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Thursday, April 24, 2014
U.S. milk and dairy product prices have reached record levels in nominal terms and are expected to remain high for the remainder of 2014 because of strong foreign and domestic demand. While U.S. domestic demand has strengthened along with the economic recovery, expanding export demand for U.S. milk powder, cheese, and butter is having an increasing influence on the U.S market. The U.S. domestic price for fluid milk—represented by the “All milk” price—is closely linked to dairy product prices, and dairy product exports have risen from  10.9 percent of total U.S. milk production in 2005 (on a skims-solid basis) to  19.2 percent in 2013.  Export impacts on U.S. prices vary with the composition of exports, reflected in differences between exports evaluated on a “skims/solids” or “fats” basis. In 2012 and 2013, relatively small “fats basis” exports reduced the impacts on U.S. all-milk prices in some quarters. For January and February of 2014, cheese exports are up 39 percent year-over-year, while milk powder exports are up 12 percent and butter/butterfat exports are up 91 percent. Major export destinations for U.S. dairy products are Mexico and South Korea for cheese and North Africa and the Middle East for butter/butterfat. Despite a year-on-year decline so far in 2014, Mexico remains the largest destination for U.S. milk powder exports; Southeast Asia and China are also major export markets. This chart is based on data found in the Dairy data product, with analysis in the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: April 2014.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014
USDA monitors the extent and severity of food insecurity in U.S. households for the Nation and for States. Food-insecure households had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. Prevalence rates of food insecurity varied considerably from State to State. Data for 3 years, 2010-12, were combined to provide more reliable statistics at the State level. Estimated prevalence rates of food insecurity during this 3-year period ranged from 8.7 percent in North Dakota to 20.9 percent in Mississippi. Taking into account margins of error of the State and U.S. estimates, the prevalence of food insecurity was higher than the national average of 14.7 percent in 10 States and lower than the national average in 16 States and the District of Columbia. In the remaining 24 States, differences from the national average were not statistically significant. This map is from the Food Security in the U.S. topic page on the ERS website.
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014
The greenhouse gas (GHG) profile of the agricultural and forestry sector differs substantially from the profile of other sectors. Agriculture is an emission-intensive sector; it accounted for less than 1 percent of U.S. production (in real gross value-added terms), but emitted 10.4 percent of U.S. GHGs in 2012. Energy-related CO2 emission sources—which dominate GHG emissions in most other production sectors—are dwarfed in agriculture by unique crop and livestock emissions of nitrous oxide and methane. Crop and pasture soil management are the activities that generate the most emissions, due largely to the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers and other nutrients. The next largest sources are enteric fermentation (digestion in ruminant livestock) and manure management. Agriculture and forestry are unique in providing opportunities for withdrawing carbon from the atmosphere through biological sequestration in soil and biomass carbon sinks. The carbon sinks, which are largely due to land use change from agricultural to forest land (afforestation) and forest management on continuing forest, offset 13.5 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2012. ERS is currently involved in research on the economic incentives farm operators have, or could be provided with, to take steps to both mitigate GHG emissions and adapt to climate change. This chart is from the topic on Climate Change on the ERS website.
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Monday, April 21, 2014
The spread between farm prices and retail prices of U.S. choice beef has been rising in real terms since 2000 because of an increasing spread between wholesale and retail prices. The spread between wholesale and retail choice beef prices averaged 75.5 cents/lb during the 1990s, but averaged 93.7 cents/lb during 2009-13. The ERS price spread calculations standardize the farm, wholesale, and retail product values over time, so the expanding wholesale-to-retail spread suggests rising costs in that segment of the supply chain, rather than changes in product mix or quality at each price point. In contrast, the farm-to-wholesale price spread has tended to decline slightly since 2000. These trends in price spreads may arise from differences in cost inflation in key inputs in the farm-to-wholesale and wholesale-to-retail segments of the supply chain, differences in productivity growth in each segment, and changes in the degree of market competition in each segment. This chart is based on data from the Meat Price Spreads data product.
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Friday, April 18, 2014
Although global and U.S. wheat exports are projected to rise over the next decade, the U.S. share of the world market is projected to continue to decline because of competition from other exporters. Global demand for wheat is expected to expand, driven primarily by income and population growth in developing country markets, including Sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt, Pakistan, Algeria, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Brazil. The number of major exporting countries has, however, expanded in recent years from the traditional wheat exporters--the United States, Argentina, Australia, Canada, and the European Union--to include Ukraine, Russia, and Kazakhstan. Although variable, the wheat export volume of those three Black Sea exporters together now rivals that of the United States. Low production costs and new investment in the agricultural sectors of the Black Sea region have enabled their world market share to climb, despite the region’s highly variable weather. Competition from the Black Sea region, as well as from traditional exporters, has resulted in a decline in the U.S. share of expanding world exports from an average of about 39 percent in the first half of the 1980s to an average of about 20 percent over the last 5 years. Find this chart and additional analysis on the Wheat topic page.
