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Rural Economy & Population

  • Finding

    Differences in Per-Person Food Costs for SNAP and WIC Have Widened Over Time

    When the WIC program was initiated in 1974, the average monthly WIC food cost per person was similar to the average monthly SNAP benefit per person. In fiscal 2013, monthly SNAP benefits averaged $133 per person and per person food costs for WIC were $43 per month.
  • Finding

    South Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement Benefits U.S. Dairy Trade

    Dairy production and consumption have expanded rapidly in South Korea. The South Korea-United States (KORUS) free trade agreement (FTA) is expected to promote trade through the reduction or elimination of tariffs. U.S. dairy exports have become more competitive recently, and the FTA is expected to add to the competitiveness of U.S. dairy products.
  • Finding

    Antibiotics Used For Growth Promotion Have a Small Positive Effect on Hog Farm Productivity

    Antibiotics are frequently used to treat and prevent diseases in livestock. In addition to these medical uses, a substantial share of hog producers incorporate antimicrobial drugs into their livestock’s feed or water to promote feed efficiency and weight gain. For many years, governmental and professional organizations have expressed concerns about the overuse of antimicrobial drugs in livestock.
  • Feature

    Managing the Costs of Reducing Agriculture’s Footprint on the Chesapeake Bay

    Runoff from agricultural activity and other nonpoint sources contributes to adverse environmental conditions in the Chesapeake Bay, interfering with fish and shellfish production and compromising recreational opportunities. In order to meet Environmental Protection Agency goals for the Chesapeake Bay, loadings of nutrients and sediments from agricultural activity must be reduced.
  • Feature

    Support for the Organic Sector Expands in the 2014 Farm Act

    Organic program provisions in the 2014 Farm Act cover a broad set of objectives—assisting with organic certification costs, expanding organic research and data collection, improving technical assistance and crop insurance, strengthening enforcement of organic regulations, and expanding market opportunities for producers.
  • Feature

    2014 Farm Act Maintains SNAP Eligibility Guidelines and Funds New Initiatives

    The Agricultural Act of 2014 maintains SNAP’s basic eligibility guidelines and includes provisions designed to encourage SNAP recipients to choose healthy foods and to build the skills needed to increase their employment options. Other provisions aim to improve the food environment at schools and in low-income communities.
  • Feature

    2014 Farm Act Shifts Crop Commodity Programs Away From Fixed Payments and Expands Program Choices

    The 2014 Farm Act repealed a number of programs, chief among them the fixed annual Direct Payments, and introduced new programs tied to current prices and/or revenues. The new programs increase the potential variability of annual farm program payments and involve complex tradeoffs requiring producers to consider the type and level of coverage that will best protect their operations.
  • Statistic

    Indicators Table

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America, June 2014
  • Statistic

    Trends in U.S. Per Capita Consumption of Dairy Products, 1970-2012

    While consumption of some dairy products—cheese, yogurt, and sour cream—has risen since the 1970s, declining milk consumption has caused total pounds of dairy products available to eat or drink to fall from 339 pounds per person in 1970 to 276 pounds in 2012.
  • Statistic

    Pesticide Use Peaked in 1981, Then Trended Downward, Driven by Technological Innovations and Other Factors

    Pesticides, including herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides, have contributed to substantial increases in crop farm productivity over the past five decades. Changes in pesticide use have been driven by changes in pest pressures, environmental and weather conditions, crop acreages, agricultural practices, and the cost-effectiveness of pesticides and other practices.
  • Finding

    Consumers Devote a Higher Share of Food Spending to Fruits and Vegetables in Supermarkets Than In Supercenters

    ERS researchers examined food purchasing decisions at conventional supermarkets and supercenters and found that U.S. households make significantly different food purchasing decisions at the two store types—differences that have implications for dietary quality.
  • Finding

    Wheat Prices Driven By Supply and Demand, Not Speculators

    Supply and demand shocks specific to the wheat market were the dominant cause of price spikes between 1991 and 2011 in U.S. wheat futures markets.
  • Finding

    Double Cropping by U.S. Farmers Varies Over Time and Regionally

    Growing demand for agricultural commodities over the last decade has created incentives for farm operators to increase production. While some farmers responded to these incentives by expanding their cropland acreage, an alternative is to use existing cropland more intensively. Double cropping—the harvest of two crops from the same field in a given year—is one form of intensification.
  • Feature

    Food Loss—Questions About the Amount and Causes Still Remain

    ERS estimates that 31 percent, or 133 billion pounds, of food available for consumption in U.S. grocery stores, restaurants, and homes went uneaten in 2010. Greater awareness of the amount of food loss—and where and why it occurs—may help spur public and private responses.
  • Feature

    Beginning Farmers and Ranchers and the Agricultural Act of 2014

    Support for beginning farmers and ranchers can be found throughout the Agricultural Act of 2014. The Act provides increased funding for beginning farmer development, facilitates the transfer of farmland to the next generation of farmers, and improves outreach and communication to military veterans about farming and ranching opportunities.
  • Statistic

    Food Price Transmissions From Farm to Retail

    ERS forecasts price changes for three stages of the food chain: farm commodities, wholesale commodities, and retail foods. Generally, prices for the three types of goods move in the same direction, with smaller price changes for each successive stage.
  • Finding

    The Impact of Migration on China’s Rice Production

    Migration’s farm production impacts in China appear to be slight, not on account of farm labor market perfections or remittance-financed technological improvements, but by substituting a reduction in leisure and other low-return activities for lost labor.
  • Finding

    Small Acreage Farms in the United States

    According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, approximately 294,000 farms, or 13 percent of all U.S. farms, operated on 10 or fewer acres. Collectively, these small acreage (SA) farms operated only 0.18 percent of all U.S. farmland in 2007, but were responsible for approximately $9 billion in farm sales, or 3 percent of the U.S. total.
  • Finding

    Higher Food Prices Mean Higher Rates of Food Insecurity for SNAP Participants

    ERS researchers found that for households participating in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), higher food prices are associated with a higher prevalence of food insecurity. A $10 higher cost for a weekly basket of foods for a SNAP household of two adults and two children resulted in a 2.7-percentage point higher prevalence of food insecurity.
  • Feature

    Healthy Vegetables Undermined by the Company They Keep

    When ERS researchers examined the types of vegetables and vegetable-containing foods eaten by Americans, they found that instead of eating vegetables in their simple, unadorned state, Americans often eat vegetables prepared in ways that add calories and sodium and remove dietary fiber.
  • Feature

    2014 Farm Act Continues Most Previous Trends In Conservation

    The Agricultural Act of 2014 continues a strong overall commitment to conservation, with an emphasis on working land conservation. Many conservation programs are consolidated into new programs or merged into existing programs. Crop insurance premium subsidies are re-linked to Conservation Compliance (conservation of highly erodible land and wetlands) for the first time since 1996.
  • Feature

    Farm Businesses Well-Positioned Financially, Despite Rising Debt

    Debt owed by U.S. farm businesses rose 39 percent between 1992 and 2011, after adjusting for inflation. Despite rising debts, financial leverage—measured as debt relative to the value of assets—declined over this period for the typical farm business. Debt use and financial leverage varies widely, but the vast majority of farm businesses are better positioned to withstand unexpected changes in farm income or interest rates than they were in the 1990’s.
  • Statistic

    New International Evidence on Food Consumption Patterns: A Focus on Cross-Price Effects Based on 2005 International Comparison Program Data

    Cross-price elasticities quantify potential shifts in consumer demand in response to changes in both food and nonfood prices. The elasticites are estimated from 2005 data for 144 countries and cover nine consumption categories.
  • Finding

    Confined Livestock Operations Account For a Majority of the Chesapeake Bay Area’s Farmland With Applied Manure

    Excessive flows of nutrients into the Chesapeake Bay can damage the bay’s environment, yielding coastal dead zones, fish kills, and impaired drinking water supplies. Agriculture is a main contributor to nutrient run-off, responsible for 38 percent of the bay’s nitrogen and 45 percent of phosphorus loadings.
  • Finding

    Food Prices—Taking the Long-Term View

    U.S. food price inflation has been falling, on average, over the past several decades. Since 2010, food prices have risen by an average of 2.1 percent a year—in sharp contrast with the 1970s when the all food Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by an average of 8.1 percent per year.
  • Feature

    China in the Next Decade: Rising Meat Demand and Growing Imports of Feed

    USDA anticipates that China’s soybean and corn imports will continue to rise, with soybean imports meeting nearly all soybean meal demand and imports accounting for about 10 percent of corn supplies by 2023. Meat imports are also projected to rise, but remain a small share of consumption.
  • Statistic

    Indicator Table

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America, March 2014
  • Statistic

    Poverty and Deep Poverty Increasing in Rural America

    Examining poverty over time shows that the recent economic recession has resulted in the highest rural poverty rates since the mid-1980s, another period when an economic recession and slow rural recovery resulted in rising rural poverty rates. The 2007-2009 recession and subsequent slow recovery have resulted in substantial increases in poverty, especially among children.
  • Finding

    Farm Financial Position Expected to Remain Strong Despite a Forecast Drop in 2014 Income

    Farm financial position expected to remain strong despite a forecast drop in 2014 income.
  • Finding

    Livestock Gross Margin-Dairy—an Effective Risk Management Tool?

    Traditional dairy policies focused largely on protecting producers from downward price fluctuations, rather than a narrowing between prices and input costs, or margins. Recent research on an existing USDA Risk Management Agency insurance program known as Livestock Gross Margin-Dairy indicates that the program is effective in reducing risks faced by milk producers.
  • Finding

    Infant Formula Costs to the WIC Program Fall

    WIC State agencies enter into cost-containment contracts with infant formula manufacturers for formula provided to WIC participants. Contracts are awarded to the manufacturer offering the lowest net price (wholesale price minus the rebate offered by the manufacturer). A recent ERS study found that net prices had decreased in 20 of 22 WIC contracts awarded after 2008, resulting in annual savings of $107 million, holding retail markups constant.
  • Feature

    Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops by U.S. Farmers Has Increased Steadily for Over 15 Years

    Farmers planted about 170 million acres of GE crops in 2013—principally corn, cotton, and soybeans—representing about half of the U.S. farmland used to grow crops. Pest management traits are the main feature engineered into GE crops grown, but over time, traits providing protection against additional pests and seeds combining several traits have been introduced and quickly adopted by farmers.
  • Feature

    Less Eating Out, Improved Diets, and More Family Meals in the Wake of the Great Recession

    Between 2005 and 2010, Americans experienced large changes in employment and income that affected their food expenditures and intake. Once demographic characteristics unrelated to the Great Recession are controlled for, food-away-from-home (FAFH) calories among working-age adults declined about 15 percent, while the number of meals and snacks from FAFH declined 12 percent.
  • Feature

    Family Farming in the United States

    The United Nations (UN) has designated 2014 the “International Year of Family Farming” with a primary focus on small farms that depend on a family for most labor. Farms in the U.S. are often much larger than the farms in developing countries that are the primary focus of the UN’s efforts, but farms relying primarily on family labor still account for nearly half of U.S. farm output.
  • Feature

    What Can State-Level Reforms Tell Us About India’s National Food Security Act?

    India passed the National Food Security Act in 2013 to implement reforms in the distribution of subsidized food modeled after reforms made earlier in the State of Chhattisgarh. There have been significant gains in food security in Chhattisgarh, but impacts at the national level are uncertain.
  • Statistic

    Onshore Oil and Gas Development in the Lower 48 States: Introducing a County-Level Database of Production for 2000-2011

    Until now, there has been no publicly available nationwide data on oil and gas production at the county level. County-level data from oil and/or natural gas producing States were compiled on a State-by-State basis. Most States have production statistics available by field, county, or well, and these data were compiled at the county level to create a database of county-level production, 2000-11.
  • Statistic

    Agricultural Productivity Growth in the United States: 1948-2011

    U.S. total farm production more than doubled between 1948 and 2011. Agricultural output growth was mainly driven by productivity growth, with little contribution from total agricultural inputs growth.
  • Finding

    Production Contracts May Help Small Hog Farms Grow in Size

    In the U.S. hog sector, production contracts—under which farm operators agree to raise hogs owned by contractors—are becoming increasingly common: the share of market hogs grown under a production contract increased from 5 percent in 1992 to over 70 percent in 2009. The growth in the use of production contracts has been accompanied by pronounced increases in the size of farms producing hogs.
  • Finding

    Impact of Oil Prices on Produce Prices Depends on Route and Mode of Transportation

    ERS researchers estimated that a hypothetical doubling of oil prices would be expected to increase wholesale prices for six fresh fruits and vegetables—asparagus, cantaloupes, bell peppers, grapes, oranges, and tomatoes—by 3 to 27 percent depending on the shipping route.
  • Finding

    Most Recent Recession Doubled Share of SNAP Households Receiving Unemployment Insurance

    A recent ERS study found that an estimated 14.4 percent of households participating in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) also received unemployment insurance at some point in 2009—nearly double the estimate of 7.8 percent in 2005. The poorest and least educated SNAP households are the most likely to rely on SNAP alone.
  • Finding

    The Rise of Foreign Wine Demand in China

    Rising education, income, and Westernization has led to China’s emergence as a major player in global wine trade. Evidence suggests that the Chinese wine market will continue to grow, creating opportunities for all exporting countries. However, given the status of French wine among Chinese consumers, the growth of U.S. wine exports to China will likely not be as strong.
  • Feature

    India Continues To Grapple With Food Insecurity

    Despite progress and large outlays on food subsidies, India still accounts for the largest share of the world’s food insecure population. The new National Food Security Act increases the households eligible for subsidized food grains, but questions remain on the impact the legislation.
  • Feature

    Productivity Growth Slows for Specialized Hog Finishing Operations

    U.S. hog farm numbers dropped by 70 percent over 1991-2009 while hog inventories remained stable. The result has been an industry with larger hog enterprises, increased specialization in a single phase of production, greater reliance on purchased rather than homegrown feed, and greater use of production contracts. This structural change has led to higher productivity and lower pork prices.
  • Feature

    USDA’s Food Assistance Programs: Legacies of the War on Poverty

    USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs—many of which were conceived half a century ago—are still some of the Federal Government’s most important means of fighting poverty and improving the economic well-being of needy Americans.
  • Finding

    Rural America at a Glance

    During the 1990s, the U.S. experienced the longest economic expansion on record, with higher earnings and less poverty. Rural areas shared in the Nation's prosperity, leading demographers to declare it the decade of the rural rebound.
  • Finding

    More Households Had Difficulty Meeting Their Food Needs

    The percentage of U.S. households that were food insecure at least some time during the year rose from 11.2 percent in 2003 to 11.9 percent in 2004. Over the same period, the percentage that were food insecure with hunger increased from 3.5 to 3.9 percent. The increase in the prevalence of food insecurity appears to have occurred in most regions and most types of households.
  • Statistic

    Indicators Table

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America, December 2013
  • Statistic

    A Visual Primer for the Food and Agricultural Sectors

    Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, released in September 2013, is a collection of charts and maps covering fundamental statistics and trends related to the U.S. agricultural and food sectors. This data feature highlights a few of the questions that can be answered by the Essentials.
  • Finding

    The Relationship Between Food Insecurity, Conflict, and Food Price Shocks in Afghanistan

    An analysis of the effects of conflict on food security in Afghanistan reveals no evidence that high-conflict provinces are more food insecure.
  • Finding

    New Analysis Reveals Significant Within-State Variation in SNAP Participation Rates

    Analyses by ERS reveal that SNAP participation rates for elderly households in Texas were higher in households where an elderly person lived with at least one other non-elderly person. Elderly Texans’ participation in SNAP also varied across counties.
  • Feature

    Solving Processing Issues a Key to Successful Local Meat Marketing

    Consumer demand for local food, including local meat and poultry, has risen in recent years. To sell meat, farmers need access to appropriately scaled processing facilities with the skills, inspection status, and reliability to prepare these products safely, legally, and to customer specifications. This report explores this multi-faceted problem and identifies fundamental causes.
  • Feature

    Energy Development’s Impacts on Rural Employment Growth

    Research indicates that the expansion of emerging energy industries—such as shale gas, wind power, and ethanol production—during the last decade created jobs in rural economies, but the employment impacts varied widely based on the industry.
  • Statistic

    Growth in Global Agricultural Productivity: An Update

    Over the past five decades, global agricultural output grew, on average, by 2.24 percent per year. This average, however, masks a slowdown in agricultural output growth in the 1970s and 1980s, after which it re-accelerated in the 1990s and 2000s. In the latest decade (2001-10), global output of total crop and livestock commodities expanded by 2.50 percent per year.
  • Finding

    Public-Private Partnerships Create Opportunities To Enhance the Agricultural Research System

    While traditional public funding for agricultural research and development (R&D) has stagnated over the past several decades, private companies are financing and performing a growing share of overall food and agricultural R&D. As the agricultural research system continues to evolve, one of the most pressing questions is how to leverage public resources and foster innovation.
  • Finding

    Flour Imports Help Afghanistan Meet Its Growing Food Needs

    Afghanistan is among the world’s largest importers of flour, averaging 1.6 million metric tons in recent years. Although flour production in Afghanistan increased rapidly in the post-2000 period, it could not keep pace with rising domestic demand spurred by strong economic growth and a rapidly expanding population that depends on flour for over half of its caloric intake.
  • Finding

    Recent Estimates of the Cost of Foodborne Illness Are in General Agreement

    Recent studies by ERS, University of Florida, and Ohio State University researchers agree that Salmonella and Toxoplasma gondii are the first and second most costly foodborne pathogens in the United States in terms of medical care, lost time from work, and losses due to premature death.
  • Feature

    Despite Improvements in International Food Security, Nutritional Adequacy of Diets Falls Short of Targets in Many Countries

    Overall food security in 76 countries showed significant improvement over the past decade, with the number and share of food-insecure people declining sharply. In some countries, however, consumption of fat and protein fell short of the nutritional target, and many people in the lowest income groups were unable to meet the daily target of 2,100 calories per person.
  • Feature

    SNAP Participation and Diet Outcomes

    An analysis of the effect of SNAP participation on diet quality yielded mixed results, showing that participants had slightly lower overall diet quality than low-income nonparticipants but better nutritional outcomes for some dietary components.
  • Statistic

    Growth Patterns in the U.S. Organic Industry

    While Americans economized on their food purchases during the 2007-09 recession, including purchases of organic products, growth in demand for organic products rebounded quickly following the recession. Estimated U.S. organic food sales were $28 billion in 2012 (over 4 percent of total at-home food sales), up 11 percent from 2011.
  • Finding

    Who Is Adopting Organic Farming Practices?

    In response to rising demand for organic products, a growing number of farmers have had to adopt new (to them) organic production practices and establish new marketing channels. Early adopters of innovative farming practices tend to be operators of larger farms and have higher levels of schooling and stronger links to outside sources of information than other farmers.
  • Finding

    Summer Weather Most Important for Corn and Soybean Yields

    To measure the impact of weather on crops, ERS developed statistical models for corn and soybean yields based on 25 years of historical data. July tends to be the most important month for determining corn yields since many of the critical stages of crop development, particularly pollination, typically occur during that month. Weather in both July and August are important for soybean yields.
  • Finding

    Effects of Changes in SNAP Benefits on Food Security

    Results from two ERS studies of changes in food security during times of increasing and declining SNAP benefits suggest that increasing the maximum SNAP benefit by 10 percent would reduce the number of SNAP households with very low food security by about 22 percent, and reducing the maximum benefit by 10 percent would increase that number by about 29 percent.
  • Feature

    U.S. Exports Surge as China Supports Agricultural Prices

    As Chinese officials expanded support for agriculture, they began to rely on raising price supports to maintain net returns to farmers. China became the largest market for U.S. agricultural exports as its rising prices eroded the relative competitiveness of Chinese commodities.
  • Statistic

    Indicators Table

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America, September 2013
  • Finding

    Evaluating the Resource Cost and Transferability of Brazil’s Cerrado Agricultural “Miracle”

    Brazil’s successful agricultural transformation of the Cerrado, which accounts for 24 percent of the country’s total area, is evident by a 192-percent rise in average production volumes of Cerrado farms during 1985-2006. Such success has led to speculation that the world’s other savannah regions, including Sub-Saharan Africa’s vast Guinea Savannah, could become new breadbaskets.
  • Finding

    When Working Off the Farm, Farm Operators Most Commonly Work in Management and Professional Occupations

    Most U.S. farm households earn income from nonfarm sources, and in 2011, roughly 56 percent of their nonfarm income came from off-farm jobs, on average. When working off-farm, 36 percent of farm operators and their spouses reported working in management and professional occupations.
  • Finding

    Americans Not Drinking Milk as Often as Their Parents Did

    Since 1970, per capita consumption of fluid milk in the U.S. has fallen from almost 1 cup (8 fl. oz.) to 0.6 cups per day. Contributing to the trend are differences in the eating and drinking habits of newer and older generations.
  • Feature

    Cropland Consolidation and the Future of Family Farms

    Over the past three decades, U.S. crop production has been shifting to larger farms for most crops and in most States. Despite the shift, family farms continue to dominate U.S. crop production, accounting for 87 percent of the total value of U.S. crop production in 2011.
  • Feature

    Eating Better at School: Can New Policies Improve Children’s Food Choices?

    ERS research found that offering school lunches with a healthier mix of vegetables was associated with higher consumption of healthier vegetables, but also higher food costs. “Competitive foods” that many schools sell in addition to USDA school meals will also follow new nutrition standards beginning with the 2014-15 school year.
  • Statistic

    Western Irrigated Agriculture: Production Value, Water Use, Costs, and Technology Vary by Farm Size

    In 2007, irrigated agriculture made a significant contribution to the value of U.S. agricultural production, with farms having at least some irrigated cropland accounting for roughly 40 percent of U.S. agricultural market sales. The 17 contiguous Western States accounted for nearly three-quarters of U.S. irrigated farmland during the period.
  • Feature

    Solving the Commodity Markets’ Non-Convergence Puzzle

    From 2005 to 2010, expiring corn, soybeans, and wheat futures contracts routinely settled at prices significantly higher than their cash market counterparts. Findings show that the observed non-convergence was an unintended consequence of market design rather than speculative trading.
  • Statistic

    Price Inflation for Food Outpacing Many Other Spending Categories

    Food prices have been rising in recent years, and food price inflation has easily outpaced price inflation for most other major consumer spending categories. Between 2006 and 2012, only prices for transportation, which includes a number of energy price measures, and medical care have risen faster than food prices.
  • Finding

    Effects of Large-Scale Hog Production on Local Labor Markets

    For counties with large-scale hog operations, the average change in the number of hogs at these operations over each 5-year-period between 1992 and 2007 was 8,473. Each additional 1,000 hogs at large-scale hog facilities in a county generated 0.96 net jobs in the county, with gains in some sectors and losses in others.
  • Finding

    High RIN Prices Suggest Market Factors Likely To Constrain Future U.S. Ethanol Expansion

    Declining use of gasoline in the U.S. combined with market constraints to future growth in the blending of biofuel have resulted in U.S. ethanol use falling short of the Federal Renewable Fuel Standard, which specifies minimum annual levels of biofuel consumption in the U.S. through 2022. For many years, U.S. ethanol use exceeded mandates; now, however, ethanol mandates exceed use.
  • Finding

    Post-Recession, a Greater Share of Food-Insecure Children Have Parents Who Are Unemployed or Working Part-Time

    In 2006-07, among households that had food-insecure children, 6.9 percent had an adult who was unemployed and looking for work and no other adults employed and 10.4 percent had an adult working part-time and no adults employed full-time. By 2010-11, these shares had increased to 12.2 percent and 15.4 percent, respectively.
  • Feature

    Developing Countries Dominate World Demand for Agricultural Products

    According to USDA’s baseline projections, developing country demand for agricultural products is expected to increase faster than their production in 2013-22. Thus, these countries will account for 92 percent of the total increase in world meat imports, 92 percent of the increase in world grains and oilseeds imports, and nearly all of the increase in world cotton imports.
  • Statistic

    ERS Food Dollar Series Allows an Indepth Look at Farm Level Components of the U.S. Food Dollar

    Since 1993, the farm share of each dollar spent on domestically produced food has mostly trended downward, beginning the period at 18.4 cents and remaining below 16 cents since 2000. In 2011, the farm share was 15.5 cents, up from 14.1 cents in 2010 and comparable with levels in 2007-08.
  • Finding

    Rural Internet at a Crossroads

    Ninety-five percent of all U.S. households have access to broadband Internet service. The 5 percent of households that do not have access largely reside in rural areas. About 30 percent of rural households with access still do not have broadband meeting current technology standards, although some of these households have broadband available at slower speeds.
  • Finding

    Complex Array of Factors Influence World Sugar Prices

    With the world sugar price serving as the new floor for domestic prices, it becomes more important to understand the dynamics of world prices. Brazil is the world’s leading sugar producer and, over the long term, world sugar prices are determined by production costs in Center/South Brazil, as well as the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the Brazilian real.
  • Finding

    Food Insecurity Increased in Most States From 2001 to 2011

    In 2011, 14.9 percent of U.S. households were food insecure—up from 10.7 percent in 2001. Over the period, food insecurity was essentially unchanged in nine States but up in the remaining States and Washington, DC.
  • Finding

    Changes in Income Have Small Effect on Where a Household Shops for Milk

    Despite having cheaper options, U.S. households purchase most fluid milk in supermarkets or supercenters, suggesting that other factors beyond the price of one product play a role in consumer shopping behavior. Also, even large changes in income do not lead most households to change their preferred store type to buy milk.
  • Feature

    The Role of Conservation Program Design in Drought-Risk Adaptation

    Since USDA conservation programs are voluntary, farmers base their participation decisions on local conditions, among other factors, and those decisions are influenced by the level of local drought risk. This is a form of climate adaptation.
  • Feature

    Obesity and Other Health Concerns Lead Food Companies To Step Up Health and Nutrient Claims

    As food companies compete for customers, the health and nutritional features of their products are becoming an increasingly important component of their differentiation strategies. Government policies, new health information, and changing consumer preferences all shape the number and types of health- and nutrition-related claims that appear on food and beverage products.
  • Statistic

    Indicators Table

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America.
  • Statistic

    ERS’s Food Loss Data Help Inform the Food Waste Discussion

    ERS's Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data show that at the retail and consumer levels, an estimated 31 percent of the 430 billion pounds of food available for human consumption in the U.S. in 2010 was not eaten due to cooking and moisture shrinkage; loss from mold, pests, or inadequate climate control; plate waste; and other causes.
  • Finding

    Onfarm Energy Use Fairly Steady in 2001-11, But Share of Production Costs Rose

    Although agriculture’s demand for energy has historically been less than 2 percent of total U.S. energy consumption, energy-based inputs account for a significant share of agricultural production costs. For example, over 30 percent of total production expenditures by corn, sorghum, and rice farmers in 2011 were for energy-intensive inputs.
  • Finding

    China’s Agricultural Productivity Growth: Strong But Uneven

    The rapid growth in China’s agricultural productivity over the past few decades may not have been sustained in recent years. Annual total factor productivity growth peaked during 1996-2000 at 5.1 percent before slowing to 3.2 percent in 2000-2005. It then declined by 3.7 percent per year in 2005-07. The significance of this slowdown remains unclear.
  • Finding

    Food Insecurity in U.S. Households Rarely Persists Over Many Years

    Two studies commissioned by ERS found that for a large share of food-insecure households, food insecurity is a short-duration condition. For example, one study found that half of households that were food insecure at some time during a 5-year period were food insecure in only 1 of the 5 years.
  • Feature

    Crop Outlook Reflects Near-Term Prices and Longer Term Market Trends

    Initial indications suggest continued expansion of U.S. corn and soybean acres at the expense of rice and cotton. Factors behind the acreage shift include growing U.S. ethanol production, rising demand in China for U.S. soybeans, and new competition for U.S. wheat from Black Sea wheat exporters.
  • Statistic

    Nonmetro Areas as a Whole Experience First Period of Population Loss

    U.S. nonmetro counties as a whole have gained population every year for which county population estimates are available--until recently. Between April 2010 and July 2012, nonmetro counties declined in total population by 44,000, a -0.09-percent drop according to the most recent annual county population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Statistic

    The Revised ERS Farm Typology: Classifying U.S. Farms To Reflect Today's Agriculture

    Since the release of ERS's farm typology nearly 15 years ago, the U.S. agricultural sector has changed in a number of ways. ERS recently updated the typology to reflect three important trends: commodity price increases, a shift in production to larger farms, and the rapid growth of the use of production contracts among livestock producers.
  • Finding

    Among Women Farmers, Different Specializations Dominate Farm Numbers, Farm Sales

    Most women-operated farms specialize in grazing livestock or miscellaneous crops, but these are mostly small operations that contribute relatively little to the total sales of women-operated farms. Most sales by women-operated farms come from farms specializing in poultry and eggs, specialty crops, grains and oilseeds, and dairy.
  • Finding

    Why Do Indian Mangoes Cost So Much?

    Many attribute the high prices of Indian mangoes in the U.S. to the costs of meeting health and food safety requirements for imports. ERS analysis, however, finds that shipping and wholesale markups are in fact the biggest factor behind the high prices.
  • Finding

    Economic Conditions Affect the Share of Children Receiving Free or Reduced-Price School Lunches

    During the Great Recession and continuing through 2010, the share of National School Lunch Program participants receiving free or reduced-price meals increased 10 percent. Preliminary data for 2011 and 2012 show that this share continued to rise even after the unemployment rate started to decline, indicating the need for assistance remained high.
  • Feature

    Disability Is an Important Risk Factor for Food Insecurity

    Recent ERS research found that one-third of U.S. households with a working-age adult who was unable to work due to a disability were food insecure in 2009-10. Disability has emerged as one of the strongest known factors that affect a household’s food security.
  • Feature

    Research Raises Agricultural Productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa

    Agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa has been rising gradually since the 1980s. Agricultural research has spurred adoption of new technologies and has been a major driver of higher productivity in Sub-Saharan African agriculture. Despite these gains, productivity growth in the region remains well below that of other developing countries.
  • Feature

    Free-Trade Agreements: New Trade Opportunities for Horticulture

    The U.S has embarked on negotiations to create a Trans-Pacific Partnership and a comprehensive trans-Atlantic agreement with the EU that will liberalize and promote trade. The U.S. horticulture industry has an interest in the outcome of both negotiations, as fruit and vegetable trade continues to be influenced by a range of trade-distorting policies.
  • Statistic

    Understanding Farm Income’s Role in Farm Household Finances

    Over the last 20 years, farm income has represented a small share of total farm household income--as little as 4.6 percent and never more than 17.5 percent. This pattern supports the counterintuitive notion that farming matters little to the financial well-being of U.S. farm households. However, the share of farm income to total farm household income can be misleading.
  • Finding

    Younger Beginning Farmers Tend To Operate Larger Farms

    In 2011, 11 percent of beginning farm operators under age 35 had gross farm sales of $250,000 or more, compared with 6 percent of beginning operators age 35-49 and 1 percent of those age 50 and older. As a result, young beginning farm households tend to earn more on their farm and less off their farm than other beginning farm households.
  • Finding

    China’s Cotton Policies To Lower Domestic Consumption and Imports

    Policy changes have severely constrained the profitability of cotton spinning in China and are expected to lower China’s cotton consumption and import demand, while boosting imports and mill use by other countries.
  • Finding

    The Food Costs of Healthier School Lunches

    ERS analyzed cost data from 2005 for nearly 400 schools to better understand the potential effects of 2012-13 nutrition standards on school food costs. Schools serving lunches in 2005 that would have met the new fruit, vegetable, and milk standards had higher food costs than schools whose menus would not have met these standards.
  • Feature

    The Importance of Farmer-Owned Nonfarm Businesses in the Rural Economy

    Farm households that also operate nonfarm businesses have accounted for roughly 18 percent of U.S. farm households since the 1990s. In 2007, farmer-owned nonfarm businesses employed over 800,000 nonfarm workers and contributed an estimated $55 billion to their local communities’ gross county product.
  • Finding

    Farm Income Forecast To Remain High in 2013

    Net farm income in 2013 is forecast to be $128.2 billion, which would be nearly 14 percent higher than forecast in 2012. Adjusting for inflation, this would be the highest net farm income since 1973.
  • Finding

    While Crop Rotations Are Common, Cover Crops Remain Rare

    While 82-94 percent of most U.S. crops are grown in some sort of rotation, conservation crop rotations that incorporate cover crops remain rare. Only about 3 to 7 percent of farms use cover crops in rotations, and, since they do not put all of their land into cover crops, only 1 percent of cropland acreage uses cover crops.
  • Finding

    Productivity Gains Increase U.S. Commercial Pork Production

    Commercial pork production in the United States increased 174 percent from 1977 to 2012 from slaughtering more and bigger hogs. Public and private research and development during the period led to efficiency gains that have altered the structure of the pork industry.
  • Feature

    Different Measures of Food Access Inform Different Solutions

    ERS recently updated several national measures of food access, providing estimates of the number of individuals and geographic areas with limited access to healthful and affordable food. Between 2006 and 2010, the number of low-income individuals living more than 1 mile from a supermarket increased, but more individuals had access to vehicles in 2010.
  • Statistic

    Indicators Table

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America
  • Statistic

    New ERS Data Product Links Food Availability and Food Intake Data

    ERS’s recently updated Commodity Consumption by Population Characteristics data product links national estimates of food supplies, or food available for consumption, with information from consumer food intake surveys.
  • Finding

    Bt Corn Adoption by U.S. Farmers Increases Yields and Profits

    Genetically engineered varieties of corn with enhanced pest management traits have been widely adopted by U.S. farmers. Researchers confirm that Bt corn adoption was positively associated with increased variable profits and yields in 2005. More specifically, a 10.0-percent increase in Bt adoption was associated with a 1.7-percent increase in corn yields and a 1.65-percent increase in variable profits.
  • Finding

    Effects of U.S. Wind Power Development on County-Level Income and Employment

    A recent study measured the effects of wind power development on county-level income and employment in 12 States of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions. Findings reveal an aggregate increase in county-level personal income and employment of approximately $11,000 and 0.5 jobs per megawatt of wind power capacity installed over the study period 2000 to 2008.
  • Finding

    Substitute and Complementary Foods Are Important When Assessing Impacts of Price Policies on Dietary Quality

    With many Americans consuming too much fat and added sugars and not enough fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, public health advocates have called for taxes or subsidies on particular foods as a way to improve Americans’ diets. To capture the total impact of hypothetical price policies on dietary quality requires a model that includes consumer responsiveness to complementary and substitute foods.
  • Finding

    Analysis of Those Leaving USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reveals the Program’s Effectiveness

    A recent ERS analysis compares the food security status of current SNAP recipients with that of households that recently left the program. The difference of 8.9 percentage points in prevalence of very low food security between households that continued to receive SNAP benefits (14.2 percent) and households that left the program (23.1 percent) provides an estimate of SNAP’s effectiveness in improving the food security of participating households.
  • Finding

    Characteristics of U.S. Cotton Farms Vary Widely

    In the U.S, cotton is a major field crop that generates significant cash receipts for producers, exceeded only by corn, soybeans, wheat, and greenhouse products. Data from the 2007 cotton version of USDA’s ARMS reveal the extent to which cotton farm operators have different characteristics and use different production practices.
  • Finding

    Protected-Culture Technology Transforms the Fresh-Tomato Market

    In calendar year 2011, protected culture tomatoes made up 40 percent of U.S. tomato shipments, up from less than 10 percent in 2004; they now dominate the retail industry and are becoming more common in foodservice.
  • Feature

    Federal Income Tax Reform and the Potential Effects on Farm Households

    The complexity of the current tax code, together with perceptions that it distorts economically efficient decisions and is inequitable, has led to calls for fundamental tax reform.
  • Feature

    Adaptation Can Help U.S. Crop Producers Confront Climate Change

    While the impact that climate change will have on future growing conditions in specific areas of the country remains uncertain, the ability of farmers to adapt to climate change—through planting decisions, farming practices, and use of technology—can reduce its impact on production, farm commodity prices, and farmer returns.
  • Feature

    Southeast Asia Projected To Remain Top Rice Exporter

    Southeast Asia's rice surplus of exports over imports has grown steadily over the past decade. Despite slower production growth in the region, USDA projects that the surplus will remain large over the next decade because rice consumption in Southeast Asia is expected to increase at a slower rate.
  • Feature

    Americans’ Food Choices at Home and Away: How Do They Compare With Recommendations?

