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ERS Charts of Note

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Nearly all U.S. ethanol is produced and sold in domestic markets  
Thursday, May 05, 2016
U.S. production of ethanol hit a record 14.8 billion gallons in 2015, and when combined with the carry-over stocks from the previous year and 2015 imports, the total ethanol supply reached an all-time high of 15.7 billion gallons. Nearly all ethanol blended into the U.S. gasoline supply is produced domestically, and, over the past five years, about 94 percent of domestic production was used in the United States. Ethanol imports peaked in 2006 at 731 million gallons (equal to 12 percent of the U.S. supply), but each year since 2010 exports have exceeded imports, making the United States a net exporter of ethanol. The domestic market for ethanol is at full capacity due to the technical and regulatory constraints that limit most of the U.S. gasoline supply to a 10 percent maximum ethanol blend, so the export market is now the primary opportunity for growth. Ethanol exports peaked in 2011 at nearly 1.2 billion gallons, but have remained below 850 million gallons for the past four years. This chart is based on the ERS U.S. Bioenergy Statistics data product.
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Avocado imports grow to meet increasing U.S. demand  
Wednesday, May 04, 2016
U.S. consumption of avocados has doubled in the past 10 years and is now nearly four times higher than in the mid-1990s. All of the growth in per-capita availability is from imports: U.S. net production (production minus imports) accounted for more than 80 percent of domestic sales during the 1990s, but has averaged less than 20 percent over the past 4 years. California accounts for more than 85 percent of U.S. avocado production. U.S. avocado imports come primarily from Mexico, and the United States is its largest market, accounting for more than 75 percent of Mexico’s annual export volume. Increased planted acreage in and outside Michoacan, Mexico’s major avocado-producing State, suggests production will continue to expand in the coming years as the country attempts to meet the growing demand for avocados in the U.S. market and globally. This chart is from the March 2016 Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook report.
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Three-quarters of WIC benefits are redeemed in large stores  
Tuesday, May 03, 2016
In fiscal 2015, expenditures for USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) totaled $6.2 billion, making it USDA’s third largest food and nutrition assistance program. WIC benefits are distributed as paper vouchers or electronic benefits cards for specified quantities of specific foods designed to meet the nutrition needs of low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age 5. The program reimburses stores for the retail price of the foods purchased with the WIC benefits. If WIC participants chose to redeem their benefits at stores with higher prices, program costs would increase. A recent ERS report finds that, despite the fact that WIC benefits are not structured to encourage participants to consider price when they acquire their WIC foods, 76 percent of WIC retail redemptions in fiscal 2012 were at large lower price stores, such as supermarkets, supercenters, and large grocery stores. Another 9 percent of benefits were redeemed at WIC-only and A-50 stores (those that derive more than 50 percent of annual food-sales revenue from WIC redemptions). This chart appears in the ERS report, Where Do WIC Participants Redeem Their Food Benefits? An Analysis of WIC Food Dollar Redemption Patterns by Store Type, released on April 28, 2016.
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U.S. corn and soybean farmers use a wide variety of glyphosate resistance management practices  
Monday, May 02, 2016
For weed control, U.S. corn and soybean farmers rely on chemical herbicides which were applied to more than 95 percent of U.S. corn acres in 2010 and soybean acres in 2012. Over the course of the last two decades, U.S. corn and soybean farmers have increased their use of glyphosate (the active ingredient in herbicide products such as Roundup) and decreased their use of herbicide products containing other active ingredients. This shift contributed to the development of over 14 glyphosate-resistant weed species in U.S. crop production areas. Glyphosate resistance management practices (RMPs) include herbicide rotation, tillage, scouting for weeds, and other forms of weed control. In some cases, ERS found that usage rates for RMPs increased from 1996 to 2012. In other cases, RMP use dropped from 1996 to 2005/06 but increased as information about glyphosate-resistant weeds spread. For example, herbicides other than glyphosate were applied on 93 percent of planted soybean acres in 1996, 29 percent in 2006, and then 56 percent in 2012. This chart is found in the April 2016 Amber Waves finding, “U.S. Corn and Soybean Farmers Apply a Wide Variety of Glyphosate Resistance Management Practices.”
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Global cotton stockpiles beginning to decline  
Friday, April 29, 2016
Global ending stocks of cotton are forecast to decline in the 2015/16 marketing year (August-July), down about 9 percent from last year’s record of nearly 112 million bales. Cotton stocks rose dramatically between 2010/11 and 2014/15 as relatively high prices encouraged world production and discouraged consumption. Despite this season’s anticipated decrease, ending stocks remain double the 2010/11 level. The recent global stocks buildup resulted from policies in China that insulated Chinese cotton producers from declining world prices and, at the same time, also encouraged imports. More recent policy shifts in China have discouraged production and imports in that country, beginning the process of reducing the surplus of Government-held stocks. In 2015/16, China’s stocks are expected to decrease for the first time since 2010/11. However, with stock reductions also expected in the rest of the world, China’s share of global stocks remains above 60 percent. This chart is from the April 2016 Cotton and Wool Outlook report.
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First period of decline in U.S. rural population may be ending  
Thursday, April 28, 2016
The total number of people living in rural (nonmetropolitan) counties remained essentially unchanged between July 2014 and July 2015, after 4 years of modest population losses. The 2014-15 improvement in rural population change coincides with an improvement in rural employment growth and suggests that this first-ever period of overall population decline (from 2010 to 2015) may be ending. Rural population change is the result of two components: net migration (the difference between the number of people moving into and out of rural counties) and natural increase (the difference between the number of births and deaths). Both components have contributed to the loss in rural population since 2010. A sharp, cyclical downturn in net migration, beginning with the housing market collapse in 2007, appears to have bottomed out in 2012. The Great Recession (December 2007-June 2009) also contributed to a downturn in natural increase, as fewer births occur during times of economic uncertainty. Falling birth rates and an aging population have steadily reduced population growth from natural increase in rural counties over time, increasing the chances of overall rural population decline in the future. This chart appears in ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated March 24, 2016.