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Thursday, April 17, 2014
According to ERS's 2012 food availability data, the per capita supply of chicken available to eat in the United States continues to outpace that of beef. In 2012, 56.6 pounds of chicken per person on a boneless, edible basis were available for Americans to eat, compared to 54.5 pounds of beef. Although down from its peak of 60.9 pounds per person in 2006, chicken availability has been higher than that of beef for the past three years. Chicken began its upward climb in the 1940s, overtaking pork in 1996 as the second-most-consumed meat and overtaking beef for the No. 1 spot in 2010. Pork availability, which fluctuated between 49.9 and 46.6 pounds per person over the 1981 to 2009 period, dropped to 42.6 pounds per person in 2012. This chart is from the Summary Findings in ERS’s data product, the Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014
The 2014 Farm Act provides support for local and regional foods across several titles, including nutrition, horticulture, credit, and rural development. Support includes increased consumer access to and marketing of locally and regionally produced food, both via farmer direct-to-consumer outlets and intermediated outlets (e.g., regional distributors, local retailers, or restaurant sales). In particular, the Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program’s increase in mandatory funding could increase opportunities in the entire local and regional food-supply chain now that intermediaries, including food hubs, can participate. In 2008 (the latest year of analysis available), most local and regional foods were marketed through intermediated channels. Prior to the 2014 Farm Act, support was aimed at local and regional food producers participating in direct-to-consumer sales, rather than those relying on intermediated marketing channels. This chart was adapted from one appearing in the Local and Regional Foods page of Agricultural Act of 2014: Highlights and Implications on the ERS website.
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Farming requires large investments in machinery, equipment, and other depreciable capital. Such investments may be treated either as a current expense and deducted from gross farm income immediately, or capitalized and depreciated over time. For the past four years (2010-2013), if the cost was treated as an expense, the maximum deduction a farm could take was $500,000. Unless the 2010-13 expensing limit is extended, it will fall to $25,000 for tax year 2014. This change could increase the cost of capital investment and significantly increase taxable income for some farms. Based on 2012 ARMS data, while 38 percent of U.S. family farms reported a capital purchase, less than 1 percent had expenses exceeding $500,000. Under a $25,000 expensing limit, 13 percent of farms would have exceeded the limit. Smaller family farms, in general, did not make investments exceeding the old limit, but about 9 percent would have exceeded the 2014 limit. Very large family farms (those with gross cash farm income in excess of $5 million) were far more likely to have capital costs exceeding both the old limit (35 percent) and the 2014 limit (78 percent). This chart updates one found in the ERS report, The Potential Impact of Tax Reform on Farm Businesses and Rural Households, EIB-107, February 2013.
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Monday, April 14, 2014
Following the 2007-09 recession, the U.S. labor force declined from 154.3 million individuals in 2008 to 153.6 million in 2011. With less time dedicated to paid work, households could opt to spend more time preparing food and eating together as a family. Previous ERS research has shown that food prepared at home tends to be of higher nutritional quality than food prepared outside the home. Using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, ERS researchers found that in households of working-age adults and children younger than 17, the number of family meals (meals eaten with a majority of household members) increased from 5.8 per week in 2007-08 to 6.3 per week in 2009-10, and the number of those family meals prepared at home increased from 5.4 to 5.8 per week. Adults age 60 and older also ate more family meals and more family meals prepared at home. Among all working age adults in multiperson households (including those without children), the number of family meals prepared at home increased from 5.3 to 5.7 per week. The statistics in this chart are from “Less Eating Out, Improved Diets, and More Family Meals in the Wake of the Great Recession” in ERS’s March 2014 Amber Waves magazine.
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Friday, April 11, 2014
The number of U.S. jobs associated with agricultural exports has generally been growing along with U.S. agricultural exports and is influenced by the composition of exports between bulk (raw, unprocessed) and nonbulk (processed, high-value) agricultural products. In calendar year 2012, the $141.3 billion of total U.S. agricultural exports generated an estimated 929,000 full-time civilian jobs. Since the early 2000s, job growth associated with U.S. agricultural exports has been driven entirely by expanding sales of nonbulk products. Nonbulk exports have a larger proportional effect on jobs than bulk exports because they generate more economic activity and jobs in the nonfarm economy in areas such as manufacturing, trade, and transportation. In 2012, nonbulk exports of $90.6 billion led to an additional $140.1 billion of business activity supporting an estimated 654,584 jobs, while bulk exports valued at $50.7 billion produced an additional $39.4 billion of business activity supporting an estimated 274,584 jobs. Estimates of economic activity and jobs associated with agricultural exports are model-based, using a detailed input-output data set on the U.S. economy. Find this chart and additional data and documentation in the ERS Agricultural Trade Multiplier data product.
