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Cropland harvested reaches 17-year high amid decline in crop failure  
Thursday, September 03, 2015
The ERS Major Land Uses (MLU) series estimates land in various uses, including the acres devoted to crop production in a given year. These acres, collectively referred to as “cropland used for crops,” include acres of cropland harvested, acres on which crops failed, and cultivated summer fallow. In 2014 (the most recent estimate), the total area of cropland used for crops was 340 million acres, up 4 million acres from the 2013 estimate but in line with the 30-year average. In 2014, cropland harvested increased by 2 percent (6 million acres) over the previous year. The 317 million acres of cropland harvested represents the highest harvested acreage since 1997, when cropland harvested was 321 million acres. The area double cropped—land from which two or more crops were harvested—declined by 1 million acres, a 10 percent decline from the 2013 double-cropped area of 10 million acres.  Acres on which crops failed declined by 25 percent over the past year to 9 million acres, the lowest level since 2010. Cultivated summer fallow, which primarily occurs as part of wheat rotations in the semiarid West, has remained relatively stable over the last 10 years, although its use has been declining since the late 1960s. Larger historical fluctuations seen in cropland used for crops are largely attributable to Federal cropland acreage reduction programs. This chart is based on ERS’s Major Land Uses, Summary table 3: Cropland used for crops, updated August 31, 2015 to include 2014 estimates.
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Participation rate for full price paid lunches in USDA’s National School Lunch Program declined after 2008  
Wednesday, September 02, 2015
Since its start in 1946, USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP) has offered and served lunches to children of all income levels. Based on household income, eligible students can receive their lunches for free or at a reduced price. Students not approved for free or reduced price lunches can purchase NSLP lunches at the “paid lunch” price. For reduced price and paid lunches, participation rates—the share of students in each certification category who participate—have fallen in recent years. In fiscal 2014, 67 percent of students approved to receive reduced price meals took the reduced price lunch, down from 73 percent in fiscal 2009. After increasing during the 2000s, the paid lunch participation rate fell from 47 percent in fiscal 2008 to 37 percent in fiscal 2014. The participation rate for free lunches has been fairly constant at around 80 percent over 2007-2014. A combination of reasons may be affecting NSLP participation, including tougher economic times leading more parents to pack their children’s lunches rather than buy lunch, as well as recent changes to NSLP meal requirements and price increases for paid lunches. This chart is from the ERS report, School Meals in Transition, released on August 20, 2015.
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Non-operating landlords own 31 percent of U.S. farmland  
Tuesday, September 01, 2015
Of the 911 million acres of land in farms in the continental U.S., 61 percent is operated by the land owner, according to the 2014 Tenure Ownership and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL) survey. Another 8 percent (70 million acres) of land in farms is rented from other farm operators. The remaining land in farms (31 percent or 283 million acres) is rented from “non-operating landlords”, or landlord entities that are not currently farmer operators. The majority of acres owned by these non-operating landlords is held by individuals or in partnerships (191 million acres or 21 percent of land in farms). Corporations, trusts, or other ownership arrangements also rent out 92 million acres (about 10 percent of land in farms) to operators. Even though some agricultural land is owned by non-operating landlords, many of these landlords have prior farming experience. Of the 191 million acres owned in non-operator individual or partnership arrangements, nearly half were held by a retired farmer or rancher in 2014. About 6 percent of the acres owned in individual and partnership arrangements by non-operating landlord entities had a principal landlord that reported spending greater than 50 percent of their work time in farm or ranch work, but not as a farm operator. More information can be found on the ERS Farmland Ownership and Tenure topic page.
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Thailand’s rice production at lowest level since 2004/05  
Monday, August 31, 2015
Thailand’s 2015/16 rice production (January/December marketing year) is forecast down 4 percent from last year and will be the lowest since 2004/05. The production decline is due to a second consecutive year of drought and resulting low reservoir levels. Planted area is forecast to fall to 10.2 million hectares for 2015/16, down from 10.92 million in 2013/14, before the current drought began; yields have dropped as well. The USDA area forecast was lowered in August based on Government statements informing growers that they will receive only 50 percent of normal dry-season irrigation water due to the low reservoir levels. In addition to less-than-adequate rainfall in 2014, less-than-normal rainfall at the beginning of the 2015 monsoon season in the central growing region in May and June also contributed to the low reservoir levels. This is the second consecutive year of a drought-reduced rice crop in Thailand. Thailand is typically the largest or near-largest rice exporting country, but exports for the 2015 calendar year are forecast about 18 percent below last year.  Exports are forecast to rebound in 2016, but continued low reservoir levels and limited availability of irrigation water could impact the upcoming crop and export prospects. This chart is from the August 2015 Rice Outlook report.
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Growth in average U.S. farm real estate value slows  
Friday, August 28, 2015
With a value of $2.38 trillion, farm real estate (land and structures) accounted for 81 percent of the total value of U.S. farm sector assets in 2014. Because it comprises such a significant portion of the U.S. farm sector’s asset base, change in the value of farm real estate is a critical barometer of the farm sector's financial performance. On average, U.S. (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) farm real estate values increased 2.4 percent (in nominal terms) to $3,020 per acre over the 12 months ending June 1, 2015. Growth in average values has slowed substantially relative to the previous three year mid-year to mid-year periods, when nominal farm real estate values increased over 8 percent annually. National averages mask wide regional variation. Based on nominal values, farm real estate in the Southern Plains and Pacific regions experienced the highest rates of appreciation of 6.1 percent and 5.8 percent (to $1,900 and $4,780 per acre), respectively, over the 12 months ending June 1, 2015. In contrast, farm real estate in the Corn Belt declined 0.3 percent (to $6,350 per acre). This chart is found on the ERS topic page on Land Use, Land Value & Tenure, updated August 2015.
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Number of fast food restaurants per capita varies across the U.S.  
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Almost half of all American households’ food expenditures occur in restaurants with wait staff, fast food places, and other away-from-home eating establishments. Studies by ERS and other researchers have shown that such eating out purchases tend to be of lower nutritional quality and contain more calories. The availability, convenience, and price of fast food is often suggested as a reason many Americans have poor dietary health. The number of fast food restaurants per capita varies across U.S. counties. Counties with relatively high numbers of fast food restaurants per capita (greater than 1 fast food restaurant for every 1,000 people) include counties comprised of densely populated cities (for example, New York, NY) and counties with major tourist attractions (for example Summit County, CO). Counties with very few fast food restaurants per capita are spread throughout the country, but tend to be those with smaller populations. This chart is one of the 40 updated maps in ERS’s Food Environment Atlas, posted on August 10, 2015.
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Dairy product prices are declining  
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
The U.S. domestic wholesale prices of nonfat dry milk (NDM) have declined from a record high of $2.090 per pound in March 2014 to $0.837 per pound in July 2015, the lowest price since May 2009.  International export prices for skim milk powder (SMP) are also declining, reaching $0.792 per pound in July for Oceania and $0.851 per pound for Western Europe. Since the U.S. market for NDM is highly dependent upon exports (52 percent of production was exported in 2014), domestic prices track closely with international prices. The domestic wholesale price for dry whey, which is also highly dependent upon exports, fell from 42.5 cents in June to 39.4 cents in July, the lowest level since January 2011. Domestic prices for butter and cheese have not fallen as much since those markets are not as dependent upon exports.  The declining prices reflect weak global demand, particularly from China, and the Russian import ban on dairy products from major producers. With lower dairy product prices, milk prices are also declining, with the all-milk price currently forecast to average $16.75-$16.95 per hundredweight in 2015, down from an average of $23.97 in 2014. This chart is from the August 2015 Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook report.
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Reduced livestock receipts are largest contributor to the forecast decline in U.S. farm income for 2015  
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Net farm income (NFI) is forecast to decline for the second consecutive year, after reaching recent historic highs in 2013. NFI is expected to fall nearly $33 billion (36 percent) from 2014’s estimate to $58.3 billion in 2015. The 2015 forecast would be the lowest since 2010, and $29.1 billion (in real terms) below the 10-year average. Crop receipts are expected to decrease by $12.9 billion from 2014, led by a projected $7.1 billion decline in corn receipts and a $3.4 billion decline in soybean receipts. Livestock receipts are also expected to decline, with the largest decreases expected for hog and dairy receipts. Total production expenses are forecast to fall by $1.5 billion in 2015, the first decline since 2009. Government payments are projected to rise 16 percent ($1.6 billion) to $11.4 billion in 2015. This chart is based on information found in the 2015 Farm Sector Income Forecast, updated August 25, 2015.
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Participation in USDA's School Breakfast Program continues to increase  
Monday, August 24, 2015
USDA’s School Breakfast Program (SBP) provides nutritious morning meals to students at participating schools. In fiscal 2014, almost 90,000 schools and residential child care institutions offered the program, and 13.5 million U.S. children participated on an average school day. SBP participation has more than doubled since fiscal 1996, and Federal expenditures for the SBP were $3.7 billion in fiscal 2014. Since the program was permanently authorized in 1975, it has targeted low-income students. In fiscal 2014, 85 percent of breakfasts were served for free or reduced price, based on household income, up from 81 percent in 2006. This increase likely reflects more children qualifying for free breakfasts and choosing to participate during the 2007-09 recession and its aftermath, as well as policy changes that simplified access to the program for low-income students. This chart appears in the Child Nutrition Programs topic page on the ERS website. *Note: On August 25, 2015, the chart, Certification status of average daily school breakfast participants, fiscal 1975-2014 was corrected for the year 2009—the corrected number for Total is 11.07, not 11.70. 
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Rural communities get a disproportionally small share of foundation grants  
Friday, August 21, 2015
U.S. foundations are an important source of funding for public needs, providing more than $45 billion in grants in 2010. On average, grants to rural-based organizations accounted for 5.5 percent of the real value of domestic grants by large foundations during 2005-10. However, a share of foundation grants to urban-based organizations may also have benefited rural people, if the grant recipient works in rural areas or serves broader public purposes that benefit both rural and urban people. To better estimate the share of the total value of grants that primarily benefited rural residents, ERS researchers selected a random sample of 200 large foundation grants in 2010. Using publicly available information on these grants and their recipients and excluding grants that served both urban and rural people, the estimated share of the value of grants designed to produce rural benefits was slightly higher, at 6.3 percent. Considering that the rural share of the U.S. population was 19 percent in 2010, both measures suggest foundation grants have an urban focus. Understanding the distribution of foundation grants to and across rural areas can help improve the effectiveness of public programs targeted to these areas, since foundation grants may complement or substitute for public investments. A version of this chart is found in the August 2015 Amber Waves data feature, “Foundation Giving to Rural Areas in the United States Is Disproportionately Low.”
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Poultry consumption grows with income in the Middle East and North Africa  
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Meat consumption is correlated with income around the world, and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is no exception. While income levels vary widely across the region, income growth continues to outpace the world average with implications for MENA’s future meat demand, particularly poultry. Per capita meat consumption has more than doubled from around 12 kilograms (kg) in the 1990s to about 24 kg in 2010, and USDA’s Baseline Projections suggest this growth will continue well into the future. As with other commodities, the growth of poultry consumption has exceeded gains in domestic production, leading to rising imports, and MENA is now the largest regional importer of poultry products in the world. Domestic meat production is also growing rapidly; regional poultry production grew by nearly 5 percent annually from 2000 to 2011, leading to growth in demand for animal feeds, primarily corn and soybean meal. The chart is from Middle East and North Africa Region: An Important Driver of World Agricultural Trade.
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Children accounted for 44 percent of SNAP participants in 2013  
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is USDA’s largest food and nutrition assistance program. In an average month in fiscal 2014, the program provided 46.5 million low-income Americans with benefits to purchase food at authorized food stores. In fiscal 2013 (the latest year for which demographic data are available), adults age 18-59 accounted for 46.4 percent of participants, young children (birth to age 4) accounted for 14.3 percent of participants, school-age children (5-17 years) accounted for 30.1 percent of participants, and the elderly accounted for 9.3 percent of participants. The composition of SNAP participants has shifted over the past decade, particularly after the 2007-09 recession, as more working-age adults became eligible for the program and applied for benefits. Adults’ share of the SNAP caseload increased from 42.1 percent of participants in 2006, while young children’s share of the SNAP caseload fell from 16.6 percent in 2006, and school-age children’s share fell from 32.7 percent. Elderly participants’ share of the SNAP caseload increased slightly from 8.7 percent in fiscal 2006. This chart is from ERS’s data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials.
