Publications

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  • The Roles of Economists in the U.S. Department of Agriculture

    AP-031, January 02, 2009

    Among the many responsibilities of USDA are implementing the Food Stamp Program and other food and nutrition assistance programs; managing Federal forest land; implementing standards of humane care and treatment of animals; providing incentives for adopting wildlife habitat enhancements and other conservation practices; participating in trade negotiations; ensuring the safety of meat, poultry, and eggs; providing funds for rural business development; and implementing farm programs legislated by Congress. The Department has a broad mandate, and virtually everything with which it is charged has economic dimensions. It is not surprising, then, that USDA employs over 800 economists across 16 of its agencies.

  • Indicators

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2008

    Indicators charts from the June 2008 issue of Amber Waves

  • Price Trends Are Similar for Fruits, Vegetables, and Snack Foods

    ERR-55, March 12, 2008

    Evidence suggest that a wide class of unprepared fresh fruits and vegetables-those that have not been combined with labor-saving attributes-display declining prices along with prices of commonly consumed dessert and snack foods

  • On The Map

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2008

    ERS estimates of retail food price variation show that average prices for 11 grocery store items were 8 percent higher than the national average in the Northeast and 6 percent lower in the Midwest for the years 2004-07.

  • Corn Prices Near Record High, But What About Food Costs?

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2008

    Ethanol's impact on retail food prices depends on how long the increased demand for corn drives up farm corn prices and the extent to which higher corn prices are passed through to retail. ERS research traces the effect of higher corn prices on U.S. retail food prices by analyzing data on price trends and price response of corn-dependent food to cost changes

  • Rising Food Prices Intensify Food Insecurity in Developing Countries

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2008

    Recent hikes in oil prices have raised serious concerns in low-income countries, both because of the financial burden of the higher energy import bill and potential constraints on imports of necessities like food and raw materials. Higher oil prices also have sparked energy security concerns worldwide, increasing the demand for biofuel production.

  • The Changing Economics of U.S. Hog Production

    ERR-52, December 27, 2007

    ERS examines the economic factors that underlie the dramatic decline in number of hog operations over the past 15 years and the increasing concentration of production on large, specialized hog farms.

  • 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.

  • Soft Drink Companies Make Splash in Bottled Water

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2007

    U.S. consumers now drink more bottled water than any other beverage, except carbonated soft drinks. The four largest suppliers' share of bottled water sales rose from 52 percent in 1997 to 63 percent in 2002. Leveraged by their extensive bottling and distribution networks and advertising budgets, Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola entered the bottled water industry in the mid- to late-1990s and quickly ranked among the top four suppliers in the U.S.

  • Indicators

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2007

    Indicators tables from the April 2007 issue of Amber Waves.

  • Strong Competition in Food Retailing Despite Consolidation

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2007

    In 2005, the 20 largest retailers accounted for 61.6 percent of total U.S. grocery store sales, up from 40.6 percent in 1995. Federal antitrust regulations and competition from supercenters, warehouse club stores, and other nonfoodstore retailers have had a role in keeping food prices competitive. At-home food prices rose slightly less than overall prices during 1995-2005.

  • The Impact of Big-Box Stores on Retail Food Prices and the Consumer Price Index

    ERR-33, December 29, 2006

    This report focuses on retail food market dynamics and how they affect food price variation across store formats. The differences in prices across store formats are especially noteworthy when compared with standard measures of food price inflation over time. Over the past 20 years, annual food price changes, as measured by the CPI, have averaged just 3 percent per year, while food prices for similar products can vary by more than 10 percent across store formats at any one point in time. Since the current CPI for food does not fully take into account the lower price option of nontraditional retailers, a gap exists between price changes as measured using scanner data versus the CPI estimate, even for the relatively low food inflation period of 1998-2003. This study estimates that the CPI for dairy products overstates food price change by 0.5 to 2.5 percentage points per year for dairy, eggs, and butter/margarine.

  • Despite Katrina, Overall Food Prices Stable

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2006

    In the year following Hurricane Katrina, overall food prices in the South region rose 1.8 percent, slightly higher than in the West and Midwest, but below the 2.9-percent increase in the Northeast. Hurricane Katrina's destruction in the Gulf Coast areas was one of the factors contributing to higher banana, sugar, and rice prices between August 2005 and June 2006.

  • Do Food Industry Mergers and Acquisitions Affect Wages and Employment?

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2006

    ERS and Census Bureau researchers used statistical techniques to isolate the effects of mergers and acquisitions on wages and employment in nine food industries. Their research found that mergers and acquisitions were no more likely to lead to job cuts than other causes of restructuring. Mergers and acquisitions had a positive, but small, effect on wages in seven of the industries in the first study period, but no discernible effect in the second study period.

  • China's Rising Fruit and Vegetable Exports Challenge U.S. Industries

    FTS-32001, February 14, 2006

    China has raised its profile in global fruit and vegetable markets, with the value of its exports during 2002-04 more than double the value from a decade earlier. Most of China's exports are processed fruits and vegetables that do not yet pose a serious challenge to U.S. exports. However, China's fresh vegetable sales to Japan and other Asian markets compete directly with U.S. products. In addition, the United States has been the largest market for China's apple juice exports. Over time, China's growing domestic market may absorb more of its production. Moreover, China faces stiff challenges in improving the quality and safety of its products, upgrading its marketing and distribution infrastructure, and reducing marketing costs.

  • Current Activities

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2006

    Previews of research in the works at ERS - February 2006

  • New Releases

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2006

    Highlights of new publications from ERS - February 2006

  • 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.

  • How Americans Quench Their Thirsts

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2005

    Lower income households buy more powdered soft drinks and tea, and less milk and fruit juices, than higher income households. Both income groups purchase similar amounts of fruit drinks and carbonated soft drinks. Across both groups, at-home beverage purchases provided 10 percent of daily calories and about 20 percent and 70 percent of the recommended daily intakes of calcium and vitamin C, respectively.

  • Companies Continue To Offer New Foods Targeted to Children

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2005

    Between 2000 and 2004, whole-grain, low-fat, and low-sugar products targeted to children accounted for 15 percent of all new children's foods and beverages. Despite the gains made in introducing more healthful foods, candy still accounted for 46 percent of new children's food products introduced during the period.