    Grocery store purchase data reveal that Americans underspend on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and overspend on refined grains, fats, and sugars/sweets, compared with USDA's dietary recommendations, a pattern that showed little change from 1998 to 2006. Food choices when eating out are even more of a nutritional concern.
  • Feature

    The Concentration of Poverty Is a Growing Rural Problem

    Concentrated poverty has increased in the U.S. over the last decade, particularly in nonmetropolitan areas and in areas with distinct racial/ethnic minority populations. Deteriorating economic conditions, namely rising unemployment, have driven the increase in nonmetro concentrated poverty.
  • Statistic

    On the Map: Farmers’ Markets Concentrated in Metro Counties

    The 143 U.S. counties with more than 10 farmers' markets account for almost 40 percent of the Nation's farmers' markets. All but 10 are metro-designated counties where higher population concentrations provide a larger customer base.
  • Statistic

    Indicators table

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run: Population Trends in Nonmetro America Vary Considerably by Age and County Type

    For many decades, most U.S. nonmetro counties experienced significant population loss among young adults, especially in the years immediately following high school graduation.
  • Statistic

    Mapping Frontier and Remote Areas in the U.S.

    One need for delineating remote “frontier” areas comes from recent legislative mandates to improve access to public services in such areas. ERS’s newly developed Frontier and Remote (FAR) area codes are both geographically detailed and adjustable within reasonable ranges to facilitate their use in diverse research and policy contexts.
  • Finding

    Return Migrants Overcome Employment Barriers in Small Towns

    Efforts to attract and assist return migrants can reap benefits for rural communities, especially in geographically isolated areas that otherwise tend to attract few new migrants. However, for returnees to overcome employment challenges in these communities often requires a combination of sacrifice, risk taking, creativity, and patience.
  • Finding

    Natural Gas Extraction Creates Local Jobs in the Short Term

    ERS analysis of the effects of natural gas extraction on local counties captures increases in local employment and income and median household income occurring primarily in the gas development phase when infrastructure is laid and wells are drilled. The long-term local economic effects are likely smaller.
  • Finding

    Nitrogen Management in Corn Production Appears To Be Improving

    An ERS study of nitrogen management on U.S. corn cropland over 2001-10 indicates that corn producers may be adjusting to changing economic conditions and environmental concerns. U.S. corn acreage treated with nitrogen increased 18 percent during the period as corn prices rose by 70 percent in response to increased demand for grain for export and ethanol production.
  • Finding

    Alternative Policies To Promote Anaerobic Digesters Produce Positive Net Benefits

    Rising fuel prices and the public’s desire for new sources of renewable energy and reduced carbon emissions have led to government policies that support the adoption of anaerobic digesters by livestock producers. ERS research finds that the design of such policies can affect farmer adoption rates of digesters, farm incomes, and environmental benefits from use of the technology.
  • Finding

    A Market for U.S. Distillers Dried Grains Emerges in China

    China has become a key importer of U.S. distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS), the main co-product from ethanol production. About a fourth of U.S. DDGS output is exported, and China accounted for nearly 20 percent of those exports in 2010/11.
  • Finding

    Dietary Guidelines Have Encouraged Some Americans To Purchase More Whole-Grain Bread

    There is little evidence that overall diet quality in the U.S. has improved in response to updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued every 5 years. However, a recent study by ERS finds that, for whole grains, the 2005 Guidelines were able to nudge consumption patterns in the direction desired by the public health community—at least for some consumers.
  • Finding

    Agricultural Policies Have Little Effect on U.S. Calorie Consumption

    Many observers speculate that agricultural policies contribute to increased U.S. obesity rates by making certain commodities more abundant and therefore cheaper. However, a recent study finds that the effects of farm subsidies, when combined with the effects of other agricultural policies that restrict supply such as acreage set-asides or import barriers, have little impact on average calorie consumption.
  • Feature

    Rising Concentration in Agricultural Input Industries Influences New Farm Technologies

    The leading agricultural input firms are multinational companies with R&D facilities located around the world. These global research networks allow large firms to develop and adapt new technologies to local conditions, meet national regulatory requirements for new product introductions, and achieve cost economies in some of their R&D activities.
  • Feature

    Gobbling Up Snacks: Cause or Potential Cure for Childhood Obesity?

    Children today are consuming about 200 more calories a day from snacks than they did in the 1970s. Replacing calorie-dense snack foods with fruits and vegetables can be one step in addressing childhood obesity and does not have to compromise a family’s food budget.
  • Feature

    Economic and Financial Conditions Bode Well for U.S. Agriculture

    The emergence of developing countries as markets for exports, strong farm balance sheets, healthy financial institutions supporting agriculture, and a favorable trade-weighted dollar exchange rate all support relatively strong growth in the U.S. farm sector. These factors suggest a positive outlook for U.S. agriculture as the U.S. and global economies continue their recovery.
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run: Public Expenditures Stable at Around 6 Percent of Total Food Spending Since 1990

    In 2010, families and individuals accounted for 82.8 percent of the $1.2 trillion in total U.S. food spending.
  • Statistic

    On the Map: The Conservation Challenge for Sustainable Irrigated Agriculture

    Expanding water demands to support population and economic growth, environmental flows, and energy-sector growth will present new challenges for agricultural water and conservation, particularly for the 17 Western States that account for nearly three-quarters of U.S. irrigated agriculture.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America
  • Statistic

    Middle-Income Countries Drive U.S. Agricultural Trade

    In 2011, the U.S. shipped nearly half of its total agricultural exports to upper middle-income countries. Steadily rising incomes, population growth, and increased urbanization have helped position these countries as important and destinations for U.S. goods.
  • Finding

    Baselines--Key to the Costs and Benefits of Environmental Markets

    Recently, markets have been developed that could allow farmers to generate and sell environmental credits when they adopt farming practices that improve the environment. Environmental markets use baselines to determine whether proposed improvements qualify for marketable credits, and setting baseline emissions levels is often a contentious element of market design.
  • Finding

    Improving Water-Use Efficiency Remains a Challenge for U.S. Irrigated Agriculture

    In 2007, irrigated agriculture accounted for 55 percent of the total value of U.S. crop sales, while also supporting the livestock and poultry sectors. The economic health and sustainability of irrigated agriculture will depend on the ability of producers to adapt to growing constraints on water, particularly through improved water-use efficiency.
  • Finding

    How Much U.S. Meat Comes From Foreign Sources?

    While it is relatively easy to track the amount of meat and the number of livestock imported by the U.S., it is more difficult to estimate the amount of meat produced in the U.S. from animals originating abroad. ERS estimates show the share of domestic meat production attributed to foreign-born animals is significant and trending upward.
  • Finding

    Retail Dairy Prices Respond Differently to Farm Milk Price Shocks

    ERS model results show that farm milk price shocks are not transmitted instantaneously to retail for whole milk or Cheddar cheese. The nature of price transmission is also very different for whole milk and Cheddar cheese.
  • Finding

    Water Constraints Shape Long-Term Prospects for Wheat Production in Afghanistan

    Wheat production in Afghanistan is extremely sensitive to variations in precipitation. During the main growing months, rainfall is scarce and farmers depend on irrigation. And decades of war and conflict have left much of the country’s irrigation system in a state of disrepair.
  • Finding

    Brazil’s Agricultural Productivity Growth Spurred by Research

    Over the last 25 years, Brazil emerged as a major agricultural producer and exporter, with agricultural production rising 77 percent between 1985 and 2006. Government investments in infrastructure and agricultural research, led to increases in agricultural productivity and expansion of cultivated area.
  • Finding

    Mexico Emerges as an Exporter of Beef to the United States

    Mexico has historically been a top export market for U.S. beef, but in 2003, it emerged as an important source of beef imports for the United States. U.S. beef imports from Mexico at least doubled in 2010 and 2011.
  • Finding

    Health Care Expenditures of Self-Employed Farm Households

    Farm households purchasing individual health insurance directly from private vendors are likely to spend more on health care than those with other sources of health insurance. Other things being equal, among all farm households, those without any insurance coverage have the lowest health care expenditures.
  • Finding

    Expansion in Direct Payments Did Not Lead to More Crop Production

    ERS analysis finds that direct payments have little effect on agricultural production decisions. A more rigorous analysis accounting for farm and regional characteristics also found no evidence of direct payments having economically significant effects on production.
  • Finding

    U.S. Per Capita Availability of Chicken Surpasses That of Beef

    According to ERS’s food availability data, 58 pounds of chicken per person on a boneless, edible basis were available for Americans to eat in 2010, and for the first time, chicken surpassed beef as the most consumed meat in the U.S. Chicken consumption began its upward climb in the 1940s and has doubled since 1970.
  • Finding

    Healthy Foods Not Necessarily More Expensive Than Less Healthy Foods

    Healthy foods are perceived to be more expensive than less healthy foods, a belief perhaps fueled by studies showing that healthy foods are more expensive per calorie. ERS measured the prices of over 4,000 foods using three price metrics and found that prices for each food category varied depending on the metric used.
  • Finding

    Food Processing Costs Per Food-at-Home Dollar Rose Sharply in 2009 and 2010

    In 2010, about 35 cents from each dollar that U.S. consumers spent on food at grocery and other retail foodstores went to food processing establishments like flour mills, meatpacking plants, and dairy processors. This equates to an increase of around 14 percent since 2007, when the share was about 31 cents per dollar spent.
  • Finding

    Trans Fats Are Less Common in New Food Products

    The Federal Government has taken two policy approaches to help Americans reduce trans fats in their diets: publicizing the health risks and requiring food manufacturers to label the trans fat content of foods. ERS found that food manufacturers responded to the labeling requirements, nutritional advice from health officials, and national media coverage by reducing the trans fats in their products.
  • Feature

    What Role Do Food and Beverage Prices Have on Diet and Health Outcomes?

    Food preferences, nutrition knowledge, and access to stores and restaurants all share a role with food prices in consumers’ food purchasing decisions and related health outcomes. Price changes have limited effects on food choices and health outcomes, but the effects may be larger when paired with information and other reinforcing policies and programs.
  • Feature

    Long-Term Prospects for Agriculture Reflect Growing Demand for Food, Fiber, and Fuel

    Growing food demand in developing countries, rising biofuel demand, and slowing agricultural productivity gains have put upward pressure on farm-commodity prices over the past decade. According to USDA’s annual baseline projections, these and other factors will continue to influence prospects for U.S. and world agriculture over the next decade.
  • Feature

    Factors Affecting Food Production Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa

    While food imports have increased in most SSA countries, the region relies mainly on domestic production for the bulk of its food consumption. Grain production in SSA grew at an average rate of 4.1 percent per year between 2000 and 2010, but yield growth is lagging, and investments to raise productivity will be needed to maintain this rate of growth in the future.
  • Feature

    Creating Rural Wealth: A New Lens for Rural Development Efforts

    Creating and maintaining a broad portfolio of wealth may be central to sustainable rural prosperity. However, the impacts that rural development strategies have on wealth and the impacts of existing wealth on those strategies are generally not well understood.
  • Feature

    Farmland Values on the Rise: 2000-2010

    Farmland values have been rising but so have farm earnings. Historically low interest rates contribute to sustained high farmland prices and have helped improve the affordability of farmland. Strong farm earnings have dampened the impact of a significant downturn in residential land markets.
  • Feature

    New Evidence Points to Robust But Uneven Productivity Growth in Global Agriculture

    Total factor productivity in agriculture is showing rapid growth at the global level led by improved performance in China and Brazil, although the global rate of growth in harvested yield for major grains and oilseeds has slowed. Agricultural productivity growth may be slowing in some countries and regions and remains very low in food-insecure Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run: Global Private-Sector Research Is Considerably Larger for Crop Inputs Than for Livestock

    In recent years, private-sector research expenditures directed at crop production inputs have been 3.5 to 5.5 times higher than those directed at livestock production inputs.
  • Statistic

    On the Map: Increases in U.S. Poverty Rate Were Highest in the Manufacturing Areas of the Midwest and South

    Increases in the poverty rate between 2000 and 2006-10 were often highest in regions that suffered the largest increases in unemployment rates during the 2007-09 recession, such as the Great Lakes and Southern Highland regions.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America
  • Statistic

    Food and Nutrient Intake Data: Taking a Look at the Nutritional Quality of Foods Eaten at Home and Away From Home

    Foods prepared in restaurants, school cafeterias, and other away-from-home eating places accounted for 42 percent of American households food budgets and 32 percent of calorie intake during 2005-08. How the nutritional quality of these foods differs from that of foods eaten at home is a critical factor affecting the quality of Americans diets.
  • Finding

    Potential Rural Implications of Federal Budget Pressures

    In the coming years, anticipated deficit reduction legislation could affect rural America. It is too early to know with any certainty which Federal programs will be affected, or by how much, but the current composition of rural Federal funding receipts can reveal insights about rural America's potential vulnerability to budget cuts.
  • Finding

    Stricter Rules Prompt Livestock Producers To Choose Farm Size Just Below Regulatory Cutoff

    An important and unchanging feature of the Clean Water Act is that livestock operations confining more than a specific number of livestock face more stringent rules. However, some farmers are avoiding the regulations by adjusting the size of their operations to just below the cutoff point.
  • Finding

    R&D and Productivity Lag in Food Manufacturing

    R&D expenditures by the global food manufacturing industry reached $11.5 billion in 2007, with the U.S. accounting for $3.1 billion of the total. However, research spending relative to the value of production in U.S. food manufacturing is relatively low, at about 1.5 percent, compared with 10 percent for total U.S. manufacturing.
  • Finding

    Farm Program Changes Could Affect Environmental Compliance Incentives

    Federal farm program payments help encourage good stewardship of natural resources through environmental compliance requirements. But the future effectiveness of environmental compliance requirements may be affected by the evolution of farm programs in the next farm bill.
  • Finding

    Fresh Vegetables and Salty Snacks Cost More in Urban Locales

    ERS examined geographic variation in retail prices for two foods that differ in handling requirements and perishability, as well as in nutritional profiles--fresh vegetables and salty snacks. Findings show that households are likely to face higher prices for each of these foods when certain economic and demographic conditions exist in their community.
  • Finding

    Consumers Appear Indifferent to Country-of-Origin Labeling for Shrimp

    ERS researchers explored whether U.S. consumers adjusted their purchases of shrimp in response to the 2005 country-of origin labeling requirements for seafood. Findings show that consumers were not responsive to the new country-of-origin labels.
  • Finding

    Food Insecurity More Common for Households With Nonstandard Work Arrangements

    In 2010, food insecurity was higher for U.S. households with members in nonstandard work arrangements than for those with members in full-time jobs. Findings suggest that employment relates to food insecurity in ways beyond the effects of earned income, such as through instability in income and work schedules.
  • Finding

    Investigating the Time Use Patterns of Obese Americans

    Data on time spent by Americans age 20 and older on 24 major activities reveal that the biggest differences between normal-weight people and obese people were in time spent watching television, participating in sports and exercise, and engaging in paid work.
  • Finding

    What Role Do Food and Beverage Prices Have in Childhood Obesity?

    Price increases for some high-calorie foods and beverages were found to have small but statistically significant effects on children's BMI, and in the direction expected. Comparing the effects with the expected average growth in children's BMI over a year reveals a possibly large effect over time.
  • Finding

    Ethanol Strengthens the Link Between Agriculture and Energy Markets

    The growing role of the ethanol industry as a supplier to the U.S. motor fuels market has reshaped the relationship between agriculture and energy markets. Price relationships between the U.S. corn and gasoline markets strengthened after March 2008 and continue to be highly correlated.
  • Finding

    Potential Developing Country Agricultural Safeguards in Cereal Grains Markets

    If approved, the special safeguard mechanism (SSM) is expected to increase domestic commodity prices in the developing countries where the policy is implemented. The SSM is also expected to increase the volatility of world commodity prices if the measure is widely used by developing countries.
  • Feature

    SNAP Benefits Alleviate the Intensity and Incidence of Poverty

    Adding SNAP benefits to family income reduces the poverty rate and leads to even greater reductions in depth and severity of poverty, particularly among children. The antipoverty effect of SNAP was especially strong in 2009, when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act increased SNAP benefits levels.
  • Feature

    Immigration Policy and Its Possible Effects on U.S. Agriculture

    Policymakers are considering changes to U.S. immigration law that would affect the market for hired farm labor--including mandatory use of an Internet-based employment eligibility verification system and an expanded guestworker program for nonimmigrant, foreign-born agricultural workers.
  • Feature

    Emergence and Impact of USDA’s WASDE Report

    Although USDA’s WASDE report is viewed by commodity market observers as an important benchmark, the rise of private forecasting services has led some to question the usefulness of USDA’s role in commodity market reporting. ERS model results show that markets place substantial value on the situation and outlook information published in WASDE.
  • Feature

    Private Industry Investing Heavily, and Globally, in Research To Improve Agricultural Productivity

    In 2010, global private-sector investments R&D to improve agricultural inputs reached $11.0 billion, up from $5.6 billion in 1994. Factors driving the growth in research spending include the emergence of biotechnology and other scientific developments and the strengthening of intellectual property rights over agricultural innovations.
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run: Commodity Prices Vary More Than U.S. Cropland Acreage

    Since 1980, the variation in cropland used for crops has been relatively small, despite significant variation in real (adjusted for inflation) commodity prices.
  • Statistic

    On the Map: Can Crop Insurance Encourage Environmental Compliance?

    In many areas where crop production is risky, crop insurance could provide a conservation incentive that is equal to or even larger than direct payments. In other areas, compliance incentives could decline.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America
  • Statistic

    How Is Land in the United States Used? A Focus on Agricultural Land

    The ERS Major Land Uses series provides over 50 years of estimates of land in various uses, including cropland, pasture and range, and forest. These State and national estimates provide insights into changes in land use over time.
  • Statistic

    Visualizing Farm Program Participation and Benefits Across the U.S.

    ERS's Farm Program Atlas provides access to an array of public data that enable users to visually explore the geographic distribution of participation and benefits from seven key Federal farm programs at national, State, and county levels.
  • Finding

    Net Farm Income Is Expected To Decline in 2012 But Remain at a Near Record Level

    After 2 straight years of rapid growth, U.S. net farm income is forecast to decline by 6.5 percent in 2012 to $91.7 billion.
  • Finding

    Hog Spot Market Prices Not Strongly Associated With Production Contracts

    A comparison of prices received by independent hog producers in regions of growing contract production with prices in regions of shrinking contract production reveals no strong relationship between contract prevalence and spot market prices.
  • Finding

    Public Agricultural Research Investment Helps Determine Productivity Growth

    The main driver of agricultural productivity growth over the last 50 years has been the application of new technologies to farming. Robust productivity growth has allowed U.S. agriculture to hold down the cost and environmental consequences of growing more food and fiber.
  • Finding

    Recent Conservation Reserve Program Enrollments Signal Changing Priorities

    Over time, the CRP's goals have changed from an early emphasis on limiting soil erosion to include wildlife, water and air quality, and other conservation goals. Driven by changes in legislative mandates, commodity markets, and environmental concerns, the CRP continues to evolve.
  • Finding

    Green Payments: Can Conservation and Commodity Programs Be Combined?

    Existing conservation and commodity programs have very little in common, and attempting to meld them into a single program raises questions about to whom and under what conditions payments would be extended.
  • Finding

    Food Retailers Adjust Private-Label Prices as Costs and Consumer Demand Change

    ERS researchers examined nonsale prices of both private-label (store brand) foods and national brands in two periods: May 2008 to June 2009 and July 2009 to August 2010. Private label prices fluctuated more than prices of national brands between the recessionary period and post-recession period.
  • Finding

    Americans More Realistic About Their Diet Quality

    Research has suggested that Americans view their diets too optimistically, underestimating the amount of calories in their diets, for example, or overestimating the nutritional value. Recent work by ERS suggests that, in recent years, such "optimistic bias" may be on the wane.
  • Finding

    Feeding Children After School: The Expanding Role of USDA Child Nutrition Programs

    USDA has a long history of subsidizing school meals through the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. Increasingly, USDA is also involved in feeding children after school, especially low-income children.
  • Finding

    China’s Hog Cycle Boosts U.S. Pork Exports

    High pork prices in the Chinese market have created opportunities for the U.S. pork industy. However, U.S. pork sales to China have not risen at a steady rate.They tend to rise and fall in rhythm with cyclical changes in China's hog sector.
  • Finding

    Limited Base Acre Provision in the 2008 Farm Act Yields Small Budgetary Savings

    The base 10 provision of the 2008 Farm Act prohibits farms with 10 or fewer base acres from receiving direct and countercyclical payments (DCP) or ACRE program payments. In 2009, payments prohibited under the provision totaled $29.1 million, compared with over $5 billion total DCP and ACRE payments.
  • Feature

    What’s Behind the Rise in SNAP Participation?

    Declining and persistently weak economic conditions have played a major role in the SNAP's growth over the past decade, as have policy changes to SNAP that improved accessibility, expanded eligibility, and raised benefit levels.
  • Feature

    Switching the Payment Trigger for an Area-Based Revenue Program Could Increase Participation

    The ACRE program relies on State- and farm-level revenue payment triggers to provide producers with an alternative to price-based and direct payment commodity programs. Switching from a State-level trigger to one closer to the farm level would generally increase expected payments, but the impact would vary by crop, region, and market prices.
  • Feature

    Identifying Federal Farm Programs’ Potential Overlaps

    Because farm program designs and purposes vary, producers may participate in, and receive benefits from, multiple programs on the same farm, increasing the potential for overlap.
  • Feature

    Government Commodity Payments Continue To Shift to Larger Farms, Higher Income Households

    As agricultural production has shifted to farms with larger sales, so, too, has the distribution of commodity-related program payments. Unless the design of commodity programs changes substantially, current payment trends are likely to continue.
  • Feature

    Per Capita Income Grows Faster in Delta Regional Authority Counties

    Growth in per capita income averaged about $600 higher in DRA-funded nonmetro counties in 2002-07 than in similarly distressed counties outside the region, mainly due to increased health and social services sector earnings and increased medical transfer payments.
  • Feature

    The NAFTA Countries Build on Free Trade

    The NAFTA governments are seeking more open trading relationships with non-NAFTA countries, such as China, Colombia, Panama, Japan, and South Korea, as well as increased commerce within the North American free-trade area.
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run: Prevalence of Food Insecurity Remained Essentially Unchanged in U.S. Households

    After a sharp increase from 2007 to 2008, the prevalence of food insecurity remained essentially unchanged in 2009 and 2010 at 14.5 percent.
  • Statistic

    On the Map: Demand for U.S. Edible Pork Byproduct Exports Is High

    U.S. pork byproduct exports totaled $700 million in 2010, almost 15 percent of the total value of U.S. pork exports.
  • Statistic

    Research Area Charts

    Research Areas charts from the December 2012 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America.
  • Statistic

    Mapping Food Deserts in the United States

    ERS's Food Desert Locator is a mapping tool that presents a spatial overview of where food deserts are located and provides selected characteristics of the populations that live in them.
  • Finding

    Hired Farm Labor Held Steady in Great Recession

    After declining for much of the previous decade, the employment of hired farm laborers, supervisors, and managers stabilized in 2008 and rose somewhat in 2009 and 2010.
  • Finding

    Hispanics Contribute to Increasing Diversity in Rural America

    During a decade of diminished population growth across rural and small-town America, Hispanic population growth and geographic dispersion during 2000-2010 was a strong driver of demographic change, as it has been for at least two decades.
  • Finding

    Use of Conservation-Compatible Manure Management Practices Increases on U.S. Hog Farms

    U.S. hog producers altered their manure management decisions between 1998 and 2009, suggesting an increased focus on applying nutrients at agronomic rates--that is, at levels that do not exceed what can be absorbed by crops.
  • Finding

    The Information Age and Adoption of Precision Agriculture

    Findings suggest that low adoption rates of precision technologies by farmers may be due to uncertainty about economic returns to large initial investments, the complexity of the technologies, and the need to make integrated use of several precision technologies to obtain cost savings.
  • Finding

    A Wide Variety of Fruit and Vegetables Are Affordable for SNAP Recipients

    Recent ERS research suggests that low-income Americans can meet the Dietary Guidelines for fruit and vegetable consumption with a wide selection of fresh and processed products and stay within a limited budget.
  • Finding

    Avian Influenza Boosted Japan’s Imports of Dried Egg Products

    ERS analysis of the effects of the 2004 outbreak of avian influenza in Japan showed evidence of a willingness of Japanese consumers to substitute processed dried egg products for fresh shell eggs. These changes in preference affect U.S. exports of shell eggs and egg products.
  • Finding

    Counting India’s Food Insecure Is Complicated

    According to the most recent USDA global food-security assessment (based on estimates of national food availability), India accounted for the single largest share of the world's food-insecure population in 2010--about 28 percent.
  • Finding

    Market Potential for U.S. Distillers’ Grains Exceeds Likely Supply Growth

    U.S. production of distillers’ grains (DGs) has quadrupled since 2004/05. For the foreseeable future, however, potential feed use of DGs in the U.S. will significantly exceed projected supply.
  • Finding

    U.S. Ethanol Dampens Global Crude Oil Prices

    The U.S. is the world’s largest ethanol producer and currently holds a 57-percent share of global ethanol production. A one-time 5-percent increase in U.S. ethanol use will lower the crude oil price by an estimated 8 cents per barrel over 12 months.
  • Feature

    Can Brazil Meet the World’s Growing Need for Ethanol?

    Brazil's ethanol industry has been aided by increased capacity to produce sugarcane as an ethanol feedstock, supportive government policies, and efficiency improvements. Other factors, however, may affect its ability to fill growing world demand for ethanol.
  • Feature

    Changing Farming Practices Accompany Major Shifts in Farm Structure

    Changing production practices, including adoption of labor-saving innovations, have contributed to and been affected by increases in both agricultural productivity and the concentration of production.
  • Feature

    U.S. Food Safety Policy Enters a New Era

    ERS research conducted over the past two decades provides a number of lessons that can help identify efficient and effective means of implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010.
  • Feature

    Local Foods Marketing Channels Encompass a Wide Range of Producers

    Local food marketing channels vary with farm size, with smaller farms dominating direct-to-consumer sales and larger farms dominating sales through grocers and other intermediaries.
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run: USDA Conservation Spending on Working Agricultural Lands Bucks Long-Term Trend

    USDA provides technical and financial assistance to help farmers implement conservation practices on working agricultural lands or on lands temporarily retired from production. As measured in constant (2009) dollars, Federal conservation assistance has fluctuated widely during the past 60 years.
  • Statistic

    On the Map: SNAP Redemptions Per Store Grew Most in Nonmetro Counties

    In 813 counties, average per store SNAP redemptions rose more than 50 percent in 2008-09. Two-thirds of the 813 counties were nonmetro counties.
  • Statistic

    Research Area Charts

    Select research area charts from the September 2011 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Amber Waves presents the broad scope of ERS's research and analysis. The magazine covers the economics of agriculture, food and nutrition, the food industry, trade, rural America, and farm-related environmental topics. Available on the Internet and in print, Amber Waves is issued in print four times a year (March, June, September, and December). The Internet edition, or
  • Statistic

    Where Did the Corn Come From To Fuel the Expansion in Ethanol Production?

    Between 2000 and 2009, U.S. ethanol production increased from 1.6 billion gallons to 10.8 billion gallons, almost all of which was produced from corn. Some of the corn came from increased yields and some was diverted from other uses, but much of the corn needed to produce ethanol came from expanding planted acreage.
  • Finding

    Tax-Deferred Exchanges of Farmland Provide Valuable Savings to Some Farmers

    Despite their limited use, tax-deferred exchanges can be important for some farmland owners. Over a 5-year period, landowners making like-kind exchanges of farmland for farmland deferred $43,300, on average, in capital gains taxes.
  • Finding

    Organic and Conventional Apple Orchards Differ in Pest Management But Share Other Attributes

    In 2007, USDA conducted the first comprehensive survey of the production and marketing practices used by organic and conventional apple growers. The survey results indicate that organic and conventional apple growers make many similar production and marketing decisions.
  • Finding

    Some Households No Longer Eligible for SNAP Have Unmet Food Needs

    The period of transitioning off SNAP can be a financially challenging time for some households despite their improved economic circumstances. Very low food security—characterized by disrupted eating patterns and reduced intake—is more prevalent among households that recently left SNAP than among households still receiving assistance.
  • Finding

    Buying Power of WIC Fruit and Vegetable Voucher Varies Across the Country

    Findings from a 2011 ERS study show that due to geographical food-price variation, the new fruit and vegetable voucher for WIC buys substantially smaller amounts in some U.S. areas than in others.
  • Finding

    New Loss Estimates Suggest Higher Vegetable and Protein Consumption

    ERS contracted with an independent, nonprofit research organization to develop new consumer-level loss estimates to update those ERS has used since the mid-1990s. If the new food loss estimates are adopted, changes to ERS’s current Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data would vary for individual foods.
  • Finding

    Consumers Cut Back on Convenience but not Necessarily Quantity, When Incomes Fall

    ERS researchers find that convenience is one food characteristic for which recession-constrained consumers will reduce expenditures. Specifically, sales of bagged leafy greens decrease relative to sales of unpackaged leafy greens when income levels fall.
  • Finding

    Beef and Pork Byproducts: Enhancing the U.S. Meat Industry’s Bottom Line

    Byproducts include virtually all parts of the live animal that are not part of the dressed carcasses. Byproducts account for more than 10 percent of the value of cattle and more than 6 percent of the value of hogs.
  • Finding

    Low-Income Countries Are Most Responsive to Income and Food Price Changes

    In general, income elasticities for food are highest among low-income countries. In other words, consumers in low-income countries will spend a larger share of an increase in income on food than consumers in high-income countries.
  • Feature

    Winner Takes (Almost) All: How WIC Affects the Infant Formula Market

    In exchange for exclusive sales arrangements, manufacturers provide large rebates to States for formula purchased through the program. Winning a WIC contract significantly increases a manufacturer's market share.
  • Feature

    Do Farm Programs Encourage Native Grassland Losses?

    Federal farm programs, crop prices, and new technology may encourage farmers to extend crop production into native grasslands. A recent ERS study found that farm programs had a minor effect on conversions of grasslands to crop production.
  • Feature

    Reducing Agriculture’s Nitrogen Footprint: Are New Policy Approaches Needed?

    Agriculture is the single largest source of nitrogen compounds that can help or harm ecosystems. A range of policy instruments could be used to address different facets of nitrogen management and specific environmental problems.
  • Feature

    Rising Food Prices and Declining Food Security: Evidence From Afghanistan

    Afghanistan is particularly vulnerable to food and fuel price shocks, which, in 2007/08, led to an increase in household food insecurity.
  • Feature

    Why Another Food Commodity Price Spike?

    Food prices jumped in 2010-11, the second price spike within 3 years. Longer term financial, agricultural, and demographic trends, exacerbated by short-term production shortfalls, set up conditions for the increases.
  • Feature

    Food Spending Adjustments During Recessionary Times

    Faced with falling incomes and economic uncertainty, many Americans economized on their food purchases during the 2007-09 recession, particularly on food away from home.
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run: Fewer Cows But More Milk Through 2020

    After a 4-year increase during 2005-08, milk cow numbers fell in 2009 and 2010 and are projected to continue year-to-year declines in 2012-20.
  • Statistic

    On the Map: California, Florida, and Washington Are Nation's Largest Fruit-Producing States

    California accounts for about half of U.S. bearing fruit acreage, Florida almost one-fourth, and Washington around one-tenth.
  • Statistic

    Research Area Charts

    Research Areas charts from the June 2011 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America.
  • Statistic

    A New Look at Where Our Food Dollars Go

    In February 2011, ERS introduced a new data product called the food dollar series that uses BLS annual input-output tables to provide a more complete accounting of U.S. food spending at both grocery stores and eating places.
  • Finding

    Recession in 2007-09 Widened and Deepened Nonmetro Poverty

    The 2007-09 recession was particularly severe in the depth of poverty it engendered. Relative to previous recessions, those residing in nonmetro areas, particularly children, were among the most affected by deepening poverty.
  • Finding

    Biofuels and Land-Use Change: Estimation Challenges

    Most studies estimate significant increases in land-use requirements for agricultural production resulting from scaled-up biofuel production. Additional research on variables, such as projected crop yields, will be instrumental in narrowing the bands of uncertainty associated with such projections.
  • Finding

    Where Schools Are Located Affects Meal Costs

    An ERS analysis of school meal costs from a large, nationally representative sample reveals that the location of a school can affect its meal costs. Urban locations, for example, had lower per meal costs than rural and suburban locations.
  • Finding

    Food Commodity Cost Pass-Through to Food Prices Not Uniform

    A significant portion of farm price changes typically shows up in wholesale wheat flour and beef prices. Retail beef and bread prices, in contrast, have a more complicated and often times less direct response to wholesale price changes.
  • Finding

    Beef Cow-Calf Production a Lifestyle Choice Among Many Farmers

    The beef cow-calf industry is characterized by a large number of small farms on which beef cattle production is a secondary source of farm household income. This suggests that beef cow-calf production as a lifestyle choice is at least as important as earning a profit on many farms.
  • Finding

    Vegetable Production Concentrated on Very Large Farms

    Very large commercial farms (with $1 million or more of agricultural sales per year) accounted for about 8 percent of all U.S. specialized vegetable and melon farms during 2005-07.
  • Feature

    Irradiation of Produce Imports: Small Inroads, Big Obstacles

    Irradiation is an alternative treatment for foodborne pests on imported fruit and vegetables, but it requires labeling and large investments in facilities and some consumers remain wary of the process.
  • Feature

    Rural America Benefits From Expanded Use of the Federal Tax Code for Income Support

    Increased use of the tax code for policy goals has boosted incomes of rural taxpayers, who tend to have lower incomes and higher poverty than urban taxpayers.
  • Feature

    Public Research Yields High Returns... Measured in More Than Dollars

    Though standard economic approaches may be difficult to apply to evaluations of some benefits of public investments in agricultural research, economic reasoning can provide qualitative analysis even when benefits are difficult to quantify.
  • Feature

    Are Competitors’ Free Trade Agreements Putting U.S. Agricultural Exporters at a Disadvantage?