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After falling in the late 1990s and early 2000s, supermarkets’ share of at-home food spending has stabilized  
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Americans spent $1.46 trillion on food in 2014. Of this total, 49.9 percent was spent in supermarkets, supercenters, farmers’ markets, convenience stores, and other retailers. The relative importance of the various outlets comprising the U.S. at-home-food market has shifted somewhat during the last 25 years. Supermarkets had a 64.9-percent share of at-home spending in 2014, down from a peak of 76.3 percent in 1993. In 1990, food expenditures in convenience stores were higher than those for warehouse club stores and supercenters. By 1993, the reverse was true; and by 2014, warehouse club stores and supercenters accounted for 16.8 percent of at-home spending. The combined share of direct purchases from food processors and farmers grew from 7.4 percent in 1990 to 9.4 percent in 2000, and their share has averaged 8.4 percent over the last decade. Other stores—for example, discount dollar stores and drug stores—accounted for 4.9 percent of the at-home-food market in 2014. This chart appears in “After a Sharp Rise Between 1990 and 2005, Supercenters’ Share of At-Home-Food Spending Has Leveled Off” in the April 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Share of highly leveraged farm businesses on an upward trend since 2012  
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Farm businesses—those farms with at least $350,000 in annual sales or farms with lower revenues where the operator’s primary occupation is farming—account for more than 90 percent of U.S. farm sector production, and hold 71 percent of all farm assets and 80 percent of farm debt, according to USDA’s 2014 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS). Debt-to-asset (D/A) ratios measure the amount of assets that are financed by debt, and are an indicator of the level of a farm’s solvency. The share of farm businesses that are highly leveraged (defined as having debt-to-asset ratios greater than .40) has trended upward since 2012 and is forecast to increase slightly in both 2015 and 2016. Farm businesses specializing in crops are forecast to have higher shares of both highly and very highly leveraged operations (with over .70 D/A ratios) than those specializing in animals/animal products. In 2016, the share of very highly leveraged crop farms is expected to reach the highest level since 2002. Because lending institutions consider D/A (along with other measures reflecting the chance of default) to assess credit worthiness of farms, some of these highly and very highly leveraged farm businesses may have difficulty securing a loan. This chart updates one found in the ERS report, Debt Use by U.S. Farm Businesses, 1992-2011, April 2014.
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Food use of grain in Sub-Saharan Africa is down this year  
Monday, April 25, 2016
Across Sub-Saharan Africa, coarse grains, including corn, sorghum and millet, are a prominent part of the diet and are supplied mostly from domestic production. Wheat and rice play a smaller role and a significant portion of those grains are imported. In 2015/16, weather was influenced by a strong El Nino in the Pacific, and rainfall patterns shifted, leaving several major Sub-Saharan production areas in drought. Coarse grain production in the region in 2015/16 is estimated to be down about 14 percent from the previous year’s record output. Production was sharply reduced, especially in the populous countries of South Africa, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Wealthier countries such as South Africa can offset much of the production drop through reduced exports, increased imports, and drawing on stocks held over from the previous harvest. Ethiopia is expected to boost imports, especially wheat. The sharp drop in production in Sudan could be mostly reflected in reduced food consumption. This chart is from the April 2016 Feed Outlook report.
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Major crop producers apply most nitrogen fertilizer in the spring and after planting  
Friday, April 22, 2016
Efficient nitrogen fertilizer applications closely coincide with plant needs to reduce the likelihood that nutrients are lost to the environment before they can be taken up by the crop. Fall nitrogen application occurs during the fall months before the crop is planted, spring application occurs in the spring months (before planting for spring-planted crops), and after-planting application occurs while the crop is growing. The most appropriate timing of nitrogen applications depends on the nutrient needs of the crop being grown. In general, applying nitrogen in the fall for a spring-planted crop leaves nitrogen vulnerable to runoff over a long period of time. Applying nitrogen after the crop is already growing, when nitrogen needs are highest, generally minimizes vulnerability to runoff and leaching. Cotton farmers applied a majority of nitrogen—59 percent—after planting. Winter wheat producers applied 45 percent of nitrogen after planting. Corn farmers applied 22 percent of nitrogen after planting, while spring wheat farmers applied 5 percent after planting. Farmers applied a significant share of nitrogen in the fall for corn (20 percent) and spring wheat (21 percent). Fall nitrogen application is high for winter wheat because it is planted in the fall. This chart is found in the ERS report, Conservation-Practice Adoption Rates Vary Widely by Crop and Region, December 2015.
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Three post-farm industry groups account for about 61 cents of the U.S. food dollar  
Thursday, April 21, 2016
In 2014, total food-away-from-home expenditures of U.S. consumers, businesses, and government entities surpassed at-home food sales for the first time. This outcome is reflected in the 32.7-cent foodservices share of the U.S. food dollar claimed by restaurants and other eating-out places—its highest level during 1993 to 2014. It is also reflected in the 12.9-cent retail-trade share claimed by grocery stores and other food retailers, which is at its lowest level since 2002. ERS uses input-output analysis to calculate the value added, or cost contributions, from 12 industry groups in the food supply chain. Annual shifts in food dollar shares between industry groups occur for a variety of reasons, ranging from the mix of foods that consumers purchase to relative input costs. A growing share of the food dollar has gone to farm producers, up 1.7 cents since 2009 to 10.4 cents in 2014, while food processing’s share is down 2.1 cents since 2009. This chart is available for years 1993 to 2014 and can be found in ERS’s Food Dollar Series data product, updated on March 30, 2016.
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U.S. per-capita availability of romaine and leaf lettuce has almost doubled over the last 16 years  
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
In 2013, 29.6 pounds per person of lettuce and fresh greens were available for domestic consumption, according to ERS’s Food Availability Data. Per-capita availability of lettuce and fresh greens declined by 22 percent from its high of 37.9 pounds per person in 2004. Much of the decrease is due to declining consumption of head lettuce. Head lettuce (iceberg) availability, at 14.1 pounds per person in 2013, has fallen by 41 percent from 24 pounds in 1997. At the same time, romaine and leaf lettuce availability has almost doubled, rising from 6.6 pounds per person in 1997 to 11.4 pounds in 2013. The growing popularity of prepackaged, ready-to-eat salad greens contributed to the rise in availability of romaine and leaf lettuce. Availability of other fresh greens (collard greens, escarole and endive, kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens) came in at 2.5 pounds per person in 2013, while fresh spinach availability was 1.6 pounds per person. The data for this chart come from the Food Availability data series in ERS's Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
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Herd size plays significant role in U.S. dairy farm profitability  
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
While some small U.S. dairy farms earn profits and some large farms incur losses, financial performance in the dairy sector, on average, is linked to herd size. Data from 2010 (the latest available for dairy farms by herd size) show that a majority of dairy farms with milking herds of at least 1,000 cows generate gross returns that exceed total costs, while most small and mid-size dairy farms do not earn enough to cover total costs. Total costs include annualized capital recovery as well as the cost of unpaid family labor (measured as what the farm family could earn off the farm), in addition to cash operating expenses. Many more small and mid-sized farms are able to cover total costs, except for costs associated with capital recovery. Farms can operate in this way for years, covering operating expenses and providing a reasonable income for a farm family, until the expense of maintaining aging equipment and structures begins to erode the incomes that a family can earn from the farm. At that point, many families may decide to close the farm. Some—particularly those where a younger generation intends to continue the business—may seek financing to expand the dairy herd and realize lower costs through scale economies. This chart is found in the ERS report, Changing Structure, Financial Risks, and Government Policy for the U.S. Dairy Industry, March 2016.