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Thursday, April 10, 2014
U.S. egg disappearance (production adjusted for trade and stock changes) and prices tend to be seasonally low during the first and second quarters of the calendar year, indicating minimal impacts on egg demand and prices due to the Easter holiday. Instead, egg disappearance and prices tend to be noticeably higher during the winter holiday season in the fourth quarter of the year. Household use of eggs for baking and other purposes is normally highest in the fourth quarter, while commercial use is highest in the third quarter. Roughly 31 percent of annual table egg use is termed as “broken,” meaning that they are used in commercial baking and food processing. On an annual basis, U.S. egg consumption fell in 2009 and 2010 as producers reduced output in response to the increases in grain and energy prices that occurred in 2008, but production and consumption have been on a long term upswing since 2010. As of January 2014, on a year-over-year basis, production increased in 28 of the previous 29 months.  Find the data for this chart in Livestock and Meat Domestic Data, with additional analysis in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: March 2014.
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Wednesday, April 09, 2014
After peaking at 6.8 million farms in 1935, the number of U.S. farms fell sharply until leveling off in the early 1970s. Falling farm numbers during this period reflected growing productivity in agriculture and increased nonfarm employment opportunities. Because the amount of farmland did not decrease as much as the number of farms, the remaining farms have more acreage—on average, about 430 acres in 2012 versus 155 acres in 1935. Preliminary data from the recently released Census of Agriculture show that in 2012, the United States had 2.1 million farms–down 4.3 percent from the previous Census in 2007. Between 2007 and 2012, the amount of land in farms in the United States continued a slow downward trend, declining from 922 million acres to 915 million. This chart is found in the ERS chart collection, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated April 8, 2014.
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Tuesday, April 08, 2014
In the United States, 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten. The estimated value of this food loss was $161.6 billion, using 2010 retail prices. Food loss by retailers, foodservice establishments, and consumers occurs for a variety of reasons—a refrigerator malfunctions and food spoils, a store or restaurant overstocks holiday foods that do not get purchased, or consumers cook more than they need and choose to throw the extra food away. Food loss also includes cooking loss and natural shrinkage, such as when leafy greens wilt. In 2010, the top three food groups in terms of share of total value of food loss were meat, poultry, and fish ($48 billion); vegetables ($30 billion); and dairy products ($27 billion). Meat, poultry, and fish’s 30-percent share in value terms is higher than its 12-percent share when measured on a weight basis due to these foods’ higher per pound cost relative to many other foods. This chart can be found in The Estimated Amount, Value, and Calories of Postharvest Food Losses at the Retail and Consumer Levels in the United States, released February 20, 2014.
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Monday, April 07, 2014
Rural population (determined by nonmetropolitan status) declined for the third year in a row according to population estimates released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau. While hundreds of individual counties have lost population over the years, especially in remote or sparsely-settled regions, this marks the first period of population decline for rural (nonmetro) areas as a whole.  Population declines stem from a combination of fewer births, more deaths, and changing migration patterns. Since 2010, the increase in rural population that came from natural change (193,000 more births than deaths) has not matched the decrease in population from net migration (276,000 more people moved out than moved in).  While natural change has gradually trended downward over time, net migration rates tend to fluctuate in response to economic conditions.  Thus, this period of rural population loss may be short-lived depending on the course of the economic recovery. This chart is found in the ERS topic page on Population and Migration, updated April 2014.
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Friday, April 04, 2014
Poultry meat imports by major importers are projected to increase by 2.5 million tons (34 percent) between 2013 and 2023, led by rising import demand in North Africa and the Middle East (NAME), Mexico, and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).  Similar factors are expected to drive import growth in each region. Rising incomes and the low cost of poultry meat relative to other meats are projected to favor growth in poultry meat consumption among the low- and middle-income consumers in each region. At the same time, limited local supplies of feed grains and feed protein in all three regions are expected to continue to limit the expansion of indigenous poultry meat production.  The NAME region currently accounts for 47 percent of imports by the major poultry importers, and is projected to account for nearly 80 percent of the increase in their poultry meat imports between 2014 and 2023. In contrast, little import growth is projected for Russia, where policies continue to deter imports in favor of domestic producers, and for China, where domestic production is projected to keep pace with demand. Find this chart and additional analysis in USDA Agricultural Projections to 2023.