    Findings show FTAs increased trade among member countries, suggesting the large number of FTAs that do not include the U.S. may be eroding the U.S. presence in foreign markets.
  • Feature

    Food Security of SNAP Recipients Improved Following the 2009 Stimulus Package

    Food spending by low-income households increased and their food security improved as a result of the increase in SNAP benefit levels authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run: Food Spending Dipped During Recession

    U.S. expenditures on food at home and away from home grew over the past 50 years, but food-away-from-home expenditures increased more rapidly. During the recent recession, however, inflation-adjusted spending on both food at home and away from home fell.
  • Statistic

    On the Map: Location of Agritourism Farms Influenced by Amenities

    The share of county farms engaged in agritourism is high in the West, where agricultural lands tend to have lower yields due to low rainfall and mountainous terrain.
  • Statistic

    Research Area Charts

    Research Areas charts from the March 2011 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America.
  • Statistic

    Mapping Population and Economic Trends in Rural and Small-Town America

    The ERS Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America helps shed light on the overall scope and diversity of demographic, economic, and social trends across the United States by providing county-level mapping of over 60 statistical indicators.
  • Finding

    Net Farm Income Expected To Increase 20 Percent in 2011

    Net value added, net farm income, and net cash income—the three key U.S. farm sector financial indicators—are expected to improve in 2011.
  • Finding

    Contracting Expands for Field Crops

    Contracts cover a growing share of U.S. corn, soybean, and wheat production. Rising use likely reflects increased price variability, a wider availability of risk management tools, and structural change in agriculture.
  • Finding

    Farmers Develop Strategies To Reduce Energy Input Costs

    Between 2002 and 2008, fuel and fertilizer prices rose sharply, contributing to higher total farm energy-intensive input costs. The increase prompted farmers to employ energy-saving strategies and to use energy more efficiently.
  • Finding

    Americans Can Satisfy Dietary Guidelines for Vegetables and Fruit for Under $2.50 Per Day

    In 2008, Americans on a 2,000-calorie diet could purchase the Dietary Guidelines-recommended quantity and variety of both fruit and vegetables for between $2.00 and $2.50 per day, or roughly 50 cents per edible cup equivalent.
  • Finding

    Choosing Healthy Foods Is More Challenging for Teens

    Caloric increases from food away from home and foods from school for 13-18 year olds likely reflect an increased availability of many types of foods in middle and high schools, including a la carte side dishes and desserts.
  • Finding

    Few Farms Participate in the Vegetable Planting Pilot Program

    ERS estimates that 10,000 acres were planted under PTPP in 2009--about 14 percent of the total allowable acres by statute and 2 percent of total processing vegetable acreage in the seven States participating in the program.
  • Finding

    Growing Beef Consumption in Japan Could Benefit U.S. Producers

    An increased presence of U.S. beef in Japan could bring higher returns for U.S. producers and lower prices for Japanese consumers.
  • Finding

    Chinese Apple Juice Export Growth Follows Investments in the Industry

    A combination of government, foreign, and private investment began building a juice processing industry in China in the early 1990s. China is now the world's largest supplier of apple juice concentrate.
  • Feature

    Higher Carbon Prices Could Spur Adoption of Methane Digesters

    Currently, methane digesters’ costs often exceed their benefits to livestock producers, but higher prices in voluntary, regional, or national carbon markets could make them profitable for many operations.
  • Feature

    Income Growth in Developing Countries Can Increase U.S. Agricultural Exports

    According to USDA long-term projections, continued income growth will make developing countries the main source of the projected increases in global food demand and trade.
  • Feature

    Will Calorie Labeling in Restaurants Make a Difference?

    A 2010 Federal law will require U.S. chain restaurants to display calorie information on their menus and menu boards. Will consumers use this information to make healthier food choices?
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run: Growth in Nonmetro Poverty Is Tied to Recessionary Increases in Unemployment

    The dramatic increase in unemployment during the 2007-09 recession is tied to growth in the number of nonmetro residents living in poverty.
  • Statistic

    On the Map: Density of Farmers’ Markets Highest in Rural Counties

    In 2009, the number of farmers’ markets per population tended to be highest in rural counties, after accounting for population differences between counties.
  • Statistic

    Research Areas

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Farm, rural, and natural resource indicators and food and fiber sector indicators, December 2010
  • Statistic

    Compare Your Area's Food Environment With the Rest of the Country

    With over 90 food environment indicators, the ERS Food Environment Atlas provides a spatial overview of a community’s ability to access healthy food and its success in doing so.
  • Finding

    U.S. Farmers Increasingly Adopt “No-Till” for Major Crops

    Widespread adoption of less intensive tillage practices could enable U.S. agriculture to sequester substantial amounts of carbon and contribute to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Less intensive tillage would also reduce water sedimentation and chemical pollution as well as atmospheric dust and haze.
  • Finding

    Farm Act’s Regional Equity Provision May Entail Conservation Tradeoffs

    Analysis of data from 2004-06 (when the 2002 Farm Act was in effect) on USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program—the largest program covered by the Regional Equity provision—reveals that the funding shift reduced the number of acres receiving treatment for many resource problems.
  • Finding

    WIC Infants Less Likely To Be Exclusively Breastfed

    ERS and American University researchers found that women who participate in WIC are less likely than income-eligible nonparticipants to exclusively breastfeed their newborns. WIC mothers are also more likely to adhere to the AAP recommendation that cow’s milk be introduced no earlier than 12 months of age.
  • Finding

    Market Share Affects Price Differences Between Discount and Traditional Food Retailers

    In a recent ERS study, researchers found that differences in prices at traditional versus nontraditional food retailers were smaller in areas where nontraditional food retailers had large market shares.
  • Finding

    State Participation-To-Poverty Rates for SNAP Mask County-Level Variation

    ERS used data on SNAP participation and the number of people in poverty to calculate county-level "participation-to-poverty” rates. High rates mean that more people likely to be eligible for SNAP benefits receive them. Low rates may indicate the need for better outreach to low-income residents.
  • Finding

    More Americans Relied on Food Assistance During Recession

    In 2009, 14.7 percent of U.S. households (17.4 million) were food insecure. The slight increase from 2008 (14.6 percent of all households) marks the highest level observed since food security surveys were initiated in 1995.
  • Finding

    USDA’s Karnal Bunt Regulatory Program Protects U.S. Wheat Exports

    Many countries free of Karnal bunt impose restrictions on imports of infected wheat. USDA responds by issuing certificates declaring that U.S. wheat shipments are from areas where Karnal bunt is not known to occur.
  • Finding

    Simulated ACRE Payments and Risk Reduction Point to Midwest as a Potential Winner

    ERS simulations of crop revenue variability indicate that for producers choosing to participate in ACRE, expected payments and risk reduction would tend to be highest in the most productive crop regions, which are characterized by consistently high yields and high levels of expected revenue.
  • Feature

    The Two Faces of Rural Population Loss Through Outmigration

    Nearly half of the Nation’s nonmetropolitan counties lost population through net outmigration between 1988 and 2008, but the underlying causes and potential policy solutions vary widely.
  • Feature

    Price Spikes in Global Rice Markets Benefit U.S. Growers, at Least in the Short Term

    “Thin” markets such as the global rice trade, where only a small share of global production is traded, may exhibit price volatility and large annual variations in trade levels.
  • Feature

    Labor-Intensive U.S. Fruit and Vegetable Industry Competes in a Global Market

    Reduction in the supply of workers that could make agricultural labor more expensive for the U.S. fruit and vegetable industry may impact industry competitiveness, but the effects would vary by commodity.
  • Feature

    Local Food Supply Chains Use Diverse Business Models To Satisfy Demand

    Local foods are reaching consumers through an expanding array of supply chain arrangements and marketing outlets. They may be sold in supermarkets; small specialty stores or regional chains; restaurants, schools, or hospitals; or a variety of direct-to-consumer outlets.
  • Feature

    Varied Interests Drive Growing Popularity of Local Foods

    Local foods remain a small portion of U.S. agriculture. But as interest in local food systems has increased, so has the desire to understand how local food markets affect farmers, consumers, and communities
  • Statistic

    In The Long Run: A Relatively Low Dollar Implies Good Prospects for U.S. Agricultural Trade

    The depreciation of the U.S. dollar since 2002 has helped increase the real (adjusted for inflation) value of U.S. agricultural exports to record levels.
  • Statistic

    On The Map: Ethanol Refineries Locate Near Feedstock Sources

    Corn is the feedstock for 97 percent of the ethanol produced in the United States, so ethanol refineries are heavily concentrated in the Corn Belt.
  • Statistic

    Research Areas

    Research area charts from the September 2012 issue of Amber Waves
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Indicators tables from the September 2010 issue of Amber Waves magazine.
  • Statistic

    New Database Shows Substantial Geographic Food Price Variation

    Food prices vary across the United States, but until now, a data set that provides a consistent and statistically detailed measure of food prices across geographic markets did not exist.
  • Finding

    Direct Payments Can Influence Farmers’ Production Decisions

    ERS has identified multiple avenues through which Production Flexibility Contract payments could influence agricultural production, including providing easier access to capital markets, changing farmers’ risk preferences, or affecting land values, labor markets, and/or farmers’ expectations about future payments.
  • Finding

    Urban Areas Prove Profitable for Farmers Selling Directly to Consumers

    In 2007, $1.2 billion of farm products were sold directly to consumers by 136,800 farms, or 6 percent of all farms. Direct sales are highest in the urban corridors in the Northeast and on the West Coast.
  • Finding

    Targeted Farmers in EQIP Operate More Environmentally Sensitive Land, But Address Different Environmental Needs

    If EQIP-targeted farmers address different environmental needs or operate acreage that is more or less environmentally sensitive than land operated by other EQIP farmers, the EQIP provisions favorable to targeted farmers could change the economic and environmental outcomes of the program.
  • Finding

    Is U.S. Agricultural Productivity Growth Slowing?

    Long-term agricultural productivity is driven by innovations in animal and crop genetics, chemicals, equipment, and farm organization. Public agricultural research funding, which historically has driven innovation, faces budgetary pressure in the U.S., therefore raising concerns about current and future U.S. productivity growth.
  • Finding

    For Most Meat and Poultry Plants, Federally Mandated Controls Are Just the Starting Point for Food Safety

    Most U.S. meat and poultry processors go beyond the requirements of Government-mandated food-safety controls and supplement these controls with their own standards. But for some meat and poultry plants, mandated controls are the only food safety actions.
  • Finding

    Price-Reducing Coupons Have a Dual Effect on Fruit and Vegetable Purchases

    A recent ERS study examined the use of price-reducing coupons to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption. The study found that coupon effectiveness depends on the amount of the discount and the share of households that redeem the coupons.
  • Finding

    ERS Innovates as It Expands Distance Learning Ventures With Minority-Serving Institutions

    In 2007, ERS launched a distance learning initiative as part of an ongoing commitment to student outreach and the development of a more diverse community of agricultural economists within USDA. The initiative links ERS with students at minority-serving universities by providing teaching and discussions relevant to both ERS research and the students’ curricula.
  • Finding

    Weighing Policy Options To Increase Incomes of Mali’s Cotton Farmers

    A joint study by ERS, Purdue University, and Oklahoma State University found that eliminating U.S. cotton subsidies could bring limited benefits to the operators of small farms in Mali. Greater gains could be realized through a combination of increased fertilizer use and the introduction of genetically modified cotton crops.
  • Feature

    Accelerated Productivity Growth Offsets Decline in Resource Expansion in Global Agriculture

    The rate of growth in global agricultural productivity has accelerated in recent decades and accounts for an increasing share of expanding agricultural production.
  • Feature

    U.S. Farm Structure: Declining—But Persistent— Small Commercial Farms

    The continuing shift in production away from small commercial farms to larger farms is driven by financial pressures and aging operators.
  • Feature

    World Sugar Price Volatility Intensified by Market and Policy Factors

    Rising production costs and growing ethanol use in Brazil, combined with policy-induced production swings among Asian countries, are the main sources of higher and more volatile world sugar prices.
  • Feature

    Taxing Caloric Sweetened Beverages To Curb Obesity

    ERS researchers found that a 20-percent tax on caloric sweetened beverages could reduce consumption, calorie intake, and body weight even after accounting for increased consumption of alternative beverages.
  • Feature

    A Positive Path for Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa: Options and Challenges

    Global food security improved between 2009 and 2010, as the effects of food price spikes and the global economic downturn moderated, but projections point to deteriorating food security over the next 10 years, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Feature

    Fuel for Food: Energy Use in the U.S. Food System

    Population growth, higher per capita food expenditures, and greater reliance on energy-using technologies boosted food-related energy consumption in 1997 to 2002.
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run: Food Product Introductions Buck Long-Term Trend

    U.S. food and beverage product introductions have increased for most of the last decade and a half. In 2009, however, U.S. food and beverage product introductions fell by 3,519 to 19,047, the second consecutive yearly reduction and the largest in at least 15 years.
  • Statistic

    On the Map: Western U.S. Has the Highest Number of Organic Dairy Cows Per Farm But the Fewest Farms

    Only 7 percent of organic dairies were in the West in 2005, but these operations accounted for 31 percent of organic milk cows. Operations in the Northeast averaged 53 cows per farm; the Upper Midwest, 64 cows; and the West, 381 cows.
  • Statistic

    Research Areas

    Select research area charts from the June 2010 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America
  • Statistic

    Tracking Changes in Dietary Awareness and Food Choices

    A number of constituencies—government nutrition and health agencies, food manufacturers, public health advocates, and food marketing firms—depend on reliable data to track changes in the food habits, behavior, and choices of U.S. consumers. ERS has partnered with the National Center for Health Statistics to gather such data.
  • Finding

    Recession Brings Record Number of New Store-Brand Food Offerings

    In 2009, the number of private-label (store brand) food and beverage products introduced by retailers set a new record. Store brands are expanding faster than well-known national brands, as retailers have become more adept at creating profitable private-label brands, and recession-strapped consumers have turned to lower priced foods.
  • Finding

    Eating Out Increases Daily Calorie Intake

    Among all meals eaten outide the home, lunch has the largest impact on the average adult, adding 158 calories to daily intake, compared with lunch prepared at home. Eating dinner out increases intake by 144 calories. Each away-from-home snack adds just over 100 calories to daily intake. Breakfast away from home adds 74 calories.
  • Finding

    Post Welfare Reform, the Poorest Children Receive Lower Benefits

    Welfare reform brought sweeping changes to Federal assistance programs. An ERS report indicates that the current “safety net” has gaps, particularly for children in the poorest households. On average, total household resources for children in the poorest households declined from 1990 to 2004.
  • Finding

    Several School Policies Are Associated With Less Fat in School Lunches

    Using data from a 2007 study sponsored by USDA's FNS, ERS found that fat content of school lunches is correlated with certain school policies and characteristics. For example, schools that served the lowest fat lunches offered only low-fat milk and/or participated in at least one program promoting purchases of locally grown food or fresh produce.
  • Finding

    Half of Farm Expenditures Are Spent Locally

    About half of all farm input and equipment expenditures were made locally in 2004. But over 40 percent of all U.S. farms are located in metro areas so that farm business expenditures may have relatively minor impacts on nearby urban communities and are unlikely to flow to more distant rural suppliers.
  • Finding

    The Form of Rural Development Assistance Matters to Distressed Counties

    The Federal Government provides three types of assistance to rural areas—grants, direct loans, and guaranteed loans. ERS researchers found that the form of assistance can make a difference for distressed areas, but the size and direction of this difference varies by type of distressed area.
  • Finding

    Rural Populations Have Higher Rates of Chronic Disease

    Rural residents have higher rates of mortality, chronic disease, and disability than their urban counterparts. Special challenges that may impair the health status of rural residents include their lower socioeconomic status, higher average age, and more limited access to affordable, nearby, high-quality health care than urban residents.
  • Finding

    Indonesian Agricultural Growth Leads to Increased Trade and Food Security

    Indonesian policy changes in the mid-1980s and mid-1990s provided incentives for agricultural producers to exploit the country’s comparative advantage in perennial crops and led to an increase in agricultural exports and per capita incomes. As a result, food insecurity in Indonesia declined by nearly half from 1981 to 2007.
  • Finding

    Supply Disruptions Cause Price Spikes in Afghanistan’s Wheat Market

    Growing conditions in Afghanistan suggest a record 2009/10 wheat harvest and a favorable shortrun outlook. Nevertheless, Afghanistan will remain subject to supply disruptions and price spikes as long as its domestic production is highly variable and weak transportation links limit its ability to diversify sources of imported grain.
  • Finding

    Indian Sugar Market More Volatile

    Sugar production in India, the world’s second largest producer, will likely drop sharply in 2009/10. India will shift from a net exporter to a large net importer. Swings in India’s sugar trade are increasingly significant for world markets
  • Feature

    America’s Organic Farmers Face Issues and Opportunities

    Organic agriculture has established a foothold in many U.S. farm sectors, but the overall use of organic practices lags behind that of many other countries. Emerging issues in the sector include dampened consumer demand resulting from the weaker economy and competition from new labels like the “locally grown” label.
  • Feature

    Challenges Facing USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program

    Reductions in maximum CRP acres mandated by the 2008 Farm Act, along with relatively high agricultural commodity prices, could lead to reduced overall environmental benefits and higher program costs. Alternative enrollment policies and practices could increase benefits per enrolled acre and lower program costs
  • Feature

    Next-Generation Biofuels: Near-Term Challenges and Implications for Agriculture

    The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandates a tripling in U.S. biofuel use to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Achieving this goal will depend on rapid expansion in cellulosic biofuels, and U.S. agriculture, as a leading source of the Nation’s biomass, will play a significant role in this expansion.
  • Feature

    Former Soviet Union Region To Play Larger Role in Meeting World Wheat Needs

    The next decade is likely to see a major shift in global wheat production and trade. USDA projects that wheat exports by Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan will increase by 50 percent by 2019, and the region could lead the world in wheat exports by the end of the period.
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    In the Long Run: Milk and Coffee Displaced by Other Beverage Options

    Per capita availability (a proxy for consumption) of beverage milk and coffee in the United States peaked in the mid-1940s and then gradually declined as consumers took advantage of an ever-increasing selection of beverages.
  • Statistic

    On The Map: Job Losses Concentrated in the Great Lakes and Southeast Regions

    Most U.S. counties experienced employment declines between the fourth quarter of 2007 and the fourth quarter of 2009, including 93.6 percent of metro counties and 79.2 percent of nonmetro counties. The greatest declines were concentrated in the Great Lakes and Southern regions.
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    Research Areas

    Select research area charts from the March 2010 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America.
  • Statistic

    Measures of Farm Household Well-Being Tell Different Stories

    Since 1998, average farm operator household income has exceeded that of the typical U.S. household by 3 to 21 percent, and median farm household wealth has been 4-5 times that of all U.S. households. But the variability of income complicates farm-nonfarm comparisons.
  • Finding

    Fewer Farms on Reservations Join Conservation Program, But Make Larger Conservation Investments

    Farms on reservations are less likely to participate in EQIP than farms elsewhere. In States that contain American Indian reservations, about 4 percent of EQIP contracts and 6 percent of funding in 2006 went to farms on reservations. Participating reservation farms, however, tend to have larger EQIP contracts than other farms.
  • Finding

    Mitigating Climate Change: Opportunities for Farmers

    Offset markets under a cap-and-trade system represent a potentially large new source of income for farmers but a myriad of details will drive farmer decisions about what kinds of offset activities might be most profitable, if any.
  • Finding

    Most Infant Formula Purchased Through WIC

    ERS estimates that 57-68 percent of all infant formula sold in the U.S. in 2004-06 was purchased through WIC. Savings from rebates provided from formula manufacturers supported about 25 percent of the estimated average monthly WIC caseload in fiscal 2008.
  • Finding

    Food Insecurity in Households With Children Increased in 2008

    In 2008, 21 percent of U.S. households with children were food insecure, up from 16 percent in 2006 and 2007. The prevalence of food insecurity in households with children in 2008 was the highest recorded since the Federal Government began monitoring household food security in 1995.
  • Finding

    Americans Are More Realistic About the Quality of Their Diets

    Presumably, Americans are more realistic today about their diet quality because they have greater knowledge of what constitutes a healthy diet. In 2005-06, 79 percent of U.S. adults had heard of the Food Guide Pyramid, up from 33 percent in 1994, and 51 percent knew about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, up from 30 percent in 1994.
  • Finding

    SNAP Benefits and Eating Out: Wise Choices Required

    Most U.S. households make poorer nutritional choices than those recommended by dietary guidelines. Allowing for SNAP benefits to be spent on food away from home, which is generally nutritionally inferior to food at home, may help SNAP participants balance time constraints and other needs but could also make it harder for them to eat healthy.
  • Finding

    Birth Year Affects Demand for At-Home Fresh Vegetables

    Spending less money for fresh vegetables at grocery stores suggests that younger generations are buying smaller quantities, or purchasing less expensive vegetables, or both. If younger Americans are consuming less at-home fresh vegetables, the quality of their diets may suffer unless they consume more vegetables in prepared foods or when eating out.
  • Finding

    Peanut Processing and Sales Hold Steady After Peanut-Product Recalls

    One of the largest food recalls in U.S. history occurred in early 2009 with the removal of thousands of food products containing peanut ingredients potentially contaminated with Salmonella. In the first 2 months after the recalls began in January 2009, consumers reduced purchases of peanut-containing products, but by April 2009, purchases exceeded the previous year’s levels.
  • Finding

    Expanding Demand for Organic Foods Brings Changes in Marketing

    The past decade has seen major changes in organic product retailing. In the late 1990s, the natural products channel was the primary outlet for purchasing organic food. By 2006, approximately half of all organic food was sold through the conventional channel, which includes chain supermarkets and warehouse club stores.
  • Finding

    China’s Corn Surplus Persists, Despite Industrial-Processing Boom

    China is using more of its corn to manufacture hundreds of industrial products, including starches, sweeteners, alcohol, amino acids, and citric acid. But despite a decade of booming industrial use, China’s corn supply still exceeds its demand.
  • Finding

    Farm Income Expected To Increase While Net Worth Declines in 2010

    Net farm income is forecast to be $63 billion in 2010, up 11.9 percent from 2009. While the 2010 forecast is $25 billion below the all-time record in 2004 and near record in 2008, it represents a rebound from 2009 when the global recession dampened demand for U.S. crops and livestock.
  • Feature

    Economic Recovery: Lessons Learned From Previous Recessions

    The rates of employment loss and unemployment in the recent recession are about the same in metro and nonmetro areas, but based on previous recessions, nonmetro employment may recover more slowly. As in past recessions, manufacturing-dependent nonmetro counties felt the effects of the recessions sooner than other nonmetro areas. Unemployment rates continue to be lowest for the college-educated in both nonmetro and metro areas.
  • Feature

    Consumers’ Response to the 2006 Foodborne Illness Outbreak Linked to Spinach

    Consumers responded to the FDA's September 2006 warnings to avoid eating spinach because of possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7. While spinach expenditures fell, consumers turned to other leafy greens as substitutes. The longer term drop in retail expenditures on fresh spinach products was almost matched by gains in expenditures on other leafy greens.
  • Feature

    Organic Dairy Sector Evolves To Meet Changing Demand

    Declining demand for organic products in response to the economic downturn has slowed the rapid growth in organic milk production. Economic forces, primarily lower production costs, may be pushing organic dairies to be more like conventional dairies in terms of size, location, and the types of technologies used. More specific pasture requirements for organic certification may affect how the organic milk production sector evolves.
  • Feature

    Access to Affordable, Nutritious Food Is Limited in “Food Deserts”

    A small percentage of U.S. households live in “food deserts,” where access to a supermarket or large grocery store is a problem. Low-income residents of these neighborhoods and those who lack transportation tend to rely more on smaller neighborhood stores that may not carry healthy foods or offer them only at higher prices, which increases the risks of poor diets or food insecurity.
  • Feature

    Guess Who’s Turning 100? Tracking a Century of American Eating

    ERS maintains the only time-series data on U.S. food availability in the country. The data help in monitoring the potential for the food supply to meet the nutritional needs of Americans and in examining consumption trends. A look at 100 years of American eating reveals the technological, political, social, and economic forces affecting food availability.
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    In the Long Run: Despite Legislative Changes, Peanut Availability Remains Within Historical Range

    The 2002 Farm Act removed longstanding regulatory quotas on peanuts that limited supplies by issuing annual marketing rights to farmers. Following the policy change, the availability of peanuts grew over the next several years but remained below the historical high of 1989.
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    On the Map: South and Midwest Hit Hardest by Rising Food Insecurity

    Worsening economic conditions were accompanied by sizable increases in 2008 in the number of U.S. households experiencing food insecurity. Regionally, increases were largest in the South and the Midwest, where an additional 2.8 and 1.7 million households, respectively, were food insecure in 2008, compared with 1999.
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    Research Areas

    Select research area charts from the December 2009 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America from December 2009.
  • Statistic

    Retail Dairy Prices Fluctuate With Farm Value of Milk

    In the late 1990s, a nearly two-decade decline in farm share of retail dairy prices slowed and in 2000-2008, farm share fluctuated between 26 and 35 percent. Consumers saw modest increases in dairy prices over this period until the 2007-08 jump in food price inflation.
  • Finding

    Increasing Size of Dairy Farms Driven by Declining Production Costs

    A major driver behind the continuing trend toward increases in the size of dairy farms is the decline in average production costs for milk as dairy farms grow larger. But many farms are not operating at full efficiency and are not taking advantage of incentives to expand.
  • Finding

    Cellulosic Ethanol From Crop Residue Is No Free Lunch?

    Harvesting crop residues for use as biofuel feedstocks may provide revenue to farmers but can also impose costs by reducing soil productivity and increasing loss of nutrients. Changes in soil erosion and fertilizer use may also result in off-farm environmental impacts.
  • Finding

    Changing the Definition of a “Farm” Can Affect Federal Funding

    The Federal Government's definition of a farm affects farm statistics and influences the design and delivery of Federal farm programs. The definition also has implications for States because each State’s share of the national farm population is used to help allocate some Federal funding.
  • Finding

    Broiler Producers Search for Alternatives to Antibiotics

    Broiler producers who do not administer subtherapeutic antibiotics rely instead on a portfolio of other practices to prevent disease and promote growth in birds. Operations of producers who do not use STAs are characterized by more rigorous sanitation practices, improved ventilation for poultry housing, and more extensive testing for pathogens than farms of STA users.
  • Finding

    WIC Not Linked to Overweight in Children

    ERS research shows no relationship between participation in WIC and body weight for children ages 2-5, with one exception. In 1988-94, preschool girls from moderate-income families were more likely to be at risk of overweight than WIC participants. This difference was no longer evident in 1999-2006.
  • Finding

    Shopping For, Preparing, and Eating Food: Where Does the Time Go?

    In 2006-07, SNAP participants spent 47 minutes per person per day cooking, serving, and cleaning up after meals, versus 40 minutes for low-income nonparticipants and 30 minutes for higher income individuals. SNAP participants also spent less time eating and drinking per day than low-income nonparticipants and higher income individuals.
  • Finding

    Trade and Development When Exports are Volatile: A Case Study From Malawi

    Tobacco, accounts for about 60 percent of Malawi’s total merchandise export earnings and 13 percent of its GDP. However, Malawi has found it difficult to sustain economic growth because tobacco export revenues have not been invested in yield-increasing technologies and inputs to improve productivity.
  • Finding

    New Traders in Corn, Soybean, and Wheat Futures Markets Scrutinized

    The growing participation of nontraditional traders in futures markets, such as index funds and swap dealers, has coincided with increasing volatility in commodity markets and a weakening of the usual correlation between futures and cash prices. ERS research, however, finds no link between these trends and the growing presence of nontraditional traders.
  • Feature

    Global Economic Crisis Threatens Food Security in Lower Income Countries

    The global economic downturn is expected to reduce import capacity in many lower income countries, adversely affecting their food security. The number of food-insecure people in the 70 developing countries studied by ERS is estimated to increase 2 percent in 2009, after growing 11 percent in 2008.
  • Feature

    Food Insecurity up in Recessionary Times

    The recent economic downturn has brought a sharp increase in the number of Americans who report having difficulty meeting their food needs. In fact, in 2008, the number and percentage of U.S. households classified as "food insecure" reached the highest level recorded since Federal monitoring of food insecurity began in 1995.
  • Feature

    Income Volatility Is Rising, With Mixed Effects on Nutrition Assistance Participation

    Income volatility among U.S. households is higher today than 40 years ago, especially among households with the lowest incomes. Income volatility has mixed effects on participation in nutrition assistance programs, with some households not applying when eligible and others leaving while still eligible.
  • Feature

    Removal of Government Controls Opens Peanut and Tobacco Sectors to Market Forces

    Farm legislation in the early 2000s eliminated longstanding supply controls and geographic restrictions on the production of peanuts and tobacco. The ensuing consolidation produced fewer but larger farms for each crop that are more efficient and responsive to market developments.
  • Feature

    Debt Landscape for U.S. Farms Has Shifted

    The capital structure of U.S. farms has changed over the last two decades. Fewer farms have outstanding debts than in the past, but debt carried is concentrated among fewer and larger farms.
  • Feature

    Science, Technology, and Prospects for Growth in U.S. Corn Yields

    Recent increases in inflation-adjusted crop prices have sparked renewed interest in the potential for continued increases in crop yields. Investment in scientific research is key for boosting corn yields, making productivity, environmental, and bioenergy goals easier to attain.
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run: Growth in Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops Continues in U.S.

    U.S. farmers have rapidly adopted genetically engineered soybeans, cotton, and corn since their commercial introduction in 1996 because of their economic benefits.
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    On The Map: Highest Mortality Rates in the South

    U.S. counties with the highest mortality rates are in the South, including the Black Belt region of the Southeastern U.S., the Mississippi River Delta, along the southern coastal plain from Virginia to Texas, and Appalachia.
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    Research Areas

    Select research area charts from the September 2009 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America from December 2009.
  • Statistic

    Trade Data Show Value, Variety, and Sources of U.S. Food Imports

    There have been notable increases in the variety of food products imported by the U.S. and the number of countries supplying the products. Most of the growth in the past decade has been in imports of consumer-ready products, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, and imports from developing countries account for most of this growth.
  • Finding

    Land Use Can Play Critical Role in Controlling Global Warming

    Limiting carbon dioxide concentrations to low levels will require strategies that manage carbon emissions and sequestration from land use change as well as from the combustion of fossil fuels. The overall cost of limiting carbon dioxide concentrations is reduced when all sources and sinks of carbon dioxide are considered, including agricultural soils and forests.
  • Finding

    Larger Farms, Environmental Policy Affecting Manure Management

    Changes in the structure of livestock farms from smaller to larger increasingly specialized operations have altered manure management practices. At the same time, changes to the Clean Water Act, State regulations, and local conflicts over odor are requiring livestock producers to more carefully consider their manure management decisions.
  • Finding

    Price Reductions Have Little Effect on Fruit and Vegetable Consumption by Low-Income Americans

    ERS researchers examined the effects of a 5-, 10-, and 20-percent discount on the price of fruit and vegetables on purchases by low-income Americans. Findings show that with a 10-percent price discount at the retail level, low-income households are predicted to increase their consumption of fruit by 2.1 to 5.2 percent and vegetables by 2.1 to 4.9 percent.
  • Finding

    Increased SNAP Benefits Provide Countercyclical Boosts

    Higher unemployment and greater benefit payments per household are expected to increase SNAP benefits by 45 percent in FY 2009 relative to FY 2008. The estimated $15.4 billion of additional spending by SNAP participants in FY 2009 will provide a $28.3 billion infusion into the economy.
  • Finding

    China’s Cotton Use Trimmed by Growing Efficiency and a Slowing Economy

    Higher efficiency combined with changes in fiber blending has reduced the volume of cotton fiber needed to produce China’s textile and clothing exports. These changes have important implications for understanding world cotton markets and the size of the world’s largest cotton textile industry.
  • Finding

    Rising Wheat Prices Outpace Input Costs

    Because wheat prices in 2009 remain well above historical levels, 90 percent of U.S. wheat producers are expected to have covered their production costs during 2009/09, despite rising prices of fuel, fertilizer and other inputs.
  • Finding

    Income Source Matters in Farm Household Spending

    Many U.S. farm households have several income sources, including farm production, off-farm jobs, and government payments. ERS research findings suggest that farm households may employ “mental accounting” to decide which income sources, including different types of government payments, are most appropriate for household expenses.
  • Finding

    Random Inspections Reveal Import Risks

    With the rising volume of agricultural imports in recent decades comes a growing risk of non-native pests and pathogens. Customs agents inspect what they know to be the riskier shipments, but they cannot inspect every shipment. ERS developed a model to determine the optimal number of random inspections of agricultural imports and the most effective allocation of inspection resources at a given port.
  • Feature

    Full Throttle U.S. Ethanol Expansion Faces Challenges Down the Road

    The large gains in the scale of the U.S. ethanol industry over the past decade were achieved by “picking the low-hanging fruit” on both the supply and demand sides of the market. Achieving further large-scale gains will depend on whether the industry can overcome challenges in producing ethanol through cellulosic technologies and on expanding use of ethanol in automobiles.
  • Feature

    Broadband Internet Service Helping Create a Rural Digital Economy

    Investment in rural broadband Internet access seems to lead to a more competitive rural economy and rural economic growth, helping create a rural digital economy. A comparison of the economic growth of counties with broadband access in 2000 with that of otherwise similar counties without broadband shows that broadband availability helped spur the formation of new businesses and increased the growth of existing firms.
  • Feature

    Baby Boom Migration Tilts Toward Rural America

    If baby boomers follow migration patterns similar to those of their predecessors, the rural population age 55-75 will increase by 30 percent between 2010 and 2020. Local economic development strategies aimed at attracting more jobs will likely have little effect on the migration decisions of baby boomers searching for a better quality of life.
  • Feature

    Taking the Pulse of Rural Health Care

    Rural households have higher rates of mortality, disability, and chronic disease than urban households, and less access to affordable, nearby, high-quality health care. Adoption of new health information technologies, promoted by a $19 billion allocation in the 2009 economic stimulus package, holds promise for improving coordination among geographically dispersed health care providers.
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    In the Long Run: Markets, Policies, and Weather Contribute to Disparities in Value of Crop and Livestock Production

    During the 1970s, the value of production (farm price times quantity produced) for U.S. crops and livestock tended to move in sync, with peaks in 1973 for livestock and in 1974 for crops.
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    On The Map: Unemployment Rate Highest in Michigan

    Nationally, the unemployment rate was 8.8 percent (not seasonally adjusted) in the first quarter of 2009.
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    Research Areas

    Select research area charts from the June 2009 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Behind the Data: Validation Study Tests Accuracy of Homescan Data

    Nielsen Homescan data provide a wealth of information about household purchasing patterns, allowing researchers to address questions relating to the dynamics of retail food markets. Households participating in the Homescan panel use a scanner to record prices and quantities of food products purchased at a wide variety of stores. ERS and other researchers have used these data to understand consumer purchase behavior. However, some researchers question the credibility of the data since the data are self-recorded and the recording process is time consuming.
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    Indicators- Amber Waves - June 2009

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America from June 2009.
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    Data Feature: Beginning Farmers and Ranchers: Who Are They?

