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U.S. sweet potatoes are enjoyed around the world, export data show

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

The United States is not the only country enjoying U.S. sweet potatoes. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the United States was the top global exporter, by volume, of sweet potatoes in 2020. U.S. sweet potato exports on a fresh-weight basis increased 1,157 percent from 2001 to 2021, and the annual value of exports grew from $14 million to $187 million in the same period. Promotion of the tuber’s health benefits and food companies’ expanding sweet-potato offerings, such as sweet potato chips and fries, have helped fuel the expansion. Exports to the United Kingdom and European Union experienced strong year-over-year growth from the mid-2000s until 2018. Rising global competition and the damage caused by Hurricane Florence to the 2019 crop in North Carolina—the State leading U.S. production—cooled the export market. From 2018 to 2021, exports declined to the United Kingdom by 28 percent and to the European Union by 12 percent. Meanwhile, exports have continued to increase to Canada, among other destinations. The United States ranks seventh globally in sweet potato production, according to FAO. Over the past 20 years, top-producing U.S. States more than doubled sweet potato production to meet growing international and domestic demand. This trend has plateaued since U.S. sweet potato production reached a record high in 2017. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s Vegetables and Pulses Outlook: April 2022.

California leads States in the purchase of Federal Crop Insurance Program policies for specialty crops

Monday, November 7, 2022

The USDA offers various risk management products to specialty crop farmers through the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP). FCIP policies can mitigate risks by providing payments if insured crops experience losses caused by naturally occurring events (such as weather-related conditions) and market conditions. Specialty crops are a commodity group which includes fresh or dried fruits; tree nuts; vegetables; pulse crops such as dry beans, peas, and lentils; and horticulture nursery crops. California led the country in FCIP policies for specialty crops in 2020 (19,433), followed by Florida (5,060), Washington (4,233), North Dakota (3,860), and Minnesota (2,526). These States also produce the most fruits and vegetables (California, Florida, and Washington) and specialty field crops (North Dakota and Minnesota). California’s policies reflect the variety of specialty crops produced in the State, including almonds, grapes, oranges, walnuts, and raisins. Most North Dakota policies cover field crops—dry beans and dry peas. In 2020, specialty crops accounted for 25 percent of the value of U.S. crop production. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service bulletin Specialty Crop Participation in Federal Risk Management Programs, published in September 2022.

North Carolina and New York lead U.S. in specialty crop applications to Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP)

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

USDA operates various Federal crop insurance and disaster aid programs to help producers mitigate the risks of agricultural production such as weather, price, or pests. But when sufficient data is not available to create an actuarially sound insurance product (one in which premiums paid should approximately equal indemnity payments), then producers can apply to the USDA, Farm Service Agency’s Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP). NAP covered about 115 million total acres in 2017. Specialty crops, which include fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture nursery crops, are often grown in areas where there are suitable soil and weather conditions. In 2020, North Carolina and New York had the highest number of specialty crop NAP applications. Each State had more than 5,000 applications. Across the U.S., NAP applications were made for 147 different specialty crops in 2020. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service report Specialty Crop Participation in Federal Risk Management Programs, published in September 2022.

Pumpkin production in Illinois squashed combined output of five other leading States

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Pumpkins are on full display across the United States as part of many fall traditions, such as picking pumpkins at local farms, carving jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween, or baking pumpkin desserts for Thanksgiving. The production of pumpkins, from classic orange Howdens to new varieties like Cinderella, is widely dispersed throughout the United States, with all States producing some pumpkins. However, about 40 percent of pumpkin acres are harvested in only six States. By acreage and weight, Illinois is consistently the Nation’s largest pumpkin producer. In 2021, Illinois produced 652 million pounds, more than a quarter of total U.S. pumpkin production and more than the next five States combined. Unlike all other States, most of Illinois’ pumpkins are used for pie filling and processed for other food uses. Pumpkins from the other States are primarily intended for decorative, or carving, use. In 2021, Indiana produced 181 million pounds of pumpkins, California grew 157 million pounds, Texas grew 108 million pounds, Michigan grew 89 million pounds, and Virginia grew 82 million pounds. Retail prices for pumpkins typically fluctuate week to week leading up to Halloween. In the third week of October 2022, the average retail price for jack-o’-lantern style pumpkins was $5.07 per pumpkin, up 2 percent compared to the same week in 2021. This chart is drawn from Economic Research Service’s Trending Topics page, Pumpkins: Background & Statistics.