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U.S. consumption of fresh blueberries is growing  
Monday, April 18, 2016
Demand for fresh blueberries in the United States has shown strong growth over the past decade, with consumption per capita more than tripling since 2005, to exceed 1.5 pounds per person. This demand has been met with supplies from both domestic and imported sources, with net U.S. production (production minus export) up by 223 percent and imports up by nearly 370 percent since the average from 2003 to 2005. Most blueberry imports are off-season supplies from the Southern Hemisphere that do not compete directly with U.S. production. Imports from Chile typically start in the fall and peak during January and February. Imports from Argentina, Uruguay and Peru follow a similar pattern but with much smaller volumes. Domestic supplies from Florida typically begin to come onto the market in March, with production moving northward and peaking during the summer months. Imports from Canada coincide with the summer U.S. harvest. This year, cold weather is delaying the harvest in both Florida and Georgia, causing tight early-season supplies. This chart is from the March 2016 Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook report.
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Milk-cow numbers turn higher and output per cow continues to grow  
Friday, April 15, 2016
The number of milk cows in the United States was up slightly in 2015, reaching 9.3 million, about equal to the number in 2008. The size of the U.S. dairy herd reached an historic low of just over 9 million cows in 2004, following a long-term decline of more than 2 million head since 1983. Over the past decade, the herd size has grown slightly, by an average of 0.3 percent per year. Improving technology and genetics have allowed milk output per cow to rise steadily, increasing by 88 percent since 1980 and reaching a record-high annual average of 22,393 pounds of milk per cow in 2015. The result has been strong growth in U.S. milk production over the period, which corresponds to growing domestic and international markets for dairy products—particularly for cheese and various dairy-based food ingredients. This chart is based on the ERS Dairy Data product.
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Taxable U.S. net income from farming remained negative in 2013  
Thursday, April 14, 2016
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. From 1998 to 2008, both the share of farm sole proprietors reporting losses and the total amount of losses reported generally increased, due in part to deduction allowances for capital expenses. Since 2007, strong commodity prices bolstered farm-sector profits and the net losses from farming declined, leading to a peak in taxable profits (though still a negative taxable amount on net) in 2012. In 2013, the latest year for which complete tax data are available, U.S. Internal Revenue Service data showed that nearly 68 percent of farm sole proprietors reported a farm loss, totaling $25 billion. The remaining farms reported profits totaling $17 billion. This chart is found on the ERS Federal Tax Issues topic page, updated April 2016.
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Peanut and tree nut consumption rises with income  
Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A recent linking of ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data with intake surveys from 1994-2008 reveals that consumers with incomes above 185 percent of the Federal poverty ($21,200 for a family of four in 2008) consistently consumed greater quantities of nuts than consumers with lower incomes, and the gap was higher in more recent years. Nut allergies and consumers’ perceptions about the cost of peanuts and tree nuts may play a role in consumption patterns. In 2007-08, higher income Americans ate 6.7 pounds of peanuts per person per year and 3.7 pounds of tree nuts, compared with the 4.5 pounds of peanuts and 1.4 pounds of tree nuts consumed by lower income consumers. Children consumed more peanuts per person than adults during 1994-98, but since then, adults have consumed more peanuts than children. Adults ate more tree nuts than children did in all survey years, and non-Hispanic Whites consumed more peanuts and tree nuts than non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics. This chart and similar information on 60 other food commodities can be found in the ERS report, U.S. Food Commodity Consumption Broken Down by Demographics, 1994-2008, released on March 30, 2016.
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Land in active crop production dips in 2015  
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
The ERS Major Land Uses (MLU) data series provides a snapshot of land use across the United States. While much of the MLU series is updated roughly every 5 years, cropland used for crops, the category representing the acres of land in active crop production, is updated on an annual basis. Cropland used for crops has three main components: cropland harvested (including acreage double-cropped), crop failure, and cultivated summer fallow. In 2015 (the most recent estimate), the total area of cropland used for crops in the United States was 335 million acres, down 6 million acres from the 2014 estimate and about 5 percent below the 30-year average. In 2015, cropland harvested declined by 1 percent (3 million acres) over the previous year. The area that was double-cropped—land from which two or more crops were harvested—declined by 1 million acres, a 13-percent decline from the 2014 double-cropped area of 8 million acres. Acres on which crops failed declined by 30 percent over the past year to 7 million acres, the lowest level since 2010. This chart is based on ERS’s Major Land Uses, summary table 3: Cropland used for crops, updated March 25, 2016.
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Retail price forecasts for 2016 vary by food category  
Monday, April 11, 2016
Grocery store food prices are forecast to rise between 1.5 and 2.5 percent in 2016, exceeding the 2015 increase of 1.2 percent, with some variation across food categories. Egg prices are expected to fall between 0.5 and 1.5 percent as the egg industry recovers from the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak, which reduced the supply of eggs in the U.S. market and drove retail egg prices up by 17.8 percent in 2015. Retail beef and veal prices will also likely decline in 2016, dropping up to 1 percent below 2015 levels. Like eggs, beef, and veal prices experienced higher than average inflation in 2015, but as producers expand their herds, more cattle will be ready for market in 2016. On the other hand, prices for pork and dairy products, which experienced deflation in 2015, are expected to increase up to 1 percent, and 2 to 3 percent, respectively. As the drought continues throughout much of California, ERS forecasts prices for fresh fruits and vegetables to rise between 2.5 and 3.5 percent. More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated March 25, 2016.