    Beginning farmers and ranchers face many challenges. High land prices and increasing equipment costs can serve as barriers to entry for those wishing to become farmers. The 2008 Farm Act requires USDA to develop several programs designed to provide additional support to beginning farmers, including increased conservation financial assistance and an expanded loan program.
  • Finding

    Scenic Landscapes Enhance Rural Growth

    Where landscapes are attractive, rural location has little bearing on county population change or housing values, but where landscapes are less appealing, the more rural and remote a county, the less population growth and the lower the value of houses.
  • Finding

    Nonmetro Areas Showing the Effects of the Economic Downturns

    Nonmetro unemployment rose to 8.5 percent during the first quarter of 2009, the highest first quarter rate since 1987. Metro unemployment was at 8.9 percent in the same period, the highest first quarter rate since 1983. Data from past recessions indicate that the unemployment rate will not peak until months after the current recession has officially ended.
  • Finding

    Adulteration Accounts for Majority of FDA Food-Related Import Refusals

    ERS researchers analyzed Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data on food import shipments that were refused entry into the U.S. during 1998-2004. Of the 70,369 import violations in 1998-2004, 65 percent were for adulteration, 33 percent for misbranding, and 2 percent were other violations, such as items forbidden or restricted in sale. The three imported food categories with the most violations were vegetable products, seafood products, and fruit products.
  • Finding

    Rising Food Prices and Economic Uncertainty Take Toll on Traditional Grocers

    As prices for many food staples rose sharply in 2007 and 2008, consumers turned to discount supermarkets and non-traditional grocers to reduce their grocery spending. Price-oriented, limited assortment supermarkets and superwarehouse supermarkets posted higher 2007 sales growth than the average sales growth for all supermarkets.
  • Finding

    Some Households Leaving SNAP Still Face Food Shortfalls

    Food insecurity is generally more prevalent among low-income households that have recently left SNAP than among those still receiving benefits. In 2005-07, 35 percent of low-income households that had left SNAP during the year were food insecure, compared with 29 percent of households still receiving benefits. Similarly, very low food security was more prevalent among former recipients who had recently left the program (16 percent) than among current SNAP recipients (12 percent).
  • Finding

    Food Insecurity Less Prevalent in Canada Than in the United States

    Nationally representative Canadian and U.S. surveys indicate that 7.0 percent of Canadians lived in food-insecure households in 2004, compared with an average of 12.6 percent of U.S. residents in 2003-05. Holding other factors constant, food insecurity was less prevalent in Canada than in the U.S. for household with incomes just above the U.S. poverty line, those with no high school graduate, those with children present, and those with adults age 25 and older.
  • Finding

    Consumers Show Strong Brand Loyalty in Cheese Purchases

    ERS research reveals that strong brand loyalty for specific types of cheese among U.S. consumers. This brand loyalty even overrides response to changing prices. But brand loyalty does appear to decline over time.
  • Finding

    Russia’s Surge in Agricultural Imports Comes to a Halt

    Russia's agricultural imports surged from $6 to $26 billion between 2000 and 2007. This increase came about as a result of high income growth and a strong Russian ruble, which made imports cheaper than domestically produced goods. The ongoing financial crisis will likely bring a decline in Russia's imports during 2009, but import growth is likely to resume once Russia's economy stabilizes.
  • Feature

    How Tightly Has China Embraced Market Reforms in Agriculture?

    Market-based reforms helped lift Chinese agriculture out of decades of poverty and stagnation, but vestiges of the planned economy remain. China’s policymakers are experimenting with incremental reforms and market intervention as they encounter agricultural problems. Pressure from global markets could push China to go further with reforms or to retreat from global markets.
  • Feature

    A Weakening Global Economy Interrupts Agricultural Trade

    The financial sector turbulence originating in the United States has had a ripple effect worldwide, curbing economic growth in nearly every country. Slower growth and weaker currencies in emerging markets have reduced U.S. competitiveness and agricultural exports in the short term. At the same time, reduced consumer spending domestically is dampening U.S. import growth. Despite the current downturn, world food demand remains stable, and demand for U.S. exports is expected to recover as developing-country growth resumes in the longer term.
  • Feature

    Food Policy: Check the List of Ingredients

    Policies designed to improve the diet quality and health of Americans are likely to have only marginal effects on consumers’ food choices. However, policies targeted directly at consumers such as nutrition information and education programs, along with labeling regulations, can spur the reformulation of products with healthier ingredients by stimulating competition among food manufacturers to offer products that appeal to health-conscious consumers. Manufacturers’ responsiveness to food policy provides policymakers with a lever to affect diet quality for large numbers of consumers. Effective use of this lever can help stimulate a chain reaction leading to healthy food reformulations and a more nutritious food supply.
  • Feature

    Federal Estate Taxes Affecting Fewer Farmers but the Future Is Uncertain

    The Federal estate tax affects relatively few estates and accounts for only a small share of total Federal tax receipts. Though special provisions have been enacted to limit the impact of the tax on farmers and small business owners, these groups are still more likely than the general public to owe Federal estate taxes. A larger share of farm estates could be subject to estate taxes if legislation enacted in 2001 is allowed to expire at the end of 2010.
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    In the Long Run

    Since 1969, the sixfold increase in the number of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches has been the driving force behind the growth in USDA’s National School Lunch Program. In the 1970s, laws relaxed eligibility criteria and prohibited overt identification of children receiving free and reduced-price meals, and the number of free and reduced-price participants grew by 154 percent. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Acts of 1980 and 1981 temporarily halted this upward trend by establishing stricter income guidelines and requiring income verification. Since 1990, the number of children receiving free and reduced-price lunches has grown from 11.5 to 17.9 million.
  • Statistic

    On The Map

    In the 2006-07 school year, over 30 million school children, 57 percent of the U.S. population age 5-17, participated in USDA’s National School Lunch Program. Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota had the highest participation rates—above 75 percent.
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    Research Areas

    This page contains research area charts from the March 2009 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Indicators table from March 2009 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Data Feature

    Health professionals, farmers, food companies, and policymakers want to know what Americans are eating, both the type of foods and how much. But charting the eating habits of 300 million people is not easy. Researchers rely on a number of surveys and data sources, each with strengths and weaknesses.
  • Finding

    Federal Funding in Rural America Goes Far Beyond Agriculture

    For the first time in the nearly 40 years that ERS has been analyzing the geographic distribution of Federal spending, rural areas received more in total per capita Federal funding ($7,473) in fiscal year (FY) 2005 than urban areas ($7,391).
  • Finding

    Million-Dollar Farms Dominate Production of Some Commodities

    In 2007, 37,300 farms—2 percent of U.S. farming operations—accounted for half of U.S. agricultural production, according to the Agricultural Resource Management Survey. These farms were million dollar farms—that is, they had sales of $1 million or more.
  • Finding

    The Evolving Public Agricultural Research Portfolio

    The Federal-State partnership that constitutes public research and development contributes to agricultural productivity through the introduction of new technologies that improve efficiency or enhance the quality of products. Over the past few decades, advances in the biological sciences, as well as legislation that strengthened intellectual property protection, have provided new tools for agricultural research and enhanced private incentives for technology development.
  • Finding

    Agriculture and Water Quality Trading: Exploring the Possibilities

    Water quality trading is a market-based approach intended to reduce pollution at a lower cost than through traditional regulatory action. The Environmental Protection Agency and USDA are actively promoting water quality trading programs in watersheds impaired by pollutants, such as nutrients, produced by both regulated and unregulated sources, such as agriculture. Polluted runoff from agricultural fields is not regulated under the Clean Water Act, and greater use of trading might increase the number of farms willing and able to change their farming practices to reduce nutrient runoff.
  • Finding

    Working Parents Outsource Children’s Meals

    Virtually all households take the dollar cost of food into account when making food choices. But for some households, the time involved in planning, shopping for, and preparing a meal is also an important consideration. Findings from the Eating & Health Module of the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) indicate that many working parents free up time by "outsourcing" their children's meals--that is, they purchase prepared meals for their children at school or day care.
  • Finding

    Higher Food Prices Can Take a Bite Out of SNAP Benefits

    Rising prices can erode the purchasing power of benefits provided through government assistance programs. To help protect program participants from the effects of higher prices, many government benefits, including those from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program), are adjusted annually for inflation.
  • Finding

    Consumers Willing To Pay a Premium for Organic Produce

    Consumers are buying organic food despite its generally higher price tag. Retail sales of organic food increased from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $18.9 billion in 2007, accounting for over 3 percent of total U.S. food sales.
  • Finding

    Colombia Becoming a New Ethanol Player

    Colombia has emerged as the second largest ethanol producer in Latin America with an energy self-sufficient production process that uses byproducts from ethanol processing–the key byproducts used are bagasse, the product remaining after crushing and extracting the juice from the cane, and vinasse, the product generated after the distillation of fermented molasses.
  • Finding

    What’s Next for NAFTA?

    Following the full implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) some researchers and policy makers are thinking about ways to build on NAFTA to increase integration even more. One idea under discussion is to move in the direction of a customs union.
  • Finding

    Farm Income Expected to Decline in 2009

    Based on USDA’s early forecast, after 7 consecutive years of increases, U.S. cash receipts from crops are expected to drop by 10 percent from the record level reached in 2008. But at $162.4 billion, crop receipts in 2009 would still reflect the second highest level ever attained. Most of the decline is expected to come from corn and wheat sales, but nearly all crop commodities are forecast to have lower receipts in 2009.
  • Feature

    When Nudging in the Lunch Line Might Be a Good Thing

    With over 30 million children served each school day, USDA-sponsored school meals provide an important opportunity to improve diet and health. Schools can exert considerable control over the food choices they offer and the manner in which they are presented. Understanding how simple rules of thumb and certain cues, like presentation and visual appeal, can influence our on-the-spot decisions can reveal potential options to increase the link between intentions and behaviors. Choice architecture relies heavily on subtle cues, or “nudges,” to encourage people to follow through on their intentions. Behavioral economic theory suggests several possibilities to structure school cafeteria environments in a noncoercive manner to encourage healthy choices.
  • Feature

    Recent Volatility in U.S. Fertilizer Prices

    Strong domestic and global demand, coupled with tight supplies and low inventories, contributed to record fertilizer prices in early 2008. Softening global fertilizer demand, disruptions in U.S. farmer application of fertilizers, an increase in fertilizer imports, and tighter credit for purchasing inputs contributed to the decline in fertilizer prices in late 2008. Fertilizer price volatility affects the profitability of corn and small grains, where fertilizer accounts for a relatively large share of production costs, compared to that for soybeans and cotton.
  • Feature

    Grain Prices Impact Entire Livestock Production Cycle

    Between 2006 and 2008, feed costs nearly doubled and are expected to result in lower meat and dairy production in 2009. Feed prices have declined since mid-2008 and are expected to be lower in 2009, but the biological timeline of livestock production means meat producers are limited in what they can do in the short run to change production. Changes in U.S. livestock-industry structure and the use of alternative feeds, such as byproducts from ethanol production, will help reduce the impact of higher input costs on livestock producers.
  • Feature

    Agricultural Commodity Price Spikes in the 1970s and 1990s: Valuable Lessons for Today

    The rapid increase in crop prices between 2006 and mid-2008, while unprecedented in magnitude, was not unique. Two other periods of major rapid runups in prices occurred in 1971-74 and 1994-96. Each price surge resulted from a combination of factors, including depreciation of the U.S. dollar, strong worldwide demand for agricultural products, supply shocks, and policy responses by major trading countries. In the past, market adjustments eventually brought prices back down. Similarly, the high prices seen in 2008 have dropped to lower levels; however, these adjustments are occurring in a more volatile environment.
  • Feature

    Growing Crops for Biofuels Has Spillover Effects

    Federal mandates for biofuel production promote expanded crop acreage which can shift cropping patterns and affect livestock production due to higher prices for corn and other grain crops. An increase in the extent and intensity of input use and agricultural land in production increases the potential for environmental degradation. Research on crop productivity and conversion efficiency, as well as conservation practices like no-till and buffer strips, could lessen the environmental impacts of biofuels.
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run: How Much Does Participation in the Food Stamp Program Reflect Economic Trends?

    Participation in the Food Stamp Program (renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the 2008 Farm Act) grew nationally by 24.5 percent between fiscal years 2003 and 2007.
  • Statistic

    On The Map

    Participation in the Food Stamp Program (renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the 2008 Farm Act) grew nationally by 24.5 percent between fiscal years 2003 and 2007.
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    Research Areas

    Amber Waves presents the broad scope of ERS's research and analysis. The magazine covers the economics of agriculture, food and nutrition, the food industry, trade, rural America, and farm-related environmental topics. Available on the Internet and in print, Amber Waves is issued in print five times a year (February, April, June, September, and November). The Internet edition, or "eZine," includes links to web-only resources, such as podcasts and additional articles.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Amber Waves presents the broad scope of ERS's research and analysis. The magazine covers the economics of agriculture, food and nutrition, the food industry, trade, rural America, and farm-related environmental topics. Available on the Internet and in print, Amber Waves is issued in print five times a year (February, April, June, September, and November). The Internet edition, or "eZine," includes links to web-only resources.
  • Statistic

    Data Feature

    U.S. agriculture relies almost entirely on productivity growth, primarily from innovation and changes in technology, to raise output.
  • Finding

    Child Health and Well-Being Differ for Metro and Nonmetro Low-Income Households

    Low-income households scored consistently worse than other households on indicators of their childrens' health and well-being. Nonmetro poor parents scored their children worse on individual indicators of health, while metro poor parents scored their children worse on general health and low on several environmental indicators of well-being, such as perceived safety in their school, neighborhood, or home.
  • Finding

    New Payment Limits, Lower Income Cap Unlikely To Have Significant Impact

    Despite payment limits and an income cap on eligibility for farm program payments, a substantial portion of payments continue to go to large farms. The 2008 Farm Act makes a number of changes to these provisions but is unlikely to have a significant impact on the distribution of farm program payments.
  • Finding

    Conservation Program Provision May Have Limited Impact on Underserved Farmer Participation

    Conservation program funding set-asides in the 2008 Farm Act may have little impact on the participation of beginning farmers in EQIP. Payments to beginning farmers in EQIP exceeded the set-aside funding amount in 2006, but regionally administered set-asides may increase participation in certain regions.
  • Finding

    Conservation Reserve Program Acreage To Decline; Will Benefits Also Fall?

    The Conservation Reserve Program-the long-time centerpiece of U.S. agricultural conservation policy-is shrinking. The acreage cap will fall to 32 million acres beginning in October, 2009, and program acreage could fall farther without new enrollments. As CRP acreage declines, will environmental benefits decline at the same rate?
  • Finding

    2008 Farm Act Makes It Easier for Food Assistance Households To Save

    The 2008 Farm Act includes new provisions that make it easier for SNAP households to save, especially for education or retirement. Asset limits that determine eligibility for SNAP benefits will be adjusted annually for inflation beginning in 2012. Assets held in tax-qualified retirement and education accounts will not count against eligibility. An additional 354,000 households are expected to become eligible for SNAP as a result of the exclusion of retirement accounts.
  • Finding

    Stabilizing Federal Support for Emergency Food Providers

    Through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), USDA supplies a variety of commodities and funds to States, who in turn provide them to food banks and other emergency food providers. USDA commodities account for nearly 14 percent of food distributed by emergency food providers. The 2008 Farm Act provides an immediate funding boost of $50 million and inflation-adjusted increases in funding through 2012.
  • Finding

    Lasting Influence of BSE on U.S. Protein Feed Markets

    An ERS study of a series of BSE/vCJD risk-reduction initiatives examines the cost of these policies, which have progressively limited the use of animal byproducts and rendered products by the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and feed-manufacturing industries.
  • Finding

    A Pilot Program for U.S. Food Aid

    The sharp rise in food and fuel prices since 2006 has added to existing concerns about food security in developing countries. Under a pilot program for food aid in the 2008 Farm Act, the U.S. has made a commitment to provide cash of $60 million over 4 years to be used for local food purchases in recipient countries.
  • Feature

    Market Failures: When the Invisible Hand Gets Shaky

    Government intervention in agricultural markets may be warranted under circumstances where markets fail to allocate resources efficiently.
  • Feature

    Can Low-Income Americans Afford a Healthy Diet?

    Low-income households that receive maximum food assistance benefits usually can afford a healthy diet; others may have more difficulty.
  • Feature

    New Market Realities Affect Crop Program Choices

    Even as farmers enjoy record high commodity prices and income, they face an array of risks, including high production costs and greater price volatility. Rising crop prices mean increased Federal crop insurance program payments but reduce the likelihood commodity program payments based on fixed price targets. The new Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program offers revenue protection but participating farmers must forgo some benefits of traditional commodity programs.
  • Feature

    Fluctuating Food Commodity Prices: A Complex Issue With No Easy Answers

    Prices for food commodities have increased sharply over the past 2 years. Rising food demand in developing countries has outpaced a general slowdown in production growth of major food commodities and demand for global stockholding has fallen. Other factors behind higher food prices are increased energy costs, demand for biofuels, a weakening U.S. dollar, adverse weather, and policy responses by some major exporting and importing countries.
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run:Growth in Agricultural Productivity Limits Price Increases

    Prices across the U.S. economy rose an average of 3.4 percent per year between 1948 and 2007. Prices for agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, agricultural chemicals, equipment, and labor rose 3.6 percent annually over the same period.
  • Statistic

    On The Map: Agricultural Productivity Grew in Every State

    ERS provides estimates of annual growth in agricultural productivity for each of the 48 contiguous States. ERS calculates productivity as the difference between growth in agricultural output and growth in inputs used.
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    Research Areas

    Research area charts from the September 2008 issue of Amber Waves.
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    Indicators

    Indicators tables from the September 2008 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Productivity Growth Drives Expanded Agricultural Production

    U.S. agriculture relies almost entirely on productivity growth, primarily from innovation and changes in technology, to raise output.
  • Finding

    Small Farms Still Important in Broiler Production

    In contrast to many other agricultural commodities, most broiler production is still carried out by small farms. Growers make substantial investments in broiler houses, and receive chicks and feed from large integrators who pay them to grow broilers to market weight. Most grower households have diversified sources of income, drawn from off-farm employment and other farming activities as well as broiler production.
  • Finding

    U.S. Organic Handlers Mostly Small, Focus on Fruit and Vegetables

    Retail sales of organic food increased an average of 17 percent annually between 1995 and 2006. This growth was accompanied by significant changes in organic food marketing. Organic versions of conventional brands (such as Organic Rice Krispies) and private label organic products are now commonly sold alongside longtime organic brands (such as the Safeway “O” line of organic products).
  • Finding

    Fee Hunting May Boost Farm Income, Wildlife Habitat

    ERS recently examined the implications of expanded fee hunting on land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The study found that hunting fees can motivate landowners to install wildlife friendly land use practices, which both improve wildlife habitat and increase the likelihood of being accepted into the program.
  • Finding

    Rapid Growth in Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops Continues in U.S.

    New 2008 USDA data show that adoption by U.S. farmers of genetically engineered (GE) corn, cotton, and soybeans with herbicide tolerance and/or insect resistance (Bt) traits has been rapid over the 13-year period following commercial introduction.
  • Finding

    Despite Higher Food Prices, Percent of U.S. Income Spent on Food Remains Constant

    Although food prices rose at an accelerated rate in 2007, the average U.S. consumer spent 9.8 percent of disposable personal income on all food, 5.7 percent on food at home, and 4.1 percent on food away from home—the same percentages as in 2005 and 2006.
  • Finding

    Use of Nutrition Labels Declining, Especially Among Young Adults

    According to recent ERS analyses, use of nutrition labels and health claims on food packages declined between 1995 and 2005. The decline was greater among adults 20 to 29 years old than other groups of U.S. consumers.
  • Finding

    What’s Behind the Surge in Global Rice Prices?

    U.S. and global rice prices surged to record highs this spring. The rapid price increases were not due to poor harvests, a surge in demand, or a tight global supply situation, but were linked to factors not directly related to rice market fundamentals. The most important factors behind the price surge were export bans, restrictions, and taxes implemented by several major exporting countries in an attempt to assure stable prices for food staples.
  • Finding

    Consumer Preferences Change Wheat Flour Use

    Between 1997 and 2002, per capita flour use declined with the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets. The industry responded with the introduction of a wide array of new products, to satisfy these new dietary preferences, particularly the increased demand for higher fiber and protein. As a result, 2007 saw a rise in per capita flour use.
  • Feature

    Balancing Nutrition, Participation, and Cost in the National School Lunch Program

    Recent reports of high rates of obesity and overweight among children have focused attention on the nutritional quality of school lunches. But this attention has raised another fundamental question: can schools meet the program’s nutrition goals while covering costs, especially in times of rising food prices? The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides federally-subsidized meals to more than 30 million children each school day. School foodservice managers say that to appeal to students and raise revenues, they need to offer less nutritious a la carte foods and vending snacks.
  • Feature

    Creating Markets for Environmental Stewardship: Potential Benefits and Problems

    Farmers and other landowners typically under-provide environmental services such as clean air and water, carbon sequestration, and improved wildlife habitat. Markets for environmental services could increase farmer investments in environmental stewardship, thereby expanding the supply of environmental services. Impediments to the formation of fully functioning markets for agricultural environmental services may be difficult or costly to overcome.
  • Feature

    Regulating Agricultural Imports To Keep Out Foreign Pests and Disease

    Increasing agricultural imports benefits U.S. consumers, but shipments can transport harmful foreign pests and diseases. The United States and other nations use a number of approaches to reduce risks to agriculture and the environment from pests and diseases entering through trade. Economic analysis can help identify measures that mitigate risks of economic or environmental damage with minimal impact on trade benefits.
  • Feature

    Obesity in the Midst of Unyielding Food Insecurity in Developing Countries

    Income disparity within and among developing countries explains how there can be obesity in the midst of under-nutrition. Rising incomes, urbanization, global integration, and more supermarkets have contributed to increased consumption of convenient, high-calorie foods among the higher income population. Obesity-related diseases have become more widespread in developing countries.
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    Indicators

    Indicators charts from the June 2008 issue of Amber Waves
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    In The Long Run

    The nonmetro poverty rate has exceeded the metro rate every year since poverty was first officially measured in the 1960s. Generally, metro and nonmetro poverty follow the same trends over time. The nonmetro poverty rate fell through the 1970s, and then both metro and nonmetro poverty rates began to increase with the 1980-82 recession.
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    On The Map

    An average of 17.3 percent (44 million people) of the U.S. population younger than 65 had no health insurance between 2004 and 2006. Most people 65 or older are eligible for Medicare, a health insurance program administered by the U.S. Government. Health insurance varies considerably among States. State differences are largely attributable to variations in the rate of private employer-sponsored insurance and in State and local levels of spending on public programs, such as Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Decisions on the extent of coverage in public programs, except for Medicare, are primarily a State responsibility. The States with the highest uninsured rates generally have larger low-income populations.
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    Research Areas

    Research area charts from the June 2008 issue of Amber Waves.
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    Data Feature

    Successful policies to mitigate the rise in obesity and other dietrelated health conditions in the U.S. depend on an understanding of Americans' eating patterns. Eating patterns encompass not only what and how much people eat, but also when and where they eat, how long they spend eating or snacking, and whether they dine alone or with others.
  • Finding

    Farm Size Behind Regional Differences in Hog Output and Productivity

    In recent years, substantial geographical shifts in hog production have coincided with differences in hog farm productivity growth rates. ERS research shows that changes in hog farm size explain much of the observed regional variation.
  • Finding

    A Look at the Economic Well-Being of Farm Households

    ERS researchers have developed a composite measure of economic well-being that accounts for a farm household's pretax income, accumulated marketable wealth, and family size. This relative measure of economic well-being shows that participation in government farm programs and/or off-farm work reduces the likelihood of a farm household being "lower income and lower wealth." The role of education, among other factors considered, was more important to a farm household's economic well-being if the household was located in a metro rather than a nonmetro area.
  • Finding

    Soil Conservation Preserves Reservoir Benefits Nationwide

    Agricultural runoff transporting eroded soil is a major source of the sediment deposited in over 70,000 reservoirs across the United States. The buildup of sediment within reservoirs reduces their water holding capacity, and the level and quality of the benefits and services these reservoirs can provide. ERS researchers have developed estimates of the value of the benefits from a 1-ton reduction in soil erosion. Benefit values vary across the country based on differences in physical characteristics, such as, the amount of sediment deposited into the reservoir and its impact on reservoir services, and the size of the population affected by the loss in services. These factors are among those considered in estimating the value the public places on the benefits and services provided by the reservoir.
  • Finding

    Pest Problems Abroad May Affect Compliance With U.S. Safeguards

    Economically efficient treatment schedules to control Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly) infestations increase with the fraction of U.S. imports of fresh fruits and vegetables infested with medfly larvae. When medfly populations abroad are at or below average levels, the economic incentives of fruit and vegetable producers are consistent with U.S. treatment schedules. However, when medfly population levels abroad are exceptionally high, profits received by a representative foreign producer are maximized at a cold treatment level lower than the U.S.
  • Finding

    Almonds Lead Increase in Tree Nut Consumption

    Americans increased their consumption of tree nuts by 45 percent between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. During 2001-2006, nut availability was sufficient to provide each American with an average of 1 pound of almonds per year, 1 pound of "other nuts," a half pound each of walnuts and pecans, a third pound of hazelnuts, and a fifth pound of pistachios.
  • Finding

    Lower Income Households Spend Additional Income on Foods Other Than Fruit and Vegetables

    An analysis of the 2003 Consumer Expenditure Survey found that households with incomes less than 130 percent of the poverty line will spend additional income on needs other than fruit and vegetables. Among the foods examined, these households were more likely to spend a small increase in income on beef and frozen prepared foods.
  • Finding

    ERS and Collaborators Model Foot-and-Mouth Disease Outbreaks

    ERS and university collaborators developed a simulation model to demonstrate the effects of mitigation strategies and impacts of export embargoes for beef, beef cattle, hogs, and pork. In the simulations, the swine and pork sectors recovered soon after export restrictions ended, but beef and cattle effects lingered due to the longer cattle production cycle. Production of all commodities returned to pre-disease levels in less than 2 years.
  • Finding

    Marketing Loans Induced Acreage Expansion in U.S. Dry Peas

    The 2002 Farm Bill extended the Marketing Loan Program, which in effect provides a price floor, to dried peas and lentils. Since the change, production of these products has expanded beyond the traditional growing areas of Washington and Idaho into the Upper Midwest States, where production previously had not been profitable.
  • Feature

    Defining the “Rural” in Rural America

    The use of different definitions of rural by Federal agencies reflects the multidimensional qualities of rural America.
  • Feature

    World Trade Organization and Globalization Help Facilitate Growth in Agricultural Trade

    Despite strong criticism of the WTO, its membership continues to grow as countries seek the benefits of expanding trade.
  • Feature

    Food Stamps and Obesity: What We Know and What It Means

    Food stamp benefits do not increase obesity for most program participants, but there is a potential link for some subgroups.
  • Feature

    Who Will China Feed?

    Though China continues to be a major player in global food exports, growing resource constraints and environmental costs could mean an end to “easy” growth for Chinese agriculture.
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    Research Areas

    Research area charts from the April 2008 issue of Amber Waves.
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    In The Long Run

    Fresh carrots account for nearly three-fourths of all carrots consumed in the United States.
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    On The Map

    An average of 17.3 percent (44 million people) of the U.S. population younger than 65 had no health insurance between 2004 and 2006. Most people 65 or older are eligible for Medicare, a health insurance program administered by the U.S. Government. Health insurance varies considerably among States. State differences are largely attributable to variations in the rate of private employer-sponsored insurance and in State and local levels of spending on public programs, such as Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Decisions on the extent of coverage in public programs, except for Medicare, are primarily a State responsibility. The States with the highest uninsured rates generally have larger low-income populations.
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    Data Feature

    Increased trade helps meet U.S. consumers’ growing demand for a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the year. ERS calculates that the import share of domestic consumption of fruit and nuts has grown over the past 25 years from 10 to 35 percent for fruit and nuts and from 5 to 15 percent for vegetables. To reduce the risk of inadvertent entry of pests and diseases that could harm agriculture, public health, or the environment, imports of these products are regulated by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
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    Indicators

    Indicators tables from the April 2008 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Finding

    College Completion Rates Rise But Nonmetro Areas Continue To Lag

    College graduates earn much more than those without a college education, and college graduates are more prevalent in metro than nonmetro areas, which contributes to higher earning levels in metro locales. Recent data from the Current Population Survey show that the metro advantage in college completion rates is growing over time. Between 1996 and 2006, the proportion of prime working-age (25-59) adults who had completed college rose by roughly 14 percent in both metro and nonmetro areas. However, because the college completion rate is higher in metro areas, the absolute size of the metro-nonmetro gap in college completion rates rose over the 10-year period.
  • Finding

    Health Insurance as a New Indicator of Farm Households’ Well-Being

    As with all households, the basic indicators of farm household well-being—income and wealth—do not fully capture information about well-being. Because medical care is relatively expensive and can significantly affect morbidity and mortality, the incidence of health insurance coverage among populations is an important indicator of well-being. Since farming is a relatively dangerous occupation, health insurance coverage is critical. Health insurance provides individuals or groups with a contractual arrangement for personal medical expenses to be covered (usually, in part) in exchange for a fee paid to insurance companies.
  • Finding

    Farm Operators Turn to Energy-Saving Practices

    ver the past 5 years, the price of fuels has risen sharply and remains high by historical standards. Driven by strong worldwide economic growth (especially in China and India) and other factors, the inflation-adjusted price per barrel of crude oil (refiner average acquisition cost) climbed 145 percent since 2002. Over the same period, the inflation-adjusted price of (wellhead) natural gas, a major ingredient in the production of fertilizer, rose 93 percent.
  • Finding

    Producers Rely on Contracts To Manage Increased Price Risks

    U.S. agricultural production continues to shift away from cash markets and toward greater use of contracts. According to a new ERS study, agricultural contracts covered 41 percent of the value of agricultural production in 2005, up from 36 percent in 2001 and 28 percent in 1991.
  • Finding

    Food Stamp Benefits Provide Fiscal Stimulus

    The Food Stamp Program is one of the Federal Government’s countercyclical assistance programs—expanding bene-fits during an economic downturn and decreasing benefits during an economic expansion. In fiscal year (FY) 2007, USDA provided $30.4 billion in food stamp benefits to needy Americans. During a downturn, the program is an automatic fiscal stimulus, without congressional action, by providing benefits to new participants. For example, food stamp benefits increased by about $6 billion (in 2007 dollars) between FY 2000 and FY 2003, as participation rose during the recession of 2001.
  • Finding

    Informing Food and Nutrition Assistance Policy

    Since 1998, Congress has provided ERS with funds to study and evaluate the Nation’s 15 domestic food and nutrition assistance programs. These programs provide participants with food, the means to purchase food, and nutrition education. In recent years, about one in five Americans, at some time during the year, have participated in at least one of these assistance programs, which account for over half of USDA’s annual budget.
  • Finding

    Carrot Consumption Varies With Age, Income, and Race

    People choose which vegetables to eat based on vegetable prices and individual incomes and preferences, which reflect certain demographic characteristics, such as people’s age, education, race/ethnicity, and where they live. These demographically shaped preferences are noticeable in the consumption patterns for one long-time American favorite—the carrot.
  • Finding

    Whey, Once a Marginal Byproduct, Comes Into Its Own

    Whey, a natural byproduct of cheese production, was once discarded or used as animal feed. Recently, however, it has been “discovered” by traders and food processors for its high protein content and other properties as a food additive. As a result, the price of whey, which fluctuated between 14 and 34 cents per pound from 1999 to mid-2006, reached an all-time high of 78 cents in April 2007, before falling to 43 cents in November 2007. In addition to benefiting from increases in domestic demand due to whey’s versatility as a food ingredient, whey prices have benefited from increased international demand, fueled by higher incomes and production shocks.
  • Finding

    Why Has Japan’s Orange Market Declined?