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Thursday, April 03, 2014
Since the 1980s, ERS has reported an income measure for farm operator households comparable to the U.S. Census Bureau's measure for all U.S. households. From 1991 to 1997, median farm household income (which is driven almost entirely by off-farm income) was consistently less than median U.S. household income. Since 1998, however, the opposite has been true. The reversal may reflect greater returns to farm household skills employed off the farm, in addition to other factors such as changes in the composition of the farm population. As such, the size of the median household income gap reflects differences in the location and type of nonfarm jobs held by the typical farm and U.S. household, as well as variation in farm income. This chart is found in the ERS topic page on Farm Household Well-being, updated February 2014.
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Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Over the last 15 years, Ukraine has emerged as a major supplier to world markets for several agricultural commodities, including wheat, corn, sunflower oil, and rapeseed.  Wheat is a traditional export, with annual shipments varying with crop size. For 2013/14 (July/June marketing year), Ukraine’s wheat exports are forecast at 10 million tons, or about 6 percent of world wheat trade.  During the last decade, Ukraine’s corn production and exports have expanded, with 2013/14 (October/September) exports forecast at 18.5 million tons, making Ukraine the world’s third-largest corn exporter.  Robust production growth is also behind Ukraine’s emergence as the world’s dominant supplier of sunflowerseed oil, with 2013/14 (September/August) exports forecast at nearly 4.1 million tons, or about 57 percent of global trade.  Ukraine has also become a significant exporter of rapeseed, with 2013/14 (July/June) exports forecast at about 2.2 million tons, or 16 percent of world trade. Despite recent political developments in Ukraine, so far there is no evidence of significant shipping disruptions that might alter the 2013/14 Ukraine export forecasts. Find additional analysis Wheat Outlook: March 2014, Feed Outlook: March 2014, and Oil Crops Outlook: March 2014.
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Tuesday, April 01, 2014
Grocery store food prices increased 0.9 percent in 2013. Since 1970, annual food-at-home price inflation has only been lower three times—in 1992, 2009, and 2010. Low food price inflation usually indicates that prices in some categories increased modestly while others fell, and that was the case in 2013. The largest increases were for poultry and fresh vegetables, which both rose by nearly 5 percent. Poultry price increases were driven by high feed prices and strong consumer demand in response to high beef and pork prices in 2011 and 2012. Vegetable prices rebounded from heavy deflation in 2012. Global sugar and coffee prices fell substantially in 2013, causing retail prices for the broader nonalcoholic beverages and sugar and sweets categories to fall as well. The other foods category, which constitutes over 10 percent of food spending, was nearly flat in 2013 due mostly to moderate fuel prices which lowered processing, packaging, and transportation costs. More information on food price changes and forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated March 25, 2014.
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Monday, March 31, 2014
The successful commercialization of GE varieties culminates earlier research and development (R&D) efforts in agricultural biotechnology. One measure of previous and ongoing R&D activity is the number of field releases for testing of GE varieties approved by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). As of September 2013, about 7,800 releases were approved for GE corn, more than 2,200 for GE soybeans, more than 1,100 for GE cotton, and about 900 for GE potatoes. Field releases were approved for GE varieties with herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, product quality such as flavor or nutrition, agronomic properties like drought resistance, and virus/fungal resistance. After successful field testing, deregulation allows seed companies to commercialize the seeds that they have developed.  As of September 2013, APHIS had received 145 petitions for deregulation and had approved 96 petitions after having determined that the organism (i.e., the GE plant) is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk.  In addition to corn, cotton, and soybeans, APHIS has approved petitions for deregulation for GE varieties of tomatoes, rapeseed/canola, potatoes, sugarbeets, papaya, rice, squash, alfalfa, plum, rose, tobacco, flax, and chicory. This chart is found in “Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops by U.S. Farmers Has Increased Steadily for Over 15 Years” in the March 2014 edition of Amber Waves online magazine.
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Friday, March 28, 2014
Family farms—whether using the ERS definition based on majority ownership of the farm business or the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) definition based on the predominance of family-supplied labor—account for a large share of U.S. agricultural production.  However, their relative production within commodity groups varies. Family farms were particularly important in the production of major field crops (corn, cotton, soybeans, and wheat), where they accounted for 62-96 percent of U.S. production in 2011, and in hogs, poultry, and eggs, where they accounted for 68-96 percent of production.  Family farm production shares are lower in every major commodity category when focusing on the share of farms where the principal operator and spouse provide most of the labor used on the farm (the FAO standard). Large farms, often family owned but heavily reliant on hired farm labor and contract service providers, account for a large share of U.S. production, particularly in high-valued crops (fruit, nuts, vegetables, and nursery) and dairy. For example, family-owned and operated farms account for 75 percent of dairy production, but the operator and spouse usually provide less than half the labor on those farms.  This chart can be found in “Family Farming in the United States” in the March 2014 Amber Waves.
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Last updated: Thursday, April 24, 2014

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