $670 million (organic exports totaled $412 million). Just over $526 million in coffee was imported, with the majority of it unroasted. Organic coffee accounted for about 7 percent of total coffee imports. Organic products accounted for a fairly high share of import values of some products-for example, 46 percent of "other soybeans," 31 percent of black tea, and 20 percent of green tea imports were organic. This chart is made from data in the March 2012 Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, FTS-351.

Top U.S. apple varieties, conventional and organic, 2007

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Data from the 2007 Agricultural Resource Management Survey show that the top five apple varieties-Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, Fuji, and Granny Smith-were the same in conventional and organic production, although the order differed between the two production systems. These five varieties accounted for over two-thirds of conventional and organic apple production in the surveyed States. Red Delicious, Gala, and Fuji are primarily fresh-market apples, while Golden Delicious and Granny Smith are "dual-purpose" apples that can be used in either fresh or processing markets. The top three varieties used by organic producers-Gala, Fuji, and Red Delicious-are all fresh-market apples, reflecting this sector's concentration in fresh-market production. This graph comes from Characteristics of Conventional and Organic Apple Production in the United States, FTS-347-01, July 2011.

Western U.S. has the highest number of organic dairy cows per farm but the fewest farms

Thursday, July 7, 2011

More than 80 percent of U.S. organic dairies were located in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, but these operations were smaller and less productive than those in the West. Only 7 percent of organic dairies were in the West, but these operations accounted for 31 percent of organic milk cows. Organic dairy operations in the Northeast averaged 53 cows; the Upper Midwest, 64 cows; and the West, 381 cows. Organic dairy cows in the West averaged nearly 16,000 pounds of annual milk production per cow, 2,700 pounds more than in the Upper Midwest and 4,000 pounds more than in the Northeast. This map appeared in the June 2010 issue of Amber Waves magazine.

Organic fruits and vegetables continue to lead organic sales

Friday, April 22, 2011

Once available only in natural product stores and farmers' markets, organic foods are now found in conventional supermarkets, value-priced big-box chains, and an expanding array of direct-to-consumer markets. U.S. organic food sales are expected to reach $25 billion in 2010, up from $3.6 billion in 1997. Organic products accounted for over 3.5 percent of food sold for at-home consumption in 2009. Produce and dairy products accounted for over half of organic food sales in 2009, followed by soymilk and other beverages, packaged foods, breads/grains, snack foods, condiments, and meat. Sales of other organic products (including herbal supplements, personal care products, flowers, linens, and clothing) started from a smaller base but are growing even faster than total organic food sales. This chart was originally published in the June 2010 issue of Amber Waves, in the feature article America's Organic Farmers Face Issues and Opportunities.

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