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U.S. meat and poultry exports are projected to rise  
Friday, April 08, 2016
A strengthening U.S. dollar coupled with poultry trade restrictions related to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) led to a reduction in U.S. meat and poultry exports in 2015. However, U.S. red meat and poultry exports are expected to rise over the next decade as steady global economic growth supports demand for high-quality animal proteins. Poultry is the largest U.S. meat export category, and broiler export growth is expected to resume over the next decade with strong near-term gains reflecting a rebound from HPAI-related import restrictions. China and Mexico are major US broiler export markets. U.S. pork exports are projected to continue rising, with Pacific Rim nations and Mexico among the key growth markets. U.S. beef exports are projected to grow as well, consisting mostly of high-quality, grain-fed beef shipped to Mexico, Canada, and Pacific Rim nations. This chart is from the interagency USDA report, USDA Agricultural Projections to 2025.
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Farms selling directly to consumers saw smaller increases in sales than other farms between 2007 and 2012  
Thursday, April 07, 2016
Between 2007 and 2012, farms using direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing had smaller growth in nominal gross sales (13.5 percent), on average, than farms using traditional marketing channels (19.3 percent). In addition, gross sales on farms using DTC marketing grew more slowly in each size class (as measured by 2007 sales). The slower growth for farms with DTC sales may stem from several factors. The 2012 Census of Agriculture shows farms using DTC marketing employ substantially more labor across all sales categories than farms without direct sales. Therefore, farms with DTC sales may need to hire additional workers at a lower scale of production, and the associated transaction costs may provide an obstacle to growth. Off-farm income opportunity may also play a role, as farms with DTC sales are more likely to have total household incomes both less than $50,000, and less than $20,000. The lower total household income for farms with DTC sales may reflect fewer off-farm income opportunities, leading these farms to continue farming even if they have less ability to expand production. This chart is found in the March 2016 Amber Waves feature, “Local Foods and Farm Business Survival and Growth.”
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Just over two-thirds of WIC participants in 2014 had incomes below poverty  
Wednesday, April 06, 2016
USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food, nutrition education, and health referrals to low-income, nutritionally at-risk pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, infants, and children younger than 5. In fiscal 2015, an average of about 8 million people per month participated in the program. Income eligibility for USDA’s WIC program is capped at 185 percent of the Federal poverty level. Among those participating in WIC in April 2014, 67.4 percent had incomes at or below poverty continuing the trend of increasing share of WIC participants with incomes at or below poverty which began in 2000. Slightly more than 1 percent of those participating in WIC in April 2014 had incomes greater than 185 percent of the Federal poverty level—similar to the shares since 2004. These individuals likely represent applicants who, because of their participation in Medicaid, automatically met income eligibility for WIC. In some States, the Medicaid income cutoff is higher than 185 percent of the Federal poverty level. This chart appears in the WIC Program topic page on the ERS website, updated March 16, 2016.
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China dominates world apple production  
Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Apples are produced commercially in more than 90 countries worldwide, with annual combined global production of about 80 million metric tons. China is the world’s largest producer, accounting for nearly half of the global output and producing nearly 10 times the volume of the United States, which produces the world’s second largest apple crop. China’s large production volume is supported by the country’s vast production area. However, U.S. yields are nearly double the average achieved in China. Area expansion in China has slowed over the past decade but per-hectare yields have improved, aiding the country’s production to continue to climb. This chart is from the Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook, March 2016.
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Verified non-genetically engineered products see steady increase since 2010  
Monday, April 04, 2016
Genetically engineered (GE) crops are now widely used to produce breakfast cereals, corn chips, soy protein bars, and other processed foods and food ingredients, and a market for foods produced without crops grown from GE seed has emerged. The Non-GMO Project is a private group that provides verification services for products made according to best practices for genetically modified organism (GMO) avoidance. In 2014, the Non-GMO Project Verified label appeared on nearly 12,500 products with unique universal product codes (UPC), up from fewer than 1,000 in 2010. Many of the food products verified under this protocol, and bearing the Non-GMO Project Verified butterfly logo, are not at risk of GE contamination: that is, they do not contain corn, soybeans, or other crops for which GE varieties are available. Also, over half of the products verified under this protocol are certified organic under USDA’s organic regulations, which already prohibit the use of genetic engineering in organic production and processing. Non-GMO Project Verified labeling currently accounts for most of the conventionally grown U.S. products that are non-GE verified. This chart appears in the ERS report, Economic Issues in the Coexistence of Organic, Genetically Engineered (GE), and Non-GE Crops, February 2016.
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U.S. rice production declined 13 percent in 2015  
Friday, April 01, 2016
U.S. rice production declined 13 percent in 2015/16 (August-July) to 192.3 million hundredweight (cwt), down 29.9 cwt from a year earlier. The decline in production was the result of both smaller plantings and a lower average yield. At 2.614 million acres, 2015/16 rice plantings were 11.5 percent below a year earlier, primarily reflecting weather-related problems that included excessive rain in the Mississippi Delta early in the growing season and long-term drought in California and Texas. The U.S. average yield of 7,470 pounds per acre was 1.4 percent below a year earlier, largely due to the adverse weather in much of the South that delayed plantings and interfered with field operations during the growing season. Despite the sharp decline in the 2015 crop, U.S. supplies are projected to contract by only 5 percent due to the substantial quantity of rice that was carried over from the previous year, when production reached the fourth highest level on record due to strong prices and normal weather in the South that boosted acreage. This chart is from the Rice Outlook, March 2016.
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Adulteration violations continue to cause the most refusals of FDA-inspected food imports  
Thursday, March 31, 2016
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for overseeing the safety of most food sold in the United States, including food imported from other countries. A recent ERS study examined patterns in FDA import refusals over 2005-13 and compared results with an earlier study of data from 1998-2004. In both time periods, the majority of violations were for adulteration—problems relating to poisonous ingredients, disease-causing bacteria and viruses (pathogens), unsafe color additives, pesticide residues, or filth (visually apparent non-food material). Two product groups—fishery/seafood products and spices/flavors/salts—were responsible for the majority of violations for Salmonella bacteria. Chemical adulteration, including pesticide residues, accounted for a slightly larger share of import refusals in 2005-13. Chemical adulteration is a common type of adulteration violation in fresh produce and fruit and vegetable products. Misbranding violations for false, misleading, or missing labels accounted for 41 percent of violations in 2005-13, up from 33 percent in 1998-2004. The data for this chart come from the ERS report, FDA Refusals of Imported Food Products by Country and Category, 2005–2013, released on March 28, 2016.