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Stacked GE varieties of corn have become commonplace  
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
U.S. farmers have embraced genetically engineered (GE) seeds in the 20 years since their commercial introduction. Herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops, developed to survive 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 effective weed control. Insect-resistant crops contain a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that produces a protein that is toxic to specific insects, protecting the plant over its entire life. Seeds that have both herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant traits are referred to as “stacked.” Based on USDA survey data, adoption of stacked GE corn varieties has increased sharply, reaching 77 percent of planted corn acres in 2015. Conversely, use of Bt-only corn dropped from 27 percent of planted corn acreage in 2004 to 4 percent in 2015, while HT-only corn dropped from 24 percent of planted corn acreage in 2007 to 12 percent in 2015. Generally, stacked seeds (seeds with more than one GE trait) tend to have higher yields than conventional seeds or seeds with only one GE trait. This chart is based on the ERS data product, Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., updated July 2015.
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Most Indian crop yields remain below the world average  
Monday, August 17, 2015
India’s large and diverse agricultural sector is growing more rapidly than it was a decade ago, but per hectare yields of most major crops remain low by world standards despite generally good quality soils; ample, if highly seasonal, rainfall; and the largest irrigated area in the world. Of India’s major crops, only wheat—which is 93 percent irrigated—has average yields near the world average. India’s small scale-farm holdings—the average farm is 1.15 hectares—are often cited as a reason for slow adoption of yield enhancing technology. Another possible factor is the relatively low level of public investment in agricultural research, extension, and market infrastructure.  However, private investment in Indian agriculture is now much larger than public investment and is credited with the development and adoption of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton varieties and hybrid corn, the rapid growth of integrated poultry operations, and the still nascent development of modern food marketing and supply chains. USDA long-term projections for India suggest a continued gradual increase in major crop yields towards potential yields, but greater public and private investment could accelerate the rate of yield improvement. This chart is from the Amber Waves article "Food Policy and Productivity Key to India Outlook."
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The benefits of improved duck hunting exceed expected wetland restoration costs in the western Prairie Pothole Region  
Friday, August 14, 2015
Over the past two decades, USDA has spent over $4.2 billion to restore and protect wetlands, many of which have been drained, mostly for agricultural use. While restoring and protecting wetlands comes at a cost, their ecosystems provide a wide array of benefits that can exceed costs. For example, duck habitat is one of several benefits provided by wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR). PPR wetlands produce 55 to 80 percent of all North American ducks; ducks from this area fly all U.S. flyways and provide viewing, hunting, and other benefits to people throughout the country. When the benefits from improved duck hunting alone are compared to total wetland restoration and protection costs in the PPR, the ratio of the estimated benefits to costs ranges from near zero to more than nine, depending on the location. Where benefit-cost ratios are greater than one, society gains more in benefits than it spends on wetland restoration and protection–even when other benefits besides improved duck hunting are ignored. The estimated benefit-cost ratios are greatest in the western PPR, where wetlands are most productive and the costs of restoring and protecting wetlands tend to be lower. Duck hunting is but one of the potential benefits of wetland restoration. This map is found in the May 2015 Amber Waves finding, "Wetlands Benefits and Costs Vary With Location."
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Behavioral economics suggests simple nudges can lead children to eat healthy foods  
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Beginning in fall 2012, school meals served through USDA’s National School Lunch Program feature updated nutrition standards, with more fruit, whole grains, and a healthier mix of vegetables. With more than 30 million children eating school lunches each day, this change has potential to improve children’s diets. However, serving food to children doesn’t always mean they’ll eat it. Behavioral economics—the study of psychology and cognitive cues in human decision-making—suggests simple, low-cost nudges can promote acceptance of healthy foods. For example, ERS-funded researchers at Cornell University leveraged a principle called “confirmatory bias” that posits that higher expectations for a product lead to a more positive response. The researchers found that giving carrots an attention-getting name such as “X-ray Vision Carrots” increased the percent of elementary students eating carrots from the lunch line. Between 12 and 15 percent of the children ate carrots with no name or called “Food of the Day,” while 35 percent of children ate the “X-ray Vision” carrots. More discussion of behavioral economics-based strategies to encourage acceptance of healthy school meals can be found in “Eating Better at School: Can New Policies Improve Children’s Food Choices?” in the September 2013 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Food insecure population across much of the developing world projected to rise by 2025  
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
In 76 low- and middle-income countries studied by USDA, the total number of food-insecure people—those who consume less than the nutritional target of roughly 2,100 calories per person per day—is estimated at 475 million in 2015, a 9-percent decrease from 2014. As a result, the share of the population of these countries that is food insecure decreased from just under 15 percent in 2014 to an estimated 13.4 percent in 2015. The food security situation in the countries studied is projected to deteriorate at the aggregate level over the next decade. The number of food-insecure people is projected to increase 31 percent to 622 million, with the share of the population that is food insecure rising to just over 15 percent. The projected rise in food insecurity is driven largely by just a few countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Sub-Saharan Africa, and Bangladesh, Yemen and India in Asia. In the Sub Saharan Africa countries, high population growth and civil strife are contributing factors to the unfavorable outlook for food security, while in Asia, continued political instability is the driving factor. Latin America’s food security situation is projected to improve as growth in grain output and imports exceed the slowing population growth. Find this chart and additional information in International Food Security Assessment: 2015-2025.
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WIC households favor supercenters for their primary grocery shopping  
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Data from a new USDA-funded survey, National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS), show that households that participate in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are more likely to use supercenters for their primary food shopping than non-WIC comparison households (non-participating households that contain either a pregnant woman or a child under the age of 5). Over half of WIC households (52 percent) used a supercenter for their main food shopping, compared with 45 percent of non-WIC comparison households with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty threshold and 41 percent of higher-income non-WIC comparison households. Because WIC households are larger and more likely to contain multiple young children compared with non-WIC comparison households, WIC households may be more enticed to shop at supercenters in order to purchase larger-sized products or take advantage of one-stop shopping. This chart appears in “Most U.S. Households Do Their Main Grocery Shopping at Supermarkets and Supercenters Regardless of Income” in the August 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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International agricultural productivity growth remains uneven across countries  
Monday, August 10, 2015
Agricultural total factor productivity (TFP) is the difference between the aggregate total output of crop/livestock commodities and the combined use of land, labor, capital and material inputs employed in farm production. Growth in TFP implies that the adoption of new technology or improved management of farm resources is increasing average productivity or efficiency of input use. Worldwide, agricultural TFP grew at an average annual rate of 1.7 percent during of 2002-11, the latest decade for which figures are available. However, not all countries are achieving growth in agricultural TFP. Among developing countries, some large countries like China and Brazil are improving their agricultural TFP rapidly, but many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are lagging behind. Most developed countries are continuing to achieve moderate rates of agricultural TFP growth, but some, such as the UK and Australia, have experienced a slowdown in TFP growth. Maintaining growth in agricultural TFP is necessary for achieving global food security goals and could help preserve natural resources. This map is based on data from ERS’ International Agricultural Productivity accounts.
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Number of U.S. farmers markets has nearly tripled over the last 15 years  
Friday, August 07, 2015
A farmers’ market is a common area where several farmers gather on a recurring basis to sell fresh produce and other farm products directly to consumers. The number of farmers’ markets rose to 8,476 in 2015, up from 2,863 in 2000 and 1,755 in 1994, according to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. Farmers’ markets tend to be concentrated in densely populated areas of the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast. Generally, farmers’ markets feature items from local food systems, although depending on the definition of “local,” some vendors may come from outside the local region, and some local vendors may not sell locally produced products. The growing number of farmers’ markets could reflect increased demand for local and regional food products based on consumer perceptions of their freshness and quality, support for the local economy, environmental benefits, or other perceived attributes relative to food from traditional marketing channels. This chart updates one found in the ERS report, Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues, ERR-97, May 2010.
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U.S. rice production is projected to decline 6 percent in 2015  
Thursday, August 06, 2015
Rice acreage for 2015 is estimated at 2.77 million acres, down 6 percent from last year and 5 percent from March planting intentions. Rice acreage is down in all major producing States, reflecting low prices—especially for long-grain varieties—as well as drought in California, a cool and wet spring across much of the South, and continued water restrictions in Texas. California is reporting the largest percentage decline (11 percent) in rice area, which is the lowest since 1991/92. The 2015 decline follows a 23-percent reduction in rice acreage last year. The large, multi-year declines in California rice area reflect 4 consecutive years of severe drought.  Growers in Texas have also faced tightening water restrictions for the past 4 years, and 2015 acreage is down around 20 percent from pre-drought levels, leaving it with the smallest acreage of any rice-producing State. Arkansas—the largest rice-producing State—accounts for more than half of the decline in U.S. rice area this year, with a drop in acreage of more than 6 percent. Arkansas produces both long-grain and medium-grain rice; low prices and unfavorable weather are behind a 9-percent decline in long-grain plantings, while medium-grain plantings in Arkansas increased 25,000 acres (12 percent) this year due to the expectation of favorable prices caused by California’s medium-grain shortfall. Louisiana and Mississippi are also reporting declines in rice acreage this year. This chart is from the July 2015 Rice Outlook report.
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Wider group of universities and institutions conducting federally supported nutrition research  
Wednesday, August 05, 2015
USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are the lead Federal agencies that conduct and fund human nutrition research. From 1985 to 2009, funding shifted from research at Federal nutrition laboratories and land-grant universities toward competitive research grants for non-Federal researchers, as DHHS’s share of total nutrition research funding grew from 79 to 93 percent. Over this period, the share of federally funded nutrition research projects conducted by government researchers fell from 12 to 6 percent and the share conducted by land-grant universities declined from 34 to 22 percent. In 2009, non-land-grant universities accounted for 41 percent of Federal nutrition research projects and other institutions (medical schools, hospitals, and research institutions) had a 29-percent share—up from 30 percent and 22 percent, respectively, in 1985. This chart appears in “Federal Support for Nutrition Research Trends Upward as USDA Share Declines” in the June 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Population change is uneven across rural and small-town America  
Tuesday, August 04, 2015
The number of rural (nonmetropolitan) counties that lost population in 2010-14 reached a historic high of 1,310. The recent economic recession, increased global competition, and technological changes led to widespread job losses in rural manufacturing. Population loss occurred throughout the eastern United States, especially in manufacturing-dependent regions such as along the North Carolina-Virginia border and southern Ohio. Population growth did occur in 666 nonmetro counties. Large sections of the northern Great Plains started to gain population after decades of persistent decline, due largely to the inmigration of workers capitalizing on the shale oil and gas production boom. Nonmetro counties in southeastern New Mexico and parts of eastern Texas also gained population from energy-related job growth. This chart appears in the August 2015 Amber Waves finding, “Population Loss in Nonmetro Counties Continues.”
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U.S. production of maple syrup increased as prices rose  
Monday, August 03, 2015
Maple syrup production in the United States was up 203,000 gallons (6.3 percent) in 2015, making it the second largest crop on record.  Production of this sweetener has trended higher over the past few decades, and the 3.4 million gallons harvested this year is more than three times the amount produced in 1995. The number of tree taps this year reached almost 12 million, the highest on record, and 61 percent of those taps were in New England. Vermont is the Nation’s largest producer of maple syrup and, with New York and Maine, accounts for 75 percent of the U.S. total. Despite the steady growth in domestic production, imports from Canada still account for nearly 70 percent of U.S. consumption. The average price received by farmers in 2014 was $36.40 per gallon (ranging from $31.50 in Maine to $70.90 in Connecticut), down $1 from the previous year. The wide divergence in average prices is due to sales format—largely retail sales in Connecticut and bulk sales in Maine. This chart is from the July 2015 Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook report.
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India to surpass China as world’s top cotton producer  
Friday, July 31, 2015
Cotton production is concentrated among only a few countries, with the world’s five largest cotton-producing countries forecast to produce nearly 80% of world production in 2015/16. India and China together account for more than 50 percent of global cotton production, but production in China is declining while increasing in India. In 2015/16, India is expected to surpass China as the world’s largest cotton producer for the first time on record, with a crop forecast at 29.5 million bales, pushing India’s share of world production to 26.5 percent. For China, 2015/16 production is forecast to decrease 10 percent (3 million bales) to 27 million bales, the lowest since 2003/04. China’s share of global production is forecast at 24 percent as area continues to trend lower. The difference in the production outlook for China and India can be traced in part to China’s rising wages and increasing production costs, while new technology and production practices have driven India’s yields and output significantly higher in recent years. Its output surpassed the United States for the first time in 2006 and is now poised to surpass China, which had been the world’s largest cotton producer since 1982. This chart is from July 2015 Cotton and Wool Outlook report.
