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Wednesday, September 03, 2014
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remains the most food-insecure region in the world, but gains in crop yields associated with increased cultivation of modern varieties are leading to improved food availability and food security conditions. Because domestic grain production accounts for about 80 percent of supplies across SSA and grain yields are among the lowest in the world, boosting yields is key to improving food security in the region.  Policy reforms and incentives for farmers have spurred adoption of new technologies, such as modern seed varieties. In Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Senegal, Malawi, and Zambia, 27-55 percent of crop area was devoted to modern varieties in 2006-10; in each of these countries, grain yields have increased between 4 and 16 percent per year.  Scenario analysis indicates the potential for significant additional improvements in SSA food security if more countries are able to increase adoption of modern crop varieties. This chart and analysis is based on Productivity Impacts on Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa, an article in International Food Security Assessment, 2014-2024.
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Tuesday, September 02, 2014
U.S. cattle and beef prices have moved into record territory since mid-2013, primarily due to drought impacts on U.S. cattle inventories. In addition to the widespread U.S. drought in 2012, drought conditions have affected important U.S. cattle raising regions, particularly in the Plains and Southwest, since 2010. The dry weather degraded pasture conditions and forage supplies, leading cow-calf operators to liquidate herds. Increases in U.S. imports of feeder cattle from Mexico and Canada have been insufficient to maintain or build U.S. inventories, in part because Mexican producers are trying to build their herds to supply more beef to the U.S. market. U.S. feed and forage supplies have improved in 2014, but herd rebuilding, as indicated by retention of heifers for breeding, is progressing slowly because some growers are selling animals while prices are high, rather than retaining them for herd rebuilding. Reduced beef supplies and high prices have  led to an estimated 5 percent decline in U.S. per capita beef disappearance (a measure of consumption), as well as a sharp reduction in U.S. net beef exports, between 2011 and 2014. Find additional analysis in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: August 2014.
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Friday, August 29, 2014
The 2014/15 U.S. soybean crop is forecast at 103.8 million tons (3.82 million bushels)—13.6 percent above the previous record set in 2009/10—based on the outlook for record area harvested and yield.  The first USDA objective yield forecast for the 2014 crop indicates an all-time high of 3.05 tons per hectare (45.4 bushels per acre), 4.7 percent above the 2013/14 record.  Harvested area is forecast at 34.02 million hectares (84.1 million acres), 9.7 percent above the previous record set in 2010/11. Higher supplies are forecast to raise season-ending soybean stocks to 11.7 million tons (430 million bushels), with the growing stocks forecast leading USDA to trim its 2014/15 forecast of the U.S. average farm price by 15 cents to $9.35-$11.35 per bushel.  Seventy percent of the U.S. soybean crop was rated in good-to-excellent condition as of August 24—a level surpassed only once for this date (in 2004). Favorable growing conditions have been widespread throughout the country, with record yields anticipated for Illinois, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Find additional analysis in Oil Crops Outlook: August 2014.
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Thursday, August 28, 2014
“Back to school” means back to school-provided lunches and breakfasts for many students.  Intake data from the 2007-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reveal that school foods provide the highest dairy product density among all food sources in children’s diets. For each 1,000 calories consumed by children age 2-19, school foods offer an average of 1.9 cups of dairy products, compared to 0.9 cups for foods from restaurants and fast food places. School foods are the only food source that meets the recommended amount of dairy products. Foods consumed by children at home contain 1.2 cups of dairy products for each 1,000 calories, higher than the 0.9 cups in food consumed by adults at home.  The statistics for this chart are from ERS’s Food Consumption and Nutrient Intakes data product.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014
In December 2007, six years of economic growth ended as the U.S. economy entered the most severe recession since the Great Depression. Despite starting earlier and falling slightly more, employment trends in rural (nonmetro) areas followed much the same pattern as urban (metro) areas during the recession and the beginning of the economic recovery. Beginning in 2011, nonmetro employment grew much more slowly than urban employment, and growth fell to zero or slightly below throughout 2012 and 2013. Preliminary data for 2014 show an uptick in nonmetro employment; however, at the end of the second quarter of 2014, nonmetro employment remained 3.5 percent below its pre-recession peak while metro employment exceeded pre-recession levels. A lower (often negative) rate of population growth, and an older, less-educated work force have all contributed to sluggish employment growth in nonmetro counties since the end of the 2007/09 recession. This chart updates data presented in the ERS report, Rural Employment Trends in Recession and Recovery, ERR-172, August 25, 2014.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Net farm income is forecast at $113.2 billion in 2014, down about 14 percent from the 2013 forecast of $131.3 billion.  If realized, the 2014 forecast would be the fourth-highest value since 1970 after adjusting for inflation. Lower cash receipts for crops, and to a lesser degree, higher production expenses and reduced government farm payments, drive the expected drop in net farm income. Net cash income is forecast at $123 billion, down almost 6 percent from the 2013 forecast. Net cash income is projected to decline less than net farm income primarily because it reflects the sale of more than $10 billion in carryover stocks from 2013. Despite expected record-setting harvests, crop receipts are expected to decrease more than 7 percent in 2014 due to lower prices. Livestock receipts are forecast to increase by more than 15 percent in 2014, largely due to higher prices. This chart is found in the topic page on the 2014 Farm Sector Income Forecast on the ERS website, updated August 26, 2014.