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Rural women, especially young women, are more likely than rural men to have college degrees  
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
The education of workers is closely linked with economic success. Workers with educations beyond high school degrees are more likely to be employed and earning higher wages than workers with high school degrees or less education. Educational attainment of both men and women in rural areas has grown over time, and rural women are more likely to have some college experience or hold associate or bachelor’s degrees than rural men. For example, the most recent (2014) American Community Survey shows that 63 percent of rural young women (age 25-34) had schooling beyond a high school diploma, compared with less than half (47 percent) of rural young  men; nearly a quarter of rural young women held a bachelor’s degree or higher. The gender-education gap beyond a high school diploma for rural young adults has widened, from 11 percentage points in 2000 to 16 percentage points in 2014. This gap is more pronounced in rural areas than in the nation as a whole. This chart is based on the ERS Rural Employment & Education topic page.
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Manmade fibers account for a growing share of textile imports  
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
U.S. net imports of textile and apparel fiber products increased for a third consecutive calendar year in 2015 to the highest on record, reaching 15.7 billion pounds (raw fiber equivalent), compared with 14.5 billion pounds in 2014. U.S. net imports consist mostly of cotton and manmade fiber products, as demand for linen, wool, and silk products remains relatively small. With manmade fiber imports expanding steadily in recent years, cotton’s share has declined consistently. In 2015, cotton textile and apparel products accounted for 44 percent of the total imports, while manmade fibers contributed nearly 49 percent. By comparison, in 2007, cotton accounted for 56 percent of all textile and apparel imports, while the share of manmade fibers was 37 percent.  This chart is from the Cotton and Wool Outlook, March 2016.
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When it comes to fruits and vegetables, fresh is not always cheaper than canned or frozen  
Monday, March 28, 2016
Fruits and vegetables can be purchased in fresh, canned, dried, and juiced forms. Oftentimes, different forms of the same fruit or vegetable are interchangeable. For example, when cooking some types of stew, fresh or frozen carrots may be used. However, which is less expensive, fresh or processed? ERS researchers estimated average prices paid in 2013 for 24 fresh fruits, 40 fresh vegetables, and 92 processed fruits and vegetables, measured in cup equivalents. A cup equivalent is the edible portion that will generally fit in a standard 1-cup measuring cup; for lettuce and other raw leafy vegetables, a cup equivalent is 2 cups, and for raisins and other dried fruits, one-half cup. Neither fresh nor processed products turned out to be consistently less expensive. Fresh carrots eaten raw are less expensive to consume than canned carrots and frozen carrots. Fresh apples are similarly cheaper than applesauce. However, canned corn and frozen raspberries are less costly than fresh corn and fresh raspberries, respectively. Relative retail prices may reflect the different prices received by growers, as well as differences in processing, handling, and spoilage costs, which vary by form and product. This chart appears in “Fruit and Vegetable Recommendations Can Be Met for $2.10 to $2.60 per Day” in ERS’s Amber Waves magazine, March 2016.
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Service industries account for the largest share of rural and urban employment  
Friday, March 25, 2016
Overall employment in rural (nonmetropolitan) areas accounts for between 13 and 14 percent of all U.S. employment. However, the distribution of employment across industries differs between rural and urban areas. Service industries account for the largest share of employment in both rural and urban areas but are more heavily represented in urban areas, where they account for close to three-fifths of all employment. Within the service sector, jobs in finance, real estate, administration, and professional/scientific/technical services were particularly concentrated in urban areas.  Rural areas account for 72 percent of the Nation’s land area, and employment in primary extractive industries that depend largely on the distribution of land and natural resources is greater in rural than in urban areas. Nonetheless, these industries—farming and forestry/fishing/mining—accounted for just 10 percent of total rural employment in 2014. Manufacturing employment is also a bigger part of the employment mix in rural areas, largely reflecting past migration of manufacturing activities to lower wage and lower cost locations. Government employment was marginally more common in rural than in urban areas (16 versus 13 percent). This chart is found in the ERS topic page on Rural Employment and Unemployment.
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Buyer concentration grows in U.S. cattle markets  
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Concentration levels in many U.S. agricultural markets have risen in recent decades, resulting in fewer buyers accounting for a growing share of purchases of agricultural commodities. This is particularly true for livestock markets. The four largest packers now account for nearly 70 percent of the value of all livestock purchased for slaughter, compared to 26 percent in 1980. For fed cattle, the concentration level is even higher, as the share of the top four firms increased from 36 percent to 85 percent between 1980 and 2012. This chart is from the ERS report, Thinning Markets in U.S. Agriculture: What are the Implications for Producers and Processors?
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Participation in SNAP falls for the second consecutive year  
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
An average 45.8 million people per month—about 14 percent of the Nation’s population—participated in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in fiscal 2015. This was about 2 percent fewer people than the previous year, and 4 percent fewer than the historical high of 47.6 million participants set in fiscal 2013. SNAP participants in fiscal 2015 received an average of $126.83 per month in benefits to purchase food at authorized food stores. SNAP is one of the Nation’s primary countercyclical assistance programs, expanding during economic downturns and contracting during periods of economic growth. The decrease in SNAP caseloads in fiscal 2014 and 2015 reflects, at least in part, the recovery from the 2007-09 recession reaching lower educated, lower wage workers. This chart appears in ERS’s Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2015 Annual Report, released on March 17, 2016.
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California’s surface water deliveries dip well below longrun averages  
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
California is now entering the fifth year of a major drought, and by many measures, 2014 and 2015 have been the worst years of the drought for California agriculture. In California, measures of exposure to local water shortages are only part of how the drought is affecting farms. California agriculture relies heavily on irrigation, and much of the irrigation water is supplied by large-scale State and Federal water projects that store, transport, and deliver water across hundreds of miles. The two largest overarching mechanisms for delivering surface water in California are the State Water Project (SWP) and the Federal Central Valley Project (CVP). On average, 70 percent of annual State Water Project supplies go to urban users and 30 percent to agricultural users. In contrast, the Central Valley Project, managed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, allocates, on average, about 70 percent of its delivered water to agriculture. Relative to longrun averages, deliveries from both projects were down modestly in 2012 and 2013, and then dropped dramatically in 2014, with similar delivery shortfalls for 2015. In an historical context, the current drought is at least as bad, from a deliveries perspective, as the 1977 and 1991-1992 droughts. While surface water from these projects is delivered through much of the State, the impacts of these reductions are most pronounced in the Central Valley of California. Farms in Southern California receive much of their surface water from the Colorado River, which has not been as heavily impacted by the current drought. This chart is found in California Drought: Farm and Food Impacts on the ERS website, February 2016.