    Japan was once the largest foreign market for U.S. oranges, but since the mid-1990s, orange consumption and imports in Japan have fallen by over 30 percent. The United States is still the source of most of Japan’s oranges, but Japan has fallen to third place among U.S. export destinations.
  • Feature

    Twenty Years of Competition Reshape the U.S. Food Marketing System

    Companies have devised a number of strategies to lower costs and stand out from the competition.
  • Feature

    Global Market Opportunities Drive Beef Production Decisions in Argentina and Uruguay

    Improvements to certification programs and traceability programs have helped expand beef exports from Argentina and Uruguay.
  • Feature

    Technology, Larger Farm Size Increased Productivity on U.S. Hog Farms

    Technological innovation and shifts to larger, more specialized hog operations have led to increases in productivity, reduced production costs, and lower hog prices.
  • Feature

    Hired Farmworkers a Major Input For Some U.S. Farm Sectors

    With more than half of hired farmworkers lacking legal authorization to work in the U.S., legislative reforms of immigration policies could affect some parts of the agricultural sector.
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    On The Map

    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.
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    In The Long Run

    Educational attainment is an indicator of human capital; it provides an individual with knowledge and skills that can lead to future earnings and the ability to adapt to changing environments.
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    Research Areas

    Research area charts from the February 2008 issue of Amber Waves.
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    Indicators

    Amber Waves presents the broad scope of ERS's research and analysis. The magazine covers the economics of agriculture, food and nutrition, the food industry, trade, rural America, and farm-related environmental topics.
  • Statistic

    Data Feature

    ERS uses two methods for calculating the share of imports in U.S. food consumption-by value or by volume. Both methods introduce some bias into the calculation. Changes in relative exchange rates can shift the shares when calculated by value, and the high share of value-added in processed foods can distort the import value. The water content of the foods is a major source of bias when calculating share based on volume. For most foods, the import share is higher when based on volume than when based on value.
  • Finding

    Record Levels of Cash Receipts and Income Forecast in 2008

    The 2008 outlook for commodity market receipts, production expenses, and government payments translates into record amounts of all three measures of farm sector income-net value added, net farm income, and net cash income. Production and sales of feed grains and oilseeds will contribute significantly to record-level crop receipts in 2008. Total agricultural production expenses are forecast to increase 8.6 percent to $279.2 billion, largely due to higher feed and fertilizer costs. This article presents the latest farm income forecasts from ERS.
  • Finding

    Agritourism Offers Opportunities For Farm Operators

    Farm-based recreation provides an important niche market for farmers, but limited empirical information is available on the topic. A recent ERS study found that both farm-based and place-based factors are associated with farm-to-farm variation in agritourism, as well as the amount of income farmers earn from operating a farm-based recreation business.
  • Finding

    Hog Operations Increasingly Large, More Specialized

    U.S. hog production has consolidated and specialized during the past two decades. Fewer and larger operations account for an increasing share of total output, while most production now occurs on operations specializing in a single phase of production.
  • Finding

    Land Retirement Programs May Induce Enduring Land-Use Changes

    Temporary cropland retirement payments under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) generate land-use changes that often continue after the payments stop.
  • Finding

    Agricultural Research Sustains Productivity Growth and Earns High Returns

    Twenty-seven studies evaluated the economic impact of U.S. agricultural research. Four-fifths of the studies found the annual social rate of return to research to be between 20 percent and 60 percent.
  • Finding

    Disability Is an Important Risk Factor for Food Insecurity

    About 4 percent of U.S. households had very low food security at some time in 2006. Research findings suggest that a work-limiting disability substantially increases the risk of food insecurity for low-income families. Thirty-seven percent of all low-income households with very low food security had at least one working-age adult who was unable to work because of a disability.
  • Finding

    High-Fructose Corn Syrup Usage May Be Leveling Off

    Since peaking in 1999 at 63.7 pounds per person, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) availability has dropped to 59 pounds per person in 2005. Decreasing use of HFCS is partly due to bottled water and diet soft drinks taking sales from HFCS-sweetened soft drinks. Food manufacturers are using a combination of sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners, and bulking agents in more foods, also contributing to decreased use of HFCS.
  • Finding

    Stronger Canadian Dollar Puts Pressure on Canada’s Pork Industry

    The appreciation of the Canadian currency against the U.S. dollar has put pressure on Canadian slaughterhouses and hog finishing operations. With the closure of two major Canadian slaughterhouses and rising feed costs, Canada has been exporting a growing number of feeder pigs to the U.S.
  • Finding

    Canadian Dollar Reaches Parity With U.S. Dollar

    For the first time since 1976, the Canadian dollar is at parity with the U.S. dollar. In keeping with macroeconomic theory, the result has been accelerating growth in U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and slower growth of imports from Canada.
  • Feature

    Education's Role in the Metro-Nonmetro Earnings Divide

    Average earnings are lower in nonmetro areas than in metro areas, even after accounting for differences in the individual characteristics of nonmetro earners. The nonmetro-metro earnings gap is greater for workers with more education and more experience. For nonmetro households, lower earnings may be offset by factors difficult to measure, such as lower living costs or the value of rural amenities.
  • Feature

    Converging Patterns in Global Food Consumption and Food Delivery Systems

    U.S. and international trends in food spending, food consumption, and food delivery systems. Across countries and income levels worldwide, consumers are choosing to spend their additional income on some combination of increased quality, convenience, and variety of foods. Food delivery and consumption patterns in middle-income countries are converging to countries with higher income levels. Income growth has been a primary force behind converging global consumption patterns.
  • Feature

    Rising Food Prices Intensify Food Insecurity in Developing Countries

    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.
  • Feature

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

    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
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    Did You Know?

    Did You Know? page from November 2007 issue of Amber Waves
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    In The Long Run

    In terms of cash receipts, the U.S. greenhouse and nursery industry has experienced rapid growth in the last three decades at a rate more than four times that experienced by all agricultural commodities. These trends have been the result of the relocation of both businesses and residences to suburban settings and the concurrent explosive growth in population in the South and West. This combination has generated demand for attractive vegetation and expansive areas of lawn with sod as the preferred ground cover. The top-producing States have always been California and Florida over this time period, and other States in the top five have remained the same since about 1990 when Oregon passed Ohio to enter the group.
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    On The Map

    The major greenhouse and nursery products are shrubs, flowers, sod, Christmas trees, and other agricultural products associated with the landscape industry. The principal determinants of where greenhouse and nursery products are grown are climate and local demand. In warmer climates, nursery products can be grown outside of greenhouses, reducing production costs. Strong local demand is important because the bulkiness and perishability of nursery products make them expensive to transport long distances. Hence, production tends to be concentrated across the southern tier of States and those with rapid population and suburban growth.
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    Research Areas

    Research area charts from the November 2007 issue of Amber Waves.
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    Indicators

    Indicators tables from the November 2007 issue of Amber Waves.
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    Data Feature

    The changing size distribution of farms makes it difficult to capture the trends in a simple measure, such as the average or median farm size, but an acre-weighted median reflects both the increasing concentration of production on large farms and the growth in the number of small farms.
  • Finding

    Nearly Half of Sales Come From Million-Dollar Farms

    About half of all U.S. farm commodity sales come from "million-dollar farms," with most of the farms classified as family farms.
  • Finding

    Arts Employment Is Burgeoning in Some Rural Areas

    Between 1990 and 2000, all of the growth in U.S. arts employment share was due to gains in the nonmetro share, although the growth was concentrated in select counties.
  • Finding

    Tight Supply and Strong Demand May Raise U.S. Fertilizer Prices

    Strong demand for nitrogen fertilizers is expected to raise U.S. fertilizer prices. With limited ammonia supplies and production capacity in the U.S., more of the domestic demand is likely to be met through imports.
  • Finding

    Conservation Reserve Program Boosts Outdoor Recreation in Rural Communities

    Recreational spending attributable to enhanced environmental amenities due to CRP enrollment are estimated to be as much as $290 million per year.
  • Finding

    Americans' Dairy Consumption Below Recommendations

    Americans are consuming more dairy products than in 1970, but not enough to meet the daily recommendations for milk and milk products. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the supporting MyPyramid Food Guidance System recommend that Americans consume 2-3 cups of milk and milk products daily, depending on their age, gender, and level of physical activity. ERS's per capita food availability data show that Americans on average consumed 1.8 cups of dairy products per person per day in 2005.
  • Finding

    Food Product Introductions Continue To Set Records

    A record 20,031 food products were introduced in 2006. Many manufacturers use product differentiation in their food marketing strategy. Many new food products are variations on existing products, such as new flavors, package sizes, brand names, or product claims.
  • Finding

    Global Production Shortfalls Bring Record Wheat Prices

    Weather events, low inventories, and subsequent increased export demand have combined to drive U.S. and world wheat prices to record levels. The underlying market pressures leading to these price levels have been developing gradually with global consumption exceeding production in 7 of the last 8 years.
  • Finding

    Stronger Currency Boosts Chinese Purchasing Power

    When converted to U.S. dollars at current exchange rates, Chinese retail food prices are about a fourth of the level of U.S. food prices. Prices of vegetables, which constitute a major portion of most Chinese meals, are as low as a tenth of U.S. prices. The average per capita urban household income in China—when converted to dollars at the official exchange rate—was about $1,600 per year in 2006.
  • Feature

    Cropland Concentrating Faster Where Payments Are Higher

    Both crop production and government commodity payments have become more concentrated on larger farms, raising questions about the role of payments in changes in concentration growth. Concentration of cropland since 1987 grew much more rapidly in areas with relatively high initial payments per acre. While causality is not established, the evidence uncovers a strong and pervasive link between high payment levels and subsequent farm size growth.
  • Feature

    The Future of Biofuels: A Global Perspective

    Global biofuel production tripled between 2000 and 2007, but still accounts for less than 3 percent of global transportation fuel supply. Increased demand for biofuels has contributed to higher world food and feed prices. Biofuels will likely be part of a portfolio of solutions to high energy prices that includes conservation, more efficient energy use, and use of other alternative fuels
  • Feature

    Integrating Conservation and Commodity Program Payments: A Look at the Tradeoffs

    A payment program that integrates characteristics of conservation and commodity programs could simultaneously support working farms and ranches while improving environmental quality, with some tradeoffs. If policymakers structure payments to focus on environmental gain, income support benefits would be more broadly distributed across the U.S. agricultural sector. If policymakers seek to preserve the existing distribution of commodity program payments within an integrated program, environmental gain would be lower and its associated per-unit costs higher than under a similar program focused on conservation.
  • Feature

    Do Food Labels Make a Difference?...Sometimes

    The economics behind food labeling provides insight into the dynamics of voluntary and mandatory food labeling and the influence labeling has on consumers' food choices.
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run

    The pace and components of nonmetro population change have varied widely over the past eight decades. Before the 1970s, nonmetro population declined heavily from outmigration, but these losses were offset by strong natural increase (surplus of births over deaths). Since the dramatic revival of nonmetro growth in the 1970s, nonmetro counties have had a net influx of people in each decade, except for the rural economic crisis years of the 1980s. Natural increase has diminished in each decade since the baby boom years of the 1950s. The current nonmetro population growth rate is modest and for the first time is comprised equally of net inmigration and natural increase.
  • Statistic

    On The Map

    In many Farm Belt counties, losses in farm-related jobs have not been offset by new types of jobs, resulting in a well-known trend of population loss. What is less known is that nearly 500 nonmetro counties with recent population outmigration also have more deaths than births-known as natural decline-and thus are losing people from two sources. Natural decline stems both from dwindling family size and prolonged outmigration of young adults, resulting in high average age. This phenomenon has spread somewhat into the lower South and is now common in parts of Appalachia, where it also affects many diminished metro industrial areas. The condition, which did not arise overnight, poses difficult development challenges.
  • Statistic

    Indicators, Research Areas

    Research area charts from the September 2007 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Indicators tables from the September 2007 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Data Feature

    Certified organic production is scattered world-wide and is growing across the U.S. In 2005, for the first time, all U.S. states had some certified organic farmland. Overall adoption level is still low-only about 0.5 percent of all U.S. cropland and 0.5 percent of all U.S. pasture was certified organic in 2005.
  • Finding

    Lowering the Income Cap for Farm Payments Would Affect Few Farmers

    Policymakers have proposed lowering the $2.5-million income eligibility cap for farm program payments. An ERS analysis of a $200,000 adjusted gross income cap, the lowest proposed cap, shows that about 1.5 percent of all farms potentially would be affected by a $200,000 cap.
  • Finding

    Productivity Drives Growth in U.S. Agriculture

    U.S. agriculture relied entirely on growth in total factor productivity (TFP) rather than input accumulation to expand output between 1948 and 2004. TFP growth in agriculture accounted for 12 percent of all TFP growth in the U.S. private economy between 1960 and 2004.
  • Finding

    Managing Environmental Risk at the Rural-Urban Fringe

    Concerns over environmental quality by nonfarm residents in close proximity to farms may influence farmers' choice of management practices. Detailed analysis of corn farms yields insight into this relationship and its implications for the use of cropland best management practices.
  • Finding

    U.S. Farmers Increase Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops and Favor Multiple Traits - Amber Waves September 2007

    New 2007 USDA data show that adoption by U.S. farmers of genetically engineered (GE) soybeans, cotton, and corn with herbicide tolerance and/or insect resistance (Bt) traits has been rapid over the 12-year period following commercial introduction.
  • Finding

    Food Spending Depends on Age and Income

    By 2030, about 24 percent of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. An aging population will affect how much and what types of food are purchased.
  • Finding

    Time Is Money. . .and Dinner!

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

    U.S. Sugar Program at a Crossroads

    The U.S. sugar program, designed to operate at no cost to the U.S. Government, is coming under increasing pressure as a result of higher imports allowed under NAFTA and other trade agreements.
  • Finding

    NAFTA’s Liberalization of Corn Trade Approaches the Finish Line

    Implementation of NAFTA, signed in 1995 is nearly complete, and all remaining trade barriers among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico will be phased out in 2008. One of the few remaining commodities to be liberalized under NAFTA is corn, which has had a 14-year transition period. But the TRQ has become less restrictive over the period, so the final phase-out is not expected to generate much additional impact.
  • Feature

    Low Costs Drive Production to Large Dairy Farms

    Dairy production is shifting to larger farms; small dairy farms are exiting, and more expect to leave in the next decade. Average production costs per hundredweight of milk produced fall sharply with herd size. Large dairy farms earn substantial profits, while most smaller operations experience economic losses. Given their cost advantages, the shift of dairy production to large farms contributes to rising industry productivity and lower real dairy prices.
  • Feature

    U.S. Consumers Had Short-Term Response to First BSE Announcements

    ERS researchers compared household-level retail food purchases of three types of beef products before and after the 2003 U.S. government announcements of finding two North American cows infected with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) to see if consumers reduced their purchases of those products, and, if so, for how long. Food purchase data reveal that the response of U.S. consumers to those announcements was limited and dissipated within 2 weeks.
  • Feature

    U.S. Trade Growth: A New Beginning or a Repeat of the Past?

    After years of slow growth of U.S. agricultural exports, rising food demand in emerging markets, a weakening dollar, and closer integration with NAFTA partners have recently sparked a renewal of export demand. Import growth has been unusually strong as a result of regional integration (NAFTA), consumer preferences for foreign products, and strong overall growth in consumer spending. Continued growth in emerging markets combined with macroeconomic factors at home point to sustained growth in U.S. exports and slower import growth.
  • Feature

    U.S. Ethanol Expansion Driving Changes Throughout the Agricultural Sector

    A large expansion in ethanol production is underway in the United States, spurred by high oil prices and energy policies. Although corn is the primary feedstock used to produce ethanol in the United States, market adjustments to the ethanol expansion extend well beyond the corn sector to supply and demand for other crops, as well as to the livestock sector, farm income, government payments, and food prices. Adjustments in the agricultural sector to increased demand for biofuels will continue as interest grows in renewable sources of energy to lessen dependence on foreign oil.
  • Finding

    Latest Indicators Point to Continued Strength of Farm Finances

    U.S. agriculture relied entirely on growth in total factor productivity (TFP) rather than input accumulation to expand output between 1948 and 2004. TFP growth in agriculture accounted for 12 percent of all TFP growth in the U.S. private economy between 1960 and 2004.
  • Statistic

    In The Long Run

    The growing popularity of ready-to-eat packaged salad greens, introduced in the late 1980s, has contributed to the dramatic growth in the amount of romaine, leaf lettuce, and spinach available for consumption in the United States. Spinach availability rose 240 percent between 1985 and 2005, from 0.7 to 2.3 pounds per person. Romaine and leaf lettuce availability rose 269 percent from 3.3 to 12.1 pounds per person. While head (iceberg) lettuce is still the dominant salad green, its availability decreased 14 percent to 20.3 pounds per person between 1985 and 2005.
  • Statistic

    On The Map

    Most U.S. households can consistently afford enough food for active healthy living. But 11 to 12 percent of households struggled at times to put adequate food on the table in recent years. USDA classifies such households as food insecure.
  • Statistic

    Research Areas

    Research area charts from the June 2007 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Indicators tables from the June 2007 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Data Feature: ERS Food Availability Data Look at Consumption in Three Ways

    ERS calculates annual per capita amounts of foods and commodities available for consumption in the U.S. One time series is unadjusted for spoilage and other losses, and the other is adjusted for these losses. A third time series looks at the annual per capita availability of calories and 27 nutrients and dietary components.
  • Finding

    Income an Incomplete Measure of Farm Household Well-Being

    Provides a justification for using a joint indicator to consider the well-being of farm households and then compares the well-being, based on this indicator, of farm operator households and the U.S. population.
  • Finding

    Rural Low-Wage Workers Face Multiple Economic Disadvantages

    Low-wage workers made up one-fourth of the rural labor force in 2005. Although most rural low-wage workers are not poor, they are more likely to depend on Federal assistance programs to meet their families' needs than are other rural wage and salary workers.
  • Finding

    Sources of Public Agricultural R&D Changing

    Explains the sources of funding for research and development at USDA, land grant universities and other state institutions.
  • Finding

    Can Commodity Program Payments Encourage Better Nutrient Management?

    Can commodity program payments be further leveraged to obtain better nutrient management on land in crop production? The answer depends on the extent to which areas receiving these payments coincide with the location of nutrient runoff problems and whether payments are large enough to offset the cost of reducing runoff.
  • Finding

    Coffee Consumption Over the Last Century

    ERS's food availability data show a rise and fall in coffee consumption over the past century. Per capita availability of coffee in the U.S. peaked in 1946 at 46.4 gallons per person compared with 24.6 gallons in 2004. Per capita coffee availability is up 22 percent since its low in 1995, due to the increase in coffee consumed away from home.
  • Finding

    Soft Drink Companies Make Splash in Bottled Water

    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.
  • Finding

    Consumers Demanding Identity Preservation in U.S. Grain Markets

    Consumer demand for specific product traits has led to a growing number of specialty crops requiring either segregation or full-scale identity preservation (IP) to differentiate them from conventional commodities. These IP or differentiated crops include products with specific traits, like waxy corn, non-genetically engineered, organic, or pharmaceutical crops. These products typically incur higher costs than conventional due to costs of segregation and certification, higher risks, and the need for greater coordination between growers and handlers or processors.
  • Finding

    Chinese Consumers Demand Premium Foods

    As incomes grow in China, consumers have begun to diversify their food purchases to include more poultry, fish, dairy, fruits, and beverages, while their purchases of rice, flour, pork remain about the same. A more recent trend is the increasing propensity of Chinese consumers to purchase higher quality as well as greater quantities of food.
  • Feature

    Struggling To Feed the Family: What Does It Mean To Be Food Insecure?

    Food security-consistent access to enough food for active healthy living-is strongly associated with income, but household circumstances and State-level policies and economic conditions also matter. Health problems are more prevalent among members of food-insecure households than among otherwise similar individuals living in food-secure households. Food security statistics provide reliable information on the hardships households face in meeting basic food needs.
  • Feature

    Outbreak Linked to Spinach Forces Reassessment of Food Safety Practices

    This article reviews the 2006 foodborne illness outbreak associated with spinach. It discusses the voluntary Food and Drug Administration guidelines (Good Agricultural Practices) for miniminizing microbial contamination of fresh produce and the benefits and costs to farmers of adopting these guidelines. The article concludes with industry strategies to reduce future outbreaks.
  • Feature

    The Importance of Farm Program Payments to Farm Households

    Less than half of all farms-43 percent in 2005-receive farm program payments. Large family farms represent 8 percent of all farms but they receive 58 percent of commodity program payments going to farms. Two-thirds of recipient farms receive less than $10,000 in payments, accounting for only 7 percent of their gross cash farm. Payments represent 13 percent of gross cash farm income for those that receive more than $30,000 in payments.
  • Feature

    Insidious Consumption: Surprising Factors That Influence What We Eat and How Much

    The prevalence of obesity and diet-related illnesses is rising, despite evidence that Americans are aware of the positive effects of a balanced diet and exercise. Standard tools of economics can only go so far in explaining these trends, but findings from behavioral economics can shed light on several factors which could help economists and policymakers better understand food choices.
  • Statistic

    In The Long Run

    Farm population has fallen steadily as a share of total U.S. population for more than a century. Less than half the U.S. population has lived on farms since these data were first collected in 1880.
  • Statistic

    In The Long Run

    Energy intensity reflects the total amount of energy used in the production of output. Since 1973, farm output has grown 63 percent while energy consumption declined 26 percent. The decline in energy intensity is the result of improved machinery and equipment, enhanced energy efficiency, and changes in the commodities produced.
  • Statistic

    In The Long Run

    The total amount of fruit and vegetables (fresh and processed) available for consumption in the United States reached 690 pounds per person in 2005, up 113 pounds, or 20 percent, since 1970. In 2005, per capita availability stood at 275 pounds for fruit and 415 pounds for vegetables.
  • Statistic

    In The Long Run

    The prevalence of food insecurity—the lack of consistent access to adequate food for active, healthy living—in U.S. households declined in the late 1990s, then increased following the recession in 2001.
  • Statistic

    In The Long Run

    Until well into the 20th century, conversion of wetlands to agricultural and other uses was encouraged by policy incentives for drainage and westward expansion. Starting in the 1930s, conservation laws began to slow wetland conversion, and this momentum was reinforced by other measures over the last 30 years. Today, about half of the original wetlands area in the 48 contiguous States has been converted to other uses, mostly agriculture, but urbanization and other uses now account for most wetland conversion. Currently, the rate of net wetland loss from agriculture has been reduced to almost zero.
  • Statistic

    In The Long Run

    Over the past 112 years, an average of 7 percent of U.S. agricultural land has experienced severe or extreme drought each year.
  • Statistic

    On The Map

    In the first half of the current decade, nonmetro America was almost evenly split between counties that grew in population (1,024) and those that declined (1,027). Declining counties contain only 34 percent of all nonmetro residents, however, because most are sparsely settled. Therefore, despite declining population in so many counties, total nonmetro population grew by 1.1 million from April 2000 to July 2005, to a total of 49.9 million.
  • Statistic

    On The Map

    USDA's Conservation Compliance Program was designed to ensure that Federal farm programs did not encourage crop production on highly erodible land (HEL) in the absence of measures to protect against soil erosion. Under this program, farmers who grow crops on HEL must apply an approved soil conservation system or risk losing eligibility for Federal income support, conservation, and other payments.
  • Statistic

    On The Map

    Geographic distribution of government payments as a proportion of gross cash income from farming. A substantial proportion of government payments to farmers is based on historical production of specific commodities, such as corn, oilseeds, wheat, rice, and cotton.
  • Finding

    On The Map

    An average of 25.6 million people, or 8.7 percent of the U.S. population, received food stamps each month during fiscal year 2005, an increase from 8.1 percent in 2004.
  • Finding

    International Trade, Biofuel Initiatives Reshaping the Soybean Sector

    U.S. soybean production has risen rapidly due to increased domestic and foreign demand. The future of the sector, however, will depend on raising export competitiveness and the possible diversion of acreage away from soybeans into corn to satisfy the growing demand for ethanol.
  • Finding

    National School Lunch Program Fills Food Assistance Gaps

    Participation in the National School Lunch Program is lower among high school students than among children ages 8-13. Greater use of electronic payment methods to prevent free meal recipients from being identified by their peers, along with changes in menus and improved cooking techniques, has increased participation.
  • Finding

    Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling: Will It Benefit Consumers?

    The U.S. Congress passed legislation mandating country-of-origin labeling (COOL) in 2004, but has now delayed its implementation by two years. COOL has been extremely controversial, with some claiming that consumers will benefit, and other claiming that the costs would be too high. Research on the costs and benefits of COOL is so far inconclusive. It is not clear that consumers would be willing to pay the higher food prices that would result from mandatory labeling.
  • Finding

    Fruit and Vegetables in the Limelight

    The U.S. fruit and vegetable sector finds itself at the center of several hot issues, including immigration reform, the quality of U.S. diets and rising imports of fruits and vegetables.
  • Finding

    Green Payments: Can Income and Conservation Payments Be Combined?

    Green payments would merge farm income support and conservation payments. If income support and conservation payments go to different farms, policymakers will face tradeoffs between the two objectives when designing a green payments program.
  • Finding

    Bidding Enhances Conservation Program Cost Effectiveness

    To manage Conservation Program dollars cost-effectively, program managers must motivate farmers to offer to participate and then select those applicants who offer the greatest environmental benefit per dollar spent. Bidding is one way to do that; allowing farmers to "bid" for the activity they will undertake and the level of payment they would receive for it provides program managers with the information they need to compare the costs and benefits of contract offers. This could ensure that final program participants are those who will maximize taxpayers' investment in conservation effort.
  • Finding

    How Do Decoupled Payments Affect Resource Allocations Within the Farm Sector?

    Most industrialized nations subsidize producers of certain farm commodities with payments linked to commodity prices and production levels. In the U.S., interest in market liberalization and obligations under multilateral trade agreements have prompted policymakers to design and implement less distorting government commodity programs. One step in that direction is to use "decoupled" payments to directly change the income and wealth of farm households without distorting relative commodity prices. Recent analyses indicate how land tenure arrangements influence the amount farm households receive from decoupled payments, and how decoupled payments influence markets for agricultural capital and labor.
  • Finding

    U.S. Fruit and Vegetable Imports Outpace Exports—Updated

    The U.S. fruit and vegetable sector finds itself at the center of several hot issues, including immigration reform, the quality of U.S. diets and rising imports of fruits and vegetables.
  • Finding

    U.S. Organic Farm Sector Continues To Expand—Updated

    Most segments of the U.S. organic farm sector have expanded since USDA set uniform organic standards in 2000. Certified organic crop acreage increased 11 percent between 2001 and 2003, with large increases for fruits and vegetables and for hay crops used in dairy.
  • Finding

    Assessing Farm Household Well-Being—Beyond Farmers and Farm Income

    ERS researchers use data from the USDA and the Federal Reserve to compare farm households and nonfarm households in terms of income and wealth. While farm income is traditionally used as a measure of farm household well-being, the analysis shows that other factors, such as wealth and off-farm income, are important determinants of well-being.
  • Feature

    Ethanol Reshapes the Corn Market—Updated

    This article examines the possible market impacts of the ongoing expansion of the U.S. ethanol sector. To meet the sector's growing demand for corn, some U.S. corn is likely to be diverted from exports and feed. In the future, corn may cease to be the main feedstock for U.S. ethanol production if cellulosic biomass is successfully developed as an alternative.
  • Feature

    Policy Options for a Changing Rural America—Updated

    Rural communities have changed dramatically since 1990 due to increased population from urban areas, shifts in age and ethnic composition, and economic and industrial restructuring. Increasing competition from abroad and sectoral shifts in employment present new challenges and opportunities in the worldwide economy and raise the question-how can rural communities successfully build on their economic base and other assets to retain and attract population and employment. And, when, where, and under what circumstances will rural development strategies be most successful? Rural policy for the future will need to encompass a broad array of issues, and these different rural issues will require different mixes of solutions. Strategies to generate new employment and income opportunities, develop local human resources, and build and expand critical infrastructure hold the most promise for enhancing the economic opportunities and well being of rural America.
  • Feature

    Improving Food Choices—Can Food Stamps Do More?

    The Food Stamp Program has changed over time from primarily focusing on getting a sufficient quantity of food to an increased emphasis on also choosing healthful foods with high nutritional quality. Proposed strategies for improving diets of Food Stamp Program participants include restricting the types of foods purchasable with food stamp benefits and offering bonuses or vouchers for buying healthful foods such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Feature

    Food Assistance: How Strong Is the Safety Net?

    Food-assistance programs provide a safety net to help U.S. households purchase sufficient food. These programs, particularly the Food Stamp Program, increase food spending and household income. In 2004, adding food stamp benefits to recipients' incomes raised 9 percent of recipients out of poverty. Food assistance programs, particularly the school meals and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) programs, have also been promoted as offering access to essential nutrients and minerals, however, the nutritional effects of these programs are uncertain.
  • Feature

    Emphasis Shifts in U.S. Conservation Policy (Updated)

    This article describes the policy shift in the 2002 Farm Bill toward increased funding of conservation policies, and shifting conservation priorities. The share of conservation funds allocated to working lands (land used for crop production or grazing) will increase, a modest increase in retirement programs will focus largely on wetland restoration, and the role of benefit-cost targeting in working land programs will be reduced, potentially reducing the cost-effectiveness of these programs.
  • Feature

    Environmental Credit Trading: Can Farming Benefit?

    Environmental credit trading is a market-based approach to complying with regulations with the potential to achieve pollution abatement goals at least cost to society. Agriculture can contribute to credit trading programs by generating pollution-reduction credits through the adoption of environmentally preferred practices and selling the credits to regulated firms.
  • Feature

    Relaxing Fruit and Vegetable Planting Restrictions

    A recent World Trade Organization challenge to U.S. commodity programs has created pressure to eliminate fruit and vegetable planting restrictions on farms that plant program crops. If planting restrictions were relaxed, overall market effects would likely be limited, with the greatest effects in California, the Southeast and the upper Midwest. Some producers with base acreage would likely benefit while others without base acres may find that production of fruit and vegetables would be less profitable than production of program crops.
  • Feature

    Managing Risk With Revenue Insurance

    This Amber Waves article analyzes how crop revenue insurance offers farmers a way to manage revenue variability that results from yield and price risks. Revenue insurance has become a major part of the subsidized Federal crop insurance program but there are difficulties in using single-commodity and whole-farm revenue insurance as a farm income policy tools.
  • Statistic

    In The Long Run

    From 1970 to 2005, the total amount of fruit (fresh and processed) available for consumption in the U.S. increased 14 percent, from 242 pounds per person to 275 pounds per person between 1969 and 2004.
  • Statistic

    On The Map

    The legislated payment rates are commodity dependent, averaging about $1 per acre for oats and close to $100 per acre for rice. Payments are concentrated in the major producing areas.
  • Statistic

    Research Areas

    Resource area charts from the April 2007 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Indicators tables from the April 2007 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Data Feature

    ERS ARMS data allow detailed comparisons of a number of characteristics of farms specializing in wheat, corn, cotton, and fruit and vegetable production. For example, wheat and cotton farms tend to be the largest and are also the least specialized, planting less than 50 percent of their acres to their main crop. Fruit and vegetable farms are the smallest and also derived the highest share of their income from off-farm activities.
  • Finding

    Nonmetro Manufacturing Counties Regaining Employment

    Green payments would merge farm income support and conservation payments. If income support and conservation payments go to different farms, policymakers will face tradeoffs between the two objectives when designing a green payments program.
  • Finding

    American Community Survey Enhances Rural Research

    The new American Community Survey, produced by the U.S. Census Bureau, will produce data on age, race, education, income, migration, commuting, housing, and other socioeconomic characteristics with much greater frequency than the decennial census. Researchers and policymakers interested in learning more about nonmetro (rural) areas will benefit from the ACS.
  • Finding

    Model Captures the Interaction Between Agriculture and the Environment

    The Regional Environment and Agriculture Programming Model (REAP) was developed to help researchers analyze the potential effects of agri-environmental policies by taking into account the interactions between product prices, production practices, and the environment. Formerly named the U.S. Mathematical Programming Agricultural Sector Model (USMP), REAP was originally developed in the mid-1980s and has been used to analyze a wide variety of agricultural policy issues.
  • Finding

    Farmland Preservation Programs: Another Tool for Managing Urban Growth?

    Little is known about the impact of permanently preserving farmland on development patterns in the long run. Research suggests it may be more realistic to view Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) programs as tools to help local jurisdictions manage growth and guide development away from farmland with desirable characteristics, rather than as a panacea for stopping urban sprawl.
  • Finding

    Coffee Bean Price Changes Pass Through to Grocery Shelves

    ERS analysis of coffee industry data found that changes in coffee bean costs are passed through to wholesale and retail coffee prices. Over the past 10 years, coffee bean prices have varied between 3 and 20 cents per ounce. A change in coffee bean prices that persists for several quarters will be fully incorporated into both wholesale and retail prices. A 10-percent change in coffee bean prices translates into about a 3-percent change in retail prices. Retail coffee prices were found to respond the same to both increases and decreases in coffee bean prices.
  • Finding

    Meeting Fruit and Vegetable Dietary Recommendations

    If Americans were to consume the number of servings recommended in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, daily fruit consumption would need to increase by 132 percent, requiring U.S. producers to increase annual harvested fruit acreage from 3.5 million to 7.6 million. Daily vegetable consumption would need to rise by about 31 percent, and the mix of vegetables would need to change. Annual harvested acres of vegetables in the U.S. would need to increase from 6.5 million to 15.3 million.
  • Finding

    Ethanol Reduces Government Support for U.S. Feed Grain Sector

    Increasing use of corn for ethanol production has brought a shift in the type of Government support received by U.S. corn producers. Previously, income support comprised the largest share of support going to the corn sector. Now, however, feed grain producers are relying more on indirect demand enhancement coming from government policies stimulating ethanol production. The most important instrument is a blenders tax credit available to gasoline marketers.
  • Finding

    A New World for U.S. Cotton Producers

    The end of the MFA has brought a decline in U.S. textile production and domestic demand for U.S. cotton with the result that the U.S. cotton sector has become increasingly export dependent. The sector has been helped by yield enhancing technological advances, but U.S. cotton also faces increasing competition from abroad. An ongoing WTO dispute and possible changes in U.S. farm legislation mean further uncertainty for the sector.
  • Feature

    Population Dynamics Are Changing the Profile of Rural Areas

    Nonmetro America is less ethnically diverse and older than the rest of the country, though demographic trends indicate some changes lie ahead. Nonmetro populations will continue to be older than metro populations because a greater proportion of retirees are moving to nonmetro counties than metro counties, and because older people account for a larger share of the population in counties that are losing residents. Hispanic population growth is counteracting persistent population decline in many rural counties, especially in the Midwestern and Great Plains States.
  • Feature

    Improving Food Choices—Can Food Stamps Do More?