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Monday, August 25, 2014
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, commonly known as the WIC program, provides low-income women, infants, and children younger than 5 who are at nutritional risk, with specific types of supplemental foods, along with nutrition education and health care referrals. As USDA’s third-largest food and nutrition assistance program, WIC served 8.7 million participants per month in fiscal 2013, and Federal expenditures for the program were nearly $6.5 billion. In April 2012, 53 percent of WIC participants were children ages 1-4 years, a small increase from their 50-percent share in the early 1990s.  Women and infants each made up a little less than a quarter of WIC participants. This chart appears in the WIC Program topic page on ERS’s website, updated July 10, 2014.
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Friday, August 22, 2014
India’s government cereal stocks cycle up and down, but typically exceed government targets set to ensure adequate supplies for domestic distribution programs and provide a strategic reserve.  Cereals in government stocks are procured from growers at annually revised minimum support prices (MSPs). Most procured cereals are distributed at subsidized rates through the Targeted Public Distribution System and other programs, with residual supplies accumulating in government-held stocks. The peaks and valleys in government cereal stocks are associated with cycles in price incentives due to changes in MSPs.  Relatively low stocks and large increases in MSPs in the late 1990s led to a stock buildup by the early 2000s, and low stocks in the mid-2000s, combined with rising world prices, led to higher MSPs and another stock buildup beginning in the late 2000s. Price policy announced for 2014/15 crops so far indicates relatively small nominal increases in wheat and rice MSPs. For additional information see Indian Wheat and Rice Sector Policies and Implications of Reform.
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Thursday, August 21, 2014
The Chesapeake Bay is North America’s largest and most biologically diverse estuary, and its watershed covers 64,000 square miles across 6 States (Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia) and the District of Columbia. In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established limits for nutrient and sedi­ment emissions from point (e.g., wastewater treatment plants) and nonpoint (e.g., agricultural runoff) sources to the Chesapeake Bay in the form of a total maximum daily load (TMDL). Agriculture is the largest single source of nutrient emissions in the watershed. About 19 percent of all cropped acres in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are critically undertreated, meaning that the management practices in place are inadequate for preventing significant losses of pollutants from these fields. Critically undertreated acres are not distributed among the four sub-basins in the same way as cropland.  For example, the Susquehanna watershed contains 69 percent of critically undertreated acres but only 41 percent of cropland.  Targeting conservation resources to highly vulnerable regions could improve the economic performance of environmental policies and programs. This chart displays data found in the ERS report, An Economic Assessment of Policy Options To Reduce Agricultural Pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay, ERR-166, June 2014.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
ERS researchers used data from the 2007-08 and 2009-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to examine who uses nutrition information in full-service restaurants (generally defined as restaurants with wait staff).  They found that healthy diet behaviors are correlated with use of nutrition information in full-service restaurants. For example, people who consult Nutrition Facts labels on grocery store foods and who store healthy foods at home are more likely to use nutrition information on restaurant menus. While people who reported rarely or never having dark green vegetables at home were as likely to go to full-service restaurants as people who always or most of the time have these vegetables at home, the first group was less likely to see and use nutrition information on restaurant menus. Among people who saw the nutrition information, just 19.1 percent of the group that “rarely or never” had dark green vegetables available at home said they used it, compared to 54.9 percent of those who said they “always” or “most of the time” had dark green vegetables available at home. This chart is from the ERS report, Consumers’ Use of Nutrition Information When Eating Out, released on June 27, 2014.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Russia’s recently announced 1-year ban on imports of food from the United States should affect only relatively small shares of U.S. agricultural exports.  In calendar year 2013, U.S. agricultural exports to Russia totaled $1.31 billion, or 0.8% of total U.S. agricultural exports of $162.16 billion. Major U.S. products shipped to Russia in 2013 were poultry meat and products ($312 million), tree nuts (primarily almonds; $172 million), soybeans ($157 million), and live animals (primarily cattle for breeding purposes; $149 million).  Imports of non-food items, including soybeans and live animals, do not appear to be on Russia’s banned list.  U.S. exports of poultry meat and products to Russia accounted for 5.6 percent of U.S. exports in this category in 2013, but U.S. poultry exports to Russia have declined in recent years because of restrictive tariff rate quotas and phyto-sanitary measures. Exports of high-quality breeding cattle to Russia accounted for 16.8 percent of U.S. live animal exports in 2013, and are imported by Russia to upgrade its cattle and dairy herds. Russia was the 16th largest U.S. export market for tree nuts, accounting for 2.3 percent of U.S. tree nut exports. This chart is based on ERS analysis of data from the Global Agricultural Trade System.