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Corn and soybean returns are highest when growers and their neighbors manage glyphosate resistance  
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Glyphosate, also known by the trade name Roundup, is the most widely used herbicide in the United States. Widespread and exclusive use of glyphosate, without other weed control strategies, can induce resistance to the herbicide by controlling susceptible weeds while allowing more resistant weeds to survive, propagate, and spread. Resistant weed seeds can disperse across fields—carried by animals, equipment, people, wind, and water. Consequently, controlling weed resistance depends on the joint actions of farmers and their neighbors. ERS analyses evaluated the long-term financial returns to growers who adopt weed control practices that aim to slow resistance to glyphosate, and compared those returns when neighboring farmers also manage to slow resistance. Projected net returns (annualized over 20 years) for growers who manage resistance generally exceed returns for growers who ignore resistance; they are even higher when neighbors also manage resistance. Projected net returns for growers with neighbors who also manage resistance range 18-20 percent higher than those of growers/neighbors who ignore resistance. This chart visualizes data found in the Amber Waves feature, “Managing Glyphosate Resistance May Sustain Its Efficacy and Increase Long-Term Returns to Corn and Soybean Production,” May 2015.
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Imports used by the U.S. food system totaled $76.6 billion in 2013  
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
In 2013, U.S. consumers spent $1.5 trillion on food and beverages, including both grocery store and eating-out purchases. Imported food and beverages that were purchased directly by U.S. consumers (such as farm-raised shrimp from Thailand, fresh avocados from Mexico, and wines from Spain) accounted for $186.9 billion—13 percent of this total. The remaining 87 percent ($1.3 trillion) was spent on domestically-produced food and beverages. Food and beverages produced in the United States rely not only on domestic inputs, but also on embedded imports. Embedded imports are food ingredients and non-food inputs that are imported and used throughout the U.S. food system. For example, cranberries are imported from Canada and then used as an ingredient in U.S. fruit juice production. Likewise, foreign-produced cookware and refrigerators are purchased by U.S. restaurant owners and are examples of embedded imports in the U.S. food system. In 2013, $76.6 billion of embedded imports were used, accounting for 5 percent of total U.S. food spending. This chart appears in “Accounting for Direct and Embedded Imports in the U.S. Food and Beverage Dollar” in ERS’s July 2015 Amber Waves magazine.
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Growth in certified organic field crop acreage has been rapid, but uneven  
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
U.S. crop acres under USDA certified organic systems have grown since the National Organic Program was implemented in 2002. Organic crop acres increased from about 1.3 million in 2002 to almost 3.1 million in 2011, and part of this growth was in major field crops: corn, soybeans, and wheat. Among these 3 crops, certified organic production of corn increased the most, from about 96,000 acres in 2002 to 234,000 acres in 2011. Certified organic soybean acreage peaked at 175,000 acres in 2001, before falling to 100,000 acres in 2007 and rebounding to 132,000 acres in 2011.  Wheat has the largest number of organic acres, starting at 225,000 acres in 2002 and peaking at more than 400,000 acres in 2008, before falling to 345,000 acres in 2011. Much of the increased organic corn production has been to support a rapidly growing organic dairy sector. Higher prices for conventional corn, soybeans, and wheat since 2008 and somewhat slower demand growth for organic products due to the economic recession, along with increasing imports of these crops, may have limited the growth in organic field crop acreage in recent years. This chart is from the ERS report, The Profit Potential of Certified Organic Field Crop Production, July 2015.
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Labor and land inputs have fallen in U.S. agricultural production, use of intermediate goods has risen  
Monday, July 27, 2015
U.S. farm output more than doubled between 1948 and 2011, while aggregate agricultural inputs increased by just 4 percent. However, the composition of agricultural inputs shifted. Between 1948 and 2011, labor use declined by 78 percent, while total land input dropped by 26 percent. The agricultural sector’s consumption of intermediate goods (such as energy, agricultural chemicals, purchased services, and seed/feed) grew by 140 percent, while capital inputs (equipment, buildings, and inventories) increased by 65 percent. The shift in the input mix away from labor and toward machinery and intermediate inputs reflects trends in relative prices, which dropped significantly relative to labor between 1948 and 2011. After 1980, the use of capital inputs fell, while the growth in intermediate inputs slowed considerably. Total agricultural input use fell by 15 percent in 1980-2011, even as output continued to grow. This chart is found in the ERS report, Agricultural Productivity Growth in the United States: Measurement, Trends, and Drivers, July 2015.
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Meat and poultry plants employ 31 percent of U.S. food manufacturing workers  
Friday, July 24, 2015
In 2013, the U.S. food and beverage manufacturing sector employed about 1.5 million people, or just over 1 percent of all U.S. nonfarm employment. Within the U.S. manufacturing sector, food and beverage manufacturing employees accounted for the largest percentage of employees (14 percent). In over 31,000 food and beverage manufacturing plants located throughout the country, these 1.5 million workers were engaged in transforming raw agricultural materials into products for intermediate or final consumption. Manufacturing jobs include processing, inspecting, packing, janitorial and guard services, product development, recordkeeping, and nonproduction duties such as sales, delivery, advertising, and clerical and routine office functions. Meat and poultry plants employed the largest percentage of food and beverage manufacturing workers, followed by bakeries, and fruit and vegetable processing plants. This chart appears in the ERS data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials.
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One in five rural counties had child poverty rates over 33 percent  
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Child poverty rates varied considerably across nonmetropolitan (rural) counties according to 2009-13 county averages (data on poverty for all U.S. counties are available from the American Community Survey only for 5-year averages). According to the official poverty measure, one in five rural counties had child poverty rates over 33 percent. Child poverty has increased since the 2000 Census (which measured poverty in 1999) and the number of rural counties with child poverty rates of over 33 percent has more than doubled. Improving young adult education levels tended to lower child poverty rates over the period, but increases in single-parent households and economic recession were associated with rising child poverty. Metropolitan counties had average child poverty rates of 21 percent in 2009-13. This map appears in the July 2015 Amber Waves feature, "Understanding the Geography of Growth in Rural Child Poverty."
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Corn use by the Middle East and North Africa region is growing, but U.S. import share is declining  
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region accounts for a significant and growing portion of worldwide food and feed imports. Expansion of the region’s livestock sector—particularly poultry—has boosted demand for feed, driving steady growth in corn consumption over the past 20 years. Given the disparity between MENA’s limited corn production capacity and its growing demand for livestock feed, corn imports have steadily risen, except for a temporary drop in 2009 associated with the spike in global food prices. The U.S. share of the region’s corn imports has declined from about 70 percent during the mid-1990s to around 10 percent in recent years, the result of reduced U.S. exportable surpluses, higher U.S. prices following the 2012 U.S. drought, and increased competition from other suppliers. Major U.S. competitors in the MENA corn market include Ukraine and Russia, which enjoy transport cost advantages to the MENA region, but can experience frequent weather-induced fluctuations in production. The leading destinations of MENA-bound U.S. corn are Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  The chart is from Middle East and North Africa Region: An Important Driver of World Agricultural Trade, AES-88.
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Inflation-adjusted prices for a few food categories have fallen since 1985  
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Over the past 30 years, grocery store prices have risen 4.5 percent above economy-wide prices, indicating that food prices have risen faster than some other consumer goods, such as housing and transportation. Inflation-adjusted (real) prices for poultry and dairy products have been stable, while real prices for red meats, eggs, and fresh fruits and vegetables grew by 18, 21.5, and 40 percent between 1985 and 2014, respectively. Over the same time period, real prices for fats and oils, sugar and sweets, and nonalcoholic beverages fell. A main ingredient in many nonalcoholic beverages is corn sweeteners, which have decreased in price nearly 20 percent since 1985. Processed foods, many of which are included in the sugar and sweets category, are less affected by commodity-level price swings and are generally more closely linked to the costs of inputs such as electricity and wages. Industrial electricity costs and manufacturing wages both increased at a rate about 10 percent lower than overall inflation since 1985. This chart appears in “Growth in Inflation-Adjusted Food Prices Varies by Food Category” in ERS’s July 2015 Amber Waves magazine.
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Genetically engineered seeds planted on over 90 percent of U.S. corn, cotton, and soybean acres in 2015  
Monday, July 20, 2015
U.S. farmers have adopted genetically engineered (GE) seeds in the 20 years since their commercial introduction, despite their typically higher 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 (Bt) contain a gene from the soil bacterium 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 2015, adoption of  GE varieties, including those with herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, or stacked traits, accounted for 94 percent of cotton acreage, 94 percent of soybean acreage (soybeans have only HT varieties), and 92 percent of corn acreage planted in the United States. This chart is found in the ERS data product, Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., updated July 2015.
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Wheat consumption stable among U.S. consumers in recent years  
Friday, July 17, 2015
Per capita wheat flour consumption has been relatively stable in recent years, and is estimated in 2014 at 135 pounds per person, unchanged from 2013 but down 3 pounds from the recent peak in 2007. The 2014 estimate is down 11 pounds from the 2000 level when flour use started dropping sharply, partially due to increased consumer interest in low-carbohydrate diets. From the turn of the 20th century until about 1970, U.S. per capita wheat use generally declined, as strenuous physical labor became less common and diets became more diversified. However, from the early 1970s until the late 1990s, wheat consumption trended upward, reflecting growth in the foodservice industry and away-from-home eating, greater use and availability of prepared foods for home consumption, and promotion by industry organizations of the benefits of wheat flour and pasta product consumption. During this time, the domestic wheat market expanded on both rising per capita food use and a growing U.S. population.  Relatively stable per capita flour use in more recent years means that expansion of the domestic market for U.S. wheat is largely limited to the growth of the U.S. population. This chart is based on the April 2015 Wheat Outlook report.
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Large foundation grants to local nonprofit organizations vary widely across counties  
Thursday, July 16, 2015
From 2005 to 2010, there was wide variation across both metro and nonmetro counties in the real value of grants per person received from large foundations (based on Foundation Center data on grants by the largest 1,200 to 1,400 foundations). Regionally, the highest levels of grant funding per person were in the Northeast, North and South Carolina, upper Midwest, and West, while much of the Great Plains and South had smaller averages. During 2005-10, 14 percent of counties had no organizations that received grants from large foundations (though these counties may have benefited from grants to organizations based in other locations); 18 percent of nonmetro counties and 6 percent of metro counties had no large-foundation grant recipients. The average real value of grants received per person during this period across all counties (including those without any organizations that received grants) was about $124 per person (in 2010 dollars), averaging about $88 per person in nonmetro counties and $192 per person in metro counties. This map is found in the ERS report, Foundation Grants to Rural Areas From 2005 to 2010: Trends and Patterns, June 2015.
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Nearly one-third of SNAP participants use someone else’s car, walk, bike, or take public transit for their grocery shopping  
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Data from USDA’s new National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (or FoodAPS) show that most U.S. households use their own vehicles for their primary food shopping. However, households that participate in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are more likely to rely on someone else’s car, walk, bike, or take public transit than households with incomes above the poverty thresholds. Sixty-eight percent of SNAP participants used their own cars for food shopping, compared to 83 percent of non-SNAP households with incomes between 101 and 185 percent of poverty and 95 percent of households with incomes above 185 percent of poverty. Travel modes of non-participants with income below the poverty line are similar to those of SNAP households. Among SNAP households, 19 percent reported using someone else’s car to do their primary shopping, and 13 percent walked, biked, or used a shuttle or public transportation. How one travels to a grocery store can influence what gets purchased; traveling by bus or walking limits purchases to what can be carried or pulled in a cart. A person needing to borrow someone else’s car—or share a ride to a store—may not be able to shop as frequently or at the times when food supplies are running low. This chart is from the ERS report, Where Do Americans Usually Shop for Food and How Do They Travel to Get There?, March 2015.