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Exports as a share of red meat and poultry production expected to increase in 2016, while dairy’s export share declines  
Monday, March 21, 2016
In 2015, approximately 15 percent of total U.S. red meat and poultry production and 18 percent of dairy production (on a skim solids milk equivalent basis) were sold in export markets. Red meat and poultry exports as a share of production are down from the average over the previous 5 years, reflecting the combination of a strengthening dollar, slowing global economy, and restrictions on poultry exports put in place as a result of the U.S. outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). However, for dairy products, exports as a share of production grew modestly in 2015 relative to the previous 5 years, reaching 18 percent. In 2016, production of red meat and poultry is expected to increase, while exports are expected to grow even more, resulting in higher export shares for beef, pork, broilers and turkey. For dairy, production is expected to increase and exports are expected to decline from 2015, causing dairy’s export share of production to be lower than last year. This chart is from Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook, March 2016.
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Peanut butter accounts for 60 percent of U.S. peanut availability  
Friday, March 18, 2016
According to ERS’s Food Availability data, the amount of peanuts available for consumption in the United States has averaged 6.6 pounds per person per year over the last decade compared with 5.9 pounds in the prior 10 years. The 2002 Farm Act removed longstanding regulatory quotas that limited supplies, and beginning in 2003, higher production and lower farm-level peanut prices may have helped spur demand for peanuts and peanut products. Availability of peanut butter grew from 2.9 pounds per person in 2002 to 3.9 pounds per person in 2012, and accounted for 58 percent of peanut availability that year. Availability of snack peanuts and other peanuts (20 percent of peanut availability in 2012) and peanut candy (18 percent of availability) has been basically flat over the decade. Availability of shell peanuts fell in 2012. Total peanut availability declined to 5.9 pounds per person in 2013. The data for this chart come from Food Availability data series in ERS's Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
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At least 48 percent of U.S. broilers were fed antibiotics only for disease-treatment purposes  
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Livestock farmers use antibiotics to treat, control, and prevent disease, and also for production purposes, such as increasing growth and feed efficiency. A new U.S. Food and Drug Administration initiative seeks to eliminate the use of medically important antibiotics for production purposes. In the 2011 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) on broilers (the most recent year available), producers were asked whether they raised their broilers without antibiotics in their feed or water unless the birds were sick, which implies not using antibiotics for growth promotion or disease prevention. In 2011, growers reported that about half of birds (48 percent) were only given antibiotics for disease treatment. This response also accounts for 48 percent of operations and 48 percent of production (by live weight). Approximately a third (32 percent) of operators stated that they did not know if they provided antibiotics via feed or water for purposes other than disease treatment; this means the proportion of reporting operations that only supplied antibiotics for disease-treatment purposes could be as high as 80 percent. Contracted growers (accounting for 96 percent of broiler production) may not know if antibiotics are in the feed provided by the company for whom they raise broilers. These statistics suggest that in 2011, between 20 and 52 percent of birds were given antibiotics for reasons other than disease treatment. This chart is found in the Amber Waves feature, “Restrictions on Antibiotic Use for Production Purposes in U.S. Livestock Industries Likely To Have Small Effects on Prices and Quantities,” November 2015.
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After a decade of rapid growth, corn use for ethanol is projected to decline  
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Ethanol production in the United States is based almost entirely on corn as a feedstock.  Corn‑based ethanol production is projected to fall over the next 10 years. This reflects declining overall gasoline consumption in the United States (which is mostly a 10‑percent ethanol blend, E10), infrastructural and other constraints on growth for E15 (15‑percent ethanol blend), and the small size of the market for E85 (85‑percent ethanol blend), with less-than-offsetting increases in U.S. ethanol exports. Even with the U.S. ethanol production decline, demand for corn to produce ethanol continues to be strong. While the share of U.S. corn expected to go to U.S. ethanol production falls, it accounts for over a third of total U.S. corn use throughout the projection period. This chart is based on information in USDA Agricultural Projections to 2025.
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National School Lunch Program per-capita participation varies by State  
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
In fiscal year 2014 (October to September), 30.5 million students participated in USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP) on an average school day, with 72 percent of participants receiving the meals for free or at a reduced price. On a per-capita basis, this translates into 9.4 NSLP participants per 100 U.S. residents. Per-capita participation in the NSLP ranged from 6.8 participants per 100 residents in Alaska to 13 per 100 residents in Mississippi. Per-capita participation reflects both the percentage of the population that are enrolled in schools offering USDA meals, as well as the proportion of those students who take school lunch. For example, in Utah, where per-capita participation is 11.2 participants per 100 residents, school-aged children in schools offering USDA meals make up 21.5 percent of the population, and 52 percent of those students participate in the NSLP. Alaska’s lower rate reflects a low percentage of residents that are of school age (16 percent) and a lower rate of children participating in the program (42 percent of students). This map is from ERS’s Food Environment Atlas.
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Lower U.S. farm sector income and higher debt-to-asset ratios are forecast for 2016  
Monday, March 14, 2016
National net farm income, along with the farm-sector debt-to-asset ratio (which is a measure of solvency), provide indicators of the economic well-being of the U.S. farm sector. As of February 9, 2016, U.S. net farm income is forecast to fall to $54.8 billion in 2016 after recently peaking in 2013, due largely to declines in commodity prices. In inflation-adjusted terms, since 1970 only 5 years have registered lower net farm income. With the exception of 2002, all of those years were in the early 1980s, a time of great farm financial stress. The sector’s debt-to-asset ratio has edged up the past several years but at 13.2 percent remains well below the ratio’s 1985 peak. Recent inflation-adjusted debt levels are near, but have not exceeded, early 1980s levels. Thus, the improvement in farm-sector solvency has hinged on farm-sector asset values, which have roughly doubled since 1985 in inflation-adjusted terms. About 80 percent of the value of farm-sector assets are attributable to farm real estate, and both farm real-estate and nonreal-estate assets are expected to experience modest declines in 2015 and 2016. This chart is based on data found in Farm Income and Wealth Statistics, released February 2016.