    The Food Stamp Program has changed over time from primarily focusing on getting a sufficient quantity of food to an increased emphasis on also choosing healthful foods with high nutritional quality. Proposed strategies for improving diets of Food Stamp Program participants include restricting the types of foods purchasable with food stamp benefits and offering bonuses or vouchers for buying healthful foods such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Feature

    The Creative Class: A Key to Rural Growth

    The creative class thesis-that towns need to attract engineers, architects, artists, and people in other creative occupations to compete in today's economy-may be particularly relevant to rural communities, which tend to lose much of their talent when young adults leave for college, the Armed Forces, or city lights. The creative class lives mostly in urban settings, but is also found in rural areas with mountains, lakes, and other rural amenities. Nonmetro counties, with higher proportions of people in creative class occupations tended to have higher rates of patent formation and manufacturing technology adoption in the 1990s-and higher rates of job growth in 1990-2004.
  • Feature

    Experience Counts: Farm Business Survival in the U.S.

    Farming, like other businesses, exhibits high turnover, with many thousands of existing farms going out of business each year. As in other industries, new farm businesses enter at a high rate and new entrants subsequently exit at high rates, irrespective of the size of the farm or the age of the operator. Exit rates fall as businesses age to 5-9 years old, and then fall again, although modestly, for more experienced farm businesses. Experience seems to provide an important advantage to well-established businesses that can learn quickly and efficiently.
  • Statistic

    In The Long Run

    Government transfer payments to individuals increased steadily in both metro and nonmetro areas between 1969 and 2004.
  • Statistic

    On The Map

    About $2.5 billion has been obligated under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) from its inception in fiscal 1997 through the end of fiscal 2004. EQIP is the Nation’s largest program that pays farmers for conservation efforts on working lands, in terms of obligated funds.
  • Statistic

    Research Areas

    Research area charts from the February 2007 issue of Amber Waves
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Amber Waves presents the broad scope of ERS's research and analysis. The magazine covers the economics of agriculture, food and nutrition, the food industry, trade, rural America, and farm-related environmental topics. Available on the Internet and in print, Amber Waves is issued in print five times a year (February, April, June, September, and November). The Internet edition, or "eZine," includes links to web-only resources.
  • Statistic

    Data Feature

    ERS has released a detailed data set on U.S. livestock and meat trade. It also includes details on product categories for traded livestock and meat products well beyond the aggregate measures often reported. These details are used to illustrate perhaps the best-known case of disrupted trade in U.S. meat and livestock, that of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), over the past 3 years.
  • Finding

    Green Payments: Can Income and Conservation Payments Be Combined?

    Green payments would merge farm income support and conservation payments. If income support and conservation payments go to different farms, policymakers will face tradeoffs between the two objectives when designing a green payments program.
  • Finding

    2006 Farm Net Cash Income Expected To Decline Slightly

    This article provides a summary of updated forecasts of value-added and various income measures from production activities in 2006 for the U.S. farm sector, plus the associated forecast of the farm balance sheet. Forecast includes the latest economic information based on crop harvests and livestock production for the 2006 calendar year.
  • Finding

    Bidding Enhances Conservation Program Cost Effectiveness

    To manage Conservation Program dollars cost-effectively, program managers must motivate farmers to offer to participate and then select those applicants who offer the greatest environmental benefit per dollar spent. Bidding is one way to do that; allowing farmers to "bid" for the activity they will undertake and the level of payment they would receive for it provides program managers with the information they need to compare the costs and benefits of contract offers. This could ensure that final program participants are those who will maximize taxpayers' investment in conservation effort.
  • Finding

    Targeting Conservation Funds Increases Environmental Benefits

    To best serve the public's interest, conservation program funds should be allocated to address the most pressing environmental concerns. Targeting is an efficient means of achieving this goal because it directs funds to conservation program participants based on the expected environmental benefits.
  • Finding

    Strong Competition in Food Retailing Despite Consolidation

    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.
  • Finding

    National School Lunch Program Fills Food Assistance Gaps

    Participation in the National School Lunch Program is lower among high school students than among children ages 8-13. Greater use of electronic payment methods to prevent free meal recipients from being identified by their peers, along with changes in menus and improved cooking techniques, has increased participation.
  • Finding

    Rough Rice Exports Critical to U.S. Rice Producers

    The U.S. is the fourth largest exporter of rice, but an ever larger share of U.S. rice exports are rough, or unmilled, rice. The main markets are Mexico and Central America, which import rough rice because tariffs are lower than for milled rice. But the U.S. rice sector could be threatened by rising energy costs and reductions of support for U.S. rice producers.
  • Finding

    Organic Poultry Gaining in Specialty Market Competition

    Eggs and poultry are now among the fastest-growing organic food products in the U.S. Despite rapid growth in production, supply has not kept up with demand, and price premiums for organic poultry and eggs remain high.
  • Finding

    Promising Economic Outlook for Agricultural Sector Continues in 2007

    Promising Economic Outlook for Agricultural Sector Continues in 2007
  • Feature

    Farmers Balance Off-Farm Work and Techonology Adoption

    Off-farm income has risen steadily over recent decades. Small-farm households are more likely to devote time to off-farm employment than larger farms. New technologies enhance options for trading onfarm work for off-farm employment. Farm households with higher off-farm income are more likely to adopt farm technologies that economize on management time instead of those that are time intensive.
  • Feature

    Weaker Dollar Strengthens U.S. Agriculture

    The depreciation of the U.S. dollar has increased the competitive advantage of U.S. agriculture and stimulated export demand for U.S. agricultural products. Strong economic growth in developing countries also has contributed to strong U.S. agricultural export performance. Despite depreciating against currencies of some U.S. trading partners, the dollar has been largely fixed against currencies of others, such as China, reducing potential gains in competitiveness. Trade policies and imperfect markets can also reduce the effects of depreciation, further diminishing the gain.
  • Feature

    Relaxing Fruit and Vegetable Planting Restrictions

    A recent World Trade Organization challenge to U.S. commodity programs has created pressure to eliminate fruit and vegetable planting restrictions on farms that plant program crops. If planting restrictions were relaxed, overall market effects would likely be limited, with the greatest effects in California, the Southeast and the upper Midwest. Some producers with base acreage would likely benefit while others without base acres may find that production of fruit and vegetables would be less profitable than production of program crops.
  • Statistic

    In The Long Run

    Irrigated agriculture is distributed across the Nation. While the West still has the greatest number of irrigated acres, regions in the East-particularly the Mississippi Delta and areas of the Southeast-now rival the density of historically irrigated areas in the West. Increased irrigation in relatively humid Eastern regions has heightened water supply concerns, especially during dry years and in locations experiencing fast growth in water use. Water supply limitations are no longer viewed as a "Western" issue in areas where irrigated agriculture is a major water user.
  • Statistic

    On The Map

    Irrigated agriculture is distributed across the Nation. While the West still has the greatest number of irrigated acres, regions in the East-particularly the Mississippi Delta and areas of the Southeast-now rival the density of historically irrigated areas in the West. Increased irrigation in relatively humid Eastern regions has heightened water supply concerns, especially during dry years and in locations experiencing fast growth in water use. Water supply limitations are no longer viewed as a "Western" issue in areas where irrigated agriculture is a major water user.
  • Statistic

    Research Areas

    Research area charts from the November 2006 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Indicators tables from the November 2006 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Data Feature

    ERS has revised its market basket statistics to reflect current spending patterns for fresh produce. Based on new consumer and farm baskets, farm revenues accounted for 26.6 percent of consumer spending for fresh fruit at retail foodstores in 2004, and 23.5 percent for fresh vegetables.
  • Finding

    Designing an Effective Rural Development Strategy

    Technological change and the shift to a more competitive global economy have reduced employment in farming and other rural-oriented industries, Federal, State and local governments have invested in improved education, training and infrastructure but an effective local economic strategy is needed to ensure the effectiveness of these investments. Successful strategies consider community strengths and weaknesses, regional assets and amenities, and economic diversification.
  • Finding

    Reclassification of Nonmetro Areas Exaggerates Employment Gap

    After each decennial census, population shifts cause some nonmetro counties to be reclassified as metropolitan. This reclassification can affect employment statistics, exaggerating the contrast in metro-nonmetro economic growth. The apparent decline of nonmetro employment and most of the evident gap between metro and nonmetro growth rates reflect the reclassification of nonmetro counties as metro.
  • Finding

    Nonmetro Earnings Lag Metro

    Nonmetro earnings per job are an important indicator of how the rural economy is performing. The average earnings in nonmetro areas were 67 percent of metro in 2004. This shortfall is longstanding and widening. Nonmetro earnings trail metro earnings across all nonfarm industries. And a greater portion of metro jobs are in higher-paying industries.
  • Finding

    Irrigated Acres Up, Water Application Rate Trending Down

    Irrigated acreage has increased by over 40 percent in the last 35 years, while total water applied increased by only 11 percent because of reduced per-acre water applications. Irrigated agriculture will remain an important land cultivation practice for the foreseeable future, but continued changes in the location and use of irrigation water are likely.
  • Finding

    Agriculture Dominates Freshwater Use in the U.S.

    Agriculture accounts for over 80 percent of the Nation's consumptive water use on the 20 percent of cropland that is irrigated. Almost all agricultural water withdrawals are for irrigation and 85 percent of these withdrawals occur in the Western States. There are environmental impacts of water use in all sectors, with the consequences depending on water source, natural supplies, and competing uses.
  • Finding

    Cost of Infant Formula for the WIC Program Rising

    Both the net wholesale price and the retail markup for infant formula provided through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) have increased in recent years. Much of the increase in the cost of providing infant formula to WIC participants is due to higher prices for DHA- and ARA-supplemented formulas.
  • Finding

    Healthy Restaurant Destination? Just Think Twice

    An ERS analysis of a 2002 consumer survey conducted by Rutgers University finds that respondents who were more willing to forgo other food attributes for convenience were about 8 percent more likely to dine out at least every few days. Respondents citing convenience as the main factor influencing their away-from-home food choices were 17 percent more likely to purchase fast food than were respondents who did not place a premium on convenience.
  • Finding

    Measuring the Importance of Exports to U.S. Agriculture

    Record agricultural production and record agricultural export values have raised the question of how to calculate U.S. agriculture's reliance on exports. A value measure is common to all, but tends to give more weight to high-value commodities. A volume measure requires conversion to a common unit and gives more weight to bulk commodities. ERS's volume-based measure indicates that the volume of agricultural exports as a share of production volume ranged from 21 to 23 percent over 2000-04.
  • Finding

    New Phytosanitary Regulations Allow Higher Imports of Avocados

    USDA banned imports of avocados from Mexico in 1914 to prevent the entry of avocado pests into the U.S. Over time, advances in scientific risk assessment methods have helps regulators design less trade-restrictive phytosanitary measures. The adoption of a systems approach to risk management has led to the opening of the U.S. market for Mexican avocados. By 2007, Mexico will have year-round market access to all of the 50 States.
  • Feature

    Brazil's Booming Agriculture Faces Obstacles

    Rising global income and Brazil's ready availability of land, water, and labor has allowed Brazil to increase crop and meat production and expand exports. However, the long-term growth of Brazilian agriculture could slow due to supply side factors. Furthermore, continued growth in domestic food demand and the changing composition of food demand could dampen growth in processed and high-value agro-food exports.
  • Feature

    Managing Risk With Revenue Insurance

    This Amber Waves article analyzes how crop revenue insurance offers farmers a way to manage revenue variability that results from yield and price risks. Revenue insurance has become a major part of the subsidized Federal crop insurance program but there are difficulties in using single-commodity and whole-farm revenue insurance as a farm income policy tools.
  • Feature

    Food Safety Improvements Underway in China

    Adverse publicity about contaminated food incidents has prompted improved food safety programs in China for both the domestic and export market. This article reviews the challenges for Chinese food safety and government programs to improve standards. Only a small portion of Chinese production for the domestic market currently meets the new government standards for safer food. Producing safer food for export is expensive and reduces China's cost advantage in world markets.
  • Feature

    Adjusting for Living Costs Can Change Who Is Considered Poor

    The prevalence of poverty has historically been greater in nonmetro than metro areas since poverty rates were first officially recorded. However, adjusting the official poverty measure for cost-of-living differences reverses the rankings of metro and nonmetro poverty. Such a reversal would have important implications for the geographic and demographic distribution of Federal funding of poverty-based programs.
  • Statistic

    Behind The Data

    Under the Agreement on Agriculture, World Trade Organization (WTO) members agreed to rules governing the type and level of agricultural policies they may use. These rules fall under three areas: domestic support (price support and producer subsidies), export subsidies, and market access (tariffs and tariff-rate quotas).
  • Statistic

    In The Long Run

    With incomes climbing at a faster rate than expenditures for food, Americans spent 9.9 percent of their disposable personal income on food in 2005, down from 23.4 percent in 1929. This decline is even more striking considering the labor and technology that go into the multitude of processed foods on today’s supermarket shelves.
  • Statistic

    On The Map

    An average of 25.6 million people, or 8.7 percent of the U.S. population, received food stamps each month during fiscal year 2005, an increase from 8.1 percent in 2004.
  • Statistic

    Research Areas

    Research area charts from the September 2006 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Indicators tables from the September 2006 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Data Feature

    Since 1978, the number of farms operated primarily by women more than doubled and the growth in numbers of horse farms far outpaced that of either beef cattle or other types of crop and livestock farms. Women farmers, singly and jointly, operate over 65 percent of all horse farms, compared with 37 percent of all farms. Growing popularity of equestrian sports, along the compatibility of horse farming with other land use and rural development goals, are possible reasons for the growth in the number of women-operated horse farms.
  • Finding

    Fruit and Vegetables in the Limelight

    The U.S. fruit and vegetable sector finds itself at the center of several hot issues, including immigration reform, the quality of U.S. diets and rising imports of fruits and vegetables.
  • Finding

    International Trade, Biofuel Initiatives Reshaping the Soybean Sector

    U.S. soybean production has risen rapidly due to increased domestic and foreign demand. The future of the sector, however, will depend on raising export competitiveness and the possible diversion of acreage away from soybeans into corn to satisfy the growing demand for ethanol.
  • Finding

    Indicators Highlight Links Between Agricultural Resources and the Environment

    The Finding describes the recently released 2006 edition of Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, which provides a comprehensive overview of patterns and trends in land, water, biological resources, management skills, and commercial inputs used in the agricultural sector.
  • Finding

    Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops Continues To Increase

    Biotechnology-derived crops were commercially introduced a decade ago, and the adoption of herbicide tolerant and insect resistant varieties grew rapidly. In the U.S. herbicide tolerant soybean adoption expanded more rapidly and widely than other biotech crops. The U.S. acreage share of insect resistant corn flattened in recent years because farmers with the greatest need to protect against the target pest had already adopted the biotech variety.
  • Finding

    Emergency Food Assistance Reaches Hurricane Victims

    Between September and December 2005, in response to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, 1.6 million new U.S. households received food stamp benefits through USDA's Disaster Food Stamp Program. An additional 676,000 households had benefits replaced due to destroyed food. Benefits issued amounted to $900 million.
  • Finding

    Food Stamp Program Boosts Farm Income and Jobs

    In fiscal year 2005, USDA provided $28.6 billion worth of food stamps to needy Americans. ERS researchers estimate that the additional food purchases resulting from each $1billion of food stamps redeemed generates $97 million in farm cash receipts, which translates into 950 farm jobs and $32 million of income to farmers and hired farmworkers.
  • Finding

    Despite Katrina, Overall Food Prices Stable

    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.
  • Finding

    Textile Trade Liberalization Brings Difficulties to Some Rural Communities

    The expiration of the MFA quotas has affected global trade, U.S. imports of textiles & apparel, U.S. jobs, and rural communities. U.S. textile and apparel employment has fallen by more than 900,000 jobs since 1994, nearly a 60-percent decline. Nonmetro counties in the Southeast have taken the brunt of the losses, with some rural communities hit especially hard. The displaced workers have found it more difficult to find new jobs than workerS displaced in other sectors.
  • Finding

    What Protects Japan’s Dairy Industry?

    Prices of Japanese milk and other dairy products are higher that in the U.S. Fluid milk is expensive because it is difficult to ship fluid milk into Japan from abroad. Japan's manufacturing milk is protected by high over quota tariffs on butter and milk powder. If Japan were to lower the tariffs, much of Japan's manufacturing milk production would be replaced by imports of butter and milk powder, providing new markets for producers of manufacturing milk in lower cost regions of the world.
  • Feature

    Agricultural Policy Affects Land Use and the Environment

    Economic forces and policy changes encourage producers to shift less productive, or 'marginal,' cropland in and out of production. Because marginal lands are also environmentally sensitive along several dimensions, cropland shifts have environmental, as well as economic, effects. Thus, agricultural and conservation programs that affect land use likely have more profound effects on erosion and some other environmental factors than on production.
  • Feature

    Global Agriculture and the Doha Round—Market Access Is the Key

    For the past 5 years, World Trade Organization (WTO) members have struggled to negotiate a new agreement in the Doha Development Round. In launching a new round of trade negotiations, WTO members recognized the contribution of the multilateral trading system to economic growth and development and pledged to continue reforming economic policies.
  • Feature

    Income Volatility Complicates Food Assistance

    Income fluctuations cause low-income families to cycle in and out of eligibility for food assistance programs. Twenty-eight percent of U.S. households with children experienced at least one monthly income change in the late 1990s that put them above or below the eligibility criteria for many programs.
  • Feature

    Food Assistance: How Strong Is the Safety Net?

    Food-assistance programs provide a safety net to help U.S. households purchase sufficient food. These programs, particularly the Food Stamp Program, increase food spending and household income. In 2004, adding food stamp benefits to recipients' incomes raised 9 percent of recipients out of poverty. Food assistance programs, particularly the school meals and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) programs, have also been promoted as offering access to essential nutrients and minerals, however, the nutritional effects of these programs are uncertain.
  • Statistic

    On The Map 2

    Today, nearly 35 million acres of environmentally sensitive cropland are enrolled in the CRP. Total acreage hasn’t changed much since 1990, but the geographic distribution of enrolled acres has shifted. About half of current CRP land is re-enrollment of land originally enrolled between 1986 and 1992; the remainder is newly enrolled land.
  • Statistic

    Cropland Use

    While Cropland Used for Crops Decreased by 8 Percent Nationally Between 1945 and 2002, Some Regions Exhibited Much Larger Percentage Changes.
  • Statistic

    On The Map

    USDA’s Conservation Compliance Program was designed to ensure that Federal farm programs did not encourage crop production on highly erodible land (HEL) in the absence of measures to protect against soil erosion. Under this program, farmers who grow crops on HEL must apply an approved soil conservation system or risk losing eligibility for Federal income support, conservation, and other payments.
  • Statistic

    In The Long Run

    Today, about half of the original wetlands area in the 48 contiguous States has been converted to other uses, mostly agriculture, but urbanization and other uses now account for most wetland conversion.
  • Statistic

    Behind The Data

    Measuring cropland area is essential for assessing the economic and environmental performance of U.S. agriculture. ERS tracks cropland in its annual “cropland used for crops” data series, which began in 1910. Cropland used for crops is the sum of cropland harvested, crop failure, and summer fallow.
  • Statistic

    Data Feature

    Since 1996, U.S. farmers have responded to a number of industry-altering changes, including lower crop prices, the availability of genetically engineered seed, and environmental incentives embodied in farm legislation. How have these shocks affected farming and conservation practices used by farmers? USDA's Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) provides a new source of information about production and conservation practices on sample fields in major field crop producing States.
  • Finding

    Hypoxia in the Gulf: Addressing Agriculture's Contribution

    The Northern Gulf of Mexico's hypoxic (oxygen-deficient) waters represent one of the Western Hemisphere's largest 'dead zones'--areas where lack of oxygen kills fish, crabs, and other marine life. Scientists believe that Gulf hypoxia is caused by nitrogen loads from the Mississippi River. Because two-thirds of the nitrogen in the Mississippi River comes from the use of fertilizer and manure on agricultural lands, reducing agricultural nitrogen is a major strategy for controlling the hypoxic zone. Nitrogen is reduced by either changes in the application of fertilizer on farms or by wetland restoration along rivers to filter out nitrogen before it reaches surface waters.
  • Finding

    Is Carbon Sequestration in Agriculture Economically Feasible?

    Increased atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse" gases have contributed to global warming over the last 50 years. Two options for reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere are to increase the amount of land planted with permanent grassland or forest vegetation and to reduce the frequency or intensity of tillage operations. Either option would store-or sequester-additional carbon on the affected lands, but, while technically feasible, these options are not always economically feasible.
  • Finding

    U.S. Organic Farm Sector Continues to Expand

    Most segments of the U.S. organic farm sector have expanded since USDA set uniform organic standards in 2000. Certified organic crop acreage increased 11 percent between 2001 and 2003, with large increases for fruits and vegetables and for hay crops used in dairy.
  • Finding

    Conservation Compliance May Reduce Soil Erosion

    With the 1985 Food Security Act, farmers are required to engage in conservation activities in order to receive government payments. This article focuses on the soil erosion impacts of 'conservation compliance', which requires producers to apply and maintain conservation systems on highly erodible (HEL) cropland that was already in crop production in 1985 or risk losing government farm price and income support. The article finds that following implementation of conservation compliance and other conservation policy changes, soil erosion on U.S. cropland fell significantly.
  • Finding

    Rural Amenities: A Key Reason for Farmland Protection

    While conversions of farmland to urban uses represent less than 0.1 percent of U.S. farmland per year, local farmland losses continue to cause concern and motivate growing public support for farmland protection.
  • Finding

    A Multitude of Design Decisions Influence Conservation Program Performance

    Designing a voluntary conservation program requires several types of decision criteria to encourage farmers to apply and to determine who can participate in the program. These decisions act as a winnowing process, starting with all farmers and ranchers and resulting in a pool of program participants.
  • Feature

    Environmental Credit Trading: Can Farming Benefit?

    Environmental credit trading is a market-based approach to complying with regulations with the potential to achieve pollution abatement goals at least cost to society. Agriculture can contribute to credit trading programs by generating pollution-reduction credits through the adoption of environmentally preferred practices and selling the credits to regulated firms.
  • Feature

    Improving Air and Water Quality Can Be Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Agricultural production practices have generated a variety of substances that enter the atmosphere and have the potential of creating health and environmental problems. The air in some farming communities can be as impaired by pollutants such as ozone and particulates as air in urban areas. Two challenges for reducing air emissions from agriculture are potential inter-relationships with water quality, and a lack of information on farm-level emissions needed for effective regulation and management.
  • Feature

    Farmland Retirement's Impact on Rural Growth

    This article addresses an unintended consequences of high levels of enrollment in the CRP, that of farmland retirement's impact of rural growth. To examine this issue, this article examines the local socioeconomic changes that accompanied CRP enrollment in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and discusses ERS analysis of the potential employment and output changes if all land currently enrolled in the program could be put to other uses, given the current distribution of land, prevailing commodity market conditions, and public policies.
  • Feature

    Land Retirement and Working-land Conservation Structures: A Look at Farmers' Choices

    All sizes and types of farms have adopted conservation practices and installed conservation structures. Programs that support a wide range of alternative conservation practices are more likely to match the wide range of interests of farmers. Recent ERS research suggests that farms and farm households that install working-land conservation structures-such as contour strips or grass waterways-often differ from those that retire farmland.
  • Feature

    Measuring the Success of Conservation Programs

    Due to the influence and interactions of many factors, evaluation of conservation programs is a data-intensive and technically challenging process. This article provides an overview of the steps necessary for evaluating the success of conservation program. These steps must address two questions: 1) How do different farm operators in different circumstances decide what production and conservation practices to implement, in the presence and absence of the conservation program being evaluated, at different levels of incentives provided by that program?; and 2) How do the farm practices attributable to conservation program incentives affect environmental quality?
  • Feature

    Emphasis Shifts in U.S. Conservation Policy

    This article describes the policy shift in the 2002 Farm Bill toward increased funding of conservation policies, and shifting conservation priorities. The share of conservation funds allocated to working lands (land used for crop production or grazing) will increase, a modest increase in retirement programs will focus largely on wetland restoration, and the role of benefit-cost targeting in working land programs will be reduced, potentially reducing the cost-effectiveness of these programs.
  • Statistic

    Behind The Data

    The ERS per capita food availability data are a historical series that measure the national food supply of several hundred foods. It is the only source of time series data on food availability in the country.
  • Statistic

    Behind The Data

    USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) uses the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) to evaluate and rank land offered for enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The EBI aggregates different environmental objectives and a cost objective into a single number.
  • Statistic

    In The Long Run

    Government payments peaked twice at $24 billion, measured in 2003 dollars. The first peak occurred in 1987, just after the end of the farm financial crisis. The second peak occurred in 2000, due to payments enacted by Congress in response to falling export demand and regional crop failures. Payments also spiked at $14 billion in 1993, due largely to high feed grain production and disaster payments for droughts and floods.
  • Statistic

    On The Map

    Nonmetro county population change, 2005; Half grew, half declined
  • Statistic

    Research Areas

    Research area charts from the June 2006 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Farm, Rural, Natural Resources and Food and Fiber Sector Indicators section - April 2006
  • Statistic

    Data Feature

    ERS's Foodborne Illness Cost Calculator provides detailed information about the assumptions behind ERS's cost estimates for two foodborne pathogens-Salmonella and Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O157 (STEC O157). The Calculator also allows users to alter these assumptions and generate custom cost estimates.
  • Finding

    Do Food Industry Mergers and Acquisitions Affect Wages and Employment?

    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.
  • Finding

    Who Gets Farm Program Payments?

    This article discusses the sources, distribution, and year-to-year variation in government payments from farm programs.
  • Finding

    Conservation Programs: Balancing Outcomes With a Selection Index

    Conservation program managers often use a “selection index” to rank and select applicants based on how well the offered land provides environmental improvements in a cost effective manner. This finding describes how changing the relative priorities of program objectives in the selection index affect outcomes in the Conservation Reserve Program.
  • Finding

    Growing More With Less Cropland

    This finding describes the national trends in cropland acreage and agricultural productivity.
  • Finding

    Americans Switch From Fresh to Frozen Potatoes

    While potatoes have been a mainstay of the American diet for generations, how potatoes are eaten has changed dramatically. In 1960, Americans consumed a yearly average of 81 pounds of fresh potatoes and 7.6 pounds of frozen potatoes. In 2004, the average American consumed 46.5 pounds of fresh potatoes and 56.4 pounds of frozen potatoes, mainly french fries. Taste, convenience, technology, and the growing away-from-home market have all played a role.
  • Finding

    Children's Diets and WIC

    An ERS study found that children who participate in WIC drank more WIC-approved juice and ate more WIC-approved cereal than did eligible nonparticipating children and children from higher income families. Other studies found that while protein, calcium, and vitamins A and C are no longer lacking in the diets of preschool children, some preschoolers are consuming too many calories and not enough vitamin E and fiber.
  • Finding

    Asia Leads World in Reducing Hunger

    Asia has led the world in reducing hunger (down about 30 percent). Examples of success include Bangladesh and Vietnam, both of which already have met the World Food Summit goal.
  • Finding

    India and U.S. Could Gain From Liberalizing Oilseed Trade

    India imports a large share of its vegetable oil consumption. One reason is that the high tariffs on India's soybean imports makes domestic oil production very expensive. Indian vegetable oil producers and U.S. soybean exporters could both gain if India were to liberalize its oilseed trade.
  • Feature

    Where Should the Money Go? Aligning Policies With Preferences

    Budget constraints force policymakers to choose which programs to fund, even when human health and safety are at risk. The principle of weighing costs and benefits can help policymakers determine which programs will save the most lives or lead to the largest improvements in health and well-being. This Amber Waves feature article examines different ways economists (and others) look at placing monetary values on risks and preferences.
  • Feature

    A Revolution in Food Retailing Underway in the Asia-Pacific Region

    This article assesses the causes and impacts of the rapid spread of modern retail outlets in the developing Asia-Pacific region. These modern outlets are contributing to food-system modernization and efficiency, lower food costs, and higher food quality and safety standards. Enhanced food-system distribution chains needed to support these supermarkets also overcome the logistical challenges arising from rapid urbanization. Specialized suppliers are emerging to help modern supermarkets do business with small-scale producers and traditional market channels, thus being an important force for food-system modernization.
  • Feature

    Land Retirement and Working-Land Conservation Structures: A Look at Farmers' Choices

    All sizes and types of farms have adopted conservation practices and installed conservation structures. Programs that support a wide range of alternative conservation practices are more likely to match the wide range of interests of farmers. Recent ERS research suggests that farms and farm households that install working-land conservation structures-such as contour strips or grass waterways-often differ from those that retire farmland.
  • Feature

    Meat-Processing Firms Attract Hispanic Workers to Rural America

    Hispanics increasingly meet labor demand arising from industry restructuring.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Farm, Rural, Natural Resources and Food and Fiber Sector Indicators section - April 2006
  • Statistic

    In The Long Run

    In the Long Run - April 2006
  • Statistic

    On The Map

    On the Map - April 2006
  • Statistic

    Research Areas

    Research Areas: Markets and Trade, Diet and Health, Farms Firms and Households and Rural America - April 2006
  • Statistic

    Data Feature

    China's emergence as a fruit and vegetable exporter presents a new source of competition for U.S. producers. China's fruit and vegetable exports have increased most rapidly in three categories: apples, apple juice, and fresh vegetables. Since 2003, China's apple exports have surpassed those of the United States and have made inroads into major U.S. export markets. China is now the world's leading exporter of apple juice, and U.S. apple juice producers face both import competition and loss of export markets. China's rising exports of fresh vegetables have begun to compete with U.S. exports to Asian markets, and in some cases U.S. market shares have slipped. Growing domestic demand for fruit and vegetables is likely to reduce the supply available for export. As Chinese household incomes rise, fruit and vegetable consumption will rise, as will the variety demanded.
  • Finding

    Specialized Wheat Farms Earn Less than Other Farms

    The U.S. wheat sector is facing decreased demand as consumer preferences have changed and increased competition in export markets. Specialized wheat farms--farms that depend upon wheat for over half of their receipts--are concentrated in the Great Plains and the Pacific Northwest and account for over 40 percent of total wheat production. The long-term viability of specialized wheat farms depends heavily on government payments. Without government payments, fewer than 20 percent of the specialized wheat farms would have had farm revenue greater than economic costs. With government payments, nearly a third of the farms were financially viable.
  • Finding

    Peanut Sector Resilient Despite Policy Challenges

    U.S. peanut growers in recent years have confronted pressures from market forces and the impacts of policy developments, both domestic and international. Most notably, peanut policy was transformed in 2002 by the elimination of a decades-old marketing quota system. This policy step represented a fundamental change that was accompanied by substantial adjustments in the peanut sector.
  • Finding

    Economic Research Helps Manage Invasive Species

    Increased movement of people and products across international borders heightens the risk of introducing invasive species-such as the longhorn beetle or the imported fire ant-that can reduce crop and livestock production or harm natural resources and amenities. In response, ERS initiated the Program of Research on the Economics of Invasive Species Management (PREISM) in 2003, whereby ERS funds several extramural research projects each year and conducts inhouse research . PREISM research focuses on three general themes: international dimensions of invasive species (IS) prevention and management; development and application of methods to analyze important IS issues, policies, and programs; and analysis of economic, institutional, and behavioral factors affecting decisions to prevent or manage IS.
  • Finding

    U.S. Organic Farm Sector Continues to Expand

    Most segments of the U.S. organic farm sector have expanded since USDA set uniform organic standards in 2000. Certified organic crop acreage increased 11 percent between 2001 and 2003, with large increases for fruits and vegetables and for hay crops used in dairy.
  • Finding

    Chicken Consumption Continues Longrun Rise

    U.S. chicken consumption has climbed since the 1940s and now stands at 59.2 pounds per person. Part of this rise results from the chicken industry's response to demands by consumers and foodservice operators for value-added, brand-name, and convenience products. Innovations in breeding, mass production, contract farming, and marketing have made chicken more plentiful and affordable.
  • Finding

    How Low-Income Households Economize on Groceries

    ERS researchers investigated the food purchases of low-income shoppers in four product categories: breakfast cereals, cheese, meat/poultry, and fruits/vegetables. Comparisons across income groups show that the poor economize on food by buying more non-UPC coded foods on sale, a greater proportion of private-label (store-brand) products, and less expensive varieties of meats, fruits, and vegetables. These economizing practices allowed the poor to spend 4.8 percent less for food products from the four categories.
  • Finding

    Chinese Banks Carry Out Rural Policy

    China has been pushing vast amounts of cash into its countryside through rural financial institutions since 2001. The value of outstanding agricultural loans more than doubled in 4 years, from $60 billion in 2001 to $145 billion in late 2005. The boost in agricultural lending is part of a policy campaign to bolster the rural economy, where growth is lagging far behind that of China's booming cities. Some of the loans finance agribusiness firms, rural roads, water projects, and other infrastructure. Most of the loans, however, are small short-term loans of less than $1,000 made to agricultural households by rural credit cooperatives, the primary financial institutions serving rural communities.
  • Finding

    Brazil Emerges As Major Force in Global Meat Markets

    Since 2004, Brazil has been the world's largest beef and poultry exporter and fourth-largest pork exporter, with total meat sales generating over US$8 billion. Exports have been driven by the combination of rising incomes in many parts of the world and Brazil's ready availability of land and feed resources to support meat production. Brazil's poultry meat exports account for 41 percent of global trade. Export destinations include the EU-25, Middle Eastern countries, Japan, Russia, and Hong Kong.
  • Feature

    Ethanol Reshapes the Corn Market

    This article examines the possible market impacts of the ongoing expansion of the U.S. ethanol sector. To meet the sector's growing demand for corn, some of the corn produced in the United States is likely to be diverted from exports. In the future, corn may cease to be the main feedstock for U.S. ethanol production if cellulosic biomass is successfully developed as an alternative.
  • Feature

    Economic Effects of Animal Diseases Linked to Trade Dependency

    In the last decade, animal disease outbreaks have repeatedly disrupted meat trade. The economic effects of disease-related trade bans and consumption changes on an individual country depend on the size of its meat trade relative to domestic production or consumption as well as consumers' perceptions about potential risks to their own health. While production or consumption in some countries has declined significantly, at the global level meat trade has risen, despite the disease outbreaks.
  • Feature