Farmers receive about 15 to 18 percent of retail price for fresh potatoes

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Food processors, manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers transform raw agricultural commodities into convenient food products for U.S. consumers. Value added to commodities through these companies’ marketing services and money paid to farmers for their commodities account for a substantial portion of retail food prices. The farm share of the retail price of fresh potatoes—the ratio of what farmers receive to what consumers pay per pound in grocery stores—has fluctuated between 15 percent and 18 percent in recent years. The national monthly average price of fresh potatoes was $0.78 per pound at grocery stores in 2021, and the monthly average price received by farmers was $0.12 per pound. As part of the farm share calculation, the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) assumes that farmers supply a little more than 1.04 pounds of fresh potatoes for each pound sold at retail to account for the roughly 4 percent of fresh potatoes that is lost through spoilage or damage. Therefore, at an average farm price of $0.12 per pound, the farm receipt was 12.5 cents for each pound of potatoes sold in 2021, about 16 percent of the retail price. ERS researchers recently hosted a data training webinar on farm-to-retail price spreads and farm share statistics. More information on ERS’s farm share data can be found in the Price Spreads from Farm to Consumer data product, updated June 28, 2022.

Farmers received smaller share of the price consumers paid for fresh tomatoes in 2021 than in 2020

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The farm share of the retail price of fresh, field-grown tomatoes—the ratio of what farmers received to what consumers paid per pound in grocery stores—fell from 43 percent in 2020 to 36 percent in 2021. While the national, monthly average price of such tomatoes at grocery stores fell 11 cents to $1.85 per pound in 2021, the monthly average price received by farmers simultaneously fell 16 cents to $0.56 per pound. As part of calculating the farm share, the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) assumes that farmers supply a little less than 1.2 pounds of fresh tomatoes for each pound sold at retail, as 15 percent of the fresh tomatoes shipped to grocery stores is lost through spoilage or is otherwise damaged. Farm prices for tomatoes were lower in 2021 as U.S. domestic production of all types of fresh-market tomatoes rose 1.3 percent. This came despite a 4-percent decline in overall fresh vegetable production caused partly by extreme heat in growing regions. More information on ERS’s farm share data can be found in the Price Spreads from Farm to Consumer data product, updated June 3, 2022.

Rising consumption of carrots over the past century influenced by fresh-cut technology

Friday, April 1, 2022

Fresh carrot per capita availability—a proxy used for per capita consumption—has trended upward over the past century, increasing from 2.2 pounds in 1919 to a projection of 8.8 pounds in 2022. Driven by rising fresh-market use, long-run consumer interest in carrots has been strong in the United States. In particular, during the past 35 years, the U.S. carrot industry was transformed by fresh-cut technology, which introduced baby and other fresh-cut carrot products. Per capita availability of fresh carrots peaked in 1997 at 14.1 pounds during the initial introductory period of fresh-cut products. Despite the widespread appeal and convenience of fresh-cut products, after the 1997 peak, availability of all fresh carrots trended downward. This drop may have reflected reduced demand for whole (heavier-weight) carrots, as lighter pre-packaged fresh-cut products shifted demand. It is also plausible the maturation of the fresh-cut industry fostered increased production and processing efficiency within the industry, reducing packinghouse waste and requiring fewer acres and raw carrot production. After 2009, the trend in fresh carrot availability reversed and slowly increased as the general economy recovered from the 2008 Great Recession and consumers had more disposable income. During the 5-year period of 2015–19, per capita availability of fresh carrots returned to the average of 8.9 pounds observed in 2000–04. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s Vegetables and Pulses Outlook, November 2021.

Retail prices for collard greens fall during holiday seasons even as demand rises

Thursday, January 13, 2022

The market phenomenon known as “countercyclical pricing”—when retail prices decrease in times of increased consumer demand—has been documented by economists in the prices of goods such as tuna during Lent or canned soup during winter. Recent analysis by USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) provides another example of countercyclical pricing in fresh collard greens, a staple of Southern cuisine sometimes associated with good luck when eaten on the first day of the New Year. Popularity of the leafy green has risen since 2011, with annual availability increasing 43 percent from 0.88 pounds per capita to 1.26 pounds between 2011 and 2020. To observe consumer behavior, ERS researchers used retail scanner data consisting of billions of weekly U.S. retail food transactions captured from 2013 to 2018. They observed consistent annual surges in collard greens purchases during the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day, accompanied by a smaller spike around Easter. They noted countercyclical pricing in all years of the available collard greens data, but the trend was most distinct in 2016. The volume of collard greens purchased that year exceeded the weekly average by 62 percent around Easter, 214 percent around Christmas, 274 percent around New Year’s Day, and 289 percent around Thanksgiving. However, collard greens prices fell below the weekly average by about 1 percent for Easter, 11 percent for Christmas, 20 percent for New Year’s, and 10 percent for Thanksgiving. This chart is drawn from ERS’ Vegetables and Pulses Outlook, November 2021.

