Publications

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  • Can Food Stamps Do More to Improve Food Choices? An Economic Perspective-Making Healthy Food Choices Easier: Ideas From Behavioral Economics

    EIB-29-7, September 27, 2007

    With obesity the most prevalent nutrition problem facing Americans at all economic levels, promoting diets that provide adequate nutrition without too many calories has become an important objective for the Food Stamp Program. Findings from behavioral economics suggest innovative, low-cost ways to improve the diet quality of food stamp participants without restricting their freedom of choice. Unlike more traditional economic interventions, such as changing prices or banning specific foods, the strategies explored in this brief can be targeted to those participants who want help making more healthful food choices.

  • Productivity Growth in U.S. Agriculture

    EB-9, September 04, 2007

    Innovation and changes in technology have been a driving force for gains in productivity growth in U.S. agriculture. USDA's Economic Research Service has developed annual indexes of agricultural inputs, outputs, and total factor productivity (TFP) for 1948 through 2004. American agriculture relies almost entirely on productivity growth to raise output. By lowering the cost of agricultural commodities, productivity growth benefits not only farmers but also food manufacturers and consumers.

  • Profits, Costs, and the Changing Structure of Dairy Farming

    ERR-47, September 04, 2007

    ERS examines economic factors in the dramatic decline in the number of dairy farms over the past 15 years and the increasing concentration in the industry.

  • Economic Returns to Public Agricultural Research

    EB-10, September 04, 2007

    Over the last several decades, the U.S. agricultural sector has sustained impressive productivity growth. The Nation's agricultural research system, including Federal-State public research as well as private-sector research, has been a key driver of this growth. Economic analysis finds strong and consistent evidence that investment in agricultural research has yielded high returns per dollar spent. These returns include benefits not only to the farm sector but also to the food industry and consumers in the form of more abundant commodities at lower prices.

  • Can Food Stamps Do More to Improve Food Choices? An Economic Perspective—Nutrition Information: Can It Improve the Diets of Low-Income Households?

    EIB-29-6, September 03, 2007

    The Food Stamp Nutrition Education (FSNE) component of the Food Stamp Program is intended to improve the food choices, diet quality, and health of program participants. This brief discusses the FSNE program, how it operates, and how it has grown over time. The brief also considers the challenges of nutrition education in general and discusses the research and evaluation needs suggested by the findings.

  • Time Is Money. . .and Dinner!

    Amber Waves, September 03, 2007

    Among women, time factors are more important than income in determining the time spent preparing food.

  • The U.S. Food Marketing System: Recent Developments, 1997-2006

    ERR-42, May 31, 2007

    The increasing presence of nontraditional grocery retailers such as supercenters is generating new cost-cutting and differentiation strategies among traditional food retailers.

  • Retail and Consumer Aspects of the Organic Milk Market

    LDPM-155-01, May 22, 2007

    Consumer interest in organic milk has burgeoned, resulting in rapid growth in retail sales of organic milk. New analysis of scanner data from 2004 finds that most purchasers of organic milk are White, high income, and well educated. The data indicate that organic milk purchased carries the USDA organic seal about 60 percent of the time, most organic milk is sold in supermarkets, organic price premiums are large and vary by region, and most organic milk is branded.

  • Ethanol Expansion in the United States: How Will the Agricultural Sector Adjust?

    FDS-07D-01, May 18, 2007

    A large expansion in ethanol production is underway in the United States. Cellulosic sources of feedstocks for ethanol production hold some promise for the future, but the primary feedstock in the United States currently is corn. Market adjustments to this increased demand extend well beyond the corn sector to supply and demand for other crops, such as soybeans and cotton, as well as to U.S. livestock industries. USDA's long-term projections, augmented by farmers' planting intentions for 2007, are used to illustrate anticipated changes in the agricultural sector.

  • Food Spending in American Households, 2003-04

    EIB-23, March 13, 2007

    Using data from the most recent Consumer Expenditure Survey, ERS presents information on nationwide urban food expenditure patterns by select demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

  • Cost Pass-Through in the U.S. Coffee Industry

    ERR-38, March 13, 2007

    ERS uses data from the coffee industry to examine to what extent changes in commodity costs affect manufacturer and retail prices.

