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Friday, January 02, 2015
China’s demand for imported grains, much of it from the United States, has surged recently, with imports of cereal grains rising to 16 million tons in 2012 and 18 million in 2013. Imports in 2013 included 3 million tons of corn and 4 million tons of DDGS (distillers dried grains with solubles; a co-product of U.S. corn ethanol production used for feed) from the United States.  In 2013, the United States supplied 70 percent of China’s wheat imports and, for the first time, China became a major market for U.S. sorghum. China’s demand for feed grains appears to have reached a turning point, as a tightening labor supply and rising feed costs force structural change in China’s livestock sector. Labor scarcity, animal disease pressures, and rising living standards are prompting rural households to abandon “backyard” livestock production and shift more production to specialized farm enterprises that rely more heavily on commercial feed. Because of this, China has switched from being a corn exporter to importing 3-5 million tons annually since 2009. Rising feed demand has also pushed up costs and motivated feed mills and livestock producers to explore new feed ingredients like DDGS and sorghum. Find this chart and additional analysis in "China in the Next Decade: Rising Meat Demand and Growing Imports of Feed" in the April Amber Waves. Originally published Thursday May 22, 2014.
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Wednesday, December 31, 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. Originally published Monday August 11, 2014.
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Tuesday, December 30, 2014
The severity and duration of the ongoing drought in California has raised concerns over its role in rising food prices at the grocery store, especially for fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2012, California produced nearly 50 percent (by value) of the nation’s vegetables and non-citrus fruit. Droughts in California are generally associated with higher retail prices for produce, but price increases are lagged due to the time it takes for weather conditions and planting decisions to alter crop production, which then influence retail prices. In 2005, following five years of drought, retail fruit prices rose 3.7 percent and retail vegetable prices increased 4 percent. Prices continued to rise in 2006, one year after drought conditions began to improve. However, other factors such as energy prices and consumer demand also affect retail produce prices. For example, prices for fresh produce fell in 2009 despite drought conditions, as the 2007-09 recession reduced foreign and domestic demand for many retail foods. As of October 2014, ERS analysts are forecasting fresh fruit prices to increase 4.5 to 5.5 percent in 2014 and vegetable prices to be 2 to 3 percent higher. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Consumers section of the 2014 California Drought page on the ERS website. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated October 24, 2014. Originally published Thursday October 30, 2014.
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Monday, December 29, 2014
If you have a sweet tooth, you are not alone. A recent analysis of intake data from the 2007-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that U.S. children ate an average of 9.7 teaspoons of added sugars for each 1,000 calories consumed, and adults consumed 8.4 teaspoons of added sugars per 1,000 calories. Added sugars are the sugars, syrups, and other caloric sweeteners added to foods, including table sugar added to coffee and high fructose corn syrup used in soft drinks, ketchup, and other processed foods. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise that added sugars and added fats should account for no more than 258 calories of a 2,000-calorie diet. Half of this maximum coming from added sugars would equal 3.9 teaspoons per 1,000 calories—less than half of what Americans are consuming. The analysis also found that on average, lower-income individuals consumed more added sugars than higher-income individuals. This chart appears in “Food Consumption and Nutrient Intake Data—Tools for Assessing Americans’ Diets” in the October 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine. Originally published Friday October 10, 2014.
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Wednesday, December 24, 2014
During the Great Recession of 2007-09, many Americans experienced large changes in employment and income—changes that affected their food spending and intake. Using intake data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, ERS researchers found that working-age Americans cut back on the number of meals and snacks eaten away from home between 2005-06 and 2009-10. Working age adults’ total daily calories from food away from home declined as well. After accounting for age and other demographic characteristics, the number of away-from-home meals and snacks consumed by working age adults declined by about 12 percent and their away-from-home calories fell from 833 to 706 calories per day. Accounting for income did not affect the estimated declines, suggesting that the recession effect was not due to lower incomes, but instead to increased time available for shopping and preparing food at home. The statistics in this chart are from the ERS report, Changes in Eating Patterns and Diet Quality Among Working-Age Adults, 2005-2010, released January 16, 2014. Originally published Thursday January 23, 2014.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Despite rapid increases in their urban population in recent decades, American Indians (including Alaska native populations but excluding those reporting more than one race) remain disproportionately rural compared with other groups. Based on self-identified race, 29 percent of all American Indians lived in rural areas in 2010, compared with about 15 percent of the total U.S. population. Persistent out-migration of rural residents finishing high school was as pronounced among American Indians as it was for the rural population as a whole, reflected in a slight dip in the percentage of working age adults residing in rural America. In addition, 52 percent of rural American Indians and the rural U.S. population in general were age 20-59, indicating an equal level of economic dependency on rural working-age adults, whether American Indian or not. But rural American Indians are much more likely to be young (under 20) than the total rural population (which has a higher share of population age 60 and older), putting very different pressures on family finances and public support programs.  Find county-level data on the American Indian and Alaska Native population in ERS’s Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America.