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Milk production and inventories continue shifting to larger herds  
Friday, March 11, 2016
Two decades ago, most milk came from farms with fewer than 150 cows, on which a farm family handled milking, herd management, and crop production for feed. Today, while the United States still has many herds of 50 to 100 cows, most cows and milk production have moved to much larger farms, which are usually still owned and operated by families, but rely on hired labor for most farm tasks. Farms with milking herds of at least 1,000 cows accounted for nearly half of all cows in 2012, up from 10 percent of all cows in 1992. Producers continued to increase herd size in that period; there were 17 farms with herds of 4,000 or more cows in 1992, compared to 95 farms in 2002 and 234 in 2012. Costs are an important reason behind the shift, as production costs appear to be substantially lower, on average, on larger farms. The data underlying this chart are available in the ERS report, Changing Structure, Financial Risks, and Government Policy for the U.S. Dairy Industry, March 2016.
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Farmer share of retail value of red meat is declining  
Thursday, March 10, 2016
The spreads between farm prices for hogs and cattle and retail prices for pork and beef have widened over the past 18 months, leading to a decline in the farmer share of retail red meat prices. Growing cattle inventories and increased pork production are pushing cattle and hog prices lower. For the fourth quarter of 2015, hog prices (51-52% lean) averaged about $45 per hundredweight, down about 33 percent from a year earlier and nearly 50 percent below the prices received in the second quarter of 2014. Similarly, cattle prices (5-market steer price) averaged $128 per hundredweight in the last quarter of 2015, down nearly 23 percent from the fourth quarter 2014. Retail prices for both beef and pork are down as well, but by a smaller magnitude as they tend to adjust more slowly to changes in the farm price due to the wide variety of other costs—including labor, packaging, storage, and transportation—that also contribute to retail prices. This chart is based on the ERS Meat Price Spreads data product.
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Global rice trade is projected to decline in 2016  
Wednesday, March 09, 2016
Global trade in rice is expected to decline for the second consecutive year in 2016, reflecting reduced exports from India, Australia, Cambodia, and the United States, and softening demand, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Reduced imports by Nigeria—the world’s second-largest rice import market—account for the largest share of the decline in global rice trade. Imports by Nigeria are expected to fall 17 percent in 2016, the result of a recent increase in import tariffs, declining oil revenues, and foreign exchange restrictions. Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, the European Union, Nepal, and Sri Lanka are also expected to reduce rice imports this year. The decline in global trade comes despite further growth in demand by China, the world’s largest rice importing country, as well as expanded imports by the Middle East and Indonesia. Rice imports by China have been at record high levels since 2012 and are expected to grow 4 percent in 2016, reflecting prices that are lower in the global market than the domestic market, stock-building efforts by the government, and quality concerns regarding domestic rice.
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Farms with direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales had higher rates of business survival between 2007 and 2012  
Tuesday, March 08, 2016
Direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing—where producers engage with consumers face-to-face at roadside stands, farmers’ markets, pick-your-own farms, onfarm stores, and community-supported agricultural arrangements (CSAs)—brings benefits for consumers as well as the farm businesses. According to Census of Agriculture data, farmers who market food directly to consumers had a greater chance of remaining in business than those who market through traditional channels. Sixty-one percent of farms with DTC sales in 2007 were in business under the same operator in 2012, compared with 55.7 percent of all U.S. farms. Based on a comparison of farms across four size categories (defined by annual sales), farmers with DTC sales had a higher survival rate (measured as the share of farmers who reported positive sales in 2007 and 2012) in each category. The differences in survival rates were substantial—ranging from 10 percentage points for the smallest farms to about 6 percentage points for the largest. This chart is found in the March 2016 Amber Waves feature, “Local Foods and Farm Business Survival and Growth.”
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Canned fruit isn’t more expensive when packed in juice  
Monday, March 07, 2016
Canned fruits account for about 10 percent of all fruit consumed by Americans. Canned products can be convenient and available when fresh products are out of season. When buying canned fruit, ChooseMyPlate—USDA’s campaign to promote the Dietary Guidelines—recommends choosing fruit packed in 100-percent juice rather than syrup. Looking at grocery store shelf prices, consumers might believe that fruit packed in syrup is the less expensive option, but this is generally not the case. Five canned fruits in the ERS Fruit and Vegetable Prices data product—apricots, peaches, pears, pineapples, and fruit cocktail—were more expensive to buy at retail stores on a per-pound basis when packed in juice. However, because consuming juice counts towards an individual’s recommended fruit intake, four of these products were cheaper on a per-edible-cup-equivalent basis when packed in juice. An edible cup equivalent of fruit is generally the edible portion of a food that would fill a 1-cup measuring cup. This chart is based on the recent ERS report, The Cost of Satisfying Fruit and Vegetable Recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines released on February 26, 2016.
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Federal funding for nutrition research has grown  
Friday, March 04, 2016
USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are the lead Federal agencies that conduct human nutrition research. Federal financial investments in nutrition research more than doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars from 1985 to 2009, growing at an average annual rate of 3 percent. All of this growth was due to increased DHHS funding, especially between 1999 and 2003. In those 5 years, Congress implemented its plan to double the budget of the National Institutes of Health, the lead agency within DHHS supporting nutrition research. USDA funding fell at an average annual rate of 1.4 percent between 1985 and 2009. Over the 25-year period, USDA’s share of total Federal support fell from 21 to 7 percent, and DHHS’s share rose from 79 to 93 percent. This chart appears in the ERS report, Improving Health Through Nutrition Research: An Overview of the U.S. Nutrition Research System, January 2015.
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Low-education counties are mostly rural and concentrated in the South and Southwest  
Thursday, March 03, 2016
The proportion of adults lacking a high school diploma or equivalent declined in rural America (defined here as nonmetro counties), from 32 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2014. The proportion of rural adults with college degrees also increased from 12 to 19 percent during that time. Despite these overall gains, educational attainment varies widely across rural areas. ERS’s latest county typology classifies low-education counties as those where at least one of every five working-age adults (age 25-64) has not completed high school. In an average of data over 2008-12, ERS identified 467 low-education counties in the United States, 367 of which were rural. Eight out of 10 of all low-education counties are located in the South. Three-fourths of rural low-education counties also qualified as low-employment in the latest ERS county typology. Over 40 percent of rural low-education counties were both low-employment and persistently poor, reflecting the difficulty that adults without high school diplomas have in finding and retaining jobs that pay enough to place them above the poverty line. This map is part of the ERS data product on County Typology Codes, released December 2015.