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Median income of farm households exceeds that of U.S. households  
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Since USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey began collecting data in 1996, the median income of farm households has risen while real U.S. median household income has remained essentially flat. This may be due to a variety of factors, including farm consolidation, increasing commodity prices, and minimal increases in hourly wages for all U.S. workers. In 2013, the median household income of farm households was about $72,000, compared with $52,000 for all U.S. households. Farm households benefitted from high commodity prices in 2012 and 2013; however, many farm households experience considerable variability in their income from year-to-year compared with their non-farm counterparts. The share of farm household income from farming (shown in the green bars) varies, accounting for as little as 5 percent in the early 2000s and reaching a high of 24 percent in 2013. The importance of farm income to households also varies with the size of the operation. Households with smaller and intermediate size farms typically receive the majority of their income from off-farm sources, while large (commercial) farm households derive the bulk of total household income from their farm activities. The most recent ERS farm sector income forecast shows farm sector income for 2014 and 2015 returning to pre-2012 levels. Households operating large farms are the most vulnerable to decreases in farm income. This chart is based on data found in Farm Household Income and Characteristics and information found in the Farm Household Well-being topic page.
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Smaller supply of California peaches available in 2015  
Monday, July 13, 2015
Summer has arrived and California’s 2015 peach harvest is underway. California currently accounts for just over 70 percent of U.S. peach production, making it the nation’s leading producer of peaches, but its production has been trending lower for nearly a decade. The 2015 crop, forecast at 566,000 tons, continues the trend with a decline of 8 percent from the previous year. A warm, dry winter prompted early crop maturity, but also potentially limited the amount of chill hours that fruit trees normally require to produce a full crop. Statewide production of both freestone (mainly for fresh use) and clingstone (entirely for processing) peaches is forecast lower for 2015. Despite the smaller California crop, prices thus far in 2015 are similar to 2014 levels due to supply increases from South Carolina and Georgia, and ample supplies of off-season Chilean imports during the winter. Through the summer, national supplies will continue to grow as production from other States coincides with California’s peak harvest. In the processing market, declining demand for canned peaches (especially with fresh peaches now commonly available most of the year) as well as increased imports have pushed acreage lower, with tree removals over the past year alone reducing California’s 2015 clingstone bearing acreage about 10 percent.  This chart is based on the June 2015 Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook.
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Profitability varies by farm size  
Friday, July 10, 2015
Profitability—measured here by the rate of return on assets (RRA)—is strongly associated with farm size. Seventy-nine to 86 percent of retirement, off-farm occupation, and low-sales farms are in the "red zone" (farms with an RRA of less than 1 percent), indicating a very low return to farming. The share of farms in the red zone drops rapidly for the remaining family farm types, those with moderate sales and higher. Likewise, the share of farms in the green zone—with a RRA greater than 5 percent—increases with farm size. Larger farms can often use their resources more productively than smaller farms, generating more dollars of sales per unit of capital. Given the high share of small farms in the red zone, many operators stay in business by undervaluing their labor, effectively ignoring the value of the unpaid labor they provide. Such small-farm households typically receive substantial off-farm income and do not rely primarily on their farms for their livelihood, often using off-farm income to cover farm expenses and make investments in their farm operations. This chart is found on the ERS topic page, Farm Structure and Organization, updated July 2015.
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Top 5 foodborne pathogens cost the U.S. economy $14 billion each year  
Thursday, July 09, 2015
In a typical year, 15 pathogens cause over 95 percent of the 9.4 million cases of foodborne illness in the United States for which a pathogen cause can be identified. ERS estimates that these 15 pathogens impose $15.5 billion per year in medical costs, wages lost from time away from work, and societal willingness to prevent premature deaths. Just five pathogens—Salmonella (all non-typhoidal species), Toxoplasma gondii, Listeria monocytogenes, Norovirus, and Campylobacter—account for 90 percent of this economic burden. A foodborne pathogen’s economic burden is determined by both the number and severity of illnesses it causes. Norovirus is the most common U.S. foodborne illness, but one from which 90 percent of infected people recover without seeking medical care. In contrast, Listeria monocytogenes sickens a relatively small number of Americans each year, but almost 20 percent of those infected die. The statistics for this chart are from the ERS report, Economic Burden of Major Foodborne Illnesses Acquired in the United States, May 2015.
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Dairy production is concentrated in climates that expose animals to less heat stress  
Wednesday, July 08, 2015
Above a temperature threshold, an animal may experience heat stress resulting in changes in its respiration, blood chemistry, hormones, metabolism, and feed intake.  Dairy cattle are particularly sensitive to heat stress; high temperatures lower milk output and reduce the percentages of fat, solids, lactose, and protein in milk. In the United States, dairy production is largely concentrated in climates that expose animals to less heat stress. The Temperature Humidity Index (THI) load provides a measure of the amount of heat stress an animal is under. The annual THI load is similar to “cooling degree days,” a concept often used to convey the amount of energy needed to cool a building in the summer. The map shows concentrations of dairy cows in regions with relatively low levels of heat stress: California’s Central Valley, Idaho, Wisconsin, New York, and Pennsylvania. Relatively few dairies are located in the very warm Gulf Coast region (which includes southern Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida). This map is drawn from Climate Change, Heat Stress, and Dairy Production, ERR-175, September 2014.
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Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa rely more on grain imports to improve food security  
Tuesday, July 07, 2015
Low- and middle-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have, as a whole, expanded their grain imports faster than similar countries in other regions. Increasing reliance on imports has improved food supplies, but increased the region’s vulnerability to higher world prices. Food-insecure countries can improve their availability of food either by expanding production, increasing imports, or reducing population growth. ERS analysis found that many countries adopt more than one of these strategies, but that SSA countries have expanded grain imports the fastest, nearly tripling imports since 1995. Low- and middle-income Asian countries, despite their relatively large populations, have shown the least growth in grain trade and have instead focused on improving food security by expanding their own production. Latin American and Caribbean countries have shown increases in both grain imports and local production. Regardless of the strategy adopted, 37 food insecure countries (nearly half of the 76 countries studied) were successful in meeting the goal set in the 1996 World Food Summit of halving their food-insecure populations by 2015.  Find this chart and additional information in International Food Security Assessment: 2015-2025.
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More Americans report having one-percent or skim milk available at home  
Monday, July 06, 2015
A series of questions in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) asks respondents ages 16 and older how often different types of food are kept in their homes in order to get an idea of the at-home food environment in the United States. In 2007-08 and 2009-10, respondents were asked how often they had 1 percent or skim milk available at home, and in both surveys, the most common response was “never,” followed by “always.” However, between the two surveys, the share of people saying that they “always” kept such beverages at home increased by 4.5 percentage points, rising from 32 percent in 2007-08 to 36.5 percent in 2009-10. This increase in Americans reporting that they always have 1 percent or skim milk available at home is a positive nutrition trend, as Americans aged 2 years and older are advised to consume lower-fat milk (skim or 1 percent) as opposed to whole or 2 percent milk. This chart appears in “National Surveys Reveal Modest Improvement in the Types of Foods Available in Americans’ Homes” in the April 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Retail pork and chicken prices down from a year ago, beef prices higher   
Thursday, July 02, 2015
When shopping at the meat counter this Fourth of July, consumers may notice differences in prices per pound compared to last year. A pound of pork chops sold for $3.79 in May 2015 compared to $4.11 per pound in May 2014, a decrease of 7.8 percent. The price of boneless chicken breasts has also fallen, decreasing by 1.9 percent over the last year to $3.41 per pound.  In contrast, beef prices are up this year, largely due to drought conditions throughout the Southern Plains and Southwest. Higher feed costs and decreased water supplies forced farmers to shrink their herd sizes to historically low levels in 2014, causing beef prices to rise by more than 10 percent over the last year.  On average, consumers are paying $0.28 more per pound for ground beef and $1.23 more per pound for sirloin steak in May 2015 compared to a year earlier. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.
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Managing glyphosate resistance is more cost effective than ignoring resistance  
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
Glyphosate—known by many trade names, including Roundup—has been the most widely used herbicide in the United States since 2001. Crop producers can spray entire fields planted with genetically engineered, glyphosate-tolerant (GT) seed varieties, killing the weeds but not the crops. However, widespread use of glyphosate in isolation can select for glyphosate resistance by controlling susceptible weeds while allowing more resistant weeds to survive, which can then propagate and spread. ERS analyses show that weed control strategies (over 20 years) that manage glyphosate resistance differ from those that ignore glyphosate resistance by using glyphosate during fewer years, by often combining glyphosate with one or more alternative herbicides, and by not applying glyphosate during consecutive growing seasons. Initiating resistance management reduces returns compared to ignoring resistance in the first year, but increases them in subsequent years, as the value of crop yield gains outweighs increases in weed management cost. After two consecutive years of resistance management, the cumulative impact of growers’ returns from continuous corn cultivation, corn-soybean rotation, or continuous soybean cultivation exceeds that received when resistance is ignored. This chart is found in the Amber Waves feature, “Managing Glyphosate Resistance May Sustain Its Efficacy and Increase Long-Term Returns to Corn and Soybean Production,” May 2015.
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Global cotton stockpiles remain near record-high levels  
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Global cotton stocks have risen over the last several years, largely the result of growth in China’s stocks. Government policies in China supported national reserve purchases of domestic cotton and, at the same time, significant imports of raw cotton. These policies strengthened global cotton prices by keeping China’s supplies out of the marketplace while also encouraging production in other countries. Stocks in China at the end of 2014/15 (August/July marketing year) are estimated at a record 65.6 million bales, or 60 percent of global stocks. For 2015/16, policy adjustments in China are expected to reduce stocks slightly to 62.6 million bales, with its share of world stocks remaining unchanged. Globally, cotton stocks are expected to decline in 2015/16 for the first time in 6 years, but would still remain more than double the level in 2010/11, resulting result in only a slight decrease in the world stocks-to-use ratio. As a result, the 2015/16 world cotton price is expected to remain near the current season’s average of about 71 cents per pound, the lowest in 6 years. This chart is from the June 2015 Cotton and Wool Outlook.
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Two-thirds of U.S. nonmetro counties lost population over 2010-14  
Monday, June 29, 2015
During 2010-14, the number of nonmetro counties that lost population reached a historic high of 1,310. County population loss stems from two possible sources: more people leaving a county than moving into it (net outmigration) and/or more people dying than are being born (natural decrease). Historically, the vast majority of counties that lost population still continued to experience natural increase, just not enough to offset losses from net outmigration (this scenario describes less than half of the 2010-14 population loss counties). The number of nonmetro counties with population loss from both net out-migration and natural decrease grew from 387 before the recession (2003-07) to 622 during 2010-14. Clusters of counties experiencing this demographic ‘double-jeopardy’ have expanded, especially in Alabama, southern Appalachia, along the Virginia-North Carolina border, and in New England. The rising number of double-jeopardy counties signals new challenges in maintaining future population growth and sustained economic development. This map is based on information found in the Population & Migration topic page, updated June 2015.
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The spread between U.S. and world sugar prices is widening  
Friday, June 26, 2015
World raw sugar prices have fallen steadily since January 2011, and in May 2015 reached their lowest point since January 2009 due to growing production surpluses and the weakening Brazilian currency. U.S. raw sugar prices have also fallen relative to the record-high levels seen between 2010 and 2012, but have trended higher over the past year. Since the integration of U.S. and Mexican sweetener markets under NAFTA in 2008, U.S. and world prices had tracked more closely. However, those prices began diverging in March 2014 when the U.S. domestic sugar industry filed an anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigation against Mexican sugar imports, resulting in a December 2014 agreement that limits the volume of Mexican sugar entering the United States. With these new limitations on Mexican imports, the spread between U.S. and world prices has increased in recent months, though remains within ranges seen in recent years. This chart is based on the June 2015 Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook.
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While total acreage in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) continues to decline, land in “continuous signup” steadily increases  
Thursday, June 25, 2015
The Agricultural Act of 2014 gradually reduces the cap on land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) from 32 million acres to 24 million acres by 2017. CRP acreage declined 34 percent since 2007, falling from 36.8 million acres to 24.2 million by April 2015. Environmental benefits may not be diminishing as quickly as the drop in enrolled acreage might suggest. While initially enrolling mainly whole fields or farms (through periodically announced general signups), CRP increasingly uses “continuous signup” (which has stricter eligibility requirements than general signup) to enroll high-priority parcels that often provide greater per-acre environmental benefits. Conservation practices on these acres include riparian buffers, filter strips, grassed waterways, and wetland restoration. Riparian buffers, for example, are vegetated areas that help shade and partially protect a stream from the impact of adjacent land uses by intercepting nutrients and other materials, and provide habitat and wildlife corridors. Enrollment under continuous signup increased by about 50 percent, from 3.8 million acres in 2007 to 5.7 million acres in 2014. A version of this chart is found on the ERS web page, Agricultural Act of 2014: Highlights and Implications (Conservation).