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Monday, December 22, 2014
The large 2014/15 (September/August) U.S. soybean crop—18 percent above the previous record—has led to a record pace for U.S. soybean export sales commitments, including sales to China, the largest U.S. market for soybeans. The 2014/15 U.S. soybean crop is estimated at 107.7 million tons and total marketing year exports are forecast at a record 47.9 million tons. Cumulative export shipments have accelerated this fall, with record U.S. export inspections of soybeans in October and again in November. China accounts for most of the gains with 72 percent of U.S. export shipments to date, although substantial gains have been seen for other importers, including the EU, Turkey, and Taiwan. Actual U.S. export shipments are now growing faster than export sales and due to this robust pace, future  shipments could moderate without another round of new sales. Even with the outlook for record U.S. exports, the large U.S harvest, coupled with expected record Brazilian and Argentine harvests, is forecast to lead to a 23-percent decline in the U.S. farm price of soybeans to about $10/bushel for 2014/15. Find additional analysis in Soybeans and Oil Crops Outlook: December 2014.
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Friday, December 19, 2014
In large part, the regional distribution of beginning farms mirrors that of all farms, but there are some differences. Beginning farms are located all across the country, but overall, the South is home to the largest percentage of beginning farms: 47 percent, which is about 5 percent higher than its share of all farms. The South also has the largest percentage of small beginning farms. Large-scale beginning farms are most likely to be in the Midwest, but with 30 percent of the nation’s beginning farms, the Midwest has fewer than its 37 percent share of all farms. The concentration of cash grain farms in the Midwest, which on average are larger than farms specializing in other types of commodities, not only explains the region’s higher shares of mid-size and large scale beginning farms, but may also explain the fact that fewer of its farms are operated by beginning farmers. This chart is found in the ERS topic page on Beginning & Disadvantaged Farmers, updated October 2014.
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Thursday, December 18, 2014
U.S. per capita strawberry use has generally trended higher since 1980, and the current production forecast supports the outlook for continued growth in 2014. Per capita use of fresh strawberries is expanding the fastest, reaching a record 7.9 pounds in 2013, in response to greater awareness of the importance of healthy diets, increased year-round availability through domestic production and imports, and adoption of improved varieties. The current USDA forecast for strawberry production in the three major strawberry-producing States—California, Oregon, and Florida—indicates combined output of 3.05 billion pounds in 2014, up 3 percent from last year. Production is forecast to increase 2 percent in California and 11 percent in Florida, but decline 3 percent in Oregon. Despite drought conditions, strawberry area in California is forecast to remain steady from a year ago at 41,500 acres, with higher yields per acre boosting production to a record 2.82 billion pounds. Even with a larger domestic crop and increased imports from Mexico and Canada, retail prices of fresh strawberries are averaging about 12 percent higher during the first 10 months of 2014 compared with a year earlier. Find this chart and additional analysis in Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook: September 2014.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014
In 2013, only about one-quarter of total farm household income came from farming. Because of the broad USDA definition of a farm (which includes places with the potential for as little as $1,000 in annual sales), more than half of farm operator households consistently incur a net loss from farming activities in any given year, and far more do not earn the equivalent of a market wage for their on-farm labor. As a result, most farm operator households rely heavily on off-farm income. Of the total off-farm income earned by all farm operator households, the majority comes from wages and salaries earned by household members through nonfarm jobs, followed by income transfers (e.g., Social Security) and profits from nonfarm businesses owned by farm household members. As a group, U.S. farm operator households earn their income from a wide range of activities, reflecting the diverse set of skills, knowledge, and economic goals held by farm operators and their families. This chart is found in the ERS topic page, Farm Household Well-Being, updated November 2014.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014
With a 12.9-percent share, food ranked third behind housing (33.6 percent) and transportation (17.6 percent) in a typical American household’s 2013 expenditures. Breaking down food spending further, 7.8 percent of expenditures were spent at the grocery store and 5.1 percent at restaurants. Price changes for the items in the different budget categories relative to each other play a role in the categories’ shares of annual household consumer expenditures. Over the last 10 years, retail food price inflation has often outpaced economy-wide inflation. Between 2004 and 2013, prices for all U.S. goods and services rose an average of 2.4 percent per year, while food prices increased an average of 2.8 percent. Despite higher food price inflation, food’s share of consumer expenditures fell slightly (0.4 percentage points) over the decade, as the budget shares for health care and housing rose. This chart appears in the ERS data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials. More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.