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Monday, August 18, 2014
The United States has developed an active organic trade sector in recent years. In 2013, the United States exported organic products to over 80 countries, with Canada and Mexico being the top trade partners. The U.S. Department of Commerce began tracking the trade value of some organic products in 2011, and is expanding the number of organic items tracked. Each new organic product added to the trade code system must meet minimum requirements on product value and the number of importers and exporters. In 2013, the value of tracked U.S. organic exports was $537 million. Fresh fruits/vegetables is still the top organic sector in both production and sales in the United States, and dominates the trade items currently being tracked. Fresh and chilled fruits and vegetables accounted for over 90 percent of the Nation’s total organic export sales in 2013. The top three U.S. organic exports (in value) were apples, lettuce, and grapes. This chart is found in the August 2014 Amber Waves data feature, “U.S. Organic Trade Includes Fresh Produce Exports and Tropical Imports.”
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Friday, August 15, 2014
Much of the 63-pound per person drop in the amount of dairy products available  to eat or drink in the United States between 1970 and 2012 stems from declining milk consumption by U.S. consumers. Since peaking at 42.3 gallons per person in 1945, fluid milk availability has steadily fallen, reaching a record low of 19.6 gallons per person in 2012. Whole milk availability dropped to 5.4 gallons per person in 2012, almost a quarter of 1970’s 25.3 gallons. In addition, lower-fat milk availability has leveled off to an average of 14 gallons per person since 1998. Competition from other beverages—especially carbonated soft drinks, fruit juices, and bottled water—is likely contributing to declining fluid milk consumption. Substitutes for cow’s milk (including nut milks, coconut milk, and soy milk) have also provided alternatives for consumers. This chart appears in “Trends in U.S. Per Capita Consumption of Dairy Products, 1970-2012” in the June 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Thursday, August 14, 2014
For farmers, household income combines the income that the household receives from off-farm activities with the income that the household receives from the farm business, net of expenses and payments to other stakeholders in the business. Households that raise broilers have higher median incomes than other farm households, and other U.S. households. In 2011, the median income among all U.S. households was $50,504, while the median income among farm households was $57,050. The median for contract broiler growers was higher, at $68,455. However, median income doesn’t tell the whole story; the range of household incomes earned by broiler growers is also wider than other groups, even though contract growers are a much more demographically homogeneous than both the U.S. population and the overall farm population. The wider range reflects, in part, the financial risks associated with contract broiler production. Grower costs can vary widely, and flat annual broiler production in recent years has increased the risk that growers will get fewer chicks placed, or that their contracts won’t be renewed. This chart is found in the August 2014 Amber Waves feature, “Financial Risks and Incomes in Contract Broiler Production.”
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Wednesday, August 13, 2014
U.S. commercial exports of dairy products have grown since 1995, accounting for an increasing share of the total commercial disappearance of U.S milk production. On a milk-equivalent skim-solids basis (a method of adding up quantities of diverse milk products based on their skim-solids content), U.S. commercial exports grew on average 11.8 percent per year between 1995 and 2013, with their share of total commercial disappearance rising from 3.4 percent in 1995 to 18.7 percent in 2013. Commercial exports of nonfat dry milk (NDM) and skim milk powder (SMP) played a major role in this increase. In recent years, major U.S. markets for NDM and SMP have been Mexico, China, Philippines, and Indonesia. Domestic commercial disappearance serves as a proxy for U.S. consumption, calculated as a residual after accounting for production, on-farm use, imports, exports, and changes in stocks. The commercial data also exclude USDA net removals (price support purchases plus subsidized exports minus sales to the commercial market) which were significant in earlier years but a minor factor since 2004. Find these data in the new commercial disappearance dairy product tables provided in Dairy Data.