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U.S. beef production is historically low, but expected to increase in 2016  
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Historically small U.S. cattle inventory continues to support high beef prices in 2015, but at least in the short term, increasing imports of processing beef (especially from Australia) and heavy carcass weights have helped moderate some of the price pressures. Fed cattle live and dressed weights have remained significantly heavier than last year due in part to improvements in pasture conditions and extra time on feed as a result of reduced steer and heifer slaughter. One uncertainty is the extent to which feeding cattle to heavier weights will offset the decrease in slaughter numbers in 2015, and the ultimate effect this will have on total commercial beef production. Despite heavier cattle, U.S. commercial beef production is currently expected to fall to a multi-decade low of 24 billion pounds in 2015. U.S. beef production is expected to increase in 2016 due to a rising cattle inventory and continued heavier carcass weights. This chart is from Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: June 2015.
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Participation in USDA’s WIC program fell for the fourth consecutive year in 2014  
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food, nutrition education, and health care referrals to low-income, nutritionally at-risk pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women as well as infants and children up to age 5. In fiscal 2014, an average 8.3 million people per month participated in the program, 5 percent fewer than the previous year. This was the largest 1-year decrease since the program’s inception in 1974. Since peaking in fiscal 2010, the number of participants has decreased by almost 10 percent. Falling WIC caseloads reflect the continued decline in the number of U.S. births, which began in 2008. In 2013 (latest data available), 3.9 million babies were born in the United States, down from 4.3 million in 2007. Fewer births reduce the potential pool of WIC-eligible participants. Improving economic conditions in recent years may have also played a role in the decline in participation. This chart appears in “WIC Experienced Largest Decrease in Participation in Program’s History in 2014” in the June 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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U.S. public sector plays a key role in collecting, conserving, and distributing crop genetic resources  
Monday, June 22, 2015
As agriculture adapts to climate change, crop genetic resources can be used to develop new plant varieties that are more tolerant of changing environmental conditions. Crop genetic resources (or germplasm) consist of seeds, plants, or plant parts that can be used in crop breeding, research, or conservation. The public sector plays an important role in collecting, conserving, and distributing crop genetic resources because private-sector incentives for crucial parts of these activities are limited. The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) is the primary network that manages publicly held crop germplasm in the United States. Since 2003, demand for crop genetic resources from the NPGS has increased rapidly even as the NPGS budget has declined in real dollars. By way of comparison, the NPGS budget of approximately $47 million in 2012 was well under one-half of 1 percent of the U.S. seed market (measured as the value of farmers’ purchased seed) which exceeded $20 billion for the same year. This chart updates ones found in the June 2015 Amber Waves feature, Crop Genetic Resources May Play an Increasing Role in Agricultural Adaptation to Climate Change.
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Since 2001, Cuba’s agricultural imports have trended upward while U.S. share declined  
Friday, June 19, 2015
Establishing a more normal economic relationship with Cuba has the potential to foster additional growth in U.S.-Cuba agricultural trade. With the loosening of the U.S. trade embargo in 2000 to allow for sales of agricultural products and medicine, the United States soon became Cuba’s leading foreign supplier of food and agricultural products, but prohibitions on issuing credit continue to limit U.S. potential in this market. Cuba’s total agricultural imports have been trending upward over the past decade, reaching an average of $1.8 billion per year during 2012-14. The United States was Cuba’s second leading supplier of agricultural imports during this period ($365 million), while the European Union ($383 million) and Brazil ($348 million) were Cuba’s first and third leading suppliers. Together, these 3 trade partners supplied 61 percent of Cuba’s agricultural imports, with the U.S. share equaling 20 percent. From 2003 to 2012, the United States was Cuba’s leading supplier of agricultural imports, but it slipped to second in 2013 and third in 2014.  This chart is from U.S. Cuba Agricultural Trade: Past, Present and Possible Future.
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Composition of production expenses varies by farm commodity specialization  
Thursday, June 18, 2015
The variation in the percent of total expenses represented by individual expenses across different types of farms reflects how specialized U.S. agriculture has become. While wide differences generally exist between crop and livestock farms, USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) allows a breakdown of expense shares within the major farm types. Livestock purchases are the largest component of total expenses for beef cattle farms, primarily because of the relatively high cost of feeder steers. Because of the lower cost of their animal purchases, feed expenses are the largest component of total expenses for other animal farms (primarily hog, poultry, and dairy). Specialty crop farms (fruit/nuts, vegetables, and nursery/greenhouse) have a higher share of labor expenses than field crop farms, because they occupy fewer acres and are less mechanized. In contrast, field crop farms, especially corn farms, have higher shares of expenses going to principal crop-related expenses (fertilizer, seeds, and chemicals), and rent. Fuel expenses are relatively consistent, varying between 3 percent of total expenses for other animal farms to 8 percent for other field crop farms. This chart is based on results from USDA’s ARMS Farm Financial and Crop Production Practices data.
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Vegetable costs range from 18 cents to $2.58 per cup equivalent  
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
When it comes to vegetable consumption, “More Matters.” Eating a variety and sufficient quantity of vegetables is important for good health, but how much would it cost to add some baby carrots, romaine lettuce, or fresh asparagus to your diet? ERS estimated average prices paid in 2013 for 93 fresh and processed vegetables (including beans and peas), measured in cup equivalents. A cup equivalent is the edible portion that will generally fit in a 1-cup measuring cup; 2 cups for lettuce and other raw leafy greens. ERS researchers found that fresh iceberg lettuce, fresh whole carrots, dried pinto beans, and 13 other products cost less than 40 cents per cup equivalent, while 58 vegetables, including fresh romaine lettuce, baby carrots, and canned tomatoes, cost between 40 and 79 cents per cup equivalent. Fresh asparagus, at $2.58 per cup equivalent, is the priciest of these 93 vegetables. The data in this chart are from ERS's Fruit and Vegetable Prices data product.
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Federal support for nutrition research increasingly focuses on obesity  
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
The relationships between nutrition, dietary choices, and health are established through research. USDA and the Department of Health and Human Service (DHHS) have a long history of supporting research to advance knowledge and innovation, with the ultimate goal of improving human health. DHHS’s Human Nutrition Research Information Management (HNRIM) system—which tracks Federal research support by fiscal year—shows obesity-related nutrition research grew more than seven-fold over a 25-year period, rising from 78 projects in 1985 to 577 projects by 2009. In contrast, nutrition research in food science, which includes food processing, preservation, and other food-related technologies, declined from 226 projects in 1985 to 177 projects by 2009. In the decade from 1999 to 2009, the overall number of DHHS-supported projects grew 7.4 percent annually, while USDA-supported projects fell by 2.8 percent annually. As USDA supports close to 80 percent of Federal nutrition research in food science, the decline in food science projects reflects changes in the size and composition of USDA’s portfolio of nutrition research projects. This chart is based on data in the ERS report, Improving Health through Nutrition Research: An Overview of the U.S. Nutrition Research System, January 2015.
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Number of Summer Food Service Program sites grew in 2014  
Monday, June 15, 2015
When school lets out for the summer, low-income children who participate in USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs lose access to weekday free and reduced-price meals, which may be a hardship for income-strapped families. Through the Summer Food Service Program, USDA reimburses schools, camps, non-profit organizations, and community agencies for nutritious meals and snacks served at no charge to children at eligible sites. A site is eligible for USDA reimbursement if it operates in an area where at least half of the children come from families with incomes at or below 185 percent of the Federal poverty level or if more than half of the children the site serves meet this income criterion. The number of sites offering summer meals rose 16 percent from 38,845 sites in 2012 to 45,170 sites in 2014. Participation on an average operating day in July increased from 2.3 million children in 2012 to 2.6 million children in 2014. In summer 2014, the program provided over 160 million meals and snacks to children at a cost to USDA of $465 million. This chart is from the Child Nutrition Programs: Summer Food Service Program topic page on the ERS website.
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Lower energy prices reduce crop production expenses  
Friday, June 12, 2015
Oil and natural gas prices dropped in the latter half of 2014, with expectations that energy prices would remain lower than previously projected through 2016. Lower energy prices affect crop production expenses, which in turn influence planting decisions and commodity prices. The effect of energy prices on the cost of producing particular crops depends on the level and share of production costs for direct energy inputs such as fuel and oil, as well as for inputs such as energy-intensive nitrogen fertilizers and agricultural chemicals. Rice, cotton, and corn have high energy-related production expenses, so lower energy prices are expected to reduce operating expenses for those crops the most. Lower production costs provide an incentive to plant additional acreage, so plantings of most crops are expected to rise from what they would have been without the decline in energy prices. The exception is soybeans, whose plantings are estimated to fall initially due to relatively small production cost changes and large cross-commodity influences from corn, as they often compete with one another. Nonetheless, the estimated acreage changes due to lower energy prices are small. This chart is based on information found in Effects of Recent Energy Price Reduction on U.S. Agriculture, BIO-04, June 2015. 
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Estate tax liability varies by farm size  
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Since 1916, the Federal estate tax has been applied to the transfer of property at death. Under present law, the estate of a decedent, who at death owned assets in excess of the estate tax exemption amount ($5.43 million in 2015), must file a Federal estate tax return; those estates are subject to a 40 percent tax rate on the nonexempt amount. Based on simulations using farm-level survey data from the 2013 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), for the 2014 tax year an estimated  2.7 percent of farm estates would be required to file an estate tax return, with a much smaller share of estates (about 0.8 percent) owing any Federal estate tax. On average, a farm estate that owed Federal estate tax had net worth of $11.1 million and a tax liability of $1.68 million, paying an average tax rate of 15 percent. Estates of small family farms (those with gross cash farm income (GCFI) below $350,000) faced the lowest average effective tax rate, while estates of large-scale family farms (those with GCFI of $1 million or more) were taxed at an average effective rate of 18 percent. This chart is found on the ERS topic page on Federal Estate Taxes, updated May 2015.
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Number of farmers’ markets and direct marketing farmers accepting SNAP benefits continues to grow  
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increases the purchasing power of eligible, low-income people by providing them with monthly benefits to purchase food at authorized food stores. SNAP benefits can also be used to buy food at authorized farmers’ markets and from direct marketing farmers (farmers who sell agricultural products directly to consumers) who have been licensed by USDA to accept SNAP benefits. The number of authorized markets and farmers has been steadily increasing in recent years. In fiscal 2014, 5,175 farmers’ markets and direct marketing farmers were licensed by USDA to accept SNAP benefits—a 28-percent increase from a year earlier. In fiscal 2014, $18.8 million of SNAP benefits were redeemed at farmers’ markets and direct marketing farms, up from fiscal 2013 redemptions of $17.5 million. This chart updates a chart found in the ERS report, Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress, January 2015.
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Higher sorghum prices supported by strong export demand  
Tuesday, June 09, 2015
In recent years, the price of sorghum has been supported by unusually strong export demand, particularly from China. Sorghum is a common substitute for corn in feed rations and is also used for ethanol production in the United States. In most countries, corn tends to be preferred over sorghum for livestock feed, so sorghum typically sells at a discount to corn in global markets. However, since sorghum does not face import quotas and other constraints that often delay or restrict shipments of corn and distillers dried grains (DDGS) from entering the country, China’s demand for U.S. sorghum has surged. Imports by China were negligible prior to 2013, but it is now the principal buyer of U.S. sorghum and is expected to account for more than 90% of the 350 million bushels of sorghum the United States is forecast to export in the 2014/15 marketing year. The strong increase in demand has pushed U.S. sorghum prices higher, resulting in a premium over corn that is expected to persist for the second consecutive marketing year. While not without precedent, the season average price of sorghum has exceeded the price of corn only in 4 previous marketing years since 1981/82, and only 18 times in the 96-year history of sorghum price reporting. This chart is based on the ERS report, Feed Outlook: May 2015.