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Monday, December 15, 2014
Fiscal 2015 U.S. agricultural exports are forecast at $143.5 billion, $9.0 billion below fiscal 2014, primarily because of the outlook for lower bulk commodity prices. Grain and feed sales are forecast down 18 percent from fiscal 2014 as lower prices, as well as reduced volumes, reduce the value of corn and wheat exports. Lower prices are expected to reduce oilseed and product exports by 15 percent, despite the outlook for larger export volumes. In contrast, horticultural product exports are forecast to grow 11 percent to $37 billion, making them the largest category of U.S. agricultural exports for the first time. Livestock products are also forecast to grow about 3 percent in fiscal 2015, primarily due to higher meat prices. The trade outlook indicates a decline in U.S. agricultural exports across global regions. Lower prices are expected to reduce the value of exports to China, the largest U.S. agricultural market, by about 7 percent to $24.0 billion. Sales to Canada, the second largest U.S. market, are forecast to hold steady at about $21.8 billion, while sales to Mexico slip about 4 percent to $18.7 billion. Find additional analysis in Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade: December 2014
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Friday, December 12, 2014
Despite an upward trend in rural educational attainment levels over time, a larger proportion of working-age adults in urban areas have college degrees. This rural-urban disparity is partly the result of considerably higher earnings levels for college graduates and advanced degree holders in urban areas. Many young adults leave rural areas to attend college, and many remain in urban areas after college due to the higher earnings available to them in those areas. In contrast, differences between rural and urban earnings levels are much smaller for those with less education, who thus have less incentive to move to urban areas. However, despite the lower earnings generally available in rural areas, some individuals and families at all levels of educational attainment migrate from urban to rural areas, as quality-of-life factors, lower housing costs, personal ties, or other specific opportunities motivate them to move or move back to rural America. This chart is found in the 2014 edition of Rural America at a Glance, EB-26, November 2014.
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Thursday, December 11, 2014
Menu-labeling regulations recently released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will require chain restaurants and other retail food chains that sell restaurant-type foods to post the calorie content of standard menu items. This will allow diners to make more informed decisions, if they notice and use the information. A recent ERS study, Menu Labeling Imparts New Information About the Calorie Content of Restaurant Foods, concluded that while many Americans may already be making crude choices between low- and high-calorie menu items, the new regulations will allow them to refine their choices. In another ERS study, researchers found that adults who already practice healthy dietary habits were more likely to use calorie information when eating out. Strongly correlated with a person’s declared willingness to use nutrition information was his or her Healthy Eating Index (HEI) score, which assesses an individual’s conformance to Federal dietary guidance. People who said that they would use nutrition information “often” in both fast-food and full-service settings have the highest average HEI scores, both above the national average of 53.1, followed by those who said they would use it “sometimes.” The statistics in this chart are from the ERS report, Consumers’ Use of Nutrition Information When Eating Out.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014
In 2012, there were still nearly 50,000 U.S. dairy farms with fewer than 100 cows, but that represented a large decline from 20 years earlier, when there were almost 135,000 small dairy farms. Over the same period, the number of dairy farms with at least 1,000 cows more than tripled to 1,807 farms in 2012. Movements in farm numbers were mirrored by movements in the share of cow inventories. Farms with fewer than 100 cows accounted for 49 percent of the country’s 9.7 million milk cows in 1992, but just 17 percent of the 9.2 million milk cows in 2012. Meanwhile, farms with at least 1,000 cows accounted for 49 percent of all cows in 2012, up from 10 percent in 1992. The shift to larger dairy farms is driven largely by the economics of dairy farming. Average full costs of production (which include the annualized cost of capital, imputed cost of unpaid family labor, and cash operating expenses) are substantially lower on farms with larger herds. This chart is drawn from the December 2014 Amber Waves data feature,Milk Production Continues Shifting to Large Scale Farms.”