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Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Corn is the most widely planted crop in the U.S. and the largest user of nitrogen fertilizer. By using this fertilizer, farmers can produce high crop yields profitably; however nitrogen is also a source of environmental degradation when it leaves the field through runoff or leaching or as a gas. When the best nitrogen management practices aren’t applied, the risk that excess nitrogen can move from cornfields to water resources or the atmosphere is increased. Nitrogen management practices that minimize environmental losses of nitrogen include applying only the amount of nitrogen needed for crop growth (agronomic rate), not applying nitrogen in the fall for a crop planted in the spring, and injecting or incorporating fertilizer into the soil rather than leaving it on top of the soil. In 2010, about 66 percent of all U.S. corn acres did not meet all three criteria. Nitrogen from the Corn Belt, Northern Plains, and Lake States (regions that together account for nearly 90 percent of U.S. corn acres) contribute to both the hypoxic (low oxygen) zone in the Gulf of Mexico and to algae blooms in the Great Lakes. This chart is based on data found in the ERS report, Nitrogen Management on U.S. Corn Acres, 2001-10, EB-20, November 2012.
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Monday, August 11, 2014
When advised to “eat your vegetables,” Americans may also need to be reminded “and watch how you prepare them.”  ERS researchers recently looked at the types of vegetables and vegetable-containing foods eaten by Americans and found that instead of eating vegetables in their simple, unadorned state, Americans often eat vegetables in ways that add calories and sodium and reduce dietary fiber. For potatoes prepared at home, potato chips were the most commonly eaten form, accounting for 28 percent of potato consumption. In restaurants, fast food places, and other away from home eating places, fried potatoes accounted for 59 percent of potato consumption. Food intake surveys show other potato dishes, such as mashed and scalloped potatoes, are often prepared with added fats and sodium. Baked and boiled potatoes accounted for 19 percent of at-home potato consumption and 12 percent away from home, and the skin was usually not eaten, reducing dietary fiber content. This chart appears in “Healthy Vegetables Undermined by the Company They Keep” in the May 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Friday, August 08, 2014
U.S. hog producers are responding to inventory losses associated with the spread of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) by increasing the average slaughter weights of their remaining inventory, thus mitigating the likely impacts of PEDv on 2014 pork production. The PEDv outbreak reduced the average litter rates for the December 2013-February 2014 and March-May 2014 pig crops by about 5.5 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively, contributing to a 5 percent decline in the June 2014 U.S. hog inventory compared with a year earlier.  However, lower U.S. corn prices, combined with excess barn space created by the PEDv losses have allowed producers to respond by holding surviving animals longer on cheaper corn-based rations, thus boosting average dressed weights. During January-May 2014, dressed weights averaged 3.7 percent higher than the same period in 2013.  The heavier animals continue to partially offset production losses from PEDv-related deaths.  For 2014, USDA forecasts a 5.2 percent drop in hog slaughter, but only a 1.9 percent reduction in pork production.  Dressed weights are expected to average more than 214 pounds this year, more than 7 pounds greater than in 2013. Find this chart and additional analysis in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: July 2014.
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Thursday, August 07, 2014
U.S. farmers have adopted genetically engineered (GE) seeds in the 19 years since their commercial introduction, despite their typically higher seed prices. Herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops, developed to survive the application of specific herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds, provide farmers with a broader variety of options for weed control. Insect-resistant crops contain a gene from the soil bacterium Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that produces a protein toxic to specific insects, protecting the plant over its entire life. “Stacked” seed varieties carry both HT and Bt traits and now account for a large majority of GE corn and cotton seeds. In 2014, adoption of  GE varieties, including those with herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, or stacked traits, reached 96 percent of cotton acreage, 94 percent of soybean acreage (soybeans have only HT varieties), and 93 percent of corn acreage planted in the United States. This chart comes from the ERS data product, Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., updated July 2014.
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Wednesday, August 06, 2014
USDA’s Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provides low-income seniors—people age 60 and older with household incomes at or below 185 percent of the Federal poverty level—with coupons to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and honey at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs. In fiscal 2013, 835,795 low-income seniors received $20 to $50 in coupons. Of the 8,158 farmers’ markets in the United States in 2013, 2,330 reported accepting SFMNP, according to USDA’s National Farmers' Market Directory. In 396 of the more than 3,000 U.S. counties, over half of farmers’ markets reported accepting SFMNP coupons, and in another 295 counties, 26 to 50 percent of farmers’ markets reported accepting SFMNP. Areas in the Northeast, Southwest, and along the West Coast have a relatively high percent of farmers’ markets that accept SFMNP coupons. This chart appears in “Food Assistance Program Connects Low-Income Seniors with Fresh Farm Produce” in the August 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Last updated: Friday, August 29, 2014

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