  • Household Food Security in the United States, 2005

    ERR-29, November 15, 2006

    Eighty-nine percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2005, meaning that they had access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining households were food insecure at least some time during that year. The prevalence of food insecurity declined from 11.9 percent of households in 2004 to 11.0 percent in 2005, while the prevalence of very low food security remained unchanged at 3.9 percent. This report, based on data from the December 2005 food security survey, provides the most recent statistics on the food security of U.S. households, as well as on how much they spent for food and the extent to which food-insecure households participated in Federal and community food assistance programs.

  • How Low has the Farm Share of Retail Food Prices Really Fallen?

    ERR-24, August 15, 2006

    ERS estimates the share of retail food prices farmers earn on two commodity groups-fruits and vegetables. While the farm share has been shrinking, the decrease is less than previously believed.

  • Where You Shop Matters: Store Formats Drive Variation in Retail Food Prices

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2005

    Just 20 years ago, traditional grocery stores claimed nearly 90 percent of Americans' at-home food purchases. Today, their share has dropped to 69 percent. Led by retail giants Wal-Mart, Costco, and Target, nontraditional food stores have managed to grab market share by enticing consumers with a formula of one-stop shopping and lower prices.

  • Food Dynamics and USDA's New Dietary Guidelines

    EIB-5, September 29, 2005

    Food Dynamics provides the most up-to-date information on consumer behavior and retail food market conditions.

  • Organic Price Premiums Remain High

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2005

    As long as demand increases faster than supply, given constant prices of conventionally produced food, organic food will continue to sell for higher prices. Findings show that organic price premiums remain high for carrots and broccoli but are lower for other vegetables, such as mesclun.

  • Commercialization of Food Consumption in Rural China

    ERR-8, July 20, 2005

    Over 60 percent of China's consumers live on farms. Consequently, a large share of the agricultural commodities produced in China is consumed on farms by the rural population. This study of rural food consumption patterns in China finds that rural households rely on self-produced commodities, especially grains and vegetables, for a large share of the food they consume. However, the study also finds that the reliance on self-produced food has fallen since the mid-1990s as rural households purchased an increasing share of their food.

  • Interstate Variation in WIC Food Package Costs: The Role of Food Prices, Caseload Composition, and Cost-Containment Practices

    FANRR-41, January 11, 2005

    Food prices within States affect average monthly costs of State food benefits packages provided by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) more than variations in WIC caseload composition do. In addition, cost-containment practices by State WIC agencies provide different levels of cost savings in different areas, which also contributes to interstate variation in benefits package costs. This study is one of the few to examine the degree to which food prices, caseloads, and cost-containment practices influence costs of State WIC food benefits packages. Because few data exist on the actual food items that WIC participants purchase, the study used a scanner dataset of supermarket transactions and other sources to estimate the average monthly cost of WIC food benefits in several areas.

  • An Economic Model of WIC, the Infant Formula Rebate Program, and the Retail Price of Infant Formula

    FANRR-39-2, January 03, 2005

    This report develops an economic model that provides the theoretical framework for the econometric analyses presented in the report's companion volume, WIC and the Retail Price of Infant Formula (FANRR-39-1). The model examines supermarket retail prices for infant formula in a local market area, and identifies the theoretical effects of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and its infant formula rebate program. Special attention is given to the rebate program's sole-source procurement system by which a single manufacturer becomes a State's "contract brand" -the State's one supplier of formula to WIC infants-in exchange for paying rebates to WIC. When a manufacturer's brand is designated a State's contract brand, the model predicts that supermarkets increase that brand's retail price. The model also predicts that an increase in the ratio of WIC to non-WIC formula-fed infants in a local market results in an increase in the price of the contract brand and, through demand substitution, a relatively small price increase for noncontract brands.

  • Supermarket Characteristics and Operating Costs in Low-Income Areas

    AER-839, December 15, 2004

    Whether the poor pay more for food than other income groups is an important question in food price policy research. Stores serving low-income shoppers differ in important ways from stores that receive less of their revenues from Food Stamp redemptions. Stores with more revenues from Food Stamps are generally smaller and older, and offer relatively fewer convenience services for shoppers. They also offer a different mix of products, with a relatively high portion of sales coming from meat and private-label products. Metro stores with high Food Stamp redemption rates lag behind other stores in the adoption of progressive supply chain and human resource practices. Finally, stores with the highest Food Stamp redemption rates have lower sales margins relative to other stores, but have significantly lower payroll costs as a percentage of sales. Overall, operating costs for stores with high Food Stamp redemption rates are not significantly different from those for stores with moderate Food Stamp redemption rates. If the poor do pay more, factors other than operating costs are likely to be the reason.