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Return migration among young families partially offsets rural population loss  
Monday, June 08, 2015
Rural population loss is generally characterized as young people leaving. A typical nonmetropolitan county (based on the 50th percentile, or median, statistic) lost 28 percent of their 20-24 year olds to net out-migration during 2000-10, compared to just an 8-percent decline in the typical metropolitan county. However, stemming rural population loss may depend less on retaining young adults after high school than on attracting them back as they settle down to start careers and raise children. Median net migration rates in nonmetropolitan counties are highest among adults 30-34 and children 5-9. Interviews with rural return migrants showed that most came home with spouses and brought young children with them or soon started families. Conversations about returning centered on the value of family connections for child-raising in a small town environment. Return migrants described other aspects of home that bolstered their decision to move back, including schools with smaller class sizes, access to outdoor recreation, and shorter trips for work and shopping. This chart is found in the ERS report, Factors Affecting Former Residents' Returning to Rural Communities, ERR-185, May 2015.
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Produce farms account for about half of all local food sales  
Friday, June 05, 2015
In 2012, 34 percent of all U.S. produce farms—those producing vegetables, fruit, or nuts—sold food through local food marketing channels, whereas only 3 percent of field/other crop farms and 8 percent of livestock/livestock product farms did so. The nearly 48,000 produce farmers with local sales in 2012 represented 29 percent of all local food farmers but generated $3.1 billion, or 51 percent of all local food sales. Farmers have two main channels through which to sell their food locally: directly to consumers (at farmers' markets, roadside stands, farm stores, etc.), and through intermediated marketing channels (defined to include sales to grocers, restaurants, schools, universities, hospitals, and regional distributors). Among local food farmers who elected to sell through direct-to-consumer outlets, intermediated marketing channels, or a mixture of both, produce farmers generated higher local food sales per farm than did field/other crop farms or livestock/livestock product farms. This suggests that opportunities to market locally are important to produce farmers, and their disproportionate presence (through local food sales) shapes the profile of a typical local food farm. This chart is found in the ERS report, Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: Report to Congress, January 2015.
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Fruits and vegetables top the list of locally produced foods served in U.S. schools  
Thursday, June 04, 2015
According to USDA’s Farm to School Census, 36 percent of the U.S. public school districts that completed the questionnaire reported serving at least some locally produced foods in school lunches or breakfasts during school years 2011-12 or 2012-13. While fruits and vegetables topped the list of local foods served in schools in 2011-12, 45 percent of the school districts that used local foods reported serving locally produced milk, and 27 percent reported serving locally produced baked goods. Some States have State-produced foods, such as fruits and vegetables, grains, meats, and dairy products included in the products donated by USDA for use in school meals (a program called USDA Foods). The DOD Fresh Program allows districts to use USDA funds to obtain fresh fruits and vegetables through the Department of Defense, which provides information to districts on foods that are sourced locally. This chart appeared in “Many U.S. School Districts Serve Local Foods” in the March 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Global rice prices continue to decline  
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
Global rice prices have fallen more than 14 percent over the past 8 months, recently hitting their lowest level since January 2008. Thailand’s global benchmark price was $389 per ton for the week ending May 18, down from $455 in late September; U.S. rice prices have declined at about the same rate. Several factors have contributed to this steep decline: the Government of Thailand selling its record high stock of rice; continued abundance of exportable rice, despite a smaller global rice crop and lower global ending stocks in 2014/15; and the appreciation of the U.S. dollar, which has put downward pressure on global rice prices, since rice is typically traded in dollars. Meanwhile, low oil prices have reduced the buying capacity of several major importers, especially Venezuela and several Middle Eastern buyers, and none of the major Asian rice importers—Indonesia, the Philippines, or Bangladesh—have experienced a crop shortfall that would boost imports. This chart is based on the report, Rice Outlook: May 2015.
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Percent of residents receiving SNAP benefits in 2014 declined in many States  
Tuesday, June 02, 2015
USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) served an average of 46.5 million people per month in fiscal 2014. The percent of Americans participating in the program declined from 15.0 percent in 2013 to 14.6 percent in 2014, marking the first decline in the percent of the population receiving SNAP since 2001. Between 2013 and 2014, 42 States and the District of Columbia saw a decrease in the percent of residents receiving SNAP benefits, while 8 States experienced small increases. The percent of State populations receiving SNAP benefits ranged from a low of 6.1 in Wyoming to a high of 21.9 in Mississippi, reflecting differences in need and in program policies. Southeastern States have a particularly high share of residents receiving SNAP benefits, with participation rates of 15.8 to 21.9 percent. Utah had the largest decline from 2013 to 2014 and joined Wyoming and North Dakota as States with less than 8 percent of the population receiving SNAP benefits. This chart appears in the ERS data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated May 7, 2015.
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Maintaining and restoring wetlands could remove nitrogen cost effectively over much of the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River watersheds  
Monday, June 01, 2015
Every year, agriculture contributes an estimated 60-80 percent of delivered nitrogen and 49-60 percent of delivered phosphorous in the Gulf of Mexico. Nitrogen in waters can cause rapid and dense growth of algae and aquatic plants, leading to degradation in water quality as found in the hypoxic zone of the Gulf of Mexico, where excess nutrients have depleted oxygen needed to support marine life. Nitrogen removal is one of the many benefits of wetlands. An ERS analysis found that on an annual basis, the amount of nitrogen removed per dollar spent to restore and preserve a new wetland ranged from 0.15 to 34 pounds within the area of study (the Upper Mississippi/Ohio River watershed), or a range of $0.03 to $7.00 per pound of nitrogen removed. Restoring and protecting wetlands in the very productive corn-producing areas of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio tends to be more cost effective than elsewhere in the study area. The study suggests that if nitrogen reduction was the only environmental goal, these corn-producing areas would be a good place to restore wetlands. Hydrologic conditions in the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River watersheds are unique, so the cost effectiveness of wetlands elsewhere is uncertain. This map is found in the ERS report, Targeting Investments To Cost Effectively Restore and Protect Wetland Ecosystems: Some Economic Insights, ERR-183, February 2015.
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Declining prices for U.S. poultry led to higher-than-expected export shipments  
Friday, May 29, 2015
Broiler shipments were down 4.1 percent in March 2015 from a year ago. The 603 million pounds shipped was higher than had been expected, given Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) related national and regionalized trade bans and a stronger dollar. Exports declined in January and February by 12.4 and 17 percent from a year ago, respectively, due to national bans imposed by China, South Korea, and Russia and regionalized bans imposed by a majority of trading partners; however, declining prices, particularly for leg quarters, led to greater shipments into other markets as low prices offset the impact of a stronger currency. The largest gains in shipments were to Asian markets including Taiwan (up 186 percent), Hong Kong (up 58 percent), and Vietnam (up 115 percent). Shipments also increased to Mexico and Canada.  For all of 2014, U.S. broiler exports reached 7.304 billion pounds, and USDA currently forecasts 2015 exports of 6.680 billion pounds, down 7.2 percent from 2014, reflecting the bans in place by Russia, South Korea, and China, as well as the continuing strength of the U.S. dollar.  This chart is from the May 2015 edition of the Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Report.
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Fresh fruit accounted for 52 percent of U.S. fruit availability in 2010-12  
Thursday, May 28, 2015
According to ERS’s Food Availability data, per capita supplies of fruit available for consumption in the United States have fallen over the last decade after rising since the early 1970s. In 2010-12, per capita fruit availability was 251 pounds per person (fresh-weight equivalent), down from 281 pounds per person in 2000-02. Increased U.S. production and greater imports of some types of fruit have not compensated for decreased U.S. citrus production. Fresh fruit accounted for 52 percent of fruit availability in 2010-12, up from a 42-percent share in 1970-72. Bananas, apples, and oranges were the most popular fresh fruits in 2010-12, accounting for 40 percent of fresh fruit availability. Processed fruit availability (canned, juice, frozen, and dried forms) has steadily fallen since reaching a peak of 171 pounds per person (fresh-weight equivalent) in 1977 to a low of 114 pounds in 2012. The bulk of the decline came from juice, especially orange juice. Availability of orange juice fell from 97 pounds per person in 1977 to 44 pounds in 2012. This chart appears in “Fresh Fruit Makes Up a Growing Share of U.S. Fruit Availability” in the May 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Agriculture accounts for 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions  
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Agriculture accounted for about 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2013. Since agricultural production accounts for only about 1 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), it is a disproportionately GHG-intensive activity. In agriculture, crop and livestock activities are unique sources of nitrous oxide and methane emissions, notably from soil nutrient management, enteric fermentation (a normal digestive process in animals that produces methane), and manure management. GHG emissions from agriculture have increased by approximately 17 percent since 1990. During this time period, total U.S. GHG emissions increased approximately 6 percent. This chart is from the Land and Natural Resources section of ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product.
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Imports make up a growing share of U.S. fresh vegetable supplies  
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
U.S. production of fresh vegetables has grown over the past several decades, but domestic consumption has grown even faster, reflecting an expanding population and higher per capita use. The United States has been a net importer of fresh vegetables since 1969 (with the exception of 1981), and the rate of increase of the share of imports grew notably after 1990. Since 2010, approximately 25 percent of the fresh vegetable supply utilized in the United States has been imported each year. The value of fresh vegetable imports exceeded exports by almost $4.3 billion in 2014. The share of imports in domestic use continues to grow in response to multiple factors, including supply gaps, increased awareness of vegetables as a part of healthy diets, desire for year-round variety of fresh vegetables, and increased demand for new products. Exports have remained a relatively small share of U.S. fresh vegetable production. Average volume exported as a share of production peaked in the 1990s and the share exported to all countries fell approximately 3 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year. Onions and lettuce continue to dominate fresh vegetable exports. This chart is based on the Vegetables and Pulses Outlook: May 2015.
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A growing female presence among rural veterans is likely to continue  
Friday, May 22, 2015
The demographics of rural veterans are shifting as newly separated cohorts of younger veterans replace older veterans, and an increasing number of women serve and retire from the military. Since the change from a conscription-based military to an all-volunteer force in 1973, the presence of women in the military has grown from less than 2 percent of active duty personnel to more than 14 percent; as a result, the share of female veterans has steadily increased. In rural (nonmetro) counties, their share more than doubled from the end of Gulf War I (1990-1991) to the present, rising from 3.0 percent in 1992 to 6.3 percent in 2013. Over 40 percent of rural female veterans served during Gulf Wars I and II (2003-2011), compared with less than 5 percent of rural male veterans, reflecting a more youthful rural female veteran population. In 2013, 55 percent of rural female veterans were under the age of 55 compared to 26 percent of rural male veterans. This chart is based on information found in Rural Veterans at a Glance, EB-25, November 2013.
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Farm production costs rise to 10.5 cents of the U.S. food dollar  
Thursday, May 21, 2015
In the United States, 10.5 cents of a typical dollar spent by consumers on domestically-produced food in 2013 represented value added by farm producers, up 8 percent from the previous two years. Products and services provided to farmers by agribusinesses, such as fertilizers and veterinary services, accounted for 2.1 cents of the 2013 food dollar, down 12.5 percent from the previous year. ERS uses input-output analysis to calculate the value added, or cost contributions, to the U.S. food dollar from 12 industry groups in the food supply chain. Annual shifts in food dollar shares between the industry groups occur for a variety of reasons, ranging from the mix of foods that consumers purchase to relative input costs. Energy is another industry group supplying goods and services to farm producers as well as to the other industry groups, and like agribusiness, the energy industries’ food dollar share declined in 2013. Energy costs accounted for 5.2 cents of the food dollar in 2013 compared to 5.6 cents in 2012. This chart is from ERS’s Food Dollar Series data product updated April 2015.
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U.S. production of sweet potatoes continues to grow  
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
U.S. sweet potato production reached a record high 29 million hundredweight (cwt) in 2014, extending production gains that have continued for more than 15 years. Since 1971, North Carolina has been the top sweet potato producer in the United States, and in 2014 it produced 53 percent of all sweet potatoes grown in the country. North Carolina’s production of sweet potatoes in 2000 was 5.6 million cwt, and by 2014 it had had expanded to 15.8 million cwt. The 185-percent increase in North Carolina’s production has led the growth of the U.S. sweet potato industry, but production has expanded in many other states, including California (where production has doubled since 2000) and Mississippi (where production is up by 155 percent). This chart is from the Vegetables and Pulses Outlook: May 2015.