    Agriculture and Rural Communities Are Resilient to High Energy Costs

    Higher energy costs have led agricultural producers to substitute more expensive fuels with less expensive fuels, shift to less energy-intensive crops, and employ energy-conserving production practices where possible. Energy price increases will have the biggest impact on farmers where energy represents a significant share of operating costs. Rural communities face somewhat different issues with increases in petroleum and natural gas costs. As the cost of producing goods and services rises, so will household costs for transportation and home heating. Because of higher transportation expenses, rural communities may see changes in settlement patterns, especially in more remote rural areas.
  • Feature

    Public Information Creates Value

    Using information, individuals can make sound decisions that allow them to adjust their actions to the situation at-hand. Farmers facing a potential pest infection, such as soybean rust, can use publicly provided information about the likelihood of infection to make better decisions about the amount and timing of fungicide applications.
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    Research Areas

    Indicators: Markets and Trade, Diet and Health, Farms Firms and Households and Rural America - February 2006
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    Profiles

    Amber Waves profiles - February 2006
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    New Releases

    Highlights of new publications from ERS - February 2006
  • Statistic

    Recent Meetings

    Snapshots of recent events at ERS - February 2006
  • Statistic

    Current Activities

    Previews of research in the works at ERS - February 2006
  • Statistic

    In The Long Run

    Indicators: In the Long Run - February 2006
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    On The Map

    Indicators: On the Map - February 2006
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    Behind The Data

    Indicators behind the data - February 2006
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    Data Feature

    The incidence of poverty is commonly used as an indicator of economic well-being for places or groups of people. But a simple dichotomy of poor versus not poor at a given time may conceal much that would broaden our understanding of poverty. ERS defines counties as high- and persistent-poverty areas if 20 percent or more of their population had poverty-level incomes in each of the four decennial censuses since 1970.
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    Indicators

    Farm, Rural, Natural Resources and Food and Fiber Sector Indicators section - February 2006
  • Finding

    Recreation Counties Are the Fastest Growing Nonmetro Counties

    The appeal of rural areas for recreation has a long history, going back as far as colonial times, when places with restorative hot springs emerged as resorts. Today some rural communities are capitalizing on their recreational appeal to foster new economic development, helping retain or increase population. Researchers from ERS and Loyola University Chicago have identified 300 nonmetropolitan (nonmetro) counties that have a major dependence on recreational activity (recreation counties).
  • Finding

    Farm Cash Margins Expected to Tighten in 2006

    In 2006, net farm income is forecast to be $56.2 billion, just above its 10-year average of $55.7 billion. Income is forecast to be lower than in 2004-05 due to lower commodity prices, reduced marketing, lower government payments, and increased production costs, especially for energy-based purchased inputs. Payments to laborers, creditors, and landlords are forecast to reach record levels, with most of the increase over 2005 accounted for by interest payments and rising labor costs. This article presents the latest farm income forecasts from ERS.
  • Finding

    Internet on the Range

    Over the last decade, the Internet has become a standard tool used in the workplace. Access to and use of the Internet has increased since the 1990s for all regions of the country, most types of workplaces, and all income groups. While many see the Internet as ubiquitous, it has not yet become universal. Rural areas lag urban areas in access to the Internet, and a gap is evident between farm and nonfarm workplaces.
  • Finding

    Home Financing: Rural-Urban Differences

    The homeownership rate in America is at a record high (69 percent of households). Whether in rural or urban areas, most home purchases are financed by a home mortgage. For rural homeowners, however, mortgage rates are often higher than for urban homeowners, and lenders may impose more stringent requirements for financing a rural residence.
  • Finding

    Use of Conservation-Compatible Practices Varies by Farm Type

    The decision to adopt environmentally friendly farming practices may be motivated by both monetary and non-monetary factors. Operators of small farms and those who derive most of their income from off-farm sources are less likely to adopt practices that require extra time, management skills, or expense than operators of larger operations.
  • Finding

    Regulating Ammonia Emissions From Hog Farms Would Raise Costs

    A recent ERS study considers the economic and environmental implications of a hypothetical ammonia emissions restriction for the U.S. hog industry. The study finds that the effects of the policy on costs and emissions would vary by region and by the type of manure storage system used.
  • Finding

    New Pathogen Tests Trigger Food Safety Innovations

    The increased demand for pathogen testing that began in the early 1990s is being matched by an increased supply of sophisticated testing systems. DNA-based tests deliver results that are more comprehensive, sensitive, and accurate in a shorter time and at a lower cost. Information provided by these tests has enabled the food industry to improve the safety of food.
  • Finding

    India’s High Internal Marketing Costs Reduce Apple Demand

    India's imports of apples are hindered not only by high tariffs, but also by high internal marketing costs which raise the price of the final product.
  • Finding

    U.S. Tobacco Sector Regroups

    The 2005/06 crop year is the first year that tobacco growers have faced without the previous tobacco program. This year has been marked by a 25 percent decline in area and production. But there have also been shifts in geographical distribution and varieties grown. Growers in the Southeast, Pennsylvania, and Maryland are increasing their output of burley at the expense of other varieties.
  • Feature

    Food Stamps and Obesity: Ironic Twist or Complex Puzzle?

    With its roots in the Great Depression and expansion during the 1970s after the Government’s declared war on poverty, the Food Stamp Program was designed to provide a nutritional safety net for low-income households while boosting demand for domestic agricultural products.
  • Feature

    Agricultural Contracting: Trading Autonomy for Risk Reduction

    Farm production is shifting from smaller to larger family farms and from spot (or cash) markets to contracts. Technological developments may underlie much of the shift to larger farms, but expanded use of production and marketing contracts supports that shift by reducing financial risks for farm operators. For farm operators, contracts provide benefits from reduced risks, but also result in loss of managerial control and reduced autonomy.
  • Feature

    The World Bids Farewell to the Multifiber Arrangement

    The Amber Waves article, “The World Bids Farewell to the Multifiber Arrangement,” reviews the genesis and implications of the Multifibre Arrangement (MFA) in the context of the recent removal of the textile import quotas by the United States, the European Union, and Canada. The implications for cotton trade and trade with China, India, and other developing countries are discussed.
  • Feature

    EU and U.S. Organic Markets Face Strong Demand Under Different Policies

    The article compares EU-15 and US policies regarding organic agriculture, and compares the farm sector and retail markets in the two regions.
  • Feature

    Environmental Credit Trading: Can Farming Benefit?

    Environmental credit trading is a market-based approach to complying with regulations with the potential to achieve pollution abatement goals at least cost to society. Agriculture can contribute to credit trading programs by generating pollution-reduction credits through the adoption of environmentally preferred practices and selling the credits to regulated firms.
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    Profiles

    Amber Waves profiles - November 2005
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    New Releases

    Highlights of new publications from ERS - November 2005
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    Recent Meetings

    Snapshots of recent events at ERS - November 2005
  • Statistic

    Current Activities

    Current activities, recent meetings and new releases, November 2005
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    In the Long Run

    Indicators: In the Long Run - November 2005
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    On the Map

    Indicators: On the Map - November 2005
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    Research Areas

    Indicators: Markets and Trade, Diet and Health, Resources and Environment and Rural America - November 2005
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    Behind the Data

    Indicators: Behind the Data - November 2005
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    Indicators

    Farm, Rural, Natural Resources and Food and Fiber Sector Indicators section - November 2005
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    Data Feature

    The American Time Use Survey (ATUS) collects information on how Americans spend a critical resource-their time. The Survey reports on time spent on work, household chores, child care, recreation, and numerous other activities. Starting in 2005-06, the Survey will include an ERS-developed module consisting of questions designed to examine time use; purchasing, preparing, and consuming food; and obesity.
  • Finding

    Financial Assistance to Farmers is Evolving

    The U.S. Government has long provided financial assistance to farmers. Today’s payments, like those of the past, are mostly commodity based. Since farm production is shifting to much larger farms, and because commodity payments follow production, they are increasingly directed to high-income households. Only a small share of government commodity payments now goes to low-income households.
  • Finding

    A Multitude of Design Decisions Influence Conservation Program Performance

    Designing a voluntary conservation program requires several types of decision criteria to encourage farmers to apply and to determine who can participate in the program. These decisions act as a winnowing process, starting with all farmers and ranchers and resulting in a pool of program participants.
  • Finding

    Patenting and Licensing Are Tools for Technology Transfer

    Research at the USDA Agricultural Research Service and other public research agencies sometimes results in the discovery of potentially marketable products, technologies, and innovations. ARS can transfer these discoveries to the private sector through the use of patents and licensing agreements, which encourages further research, development and commercialization of new products that benefit consumers.
  • Finding

    Stable Farm Count Masks Turnover

    U.S. farm exit rates are high, but comparable with those for other small businesses. High exit rates are partially off-set by high entrance rates.
  • Finding

    U.S. Food Consumption Up 16 Percent Since 1970

    According to ERS's food consumption (per capita) data series, the amount of food available to eat increased 16 percent between 1970 and 2003, from 1,675 pounds per person to 1,950 pounds. This increase resulted in a corresponding jump in calories, from 2,234 calories per person per day in 1970 to 2,757 calories in 2003. Fats and oils, grains, vegetables, and sugars/sweeteners showed the largest increases.
  • Finding

    Going With the Grain: Consumers Responding to New Dietary Guidelines

    For the first time, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans single out whole grains, recommending that half of all daily grain servings come from whole-grain foods. Analysis of ACNielsen Homescan data show the popularity of whole-grain products appears to be rising. Comparing purchases during the 8 weeks before and after the release of the Guidelines, ERS found that shoppers bought nearly 12 percent more whole-grain breads, 19 percent more whole-grain rice, and 16 percent more whole-grain ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.
  • Finding

    Mandatory Livestock Price Reporting: More Transparent?

    As more and more livestock was traded under contract during the 1990s, USDA's Market News reports were based on an ever declining number of transactions. In response to producer concerns that unreported contract prices were higher than spot market prices, Congress passed the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act in 1999. Based on prices reported since then, it appears that contract prices are not significantly higher than spot market. In addition, the share of livestock traded on open markets is now increasing.
  • Finding

    U.S. Could Expand Apple Exports to Japan

    The World Trade Organization (WTO) recently ruled that Japan's phytosanitary protocol for imports of U.S. apples was not justified and was in breach of Japan's WTO obligations. Japan has implemented new rules as a result that will make it easier for U.S. apple exporters to create a market in Japan. Japanese apple consumption is currently quite low, but this could change in the future.
  • Finding

    Indian Cotton Yield Gains Could Limit Imports

    Bt Cotton hybrids were first approved for India in 2002, and in 2005 Bt cotton varieties accounted for 17 percent of India’s cotton area. Yields have grown by 45-87 percent as a result of the new technology. The result could be a decline in import demand.
  • Feature

    U.S. Dairy at a New Crossroads in a Global Setting

    This Amber Waves articles addresses how global dairy markets have changed and asks the question whether dairy policies stand in the way of the industry taking advantage of new market opportunities.
  • Feature

    Changing Federal Tax Policies Affect Farm Households Differently

    Recent Federal tax legislation has reduced income tax rates for both individuals and businesses and cut the number of farm estates that owe Federal estate taxes. Commercial farmers are the primary beneficiaries of the reduced business and estate taxes.
  • Feature

    Education as a Rural Development Strategy

    Good schools and a well-educated labor force benefit both workers and their communities. But rural areas often face special challenges in their efforts to raise school quality and educational attainment.
  • Feature

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

    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.
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    Profiles

    Amber Waves profiles - September 2005
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    In the Long Run: Another Look at Farm Poverty

    In 1991, the last year it was estimated by the Census Bureau, the farm poverty rate was 12.5 percent. Using 2000 Census data, ERS estimated the poverty rate for people living on farms at 9.7 percent.
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    On the Map: Certified Organic Handling Facilities Concentrated on Pacific Coast

    Just over 3,000 organic handling facilities were certified to USDA standards to handle organic products in 2004. Forty-one percent of these facilities are on the Pacific Coast.
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    Research Areas

    Indicators: Markets and Trade, Diet and Health, Resources and Environment and Rural America - September 2005
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    Behind the Data: Estimating the Raw-Fiber Equivalent of U.S. Cotton Textile and Apparel Imports

    The data behind the ERS raw-fiber equivalent estimates come from product-specific shipment volumes collected by the U.S. Department of Commerce. More than 3,000 different textile and apparel products containing cotton are imported by the U.S. annually and are converted to raw-fiber equivalents using factors developed by ERS.
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    Indicators

    Farm, Rural, Natural Resources and Food and Fiber Sector Indicators - September 2005
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    Composite Measure of Economic Well-Being

    ERS has developed a composite measure of economic well-being (CWB) that incorporates the income received from all sources by the farm household with an annuity based on the amount of marketable wealth held by the household. The richness of data collected through USDA's Agricultural Resource Management Survey in recent years allows for a more comprehensive and robust measure of economic well-being.
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    Recent Meetings

    Snapshots of recent events at ERS - September 2005
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    New Releases

    Highlights of new publications from ERS - September 2005
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    Current Activities

    Previews of research in the works at ERS - September 2005
  • Finding

    Older Women and Poverty in Rural America

    Rural areas generally have a higher proportion of older persons than urban areas, and nonmetro poverty rates for older persons are higher than metro rates. Women constituted 65 percent of the rural poor age 65 and older in 2003. In rural areas, 10 percent of men versus 17 percent of women age 85 and older were poor.
  • Finding

    Low Earnings But Steady Job Growth in Low-Employment Counties

    In 2000, overall job growth in low-employment counties was steady but slower than in nonmetro areas. Nonmetro low-employment counties also had lower earnings per job in 2000 than all other nonmetro counties. Low wages reduce the incentive to enter the labor market, especially among adults in families that require child care.
  • Finding

    Use of Genetically Engineered Crops Rising Steadily During First Decade

    The adoption of genetically engineered soybeans, corn, and cotton in the U.S. expanded rapidly since these crops were introduced 10 years ago. U.S. farmers are realizing tangible economic benefits from adopting these crops through higher yields, lower pesticide costs, and savings in management time.
  • Finding

    Crop Genetic Diversity Boosts Production But Faces Threats

    Crop yields have risen steadily over the last century due in part to sustained research, improvements to seeds, and access to diverse genetic resources. Crop genetic diversity, however, is threatened by habitat loss, conversion from farmer-developed varieties to scientifically bred varieties, and genetic uniformity in scientifically bred varieties.
  • Finding

    Diet Quality Usually Varies by Income Status

    Low-income groups tend to have lower quality diets than high-income groups. Higher income expands food choices and is related to factors that tend to improve diet quality, including higher education, better access to well-stocked grocery stores, and greater diet and health knowledge.
  • Finding

    How Americans Quench Their Thirsts

    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.
  • Finding

    Farmland Owners Designate Base Acres to Maximize Payments

    The 2002 Farm Act provided farmland owners the opportunity to designate commodity program base acres and payment yields, program parameters that are used to determine direct and countercyclical payments. Farmland owners generally chose the alternative that provided the highest direct and countercyclical payments, a distinctly different economic decision than that underlying year-to-year planting decisions.
  • Finding

    Some Improvements Are Projected for Global Food Security

    The number of people worldwide consuming below the nutritional requirement is estimated to decline about 27 percent between 2004 and 2014. Performance by region varies significantly, with the sharpest declines projected for the Asian and Latin American/Caribbean regions, each at 46 percent.
  • Finding

    Organic Price Premiums Remain High

    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.
  • Finding

    China's Food Market Revolution Reaches the Countryside

    China's rural households have traditionally met most of their basic nutritional needs on a diet composed mainly of rice, wheat flour, other grains, and vegetables that they grow themselves. But this is slowly changing as supermarkets and restaurants, which dominant the urban landscape, have begun to penetrate rural areas.
  • Feature

    Improving Air and Water Quality Can Be Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Agricultural production practices have generated a variety of substances that enter the atmosphere and have the potential of creating health and environmental problems. Two challenges for reducing air emissions from agriculture are potential inter-relationships with water quality, and a lack of information on farm-level emissions needed for effective regulation and management.
  • Feature

    Rural Areas Benefit From Recreation and Tourism Development

    Recreation and tourism development contributes to rural well-being, increasing local employment, wage levels, and income; reducing poverty; and improving education and health. But recreation and tourism development is not without drawbacks, including higher housing costs.
  • Feature

    Farm Poverty Lowest in U.S. History

    Fifty years ago, half of all U.S. farm families were poor. Today, however, farm poverty is at its lowest level in the Nation's history due to the availability of remunerative off-farm employment coupled with onfarm gains in labor productivity.
  • Feature

    Asia-Pacific Transportation Infrastructure: Linking Food Sources to Urban Centers

    The Asia-Pacific food system faces the challenge of rapid urbanization and concentration of food demand, while food-producing areas remain geographically dispersed. Sustaining growth in urban food demand requires streamlining domestic supply chains or negotiating trade agreements to open domestic markets to foreign food supplies, or some combination of approaches.
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    Profiles

    Amber Waves profiles - June 2005
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run: Farm Population as a Share of Total U.S. Population

    Farm population has fallen steadily as a share of total U.S. population for more than a century.
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    On the Map: Average Farm Size Grows Most Rapidly in Mountain States

    Average farm size in the U.S. has increased fairly steadily over the last century, but growth patterns vary by region and time periods.
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    Research Areas

    Indicators: Markets and Trade, Diet and Health, Resources and Environment and Rural America - June 2005
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    Behind the Data: Population Interaction Zones for Agriculture

    Indicators: Behind the Data - June 2005
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    Indicators

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America, June 2014 June 2005
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    Data Feature

    U.S. agriculture underwent a tremendous transformation during the 20th century--the structure of farming and rural life barely today resembles that of the early 1900s. A comparison of data across the century reveals trends of increasing farm size, falling farm population, increasing specialization of farms, and the growing importance of new stakeholders.
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    New Releases

    Highlights of new publications from ERS - June 2005
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    Recent Meetings

    Snapshots of recent events at ERS - June 2005
  • Statistic

    Current Activities

    Previews of research in the works at ERS - June 2005
  • Finding

    Most Low Education Counties Are in the Nonmetro South

    ERS's recently revised county typology classifies low education counties as those where at least one of every four adults age 25-64 has not completed high school. Nearly 9 of 10 low education counties are located in the South, including a majority of southern counties with historically large shares of Blacks and Hispanics.
  • Finding

    Rural America as a Retirement Destination

    ERS has identified 277 rural retirement-destination counties where the population age 60 and older grew by 15 percent or more in the 1990s through net inmigration. In contrast, only 36 rural counties qualified as retirement areas during 1950-60, when data were first available.
  • Finding

    Ag Biotech Patents on the Move

    Although small agbiotech companies and seed companies originated 37 percent of a sample of patents issued between 1976 and 2000, large chemical, multinational, and European companies owned 99 percent of the total by 2002. Mergers and acquisitions will probably continue to affect intellectual property ownership and industry structure.
  • Finding

    Production Shifting to Very Large Family Farms

    Small farms still account for most U.S. farms, but their share of the value of U.S. agricultural production fell by nearly a third between 1993 and 2003. The number of very large family farms rose by nearly half, while their share of production grew from 33 to 44 percent.
  • Finding

    Ag Productivity Drives Output Growth

    Productivity has been the engine of economic growth in U.S. agriculture, averaging 1.8 percent per year from 1949 to 2002. This rate (compounded annually) caused output to grow significantly so that by 2002, output was 2.6 times as high as it was in 1948.
  • Finding

    After Leaving Welfare: Food Stamps or Not?

    USDA's Food Stamp Program can ease the transition from welfare to independence by supplementing the resources of the working poor. However, many individuals who leave cash welfare drop off the food stamp rolls, even though they appear to be eligible.
  • Finding

    Companies Continue To Offer New Foods Targeted to Children

    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.
  • Finding

    China's New Farm Policies Have Modest Impact

    New farm policies introduced by the Chinese Government in 2004 are intended to address the country’s widening urban-rural income gap and boost grain production. So far, the changes have had limited impact.
  • Finding

    Future of Preferential Trade Programs Concerns

    Both the U.S. and the EU have granted a large array of trade preferences to developing countries, which allow imports from those countries at reduced tariffs. Ongoing trade negotiations, however, are creating uncertainty about the future of these programs.
  • Finding

    U.S. Fruit and Vegetable Imports Outpace Exports

    The U.S., traditionally a net exporter of fruits and vegetables, has become a large net importer, with imports more than doubling between 1994 and 2004 to reach $12.7 billion. U.S. exports of fruits and vegetables have also risen but less rapidly, reaching $9.7 billion in 2004.
  • Feature

    Why Hasn't Crop Insurance Eliminated Disaster Assistance?

    In 1995, 80 percent of eligible U.S. farm acreage was enrolled in crop insurance. Still, Congress has continued to pass ad hoc disaster assistance measures in reaction to drought and other adverse events. Since 2000, four such programs have been authorized, covering 6 crop years for a total cost of about $10 billion.
  • Feature

    Obesity Policy and the Law of Unintended Consequences

    The list of policies that could potentially help Americans turn the corner on obesity and overweight is as long as the list of factors that influence an individual’s diet and lifestyle choices. The list of unintended consequences stemming from obesity policy is probably longer.
  • Feature

    North America Moves Toward One Market

    The agricultural economies of Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. are increasingly behaving as if they form one market. Not only is U.S. agricultural trade with Canada and Mexico on a clear upward trend, but firms are reorganizing their activities around continental markets for both inputs and outputs.
  • Feature

    Will 2005 Be the Year of the Whole Grain?

    The 2005 Dietary Guidelines encourage all Americans over age 2 to eat roughly half of their recommended 5 to 10 daily servings of grains, depending on calorie needs. The goal of this new recommendation is to improve Americans' health by raising awareness of whole grains and their role in nutritious diets. The Guidelines could also have big impacts on farmers and farm production.
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    Profiles

    Amber Waves profiles - April 2005
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    In the Long Run

    Indicators: In the Long Run - April 2005
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    On the Map

    Indicators: On the Map - April 2005
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    Research Areas

    Indicators: Markets and Trade, Diet and Health, Resources and Environment and Rural America - April 2005
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    Behind the Data

    Indicators: Behind the Data - April 2005
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    Indicators

    Farm, Rural, Natural Resources and Food and Fiber Sector Indicators - April 2005
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    Data Feature

    USDA monitors the food security of the Nation's households through an annual, nationally representative household survey. Food security for a household means that all household members have access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security is a foundation for a healthy, well-nourished population. In the food security survey, about 50,000 surveyed households respond to a series of questions about food expenditures, use of Federal and community food assistance programs, and behaviors and experiences known to characterize households having difficulty meeting their food needs.
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    New Releases

    Highlights of new publications from ERS - April 2005
  • Statistic

    Current Activities

    Previews of research in the works at ERS - April 2005
  • Finding

    New Tax Laws Benefit Farmers

    The American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 replaced an existing tax benefit for exporters with a new deduction for manufacturers, including farmers. The Act also modified other provisions that will provide farmers with increased flexibility with regard to the reporting of farm income.
  • Finding

    Small Farms Can Grow Into Large Enterprises

    An analysis of agricultural census data covering the period 1982-1997 identified farm businesses that produced high-valued commodities and also had less than $10,000 in annual gross sales in 1982, but had more than $100,000 annual gross sales in 1997. These farm operations are labeled emergent adaptive farms (EAF). The farm and operator characteristics of these farm businesses are examined.
  • Finding

    Former Welfare Recipients Affect Economic Growth and Wages

    A goal of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) is to move recipients of public assistance into jobs. ERS researchers examined some of the labor market impacts of the "welfare-to-work" provisions of PRWORA. Results show that the influx of public assistance recipients into the labor force from 1996 to 2000 reduced wage growth in low-skill occupations. Concurrently, the influx of former welfare recipients added workers to the labor force, contributing to economic growth during the period.
  • Finding

    Population Loss Counties Lack Natural Amenities and Metro Proximity

    Population growth is often a key indicator of economic and social well-being. Population loss, on the other hand, often signals weak economic conditions in the community. Hundreds of towns throughout a wide swath of America's Heartland face an entrenched form of population loss, often covering several decades. To highlight the fiscal and policy choices stemming from such conditions, ERS added Population-Loss Counties to its recently updated county typology. Population-loss counties are those that lost population in both the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Finding

    Americans' Whole-Grain Consumption Below Guidelines

    The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that half of all daily grain servings be whole grains. After adjusting ERS' food availability data for waste and losses, Americans were eating an average of 10 servings of grains a day in 2003, with whole grains accounting for just over 1 serving. For those consumers reporting they ate whole grain foods, the bulk of those foods consisted of whole-grain crackers, salty snacks, and ready-to-eat cereals.
  • Finding

    Hog Contracts Signal Producers To Improve Quality

    Many marketing contracts between packers and hog producers award price premiums for carcass leanness and weight, providing strong incentives for producers to raise lean hogs. But this leanness comes at a cost. The genetic lines that produced leaner hogs were often carriers of the "stress" gene, which is linked to the undesirable PSE condition. Packers have turned to marketing contracts to limit PSE problems by specifying genetic lines and hog handling procedures.
  • Finding

    New Approaches Boost Food Stamp Participation by Elderly People

    Only about one in four eligible elderly Americans participate in USDA's Food Stamp Program. In 2002, USDA and six States tested approaches to increasing participation by low-income elderly through three demonstration projects. Simplifying the application process, providing the elderly with one-on-one assistance with the process, and substituting food packages in place of food stamps increased participation.
  • Finding

    Will Hard White Wheat Become a Sustainable Wheat Class?

    Hard white winter wheat has attracted considerable interest among producers because of its unique end-use characteristics. In anticipation of growing demand in the Asian market, U.S. producers increased plantings dramatically. But future expansion and HWW’s eventual status as a separate wheat class is in some doubt as a result of its susceptibility to sprout damage.
  • Finding

    Americans Have Growing Appetites for Imported Foods

    In fiscal year 2005, the U.S. may realize a agricultural trade deficit for the first time since 1958, the result of rapidly rising food imports. One reason for rising imports is higher import prices brought on by the falling value of the dollar. The surge in imports is also due to rising consumer demand for prepared and processed foods.
  • Finding

    Ethyl Alcohol Becomes a Global Commodity

    Use of corn to produce ethyl alcohol has increased rapidly in the U.S., mainly because when added to gasoline, it can cut harmful air emissions. But ethyl alcohol can be produced from any commodity containing starch or sugar, including sorghum, barley, grasses, and even paper. Rising U.S. demand has led to an increase in imports of ethyl alcohol. In 2003 the largest supplier was Brazil, which produces ethyl alcohol from sugar.
  • Feature

    Understanding Economic and Behavioral Influences on Fruit and Vegetable Choices

    The new Federal recommendations in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans would require the typical American to eat almost twice the amount of fruits and vegetables he is now consuming and to choose a more varied mix of these healthy foods. With this in mind, nutritionists and produce marketers alike are interested in finding more effective strategies to promote fruit and vegetable consumption. This article provides information on the economic, social, and behavioral factors influencing consumers' fruit and vegetable choices.
  • Feature

    Policy Options for a Changing Rural America

    Rural communities have changed dramatically since 1990 due to increased population from urban areas, shifts in age and ethnic composition, and economic and industrial restructuring. Increasing competition from abroad and sectoral shifts in employment present new challenges and opportunities in the worldwide economy and raise the question: how can rural communities successfully build on their economic base and other assets to retain and attract population and employment. And, when, where, and under what circumstances will rural development strategies be most successful? Rural policy for the future will need to encompass a broad array of issues, and these different rural issues will require different mixes of solutions. Strategies to generate new employment and income opportunities, develop local human resources, and build and expand critical infrastructure hold the most promise for enhancing the economic opportunities and well being of rural America.
  • Feature

    North American Greenhouse Tomatoes Emerge as a Major Market Force

    This article documents the evolution of the North American greenhouse tomato industry in all three countries—the United states, Canada, and Mexico.
  • Feature

    How Do U.S. Farmers Plan for Retirement?

    Retirement and succession planning are of considerable importance to farm households and there are good reasons to believe that they are affected by savings and retirement policies in ways that are different from the rest of the Nation's households. This article examines how farmers save for retirement as well as their dependency on social security.
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    On the Map

    Indicators: On the Map - November 2004
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    New Releases

    Highlights of new publications from ERS - November 2004
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    Profiles

    Amber Waves profiles - November 2004
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    In the Long Run

    Indicators: In the Long Run - November 2004
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    Research Areas

    Indicators: Markets and Trade, Diet and Health, Resources and Environment and Rural America - November 2004
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    Behind the Data

    Indicators behind the data - November 2004
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    Indicators

    Farm, Rural, Natural Resources and Food and Fiber Sector Indicators section - November 2004
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    Data Feature

    The social and economic challenges facing rural areas differ greatly from those facing urban areas. Profiles of America: Demographic Data and Graphic Builder, a program now available on the ERS website, uses interactive tools to create maps, tables, and charts that display information on demographic trends, industrial structure, and the economic well-being of rural and urban communities. The program allows users to analyze rural and urban differences at the national, State, and county levels and provide useful information to community leaders, Federal officials, and researchers.
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    Recent Meetings

    Snapshots of recent events at ERS - November 2004
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    Current Activities

    Previews of research in the works at ERS - November 2004
  • Finding

    One in Four Rural Households are Housing Stressed

    Of the Nation's 2,000-plus nonmetropolitan (nonmetro) or rural counties, 302 are defined as housing stressed according to ERS's recently updated county typology. In these counties, at least 30 percent of households failed to meet widely used standards for minimum basic amenities in 2000. The principal component of housing stress is high housing expenses relative to income, but the other stress conditions also have an impact.
  • Finding

    Nonmetro Counties Vary by Urban Size and Metro Proximity

    Metro and nonmetro counties are likely to vary systematically in their trends and characteristics by population size and--if nonmetro--by their amount of urbanization and whether they adjoin a metro area. To address this diversity, ERS developed the Rural-Urban Continuum Code to classify counties along a residential scale.
  • Finding

    How Do Decoupled Payments Affect Resource Allocations Within the Farm Sector?

    Most industrialized nations subsidize producers of certain farm commodities with payments linked to commodity prices and production levels. In the U.S., interest in market liberalization and obligations under multilateral trade agreements have prompted policymakers to design and implement less distorting government commodity programs. One step in that direction is to use "decoupled" payments to directly change the income and wealth of farm households without distorting relative commodity prices. Recent analyses indicate how land tenure arrangements influence the amount farm households receive from decoupled payments, and how decoupled payments influence markets for agricultural capital and labor.
  • Finding

    Americans at Unequal Risk for Obesity

    Obesity is rising among all U.S.population groups, but not all Americans are equally at risk of becoming overweight or obese. ERS researchers found that several socioeconomic factors, such as the level of education, marital status, and the presence of children in the household correlate with the food choices, activity levels, and health-related attitudes that affect body weight. For example, people with a college education eat a more healthful diet, watch less TV, drink fewer sugary drinks, and skip breakfast less often.
  • Finding

    Taxing Snacks to Reduce Obesity

    Some public health advocates and health researchers are proposing an excise tax on snack foods as a way to reduce the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. ERS researchers simulated the impacts of such a tax by using different measures of consumer responsiveness to prices and different tax rates. Relatively low tax rates of 1 percent or 1 cent per pound had negligible impacts on purchases of salty snack foods. For these cases, taxes would not appreciably alter diet quality or health outcomes, but tax revenues would be positive.
  • Finding

    Contract Use Continues to Expand

    As buyers of agricultural products increasingly seek specific attributes--such as oil content in corn or the market weight of hogs--they are turning to contracts as a means of guaranteeing those attributes. Contracts are used more widely by large farms than by smaller farms, and thus the use of contracts increases with farm consolidation. Use of contracts can reduce market risk for producers, but they also reduce volumes traded on spot markets, thus increasingly price volatility on those markets.
  • Finding

    China's Demand for Commodities Outpacing Supply

    In recent years, as consumer incomes have risen and with them demand for meat, China's demand for grains and oilseeds is outpacing its ability to produce them. China has now become a key player in the world soybean market, and it is expected that in the coming decade China's imports of wheat and corn will also rise.
  • Finding

    Grain Exports from the Black Sea: How Large?

    When the countries of the Former Soviet Union began their path towards market reform, many researchers expected these countries to become large net grain exporters. For most of the 1990s, however, this did not happen. Russia and Ukraine exported large amounts of wheat in 2001 and 2002, but then suffered a much reduced crop in 2003. ERS researchers, however, estimate that in the coming decade the Black Sea countries could become moderately large exporters if they are able to introduce successful market reforms.
  • Feature

    Low-Skill Jobs: A Shrinking Share of the Rural Economy

    In the 1990s, the rural economy slightly outpaced the national decline in low-skill job share, reflecting rural America’s participation in an increasingly skill-intensive national economy. The long-term decline in rural low-skill jobs stemmed first from a steep decline in farm employment and more recently from declines in rural manufacturing. Today, most low-skill jobs in rural areas are in the service sector - government, trade, and consumer and business services - rather than in the goods production sector represented by agriculture, mining, construction, and manufacturing.
  • Feature

    U.S. Peanut Sector Adapts to Major Policy Changes

    "U.S. Peanut Sector Adapts to Major Policy Changes" examines the experience of the peanut sector following the 2002 Farm Act's elimination of the marketing quota system, and identifies factors affecting the transition to a more market-oriented system. Although peanut prices and acreage declined following passage of the 2002 Farm Act, it appears that producers are taking advantage of increased planting flexibility to expand production in higher yielding areas, and the transition has been cushioned by rising demand, and additional sources of revenue from government payments and other sources of farm and off-farm income.
  • Feature

    Farmland Retirement's Impact on Rural Growth

    The Feature "Farmland Retirement's Impact on Rural Growth" addresses an unintended consequences of high levels of enrollment in the CRP, that of farmland retirement's impact of rural growth. To examine this issue, this article examines the local socioeconomic changes that accompanied CRP enrollment in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and discusses ERS analysis of the potential employment and output changes if all land currently enrolled in the program could be put to other uses, given the current distribution of land, prevailing commodity market conditions, and public policies.
  • Feature

    Devolution of Farm Programs Could Broaden States' Role in Ag Policy

    U.S. farms vary greatly in size, specialty, and household characteristics. U.S. regions differ markedly in natural resource endowments. And States themselves are widely divergent in terms of their preferences as to how funds from agricultural programs should be spent. Given this diversity, can the delivery of agricultural programs be better tailored to distinct State and local circumstances? Devolution, or the transfer to States of Federal funds and/or control of those funds, is one way of adapting national policies to suit local preferences more closely and of recognizing that program delivery costs can vary geographically.
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    Profiles

    Amber Waves profiles - September 2004
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    In the Long Run: Nonmetro Educational Attainment

    At the current rate of change, rural educational attainment will reach a historic milestone early in the next decade, as adult college graduates will outnumber adults without a high school diploma.
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    On the Map: Milk Production Shifts West

    Since 1980, milk production in the U.S. has increased almost 33 per- cent, and regional production growth has been most pronounced in the Pacific and Mountain West
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    Research Areas

    Indicators: Markets and Trade, Diet and Health, Resources and Environment and Rural America - September 2004
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    Behind the Data

    Indicators behind the data - September 2004
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    Indicators

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America, September 2004
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    The Changing World Network of Trade in Textiles and Apparel

    The structure of the global textile market is fundamentally changing in response to policy reforms stemming from the 1995 Uruguay Round (UR) of the World Trade Organization. These reforms should stimulate growth in textile trade, which already outpaces trade in other sectors of the world economy.
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    New Releases

    Highlights of new publications from ERS - September 2004
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    Recent Meetings

    Snapshots of recent events at ERS - September 2004
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    Current Activities

    Previews of research in the works at ERS - September 2004
  • Finding

    Persistent Poverty Is More Pervasive in Nonmetro Counties

    ERS defines counties as being persistently poor if 20 percent or more of their populations were living in poverty over the last 30 years. A majority of the persistent-poverty counties are nonmetro counties located in the South.
  • Finding

    Federal Funding for Rural America: Who Get's What?