Imports of bell peppers from Mexico grow as marketing window for U.S.-grown produce shrinks

Monday, December 6, 2021

U.S. fresh vegetable imports are higher than ever and help satisfy rising consumer demand for year-round produce, according to reports from USDA’s Economic Research Service. Imports rise during the winter months (January to March) when U.S. production reaches a seasonal lull, but shipments now increasingly overlap with traditional U.S. production seasons. Extension of imports into domestic production seasons, called “market creep,” affects the entire U.S. produce industry, supporting increased shipments from Mexico, Canada, and Central America. For example, winter imports of bell peppers from Mexico increased by 69 percent between the 2008–10 and 2018–20 time periods. Summer (July-September) is historically a prime marketing window for U.S.-grown bell peppers, yet U.S. imports of bell peppers from Mexico increased by 742 percent between the summers of 2008–10 and 2018–20. Liberalized trade agreements, comparatively lower foreign exchange rates, increased per capita consumption, and demand for wider variety of offerings have contributed to the rise in imports. This chart first appeared in the USDA, Economic Research Service Amber Waves feature, U.S. Fresh Vegetable Imports From Mexico and Canada Continue To Surge.

Texas carves new position leading the United States in pumpkin revenues

Monday, October 25, 2021

Pumpkins are a staple of fall traditions for many Americans who pick them, carve them into jack-o’-lanterns, or bake pumpkin desserts. Although pumpkins are grown in many States, most of the production comes from only 10 States. By acreage and by weight, Illinois is consistently the Nation’s largest pumpkin producer. However, unlike other States, most of Illinois’ pumpkins are used for pie filling and other processed foods, which receive a lower price per pound than ornamental jack-o’-lantern-style pumpkins. Production value of pumpkins in Illinois was ranked third in 2020 at $21.3 million. In 2020, Texas led the Nation in the value of pumpkins produced at $25.9 million, followed by Pennsylvania at $22.5 million, Illinois, and California at $20.7 million. Dry weather in Texas led to higher quality and lower yields, contributing to prices that exceeded those received by growers in any other State in 2020. Retail prices for pumpkins typically fluctuate week to week leading up to Halloween. In the second week of October 2021, the average retail price for jack-o’-lantern-style pumpkins was $4.09 per pumpkin, up 12 percent compared with the same week in 2020. This chart is drawn from Economic Research Service’s Trending Topics page, Pumpkins: Background & Statistics.

After surge, U.S. production area of popular greenhouse vegetables slows

Friday, June 25, 2021

For over a decade, U.S. consumers have increased their demand for year-round availability of tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. The domestic produce industry initially responded by increasing protected-culture cultivation of these popular crops, usually through the use of greenhouses. Available data indicate the greenhouse area used to produce U.S. peppers rose 186 percent between 2009 and 2014, and greenhouse cucumber production area increased 83 percent. Subsequently, changes in the area devoted to protected-culture vegetable production have been mixed. For example, greenhouse area devoted to cucumber and pepper production in 2019 was down 42 and 30 percent, respectively, compared to the change between 2009 and 2014. In contrast, lettuce and tomato protected culture area was up 28 and 23 percent, respectively, over the same period. Between 2014 and 2019, imports of greenhouse-grown produce have increased significantly, a factor in the lackluster growth in cultivated area in the United States. Further, imported produce has increased U.S. supplies and pressured domestic prices downward, dampening incentives to expand U.S. greenhouse production. This chart appeared in the Economic Research Service’s April 2021 Vegetable and Pulses Outlook.

U.S. fresh strawberry production expands with newer varieties

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

To keep up with growing consumer demand for strawberries, U.S. fresh strawberry production has increased over the last two decades (from 2000-19). In the United States, fresh strawberries are primarily grown in California (roughly 90 percent annually) and Florida (about 8 percent), followed by New York, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington. With the development of newer varieties, strawberry season has expanded in both California and Florida. California produces strawberries year-round with peak harvest spanning from early spring until fall. California production has now increased from July to October with higher yielding varieties on decreased acreage, and shipments were 220 percent higher in 2019 than in 2000. Florida’s strawberry season typically begins in December and goes through March, but with the use of an early yielding variety, the Florida strawberry season now begins in November with relatively small volumes. Florida’s strawberry shipments more than doubled between 2000 and 2019. From all locations, strawberry supplies in the United States typically begin to rise in the spring, which is the perfect season to pick strawberries since National Pick Strawberries Day is on May 20. This information is from the special article Evolving Trends in the U.S. Fresh Strawberry Market in the Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook Report: March 2021.