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Number of children participating in USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program has grown  
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides increased access to healthy meals throughout the day to children at child care centers, family day care homes, shelters, and afterschool care programs. In fiscal 2014, over 3.6 million children in child care centers and family day care homes received nutritious meals and snacks through CACFP, up from 2.7 million children in fiscal 2000. Over the last 15 years, child care centers’ participation in CACFP has steadily increased, while fewer CACFP meals are being served in family day care homes. In January 2015, USDA proposed new nutrition standards for CACFP meals—the first change to meal standards since the program’s inception in 1968. The proposed standards require CACFP meals to include a larger variety of fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and less sugar and fat. This chart appears in the Child Nutrition Programs topic page on the ERS website, updated April 15, 2015.
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Peanut farms are adopting precision agriculture technologies  
Monday, May 18, 2015
Precision agriculture is a set of practices used to manage fields by assessing variations in nutrient needs, soil qualities, and pest pressures. In 2013-14, USDA conducted the latest Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) of U.S. peanut growers, interviewing farmers about production practices, resource use, and finances. Some technologies have been rapidly adopted; in particular, 42 percent of peanut farms used auto-steer or guidance systems in 2013, up from 5 percent in 2006. These systems can reduce stress for operators and limit the over-application of inputs on field edges. Yield monitors and yield maps, with essentially no usage in 2006, were used on 8 and 6 percent of farms, respectively, in 2013. With these technologies, monitors can identify within-field yield variations so farmers can adjust inputs and practices accordingly. The use of variable rate application, which has increased from 3 to 22 percent of farms, allows for the adjustment of fertilizer application over a field so that fertilizer can be applied where and when it is needed, thus reducing costs and being more environmentally friendly. This chart is found in the joint ERS/National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) report, 2013 ARMS—Peanut Industry Highlights, based on ARMS Farm Financial and Crop Production Practices data.
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Sub-Saharan Africa food aid receipts variable but declining  
Friday, May 15, 2015
Sub-Saharan Africa food aid receipts have generally declined over the past 10 years, but remain highly variable and continue to account for the largest regional share of global food aid. Annual fluctuations in food aid to the region is partly a result of the shift in the composition of food aid from program aid to meeting more variable emergency assistance needs; emergency assistance accounted for about half of all food aid in 2000, rising to about 70 percent in 2012. Several of the recent major food aid recipient countries in the region, including Sudan and Somalia, are countries with significant emergency needs associated with domestic supply shortages and/or civil unrest. The general decline in Sub-Saharan African food aid receipts since the early 2000’s is partly due to improved supply conditions in some countries in the region, and partly due to the decline in the volume global food aid, which fell from 11.3 million tons in 2000 to less than 7 million tons in 2012.   This chart is based on data found in International Food Security and analysis found in International Food Security Assessment: 2014-2024.
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Frontier and Remote (FAR) codes pinpoint Nation’s most remote regions  
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Small population size and geographic remoteness provide benefits for residents and visitors alike, but those same characteristics often create economic and social challenges. Job creation, population retention, and provision of goods/services (such as groceries, health care, clothing, household appliances, and other consumer items) require increased efforts in very rural, remote communities. The newly updated ERS Frontier and Remote area (FAR) codes identify remote areas of the United States using travel times to nearby cities. Results for level one FAR codes (which include ZIP code areas with majority of their population living 60 minutes or more from urban areas of 50,000 or more people) show that 12.2 million Americans reside more than a one-hour drive from any city of 50,000 or more people. They constitute just 3.9 percent of the U.S. population living in territory covering 52 percent of U.S. land area. Wyoming has the highest share of its population living in FAR level one ZIP code areas (57 percent), followed by Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Alaska. This map, along with the full detail of FAR codes levels 1-4 may be found in the ERS data product, Frontier and Remote Area Codes, updated April 2015.
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<i>Listeria</i> ranks third among foodborne pathogens in terms of economic burden in the United States  
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Listeria monocytogenes causes few illnesses compared to many other major U.S. foodborne pathogens, but these few cases have a high economic burden. According to 2011 estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year about 1,300 adults in the United States are sickened by foodborne Listeria. These cases can have serious consequences, especially for older adults, those with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women and their unborn children. Ninety percent of those who are sickened by Listeria require hospitalization and around 250 die. Pregnant women generally recover without further complications to themselves, but their infections can have serious impacts on their fetuses. Each year, about a third of the 280 cases of congenitally-acquired Listeria infections result in permanent disability or death. ERS estimates that foodborne Listeria infections cause an estimated $2.8 billion annually in medical costs, lost wages, and societal willingness to pay to prevent deaths. About a quarter of that burden is from newborn and prenatal infections. This chart and similar charts for 14 other pathogens can be found in the ERS report, Economic Burden of Major Foodborne Illnesses Acquired in the United States, released on May 12, 2015.
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Food grain yields key to improving food security in low-income countries  
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Eighty percent or more of grain supplies are produced domestically in a majority of the 76 countries included in USDA’s annual International Food Security Assessment, making food grain production key to the assessment of food security conditions. Historically, area expansion was the main driver behind improved performance, but over the last two decades, production increases have stemmed primarily from attaining higher yields. Countries with higher yield growth have generally made steady progress toward reducing the shares of their population assessed as food-insecure. However, per hectare grain yields in a number of countries remain well below the world average and have failed to grow, resulting in relatively little progress towards reducing their food-insecure populations. In the Sub-Saharan Africa region, which generally includes most of the more vulnerable, low- and middle-income countries assessed, ERS analysis indicates that more countries are successfully adopting modern seed varieties that are contributing to improved yields. For additional analysis, see International Food Security Assessment, 2014-24
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Glyphosate use is more widespread in soybean than in corn production  
Monday, May 11, 2015
Recent data from the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) suggest that glyphosate resistant weeds are more prevalent in soybean than in corn production. Glyphosate, known by many trade names (including Roundup), has been the most widely used pesticide in the United States since 2001. It effectively controls many weed species and generally costs less than the herbicides it replaced. Overall, glyphosate was used on a higher proportion of soybean than corn acres, and it was used alone (not in combination with other herbicides) on a substantially higher proportion of soybean acres. Using glyphosate alone contributes to resistance. Many soybean fields are managed with glyphosate alone, because the next best alternative herbicides are more expensive, less effective, and/or can cause significant injury to soybean plants. This chart is found in the Amber Waves feature, “Managing Glyphosate Resistance May Sustain Its Efficacy and Increase Long-Term Returns to Corn and Soybean Production,” May 2015.
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China’s large cotton stockpiles affect world markets  
Friday, May 08, 2015
China has been the world’s largest cotton producer and consumer of cotton for decades, and it became the largest importer shortly after its 2001 accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Economic growth has transformed its agriculture sector, driving wages higher and spurring greater mechanization in many areas; however, small scale cotton production persists with limited mechanization and high production costs, especially in eastern China. To support its farmers, China introduced a support price for cotton in 2011, and from 2011 to 2013 acquired more than 40 percent of China’s cotton crop in an attempt to maintain domestic cotton prices 50-60 percent above world prices. This has resulted in China’s government owning a large amount of cotton stocks, equivalent to nearly 200 percent of its annual use and half of the world’s consumption. New policies in 2014 included a shift from stock acquisition toward target-price based direct subsidies and a sharp reduction in cotton import quotas. Reduced purchases by China’s government and a transition of cotton stockpiles toward long run historic levels could result in years of lower imports, and a decline in world prices. This chart is based on Cotton Policy in China, CWS-15c-01, March 2015.
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Fewer Americans report always having sugar-sweetened beverages available at home  
Thursday, May 07, 2015
A series of questions in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) asks respondents aged 16 and older how often different types of food are kept in their home in order to get an idea of the food environment in U.S. homes. In 2007-08 and 2009-10, respondents were asked how often they had soft drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, or fruit punch available at home. In both surveys, the most common response was “always,” followed by “sometimes.” However, between the two surveys, the share of people saying that they “always” kept such beverages at home fell by 7.1 percentage points, and the share of “never” rose by 2.2 percentage points—positive trends for Americans, who typically over-consume added sugars in foods and beverages. This chart appears in “National Surveys Reveal Modest Improvement in the Types of Foods Available in Americans’ Homes” in the April 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Cotton production in California expected to decline due to drought  
Wednesday, May 06, 2015
California is the fourth largest cotton producing state, and production there depends heavily on irrigation. California is the dominant producer of the longer and finer quality “Extra-long Staple” (ELS) fiber that is used in high-value products such as sewing thread and more expensive apparel and home furnishing items. During the past three years, California production accounted for 95 percent of the total ELS cotton in the United States. The on-going drought that began in 2012 remains a major concern for agricultural producers as reservoir levels and water supplies have been reduced significantly; record-low water allocations were seen in 2014, affecting the type and amount of crops some farmers can produce. While acreage planted to upland and ELS varieties varies from year to year, the lingering drought in California is expected to limit acreage once again in 2015. USDA’s Prospective Plantings report released at the end of March indicated a 27-percent decrease in the State’s total cotton area for 2015, with ELS area declining 29 percent and upland area decreasing 21 percent. While California’s total cotton area would be at its lowest since 1932, the decline is similar to the one experienced during the previous statewide drought of 2007-09.  This chart is based on information in Cotton and Wool Outlook: April 2015.
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The United States is Mexico’s largest source of agricultural imports  
Tuesday, May 05, 2015
Intraregional agricultural trade among the United States, Canada, and Mexico has grown since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. In 2011-13, agricultural imports from NAFTA partners accounted for 80 percent of Mexico’s total agricultural imports, 63 percent of Canada’s imports, and nearly 40 percent of all U.S. agricultural imports. Roughly two-thirds of U.S. agricultural imports from Mexico consist of beer, vegetables, and fruit. These imports are closely tied to Mexico's historical expertise in producing alcoholic beverages and a wide range of fruit and vegetables, along with favorable climates with growing seasons that largely complement those of the United States. Meat, grains, vegetables, fruit, and related products make up roughly 60 percent of U.S. agricultural imports from Canada, while grains, fruit, vegetables, meat, and related products accounted for about 61 percent of U.S. agricultural exports to Canada. Grains, oilseeds, meat, and related products make up about three-fourths of U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico. This chart is based on data found in NAFTA at 20: North America’s Free-Trade Area and Its Impact on Agriculture, February 2015.
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Poorest U.S. households spent 36 percent of their income on food in 2013  
Monday, May 04, 2015
While households spend more money on food when their incomes rise, food expenditures represent a smaller portion of income as households allocate additional funds to other goods. In 2013, U.S. households in the middle income quintile, with an average 2013 after-tax income of $43,592, spent an average of $5,728 on food, or 13.1 percent of their incomes. The lowest income households—those with annual after-tax incomes of $10,092 and below in 2013—spent $3,655 on food on average, or 36.2 percent of their incomes. Since 2009, rising food prices and falling incomes put pressure on food budgets. In pre-recession 2006, households in the lowest income quintile spent 32 percent of their incomes on food and middle income households 12.8 percent. Between 2006 and 2013, average incomes for the lowest quintile rose only 1.2 percent and fell 0.5 percent for middle income earners. This chart is from the Food Prices and Spending section of ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product.
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Rural-urban poverty gap is widest among youngest Americans  
Friday, May 01, 2015
An important indicator of the Nation’s long-term well-being is poverty among children; child poverty often has an impact that carries throughout a lifetime, particularly if the child lived in poverty at an early age. Like the overall poverty rate, nonmetro (rural) child poverty has been historically higher than metro (urban) child poverty, and increased to record-high levels in 2012. According to Census estimates, the poverty rate for children under 18 living in rural areas stood at 26.2 percent in 2013, more than four percentage points higher than the metro child poverty rate of 21.6 percent. In 2013, the nonmetro/metro difference in poverty rates was greatest for children under six years old (30.3 percent nonmetro and 23.9 percent metro). Child poverty is more sensitive to labor market conditions than overall poverty, as children depend on the earnings of their parents. Older members of the labor force, including empty nesters and retirees, are less affected by job downturns, and families with children need higher incomes to stay above the poverty line than singles or married couples without children. This chart is found in the ERS topic page on Rural Poverty & Well-being, updated April 2015.