    Federal spending and credit programs can revive or sustain rural economies. Overall, rural areas received slightly less funding per capita ($6,020) than urban areas ($6,131) in 2001, but the amount of funding varied greatly by type or function of the program.
  • Finding

    Genetically Engineered Crop Varieties Gain Further Acreage Share in 2004

    GE varieties of soybeans, corn, and cotton have been available commercially since 1996. Since then, their rate of use by U.S. farmers has climbed most years, including 2004.
  • Finding

    Economic Risks of Soybean Rust in the U.S. Vary by Region

    An outbreak of soybean rust in the U.S. could pose economic risks for producers and consumers and affect agricultural and environmental programs. Fortunately, most U.S. soybean production is in the middle part of the country, where climate is less supportive of infestation.
  • Finding

    How Expensive Are Fruits and Vegetables Anyway?

    Almost half of Americans think eating more fruits and vegetables would improve their diets, so why don’t they? One argument is that produce is expensive. Yet an ERS study finds that consumers can eat three servings of fruit and four servings of vegetables for 64 cents a day, which represents 12 percent of daily food expenditures per person.
  • Finding

    Let's Eat Out: Full-Service or Fast Food?

    To win customers, fast food and full-service restaurants restaurants are offering dining experiences richer in a variety of foods and services. Although many factors could be contributing to the evolution of the foodservice industry, these developments point to changes in consumer demand.
  • Finding

    Do Local Food Stamp Offices Improve Access for the Working Poor?

    Nearly half of working households eligible to participate in USDA's Food Stamp Program did not participate in 2003. A nationally representative survey in June 2000 sponsored by ERS found that staff attitudes and many local office practices encourage participation by the working poor, though some practices may be a hindrance.
  • Finding

    Structural Change Brings New Challenges to Soybean Price Forecasters

    South America has surpassed the U.S. in soybean production and displaced the U.S. as the dominant player in the global soybean market. This has put downward pressure on U.S. soybean prices, changing the market dynamics of the soybean sector and the economic relationships that have traditionally been used by USDA for price forecasting.
  • Finding

    Slow Price Adjustments Benefit Beef and Pork Producers

    The slow and asymmetric adjustment of cattle prices to changes in supply-and-demand conditions keeps them about 4 percent higher on average than they would be under complete adjustment. Hog prices average around 1 percent higher.
  • Feature

    Fifty Years of U.S. Food Aid and Its Role in Reducing World Hunger

    Overall, the impact of food aid in reducing hunger has fallen short of its potential and, in some cases, has negatively affected the economies of the recipient countries. A more important problem lies in the fact that there is no coordination among donors to establish guidelines for distribution and need-based targeting of food aid.
  • Feature

    Sharing the Economic Burden: Who Pays for WIC's Infant Formula

    Each month, USDA’s WIC program provides infant formula at no cost to almost 2 million nutritionally at-risk infants in low-income households. But while WIC’s infant formula is free to WIC participants, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Infant formula is no exception to this elementary lesson of economics.
  • Feature

    European Union Adopts Significant Farm Reform

    In 2003 and 2004, the European Union adopted major reforms to its agricultural policy. The changes will have important implications for the way the EU supports its farm sector, for its obligations under current WTO agreements, and for its position in ongoing WTO agricultural negotiations.
  • Feature

    Measuring the Success of Conservation Programs

    Many factors must be accounted for to determine the portion of environmental enhancements directly attributable to program incentive-induced changes in farmers’ practices. Still, carefully designed survey and monitoring programs encompassing each of those relationships in a coordinated fashion make such evaluation not only feasible, but well within reach.
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    Profiles

    Amber Waves profiles - June 2004
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    In the Long Run

    Indicators: In the Long Run - June 2004
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    On the Map

    Indicators: On the Map - June 2004
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    Research Areas

    Research Areas page from the June 2004 issue of Amber Waves
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    Behind the Data

    Indicators behind the data - June 2004
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    Indicators

    Farm, Rural, Natural Resources and Food and Fiber Sector Indicators section - June 2004
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    Data Feature

    The Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) is USDA's primary vehicle for collecting information on agricultural resource use, production practices, farm costs and returns, farm financial conditions, and the economic well-being of America's farm households. Sponsored jointly by ERS and USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), ARMS was initiated in 1996 as an effort to consolidate and integrate the former USDA cropping practice, chemical use, and farm costs and returns surveys (which date back several decades).
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    New Releases

    Highlights of new publications from ERS - June 2004
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    Recent Meetings

    Snapshots of recent events at ERS - June 2004
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    Current Activities

    Previews of research in the works at ERS - June 2004
  • Finding

    One in Five Rural Counties Depends on Farming

    Farmer bankruptcies historically have been controversial because they are thought to indicate changes in the economic well being and structure of the rural economy. Farmer bankruptcies, farm numbers, and related issues are explored using available data since the beginning of modern bankruptcy legislation over a century ago. The link between farmer bankruptcies and changes in farm numbers is tenuous. Bankruptcies are subsumed and overwhelmed by larger shifts induced by a complex range of factors.
  • Finding

    Responding to Rural Jobs Losses: The Virginia Example

    Recent plant closings in the textile and apparel industries have had a major impact on rural areas. In response to large local job losses in rural communities, the Commonwealth of Virginia established Coordinated Economic Relief Centers (CERCs) in early 2002 to provide dislocated workers and other low-income residents access to a broad range of programs and services in one location.
  • Finding

    Irrigation, Water Conservation, and Farm Size in the Western United States

    Irrigation is critical to U.S. agriculture and accounts for 80 percent of water consumed in the U.S.; irrigation is particularly important in 17 western states that were the focus of an ERS study. There are a number of federal, state, and local cost share programs aimed at helping farmers invest in more efficient water use technology. But these could be more effective if they were targeted to larger farms that account for the largest share of water use in agriculture.
  • Finding

    How Does Farmland Retirement Affect Rural Counties?

    The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) offers incentives for producers and landowners to voluntarily retire highly erodible and other environmentally sensitive cropland from production. The program's benefits to the environment, CRP participants, and other crop farmers have made it a recurring focus of farm program legislation. However, the CRP's effect on farm communities is a concern.
  • Finding

    Technological Changes Contribute to Rise in Obesity

    Technological progress has contributed to Americans' rising obesity rates by making paid employment less physically strenuous for many people and by changing the incentives for the type and amounts of food people eat. A recent ERS-sponsored workshop discussed the role of technological change and other economic factors in explaining the food and activity choices that lead to weight gain and obesity.
  • Finding

    Low-Income Households Spend Less on Fruits and Vegetables

    Higher-income households outspend low-income households on fruits and vegetables in grocery stores and other at-home sources. Fruit and vegetable expenditures averaged $3.59 per person per week for low-income households versus $5.02 for higher-income households. ERS researchers also found that a small increase in income had a positive effect on fruit and vegetable spending by higher-income households, but had no impact on spending by low-income households.
  • Finding

    Mexico's Corn Industries and U.S.-Mexico Corn Trade

    U.S. corn exports to Mexico have tripled since the signing of NAFTA in 1994. To forecast future trade, one must understand that there are two distinct corn markets in Mexico: yellow corn for livestock feed and white corn for human consumption, used mainly in tortilla productions. Further growth of Mexico's market for yellow corn is virtually assured by growing consumer demand for meat and the likely expansion of Mexico's livestock sector. The future of the white corn market is more difficult to assess.
  • Finding

    Global Trade in Fruits and Vegetables Brings Variety to the Nation's Grocery Stores

    Twenty years ago, shoppers at U.S. grocery stores contented themselves with apples, pears, oranges, and bananas. Now, thanks to an acceleration of global trade in fruits and vegetables, mangoes, papayas, avocados, kiwi fruit, and more are available on produce shelves year round. This growth has been facilitated by trade agreements, rising consumer demand, and vastly improved technology that allows perishable fruit to be transported long distances.
  • Finding

    Untapped Potential of Cuba's Citrus and Tropical Fruit Industry

    Cuba's production of tropical and citrus fruit has grown rapidly, especially during the 1990s. If the current U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba were lifter, Cuba could become an important supplier of fruit to the United States and could present serious competition to U.S. growers, particularly in Florida.
  • Feature

    Rural Hispanics: Employment and Residential Trends

    Hispanics are among the most urbanized ethnic/racial groups in America, with 9 out of 10 Hispanics living in a metro area. In the past two decades, however, Hispanics have become the most rapidly growing group in nonmetropolitan America.
  • Feature

    Have Conservation Compliance Incentives Reduced Soil Erosion?

    With the 1985 Food Security Act, farmers are required to engage in conservation activities in order to receive government payments. This article focuses on the soil erosion impacts of "conservation compliance," which requires producers to apply and maintain conservation systems on highly erodible (HEL) cropland that was already in crop production in 1985 or risk losing government farm price and income support. The article finds that following implementation of conservation compliance and other conservation policy changes, soil erosion on U.S. cropland fell significantly.
  • Feature

    Emergency Providers Help Poor Households Put Food on the Table

    In 2003, USDA spent $41.7 billion on 15 food assistance programs aimed at improving the nutrition and well-being of needy Americans. The Food Stamp Program, the largest of the programs, served over 21 million people, and 16.4 million school children received free or reduced-price lunches from the National School Lunch Program. Yet, 4.3 million American households visited a food pantry, and 1.1 million people ate a meal at an emergency kitchen in a typical month in 2001.
  • Feature

    Where Will Demographics Take the Asia-Pacific Food System?

    The Amber Waves article presents findings from "Where Demographics Will Take the Food System," first released at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum Ministerial Meetings in Bangkok, Thailand. For the intermediate term, population growth and other demographic changes such as urbanization are more likely to define food markets than supply constraints.
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    Profiles

    Amber Waves profiles - April 2004
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    In the Long Run: Milk and Soft Drink Consumption

    Between 1947 and 2001, per capita consumption of carbonated soft drinks more than tripled while beverage milk consumption declined by almost one-half.
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    On the Map: Nonmetro Population Change

    The U.S. nonmetro population grew by 9.1 percent during the 1990s, below the 14.0-percent growth rate of metro areas.
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    Research Areas

    Indicators: Markets and Trade, Diet and Health, Resources and Environment and Rural America - April 2004
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    Behind the Data: Developing a County-Level Measure of Urban Influence

    ERS's 2003 Urban Influence Codes divide the 3,141 counties, county equivalents, and independent cities in the United States into 12 groups.
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    Indicators

    Select statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America, April 2004
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    Using the 2003 Urban Influence Codes To Understand Rural America

    Population size, urbanization, and access to larger communities are often crucial elements in county-level research. To advance such research, ERS developed a set of county-level urban influence categories that captures some differences in economic opportunities.
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    New Releases

    Highlights of new publications from ERS - April 2004
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    Recent Meetings

    Snapshots of recent events at ERS - April 2004
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    Current Activities

    Previews of research in the works at ERS - April 2004
  • Finding

    Rural Homeownership Rising

    Having grown for nearly a decade, U.S. homeownership rates continue to break records, particularly in rural, or nonmetro, areas. On average, homes in nonmetro areas appear to be a good investment, having appreciated in value at least as rapidly as metro-area homes over the last 10 years.
  • Finding

    Growth of Hispanics in Rural Workforce

    Technological change and industrial restructuring in rural America in the 1990s led some employers to demand more unskilled workers relative to skilled workers. Many of those unskilled workers were Hispanics, who now represent an increased share of the rural workforce
  • Finding

    Is Carbon Sequestration in Agriculture Economically Feasible?

    Two options for reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere are to increase the amount of land planted with permanent grassland or forest vegetation and to reduce the frequency or intensity of tillage. Either option would store additional carbon on the affected lands, but, while technically feasible, these options are not always economically feasible.
  • Finding

    Are Bankruptcies Behind the Drop in Farm Numbers?

    The number of U.S. farms declined by two-thirds between 1935 and 2002. While this decline is commonly associated with high rates of farm bankruptcy, a new study finds the link between dwindling farm numbers and farm bankruptcies to be weak.
  • Finding

    Market Incentives Raise Food Safety Bar

    Slaughter and processing plants today are increasingly reacting to stringent requirements for pathogen control set out by large meat and poultry buyers. These buyers reward suppliers who meet the standards and punish those who do not, in effect raising the food safety bar.
  • Finding

    Food Stamp Participation Up in 2003

    Participation in USDA's Food Stamp Program averaged 21.3 million people per month in FY 2003--an 11-percent increase over the previous year. The weak job market, along with increased efforts by States to improve program access, accounts for most of the rise in program enrollment.
  • Finding

    Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling--Will It Benefit Consumers?

    Proponents of country-of-origin food labels claim such labels would benefit consumers who are concerned about food safety, who wish to support U.S. producers, or who believe that U.S. foods are of higher quality than imports. Others argue that mandatory labeling will merely raise costs and bring few benefits.
  • Finding

    U.S. Seafood Market Shifts to Aquaculture

    Aquaculture is growing rapidly in many countries, including the United States. The estimated value of U.S. production in 2001 was $935 million. Aquaculture also accounts for a growing share of U.S. seafood consumption.
  • Finding

    Processed Products Propel Gains in U.S. Agricultural Exports

    Processed high-value products (HVPs) accounted for most of the growth in U.S. agricultural exports between 1976 and 2002. In 2000 and 2001, exports of processed HVPs alone surpassed bulk agricultural exports to become the largest category of U.S. agricultural exports.
  • Feature

    A Historic Enlargement: Ten Countries Prepare To Join the European Union

    In May 2004, eight Central and Eastern European countries (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), plus Cyprus and Malta, will join the European Union (EU). This enlargement of the EU, the largest in its history, will bring profound changes.
  • Feature

    Beyond Environmental Compliance: Stewardship as Good Business

    Agricultural producers can benefit economically by voluntarily adopting environmentally beneficial practices. An efficient farm would minimize unnecessary applications of pesticides and fertilizer, enhancing the bottom line as well as minimizing environmental impacts. But additional incentives may exist for farms to invest in environmental management.
  • Feature

    Savvy Buyers Spur Food Safety Innovations in Meat Processing

    Though food safety and food safety innovations are desirable, meat processors face special challenges that weaken their incentives to invest in food safety improvements. Some restaurant chains and large retailers are setting and enforcing safety standards and creating markets for food safety. As a result, they are driving increases in food safety investments throughout the meat supply chain.
  • Feature

    Food Traceability: One Ingredient in a Safe and Efficient Food Supply

    Food traceability is not only newsworthy, but investment worthy, too. Food producers have voluntarily built traceability systems to track the grain in a cereal box to the farm and the apples in a vat of apple juice to the orchard. However, traceability is just one element of any supply-management or quality/safety control system.
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    Profiles

    Amber Waves profiles - February 2004
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    In the Long Run

    Indicators: In the Long Run - February 2004
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    On the Map

    Indicators: On the Map - February 2004
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    Research Areas

    Indicators: Markets and Trade, Diet and Health, Resources and Environment and Rural America - February 2004
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    Behind the Data

    Indicators: Behind the Data - February 2004
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    Indicators

    Farm, Rural, Natural Resources and Food and Fiber Sector Indicators - February 2004
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    Data Feature

    The U.S. food and fiber system (FFS) is a source of jobs and earnings for millions of American workers and a supplier of products worldwide. Food and fiber gross domestic product (GDP) and employment increased almost every year between 1972 and 2001. Because the rest of the economy grew at a relatively faster pace, however, the food and fiber share of national GDP and employment declined.
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    New Releases

    Highlights of new publications from ERS - February 2004
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    Recent Meetings

    Recent Meetings - February 2004
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    Current Activities

    Previews of research in the works at ERS - February 2004
  • Finding

    Rural Governments Face Public Transportation Challenges and Opportunities

    Public transportation serves about 60 percent of all rural counties, including 28 percent with limited service. For low-income rural residents, long commutes and lack of transportation are barriers to working. To address this issue in rural areas, the Federal Government is providing public transportation through the Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) program; a recent ERS study found that JARC services were successfully implemented in rural areas.
  • Finding

    Booming China Trade Presents New Challenges for Rural America

    The increasing prevalence of "made in China" labels signals greater competition for many businesses in the rural United States. China's economic growth is also creating business opportunities for U.S. exporters. Rural U.S. businesses may find many smaller market niches as China grows and opens its retail market to the outside world.
  • Finding

    U.S. Increasingly Imports Nitrogen and Potash Fertilizer

    Today the U.S. imports over half of the nitrogen and 80 percent of the potash fertilizer used on its farms. Domestic production of nitrogen fertilizer (made from natural gas) declined during the 1990s as increased demand for natural gas in the U.S. drove up its price. A new database on the ERS website shows that the U.S. remains the world's largest exporter of phosphate fertilizer, though exports have declined 25 percent since 1997.
  • Finding

    Science and Technology Hold Promise for Developing Countries in the 21st Century

    Improved technologies for nutrient, soil, water, and pest management; precision agriculture; agricultural biotechnology; and advances in livestock breeding and veterinary science are increasing agricultural production in developed countries. Developing countries must determine which technologies and advancements will address their unique needs. These countries will benefit from working with developed countries and institutions to develop, adapt, and transfer productivity-increasing technologies to farmers in their countries.
  • Finding

    Assessing Farm Household Well-Being--Beyond Farmers and Farm Income

    ERS researchers use data from the USDA and the Federal Reserve to compare farm households and nonfarm households in terms of income and wealth. While farm income is traditionally used as a measure of farm household well-being, the analysis shows that other factors, such as wealth and off-farm income, are important determinants of well-being.
  • Finding

    How Many U.S. Households Face Hunger... and How Often?

    Survey statistics indicate that 3.5 percent of U.S. households in 2002 were food insecure to the extent that one or more household members were hungry at least some time during the year because they could not afford enough food. ERS researchers analyzed survey responses during the 30-day period ending in early December 2002 and found that the average monthly prevalence (2.7 percent of U.S. households) and the average daily prevalence (0.5 to 0.7 percent of U.S. households) of food insecurity with hunger were lower than the annual rate.
  • Finding

    Juries Award Higher Amounts for Severe Foodborne Illnesses

    ERS researchers analyzed 175 foodborne illness lawsuits resolved in court during 1988-97. The researchers found that less than a third of plaintiffs (55 cases) won compensation for their foodborne illnesses. The average compensation, including the cases in which plaintiffs lost as well as won, was $41,888. Injury severity was a major factor affecting an award.
  • Finding

    Got Milk? Implications of Generational and Aging Effects

    Aging and generational effects influence food choices and, hence, spending on specific food groups. ERS researchers found that both the aging of the U.S. population and the succession of the generations are working against at-home spending on dairy products. Older generations spend more on dairy products consumed at home than their children and grandchildren. And, per capita, at-home spending on dairy products falls as people age.
  • Finding

    Russia Changes Global Market for Livestock Products

    Despite a sharp drop in meat consumption during Russia's transition to a market economy, the 1990s saw a dramatic rise in U.S. exports of poultry meat to Russia. However, in the spring of 2003 Russia imposed an import quota on poultry meat, which at least in the short run will reduce U.S. export prospects.
  • Finding

    Marketing Could Boost the U.S. Sheep Industry

    The U.S. sheep industry is in the midst of a long-term decline, but the decline could be reversed if the United States adopted some of the aggressive marketing practices used by Australia and New Zealand.
  • Finding

    Volume Production Keeps Floriculture Prices Low

    Recent trends towards volume production and mass marketing of flowers and bedding and garden plants have put downward pressure on prices, leading to a restructuring of the industry.
  • Feature

    The U.S. Trade Balance. . . More Than Just A Number

    U.S. agricultural imports may soon exceed exports, giving the U.S. a trade deficit for the first time since 1959. Although exports continue to rise, importing are increasing at nearly twice the pace. US consumers are buying horticultural products-vegetables, fruits, juices, nuts, and cut flowers-and cheese, bakery products, pasta, candy, vegetable oils, wine, beer, coffee. Many of these products are not commonly available, are grown off-season to US production, or are more cheaply produced overseas.
  • Feature

    The Elephant Is Jogging: New Pressures for Agricultural Reform in India

    The middle class of the India-the worlds second most populous nation is growing ever wealthier and seek greater diversity in food products. Indian producers are responding with only partial success. Trade liberalization has brought increased imports of some products, but agriculture, despite subsidies suffers from low production and under investment. Major agricultural policy reform remains politically difficult but the seeds of policy reform are being planted. The pace of change in ag policy, trade and investment in India is likely to remain closer to that of an elephant jogging, rather than a dragon or tiger that have been used to characterize other economies of the East.
  • Feature

    Anatomy of Nonmetro High-Poverty Areas: Common in Plight, Distinctive in Nature

    This article discusses how rural high poverty counties differ across racial and demographic lines. Comparisons are made among and between high poverty counties populated by African Americans, Hispanics, Whites, and Native Americans.
  • Feature

    Have Seed Industry Changes Affected Research Effort?

    The unprecedented growth in U.S. agricultural productivity over the past 70 years owes much to a series of biological innovations embodied in major crop seeds, in particular, cotton, corn, soybeans, and wheat. These innovations are the result of the investment of considerable time and money into plant breeding research and development (R&D). However, the seed sector has changed: seed R&D has moved from being predominately public to predominately private, innovation protection is now pervasive, and the private seed industry has become highly concentrated. This article examines the extent of this shift in R&D from the public to the private domain and whether or not the shift is positively or negatively affecting research effort, and potentially agricultural productivity growth.
  • Feature

    Progress and Partnerships in a Dynamic Rural America

    Rural America faces many opportunities and challenges in the 21st century. Changing migration patterns, increased educational attainment, and industrial restructuring have important implications for rural residents, particularly the almost 4.1 million African-Americans or Blacks (the largest minority group in rural areas) who reside in small towns and rural areas of the United States. A wide variety of economic development strategies call for unique partnerships such as the one linking USDA and the 1890 Institutions in efforts to enhance the economic opportunities and quality of life for rural people.
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    Profiles

    Amber Waves profiles - November 2003
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    In the Long Run: U.S. Cropland

    Total U.S. cropland is fairly stable, but the portion harvested varies inversely with the cropland idled under the Conservation Reserve Program and other USDA programs.
  • Statistic

    On the Map: Obesity Rates

    Over half of States in 2001 had an obesity rate for adults of 20 percent or over. None had this high an obesity rate in 1991, and 9 States were even under 10 percent.
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    Research Areas

    Indicators: Markets and Trade, Diet and Health, Resources and Environment and Rural America - November 2003
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    Behind the Data: Estimating Export Share of U.S. Agricultural Production

    Methodology behind estimating the export share of U.S. agricultural production.
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    Indicators

    Farm, Rural, Natural Resources and Food and Fiber Sector Indicators section - November 2003
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    Ag Biotech Patents: Who Is Doing What?

    To better analyze the economic effects of the upward trend in ag biotech patents, ERS researchers and collaborators have assembled comprehensive data on patents and other intellectual property.
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    New Releases

    Highlights of new publications from ERS - November 2003
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    Recent Meetings

    Snapshots of recent events at ERS - November 2003
  • Statistic

    Current Activities

    Previews of research in the works at ERS - November 2003
  • Finding

    Growth of Older Population Slows in Rural and Small-Town Areas

    The older rural and small-town population grew more slowly in the 1990s than did the population under age 65 for the first time in the 20th century. This stemmed from fewer people reaching age 65 as a result of the low birth rates of 1925-35 and outmigration from farm communities after World War II.
  • Finding

    Dimensions of Child Poverty in Rural Areas

    An expanding U.S. economy and welfare reform in the 1990s both helped reduce the share of rural children in families living below the poverty rate. However, the share still remains higher than that in urban areas (19 percent versus 15 percent). In 2000, 2.7 million rural children (under 18) were poor, representing 34 percent of the rural poverty population.
  • Finding

    Greenbelts? Not Without Greenbacks

    About 95 million acres of U.S. cropland is subject to varying degrees of development pressure, or urban influence. Policymakers have turned to two types of voluntary farmland protection programs--preferential assessment and purchase of development rights--to create incentives for farmland owners to keep their farmland undeveloped.
  • Finding

    "Dead Zone" in the Gulf: Addressing Agriculture's Contribution

    Scientists believe that hypoxia in the northern Gulf of Mexico is caused by nitrogen loads from the Mississippi River. Because two-thirds of the nitrogen in the Mississippi River comes from use of fertilizer and manure on agricultural lands, reducing agricultural nitrogen is a major component of the strategy for controlling the hypoxic zone.
  • Finding

    Productivity Growth Lags in Food Manufacturing

    Between 1975 and 1997, productivity growth for U.S. food manufacturers averaged 0.19 percent a year, versus 1.25 percent for all U.S. manufacturers. Food manufacturing's sluggish growth may stem from the industry's materials-intensive nature and modest investment in research and development.
  • Finding

    Competition Alters the U.S. Food Marketing Landscape

    As competitive pressures mount to deliver specific products to meet consumer preferences, how products move from farmers to consumers is changing. Traditional grocery chains face mounting competition from warehouse clubs, supercenters, and the food-away-from home sector.
  • Finding

    Free Fruit and Vegetable Snacks a Big Hit in Schools

    Free fruit and vegetable snacks were provided to over 64,000 children in 107 elementary and secondary schools as part of USDA's Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program during the 2002-03 school year. The program was popular among most students, parents, school teachers, principals, pilot managers, foodservice staff, and representatives of State child nutrition programs.
  • Finding

    Are More Livestock Hitting the Road?

    Shipments of hogs have increased dramatically since 1990, while cattle and sheep shipments have remained fairly steady. Recent concerns about the safety of the U.S. food supply and the potential for bioterrorism have prompted a new look at livestock movements.
  • Finding

    China’s Vegetable Exports Challenge the U.S. in Japan’s Market

    Technological investments in China's vegetable sector and port facilities have paved the way for an expansion in its vegetable exports, particularly to Japan. In 1999, China displaced the U.S. as the leading supplier for Japan and has since improved that position.
  • Finding

    A Richer World Wants a Richer Diet

    A number of forces, such as income, urbanization and population growth, are changing the way the world eats. Of these forces, income—both its level and growth—has had the greatest effect.
  • Feature

    Emphasis Shifts in U.S. Agri-Environmental Policy

    With the passage of the 2002 Farm Act, policymakers have substantially increased conservation funding and made changes in program emphasis. The goals are to expand the amount of U.S. land and the number of farmers covered by conservation programs.
  • Feature

    Consumers and the Future of Biotech Foods in the United States

    When consumers are made aware that food products are biotech, how will they react? As the largest market for U.S. producers, American consumers will render the ultimate verdict on the future of agricultural biotechnology in the United States.
  • Feature

    From Supply Push to Demand Pull: Agribusiness Strategies for Today's Consumers

    Changing U.S. demographics—more mature consumers, greater ethnic diversity, and larger incomes—are driving changes in consumer demand for food products. These changing preferences, along with technological advances and other changes in the economy, offer agribusiness companies new challenges and opportunities.
  • Feature

    Food Safety and Trade: Regulations, Risks, and Reconciliation

    Global food trade is expanding, providing consumers with access to a wider year-round variety of foods at lower prices. Trade expansion, however, has brought into sharper focus the divergence among countries’ food safety regulations and standards.
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    Profiles

    ERS staff profiled in the September 2003 issue of Amber Waves magazine.
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    In the Long Run

    Indicators: In the Long Run - September 2003
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    On the Map

    Indicators: On the Map - September 2003
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    Research Areas

    Indicators: Markets and Trade, Diet and Health, Resources and Environment and Rural America - September 2003
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    Behind the Data

    Indicators behind the data - September 2003
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    Indicators

    Farm, Rural, Natural Resources and Food and Fiber Sector Indicators section - September 2003
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    Data Feature

    In recent years, nonmetropolitan (nonmetro) areas have become more socially and economically integrated with metropolitan (metro) areas. Still, newly released data from the 2000 Census of Population and Housing, along with new metropolitan area definitions, show nonmetro areas continue to lag metro areas in many respects.
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    New Releases

    Highlights of new publications from ERS - September 2003
  • Statistic

    Recent Meetings

    Snapshots of recent events at ERS - September 2003
  • Statistic

    Current Activities

    Previews of research in the works at ERS - September 2003
  • Finding

    Exploring the Diversity of Rural America Through Interactive Mapping

    The Rural Indicators Map Machine, an Internet-based mapping program on the ERS website, makes it easier to visual the geographic distribution of economic and social conditions across America. Maps generated through the program reveal overall population change, population change by race and ethnicity, unemployment rates, and median household incomes across user-specified geographic levels (national, State, and county) and ERS classification schemes.
  • Finding

    Rural College Graduates Make a Comeback

    The movement of better educated adults from rural areas to urban areas has a longstanding history in America. Data from the 2000 Census, however, show a departure from this trend, as rural areas held their own in the 1990s by attracting and keeping college graduates to work and raise families.
  • Finding

    What You Want to Know About Resources and the Environment…But Couldn’t Find

    Despite the increased focus on environmental issues during the last half of the 20th century, it wasn't always easy to find basic facts about resource use in agriculture and environmental impacts associated with agricultural production. Nearly 10 years ago, ERS addressed that problem with the release of Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, known as AREI. The third and latest edition of the report, available as an online document only, continues to expand on the information contained in the original and is updated as new data become available.
  • Finding

    Balancing Conservation Costs and Benefits

    Recognizing the dearth of data concerning the installation of conservation practices on U.S. farms, ERS constructed a database using Environmental Quality Incentives Program conservation practice data. The database offers a unique opportunity to better understand the demand for conservation practices across regions, the conservation practices being funded and implemented, and the unit costs of implementing these practices.
  • Finding

    The Dynamics of Food Insufficiency

    The United States has an affordable and abundant food supply. Still, a small percentage of the American population experiences food insufficiency (sometimes or often not having enough to eat). Efforts to target assistance programs to meet the needs of this group can be improved through a better understanding of how people move into and out of food insufficiency, who is most vulnerable, and how long people are food insufficient.
  • Finding

    What Weight Problem?

    According to a recent ERS analysis, many American adults misidentify their weight category. Misperceptions of weight category appear to vary by gender and other demographic characteristics. Women assessed their weight category more accurately than men, and individuals who were overweight or obese based on BMI and perceived themselves to be a healthy weight were more likely to be non-Hispanic Black or Hispanic, than Asian or non-Hispanic White.
  • Finding

    Agriculture Economy Improves in 2003

    The financial condition of U.S. farmers and other agricultural stakeholders is expected to improve in 2003. Net farm income, a measure of the sector's profitability, is forecast to be up $17 billion (49 percent) from the $35.6 billion earned in 2002 and about 10 percent above the 10-year average.
  • Finding

    Differences in Demand Help Shape Meat Trade

    At a value of over $40 billion (10 percent of global agricultural trade) and a volume of 20 million tons per year, global trade in meats is big business. Growing populations, rising incomes, and increased urbanization have all contributed to a boost in demand for meat.
  • Finding

    North America: One Market, Big Payoffs, Many Challenges

    Measures taken by the United States, Canada, and Mexico to integrate the North American food and fiber system have paid large dividends - lower prices and a wider variety of foods, increased real income, and easier access to each other's markets.
  • Finding

    Vegetable Consumption Away from Home on the Rise

    As the share of total food consumption away from the home has risen over the last two decades, so, too, has the share of vegetables consumed outside the home. Per capita consumption of all vegetables averaged 445 pounds in 2000-02—25 percent greater than 1980-82—with about half the growth ascribed to the away-from-home market.
  • Feature

    Balancing Food Costs with Nutrition Goals in WIC

    This Amber Waves article summarizes an ERS report on cost-containment practices in the WIC program, with an emphasis on case studies conducted in six states. This research was funded by the FANRP program, and was conducted by Abt Associates.
  • Feature

    Production Costs Critical to Farming Decisions

    This article outlines the relevance of production costs - both operating and total (including capital costs) - in farmers' decisions about production levels and mix, and about exit from the sector.
  • Feature

    Nonmetro Poverty: Assessing the Effect of the 1990s

    This Amber Waves article examines the differences in poverty between U.S. metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas during the 1990s.
  • Feature

    Multilateralism and Regionalism: Dual Strategies for Trade Reform

    The article describes the U.S. strategy in the area of agricultural trade reform. The strategy contains two distinct but reinforcing elements: (1) multilateralism, in which the United States actively participates in the agricultural trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization; and (2) regionalism, in which the United States pursues regional trade agreements with like-minded trade partners.
  • Feature

    U.S. Tobacco Industry Responding to New Competitors, New Challenges

    This feature in USDA's Amber Waves magazine addresses the confluence of events that are creating the impetus for change in the U.S. tobacco program. This program has been in existence since the 1930s, but producer, health, and other interests are lobbying for change. The article not only provides an analysis of why the push for change is occurring now, but also offers a range of options for policy reform and addresses the dynamics of current global market conditions and their intersection with U.S. policy.