Pi Day: Production value of seven popular pie ingredients grown in the United States approaches $6 billion

Friday, March 12, 2021

March 14 is known to many as Pi Day. When written as 3.14, the date resembles the mathematical constant, π, and for that reason, many celebrate the day’s circular reference by enjoying their favorite pie. In 2019, the United States grew $5.9 billion worth of seven of the fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts that tend to be popular for use as the main ingredient in pie making. The value of production of these seven commodities in 2019, as measured by U.S. cash receipts, was the highest for apples, which are produced abundantly in the United States both in terms of volume and production value. The U.S. apple crop reached a value of $2.75 billion in 2019, whereas production of blueberries reached $935 million. Cash receipts for other tasty fruit pie ingredients, cherries and peaches, were valued at $696 million and $519 million, respectively. As tree nuts, pecans are possibly one of America’s favorite non-fruit pie ingredients, and were valued at $471 million in terms of U.S. cash receipts. The pear crop of 2019 was valued at $315 million, while production of pumpkins, the ever-popular fall icon and mainstay of the holiday table, was valued at $180 million. This chart is drawn from Economic Research Service’s Fruit and Tree Nuts and Vegetables and Pulses Yearbook Tables.

Variety of vegetables available in United States expanded over last two decades

Monday, February 22, 2021

People in the United States are slowly expanding the variety of vegetables on their plates, data from the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) show. The vegetables food group is composed of five main subgroups: legumes, dark green, other vegetables, red and orange (including tomatoes), and starchy (including potatoes). Each offers an array of important vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. From 2000 to 2019, the combined share of dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables (excluding tomatoes), and legumes available to eat in the United States increased from 16 percent to 22 percent. Increased availability of dark green vegetables over this period—led by a 47-percent jump in romaine and leaf lettuce—added additional variety for U.S. consumers. While the overall amount of vegetables available over the last two decades has decreased 4 percent, from 417.4 pounds per capita in 2000 to 400.1 pounds in 2019, there has been an increase in availability in recent years due in part to the expansion in varieties available for consumption. ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System provides annual estimates of the per-capita availability for more than 200 food commodities consumed in the United States. This chart appears in the ERS Amber Waves article, “U.S. Supplies of Vegetables Available To Eat in 2019 Down Slightly From 2000, But Variety Has Grown,” February 2021.

Cauliflower’s popularity re-emerges

Friday, January 22, 2021

Consumer interest in cauliflower has been re-emerging in recent years. Fresh cauliflower was popular in the early 20th century, with per capita availability peaking in 1946 at a record 3.6 pounds. Its popularity rose again in the late 1970s and 1980s before falling to 1.2 pounds per capita in 2012, then began to rise, reaching 3 pounds per person in 2019. This renewed interest in cauliflower is largely based on the widespread popularity of low-carb and gluten-free dietary trends. These trends have embraced the vegetable both in fresh form and as an ingredient in a variety of products, such as pizza crusts, pastas, tortillas, and crackers. Most fresh-market cauliflower available for domestic consumption is produced in California and Arizona. Together, the two States account for 93 percent of U.S. fresh cauliflower acreage. However, as consumption of cauliflower has risen, import penetration in the U.S. fresh cauliflower market also has soared. In 2019, imports accounted for nearly 23 percent of domestic fresh-market availability, up from 13 percent in 2014. Mexico is a year-round supplier and the source for about three-fourths of annual import volume, while Canada provides most of the remainder. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service’s December 2020 Vegetables and Pulses Outlook report.

Popularity of sweet potatoes, a Thanksgiving staple, continues to grow

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

If sweet potatoes are on your Thanksgiving menu this year, you are not alone. According to the Economic Research Service’s (ERS) food availability data, supplies of sweet potatoes available for U.S. consumers to eat averaged 7.2 pounds per capita per year in 2017-19, up from an average 3.9 pounds in 1997-99. Availability is calculated by adding domestic production, initial inventories, and imports, then subtracting exports and end-of-year inventories. These national supplies are then divided by the U.S. population to estimate per capita availability. Consumer interest in nutrition and food companies expanding their sweet potato-based offerings, such as sweet potato fries, may be contributors to the rise in sweet potato availability. Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A and vitamin C. A cup of boiled sweet potatoes without the skin (and without any added fats or marshmallow toppings) contains 249 calories and 287 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A, 47 percent of vitamin C, and 29 percent of dietary fiber for a 2,000 calories-per-day diet. This chart uses data from ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.