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U.S. dairy exports trending lower  
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Exports of U.S. dairy products have been strong over the past decade, growing from 1.95 billion pounds in 2005 to nearly 5 billion pounds in 2014. However, over the past 9 months, exports have softened considerably, falling from 464 million pounds in May 2014 to below 340 million pounds in February 2015. Much of the reduction in export volume can be attributed to lower demand by China. Chinese imports of milk powders surged in late 2013 and early 2014, reflecting tight domestic supplies due to herd reductions, stricter regulations on dairy/infant formula production, and strong consumer demand. China turned to the United States and the European Union to supply growing volumes of skim milk powder, while New Zealand increased output of whole milk powder. By mid-2014, China scaled back purchases of milk powders due to growing inventory, slowing economic growth, and an upsurge in China’s domestic milk production.  In addition, U.S. dairy exports have been hampered by the strong exchange rate value of the dollar and flagging international demand for milk powders in general. This chart is based on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook, LDPM-250, April 2015.
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Native Americans live farther from large grocery stores than the average American  
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
A recent ERS study used 2010 data to compute distances to the nearest large grocery store (annual sales of $2 million or more) for individuals living in 3 types of U.S. tribal areas: Alaska Native Village Statistical Areas, Oklahoma Tribal Statistical Areas, and American Indian Tribal Areas. Individuals were ordered by how far they lived from a large grocery store. Upon ranking individuals across the United States in this way, researchers found that the median distance to the closest large grocery store was 0.8 miles, compared to 3.3 miles for individuals living in tribal areas. At the 20th percentile, the distance from an individual’s residence to the nearest large grocery store was 0.3 miles for all U.S. individuals and 0.8 miles for tribal area individuals. More remote U.S. households, those at the 80th percentile, were 2.2 miles away from a large grocery store compared to 9.9 miles for the similar percentile of households living in tribal areas. This chart appears in “Native Americans Living in Tribal Areas Face Longer Trips to the Grocery Store” in the April 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Wholesale beef prices remain elevated  
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
The spread, or difference, between the Choice beef cutout and pork carcass value can indicate the relative demand for red meat proteins at the wholesale level. Likewise, the spread between wholesale Choice beef and pork cutout values—the value of a carcass based on the wholesale prices for the various cuts of meat and other items contained in the carcass—is important to the retail sector. The rapid rise in beef prices and significant decline in pork prices since the beginning of 2015 has widened the spread between the two competing meats to $190/cwt (as of April 24). The choice beef-to-pork ratio sits at 3.77, implying that wholesale beef is being priced nearly four times higher than pork. Most retailers are sensitive to price changes at the wholesale level and choose to feature meat items that provide a good value to consumers while ensuring profitable margins. At current prices, consumers are likely to favor more pork in their diet and less beef. Retail beef prices are expected to remain high throughout the calendar year due to constrained beef production. This chart appears in the cattle and beef section of the April 2015 Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook, LDPM-250.
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California’s irrigation varies by crop  
Monday, April 27, 2015
The California drought continues into 2015—as of April, 44 percent of the State is classified under the exceptional drought rating (meaning that there are exceptional and widespread crop/pasture losses; and shortages of water in reservoirs, streams, and wells creating water emergencies, as determined by U.S. Drought Monitor, produced by the interdepartmental U.S. Government National Integrated Drought Information System [NIDIS]). Farmers in California grow a wide variety of crops using off-farm surface water, groundwater, and—to a limited extent—on-farm surface water. Crops such as rice, cotton, and beans that are most dependent on off-farm surface water are the most vulnerable to reductions in snowpack and reservoir storage due to the ongoing drought. In addition, farmers use a variety of irrigation technologies to apply water. Farms that use the least amount of gravity irrigation, such as orchards/vineyards/tree nuts, vegetables, and berries, are the most able to limit evaporation losses during the drought. In many cases, the most capital intensive crops and irrigation systems, such as almond orchards using drip irrigation systems, have been strategically located over the most reliable water supplies, which is why these crops are more likely to continue irrigating during the drought. The crops that represent the predominant sources of agricultural water use—orchards, rice, hay, and vegetables—consume large amounts of water primarily because they are grown on large amounts of acreage. This chart visualizes information found in California Drought: Farm and Food Impacts in the ERS newsroom, updated April 2015.
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Vietnam’s agricultural trade has grown rapidly in the past decade  
Friday, April 24, 2015
After Vietnam joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), its agricultural trade within the 10-member regional trade bloc expanded. The normalization of trade with the United States in 2001 and WTO accession in 2007 also provided catalysts for growth and integration. Subsequent preferential trade agreements (PTAs) have led to tariff reductions that have only recently begun to take effect. Today, Vietnam’s agricultural trade is still led by trade with its ASEAN partners; however, China has become a major export market and Vietnam’s largest trade partner, while the United States is a close second, and also the largest source of imports. Trade growth with both partners has been significant, growing 7- and 10-fold, respectively, while imports from South America have also grown. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, now under negotiation, is viewed as important to Vietnam’s long-term economic strategy as it could potentially secure markets abroad and facilitate the flow of foreign investment. Vietnam seeks greater access for its textile and footwear industry, while exporting countries, including the United States, see Vietnam as a market with growth potential. This report is from the Amber Waves article, “Japan, Vietnam, and the Asian Model of Agricultural Development and Trade.”
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Fast-food purchasers spend more time in secondary eating and drinking outside the home  
Thursday, April 23, 2015
On an average day over 2006-08—the most recent data available—just over half of Americans age 18 and older engaged in secondary eating or drinking, meaning they consumed food or beverages while doing another (primary) activity. Fast-food purchasers spent about the same amount of time in secondary eating on an average day as the total adult population (23.1 versus 23.9 minutes) but more time in secondary drinking (76.9 versus 65.4 minutes). In addition, fast-food purchasers spent more time engaged in eating/drinking multitasking during certain activities than the total population average. Fast-food purchasers spent more time in secondary eating and secondary drinking while at work, at entertainment venues, and during travel (either as driver or passenger) than the total population average. This information is from the ERS report, The Role of Time in Fast-Food Purchasing Behavior in the United States, November 2014.
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Incentive payments often boost adoption of conservation practices  
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Under the Agricultural Act of 2014, Congress provided an estimated $28 billion in mandatory 2014-18 funding for USDA conservation program payments that encourage farmers to adopt conservation practices. If farmers would have adopted the practice even without financial incentive, however, the practices are not “additional,” and the payments provide income for farmers without improving environmental quality. Some farmers have adopted specific conservation practices without receiving payments because doing so reduces production costs or preserves the long-term productivity of their farmland (e.g., conservation tillage). Many other farmers have not adopted conservation practices, presumably because the cost of doing so exceeds expected onfarm benefits, the value of which can vary based on many factors, including soil, climate, topography, crop/livestock mix, producer management skills, and risk aversion. Since the value of onfarm benefits can vary widely across practices and farms, identifying which farmers will adopt a conservation practice only if they receive a payment is not straightforward. Additionality tends to be high for practices that are expensive to install, have limited onfarm benefits, or onfarm benefits that accrue only in the distant future (e.g., soil conservation structures, buffer practices, and written nutrient management plans). Practices that can be profitable in the short term are more likely to be adopted without payment assistance and tend to be less additional (e.g., conservation tillage). Research indicates that the likelihood a payment will result in additional environmental benefit increases as the implementation cost of the conservation practice increases (such as soil conservation structures) and its impact on farm profitability declines. This chart is based on data from the ERS report, Additionality in U.S. Agricultural Conservation and Regulatory Offset Programs, ERR-170, July 2014.
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Calorie shares of the diet in Tanzania, by region  
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Food consumption patterns vary widely across different regions of Tanzania, leading to significant differences in food basket costs and impacts of changes in food prices.  Understanding these consumption patterns is key to measuring access to food in developing countries and supports U.S. policies targeting global food security.  ERS analyzed consumption patterns nationally and for three regions: the business capital Dar es Salaam, the Southern Highlands, and the Lake Zone in the northwestern corner of the country. On average, the Tanzanian diet relies heavily on starchy staples, with maize providing over 40 percent of household calories. But maize accounts for 51 percent of total calories in the Southern Highlands, where it’s produced in surplus, and just 32 percent of calories the deficit producing Lake Zone. In the Lake Zone, cassava is the other key staple, providing about 19 percent of total calories. Rice, beans, and cooking bananas are also important to the Tanzanian diet;in most areas, beans are the main source of protein. Total food basket costs are lowest in the Southern Highlands and highest in Dar es Salaam. This chart is based on data found in Measuring Access to Food in Tanzania: A Food Basket Approach.
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California drought continues, but produce inflation expected to be near historical average  
Monday, April 20, 2015
The California drought continues into 2015—as of March, 42 percent of the State is classified under the exceptional drought rating. Despite these conditions, U.S. fresh fruit and vegetable price inflation is expected to be close to its historical average in 2015. ERS predicts fresh fruit prices will increase 2.5 to 3.5 percent and fresh vegetable prices 2.0 to 3.0 percent. While California does grow a large percentage of many U.S. fresh fruits and vegetables, portions of the produce purchased in grocery stores are imported from various foreign markets. Currently, the strong U.S. dollar is making foreign produce relatively less expensive, putting downward pressure on U.S. retail produce prices. Commodities that are grown almost entirely in California and whose supplies are not largely supplemented by imports could begin to experience higher price increases in 2015. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Consumers section of the California Drought: Farm and Food Impacts page on the ERS website. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.
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Global stocks of rice are tightening in 2015  
Friday, April 17, 2015
Global ending stocks of most agricultural commodities, including feedgrains, oilseeds, wheat, and cotton are expected to reach multi-year highs in 2015. Ample supplies are reflected in prices that are well below the record levels of just a few years ago. Rice is an exception, with global ending stocks projected to decline for the second year in a row to reach their lowest level since the 2009/10 marketing year (August/July). At the same time, global use continues to grow, led by consumption growth in China, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and several other nations. As a result, the global stocks-to-use ratio is projected at just over 20 percent, the lowest it has been since 2007/08, a time when international concern over high commodity and food prices led several of the world’s leading rice producing and consuming countries to restrict exports and increase government-owned rice reserves. These actions resulted in a rapid rise in global rice prices and reduced trade. Today, even though global stocks are approaching levels that prompted substantial trade restrictions in early 2008, prices are lower and global rice trade remains at near-record levels. This chart is from the April 2015 Rice Outlook.
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Degree of rurality influences recent U.S. county population growth and decline  
Thursday, April 16, 2015
ERS Rural Urban Continuum (RUC) codes subdivide the broad metro/nonmetro categories into three metro and six nonmetro groupings. Recently released county-level estimates show that population change within the RUC ranged from over 4-percent growth in metro areas with 1 million or more people to 1-percent declines in the two rural, nonmetro categories. Overall population growth occurred in nonmetro counties with sizeable towns (more than 20,000 urban residents) despite net out-migration. In these counties, employment opportunities often attract younger populations, which in turn imparts higher rates of natural increase (more births than deaths) compared with other nonmetro counties. Conversely, long-term out-migration of younger people results in an older average population in the most rural counties, creating a pattern of natural decrease (more deaths than births). For decades, nonmetro counties that were physically adjacent to metro areas grew rapidly from suburbanization. This is no longer happening, due to the effects of the housing crisis, changing residential preferences that favor urban centers, and reclassification of fast-growing suburban counties from nonmetro to metro. This chart is found in the ERS topic page on Population and Migration, updated April 2015.
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Taxable net farm income increased in 2012, but was still negative  
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
U.S. farm households generally receive income from both farm and off-farm activities, and for many, off-farm income largely determines the household’s income tax liability. Since 1980, farm sole proprietors, in aggregate, have reported negative net farm income for tax purposes. Over the 1998-2008 period, both the share of farm sole proprietors reporting losses and the amount of losses reported generally increased, due in part to deduction allowances for capital expenses. Since 2007, strong commodity prices have bolstered farm sector profits and the net losses from farming have declined. In 2012, the latest year for which complete data are available, U.S. Internal Revenue Service data showed that nearly 70 percent of farm sole proprietors reported a farm loss, totaling almost $24 billion. The remaining farms reported profits totaling $18.2 billion. This chart updates the chart found in the February 2013 Amber Waves feature, “Federal Income Tax Reform and the Potential Effects on Farm Households.”
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Last updated: Wednesday, September 02, 2015

For more information contact: Fred Kuchler