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Tuesday, December 09, 2014
The European Union (EU) is one of the world’s leading producers, consumers, and traders of broiler (young chicken) meat, but its sanitary and phytosanitary policies limit imports of U.S. broiler meat. All broiler meat imported by the EU is required to be from sources that do not use pathogen reduction treatments (PRTs), such as chlorine wash, in their production. PRTs are approved for use in the United States and are used by virtually all U.S. processors. Because of this restriction, even the 13 most recent EU member states—including Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Bulgaria—halted their imports of U.S. broiler meat after they joined the EU in 2004 and 2007. U.S. broiler exports to the EU are also potentially restricted by the EU’s system of tariff rate quotas (TRQs), but the United States does not currently fill its existing quota because of the EU PRT restriction. The United States receives an exclusive TRQ of 16,665 metric tons, which can be applied to fresh and frozen broiler and turkey meat in whole-bird or parts form. The EU imported 670,000 metric tons of broiler meat in 2013, with 93 percent of those imports supplied by Brazil and Thailand. Find this chart and additional analysis in Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and Tariff-Rate Quotas for U.S. Meat Exports to the European Union. 
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Monday, December 08, 2014
Participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) place a high value on how well food keeps when making purchase decisions in the grocery store; a closer look at their shopping behavior may help to explain this. Using data from the Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey module of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), ERS researchers found that SNAP participants and low-income non-SNAP participants had a more difficult time getting to the grocery store than higher income shoppers; 14 percent of both groups reported that it took them more than 30 minutes to get to a grocery store, compared with only 8 percent of higher income shoppers. SNAP shoppers are less likely to shop weekly and more likely to shop once a month or less. This may be related to the monthly distribution of SNAP benefits. Just under 30 percent of SNAP shoppers reported that they shopped once a month or less compared to 15 percent of low-income non-SNAP participants and 8 percent of higher income shoppers. Choosing foods that keep well is likely to be important to consumers that shop less frequently. This chart appears in “SNAP Households Must Balance Multiple Priorities to Achieve a Healthful Diet” in the November 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Friday, December 05, 2014
Soil health improves when farmers refrain from disturbing the soil. While no-till production systems are increasingly used on land in corn, soybeans, and wheat—the three largest U.S. crops by acreage—they are not necessarily used every year. Field-level data, collected through the Agricultural Resource Management Survey, show that farmers often rotate no-till with other tillage systems. Farmers growing wheat (in 2009), corn (in 2010), and soybeans (in 2012) were asked about no-till use in the survey year and the 3 previous years. No-till was used continuously over the 4-year period on 21 percent of surveyed acres. On almost half of the cropland surveyed, farmers did not use no-till. Some of the benefit of using no-till, including higher organic matter and greater carbon sequestration, is realized only if no-till is applied continuously over a number of years. Nonetheless, because tilling the soil can help control weeds and pests, some farmers rotate tillage practices much like they rotate crops. This chart is drawn from data reported in ARMS Farm Financial and Crop Production Practices, updated in December 2014.
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Thursday, December 04, 2014
Because rice is an important commodity for Indian producers and consumers, Indian Government policies intervene heavily in its domestic rice market. Particularly since the global price spike in 2008, India’s system of providing Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for growers, distributing rice purchased at the MSP to consumers at subsidized prices, and placing periodic bans or quotas on rice exports, has kept domestic rice prices lower and more stable than world prices (represented by the export price of Thai rice). In 2008, India increased subsidized rice distribution and banned most exports of non-basmati (aromatic, long grain) rice to prevent higher world prices from affecting  the domestic market; however, domestic rice prices still increased more than 30 percent between mid-2007 and early 2010. According to ERS research, Indian rice consumers were able to maintain rice consumption, but did so primarily by reducing expenditures on non-staple foods, health care, and durable goods. India’s higher level of exports since 2011, along with increases in MSPs, has contributed to current concerns with inflation in domestic rice prices.  Find this chart and more in-depth research in Coping Strategies in Response to Rising Food Prices: Evidence from India
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Wednesday, December 03, 2014
Native Americans living in tribal areas experience high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease that may be due to poor diets. Prior studies cite limited access to supermarkets and other sources of affordable and nutritious foods as contributing factors to less healthful food choices by U.S. consumers. Low population density and limited incomes create disincentives for supermarkets to locate in many tribal areas. In 2010, 74.4 percent of the people in the 545 U.S. tribal areas examined in a recent ERS study lived more than 1 mile from a supermarket, compared with 41.2 percent of the U.S. population. Similarly, among low-income individuals, shares were higher for tribal populations than the national average. Regular access to a car can make traveling to supermarkets easier. However, the share of tribal households without access to a vehicle who lived more than 1 mile from a supermarket ranged from 57.2 to 74.6 percent, versus the 20.1-percent U.S. average. This chart appears in the ERS report, Measuring Access to Healthful, Affordable Food in American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Areas, released on December 1, 2014.
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Last updated: Tuesday, December 23, 2014

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