Illinois, home of two processing plants, leads U.S. pumpkin production

Monday, November 23, 2020

Pumpkins are in high demand in America during the fall and winter holidays, whether to be used as decoration or as a key ingredient in various desserts. There are two broad categories of pumpkin to fit the two main uses: Halloween pumpkins (also known as ornamental pumpkins) and processing pumpkins (used for food). Illinois leads the country in pumpkin production overall, growing roughly three to four times more pumpkins than any other state, depending on the year. Much of this is driven by the state’s dominance of the processing pumpkin market. About three fourths of the processing pumpkins acres in the country are grown and canned in Illinois, where two major canning facilities are located. Almost 80 percent of Illinois’ pumpkin production is for processing pumpkins, with no other top state producing more than 5 percent of its share as processing pumpkins. Further information on pumpkins can be found on the Economic Research Service Trending Topics page on Pumpkins: Background & Statistics.

Pumpkins: Ten States produce most of the value of America’s popular fall icon

Monday, October 26, 2020

Pumpkins are one of the most famous symbols of fall. Many consumers enjoy traveling to local farms to pick out their own pumpkins from a patch, carving Halloween jack-o’-lanterns, or making pumpkin desserts. Production is widely dispersed throughout the United States, with all States producing some pumpkins. However, about 62 percent of pumpkin acres were cultivated in only ten States. By acreage and by weight, Illinois is consistently the Nation’s largest pumpkin producer. Unlike all other States, most of Illinois’ pumpkins are used for pie filling and other processed foods. The lower price associated with pumpkins destined for further processing explains why Illinois was second in the value of pumpkin production at $17.1 million in 2019. Pumpkins from the other States surveyed annually by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service were primarily intended for decorative (or carving) use. California leads the Nation in terms of value of production, at $22.8 million. Anecdotal reports from growers and agricultural extensions suggest strong pumpkin crops this year for Illinois and California. Retail prices for pumpkins typically fluctuate week to week leading up to Halloween. At the end of the third week of October 2020, the average retail price for jack-o’-lantern style pumpkins was $3.63 per pumpkin, the same price compared to the same week in 2019. This chart is drawn from Economic Research Service’s Trending Topics page, Pumpkins: Background & Statistics.

A third of U.S.-grown potatoes become frozen french fries used mostly by food service

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

A little more than one-third of all potatoes grown in the United States are manufactured into frozen products, 85 percent of which are french fries. Spurred by decades of explosive growth within the quick service restaurant industry (QSRs), processed potato products, which include frozen, chipped, dehydrated, and canned, became the major movers in the potato market, led by frozen french fries. The share of potatoes consumed as frozen products rose from 27 percent in 1970-74 to 44 percent in 2015-19. Typically, about one-tenth of frozen french fries are sold in supermarkets and other retail outlets. The vast majority move through various food service venues or the export market. Research in the early 2000s indicated that QSRs alone accounted for about two-thirds of french fry usage, with another 6 percent attributed to school cafeterias. The COVID-19 pandemic severely hobbled the food service sector, resulting in an abrupt slowdown in french fry demand. In addition, exports of frozen potato products, which account for one-fourth of freezing potato utilization, remain well-below year-earlier levels. This chart is drawn from Economic Research Service’s Vegetables and Pulses Yearbook, March 2020.

The production of five popular vegetables relies on foreign labor

Monday, June 29, 2020

In 2019, tomatoes for the fresh market, harvested by hand, were valued at $705 million, while sweet corn production, typically harvested by hand or machine, was valued at $652 million, and sweet potatoes, for which workers are required for machine operation and post-harvest handling, was valued at $588 million. The production of these and other vegetables grown in the United States may be affected by disruptions of foreign labor flows. An estimated 10 percent of all hired farm workers are foreign nationals employed on temporary work visas under the H-2A agricultural workers program. Restrictions that affected the issuance of new H-2A visas at U.S. consulates starting March 18, 2020, were relaxed on April 20, 2020, which may have alleviated shortages of available workers. H-2A application disclosure data through the second quarter of fiscal year 2020 revealed that a significant majority of the H-2A workers with job start dates of mid-March or later had been hired as laborers for asparagus, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers, and tomatoes. These five vegetable commodities, therefore, are among those most likely to be affected by a short-term reduction in the inflow of H-2A workers. Together, these vegetables accounted for 12 percent of the total production value of U.S. vegetables in 2019. This chart is based on the Economic Research Service’s Vegetables and Pulses Outlook reports and H-2A application disclosure data from the Department of Labor.