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Prices for grains and oilseeds projected to remain below recent highs  
Wednesday, March 02, 2016
Larger global production of grains and oilseeds in response to higher prices in recent years has increased world supplies of corn, wheat, and soybeans. At the same time, income growth in developing countries has weakened and the U.S. dollar has strengthened, affecting both global agricultural demand and U.S. exports, resulting in lower near-term prices for those crops. Longer run developments for global agriculture and U.S. trade reflect steady world economic growth, population gains, and continued global demand for biofuel feedstocks. Those factors combine to support longer run increases in consumption, trade, and prices of agricultural products. Thus, following the near-term declines, moderate prices gains are projected over the next ten years. This chart is from USDA Agricultural Projections to 2025.
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Southern regions in the U.S. have the highest rates of cover crop adoption  
Tuesday, March 01, 2016
Cover crops are thought to play a role in improving soil health by keeping the soil “covered” when an economic crop is not growing. Cover crops reduce soil erosion, trap nitrogen and other nutrients, increase biomass, reduce weeds, loosen soil to reduce compaction, and improve water infiltration to store more rainfall. The 2010-11 Agricultural Resource Management Survey was the first USDA survey to ask respondents to report cover crop use (findings from the 2012 Agricultural Census—the most recent available—are similar). Approximately 4 percent of farmers adopted cover crops on some portion of their fields, accounting for 1.7 percent of total U.S. cropland (6.8 million acres) in 2010-11. Cover crop adoption was highest in the Southern Seaboard (5.7 percent) and lowest in the Heartland and Basin and Range (0.6 percent each). This distribution is likely due to the fact that cover crops are easiest to establish in warmer areas with longer growing seasons. Limited cover crop use overall, however, suggests that the benefits of cover crop adoption are being realized on few acres. This chart is from the ERS report, Conservation-Practice Adoption Rates Vary Widely by Crop and Region, December 2015.
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Nearly one-third of SNAP recipients obtain food from a food pantry  
Monday, February 29, 2016
Both Federal and community food and nutrition assistance programs are important resources for low-income households and together make up the Nation’s nutrition safety net. In addition to receiving Federal food and nutrition assistance, some low-income households access community programs such as food pantries and emergency soup kitchens to cope with food hardships. In 2014, nearly one-third of low-income households (with incomes less than 185 percent of the poverty line) that reported receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits also used a food pantry. About 23 percent of low-income households that received free or reduced-price school lunches or Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food packages also used a food pantry. Among low-income households that did not receive SNAP, free or reduced-price school lunch, or WIC, 8 percent used a food pantry. Fewer low-income households ate meals at less commonly available emergency kitchens. In 2014, 3.2 percent of SNAP recipient households also ate a meal at an emergency kitchen. Emergency kitchen use is likely understated because the survey underlying these statistics does not include people who are homeless. The statistics for this chart are from Statistical Supplement to Household Food Security in the United States in 2014, AP-069, September 2015.
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Certified organic corn was planted later than GE corn in 2010 to avoid cross-pollination  
Friday, February 26, 2016
U.S. farmers used genetically engineered (GE) seed varieties that contain traits to tolerate herbicides used for weed control and/or to resist other pests on over 90 percent of corn acreage in 2015. To receive the price premiums associated with organic and other non-GE crops, these producers must minimize the unintended presence of GE materials in their crops. Organic and other non-GE farmers use various practices—including the use of buffer strips to minimize pesticide/pollen drift and/or delaying crop planting until after any nearby GE crops are planted—to prevent their crops from commingling with GE crops. While some field crops are mostly self-pollinating, most corn pollination results from pollen dispersal by wind and gravity. In USDA’s most recent (2010) corn survey of conventional and organic producers in top corn producing States, delayed planting was reported on two-thirds of planted organic corn acreage. While this strategy helps protect against commingling of GE and non-GE crop pollen, growers may realize lower yields from planting at a suboptimal time. This chart is found in the ERS report, Economic Issues in the Coexistence of Organic, Genetically Engineered (GE), and Non-GE Crops, February 2016.
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2016 food price inflation expected to exceed 2015  
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Over the last decade, retail food price inflation in the United States has bounced around a bit, with yearly price increases ranging from 0.3 to 6.4 percent. In 2007 and 2008, grocery store prices rose 4.2 and 6.4 percent, respectively—well above the 20-year annual average increase of 2.6 percent. Inflation during these years was largely due to a rapid increase in farm-level prices for rice, grains, and oilseeds. The low inflation in 2009 (0.5 percent) and 2010 (0.3 percent) reflected the Great Recession’s downward pressure on retail food price inflation. Prices again rose above average in 2011 as grocery prices adjusted post-recession. From 2012 through 2015, food price inflation varied, but stayed below average. Despite high egg and beef prices in 2015, food price inflation, at 1.2 percent, was less than 2014’s 2.4-percent rise. Lower pork, fresh fruit, and fats/oils prices helped ease overall food price inflation in 2015. In 2016, ERS expects retail food prices to increase between 2 and 3 percent, with some variation among grocery subcategories. For instance, fresh fruit prices are expected to rise 2.5 to 3.5 percent in 2016, while egg prices are expected to decrease between 0.5 and 1.5 percent. More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated February 25, 2016.
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Older farmers play a larger role in farmland ownership than in production  
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
The average age of principal operators in the latest Census of Agriculture (2012) was 58 and has been greater than 50 since the 1959 Census. That farmers are older, on average, than other self-employed workers is understandable, given that the farm is the home for most farmers, and they can gradually phase out of farming over a decade or more. While older (age 65+) farmers make up a third of all farm operators, they account for a much smaller share (20 percent) of production. Nevertheless, older farmers still operate on 29 percent of all U.S. farmland (on land owned or leased, slightly less than their share of all farms). The largest portion of owned farmland is held by producers age 55-64; operators over 55 tend to own the land they farm, while younger operators are more likely to lease it. Older farmers’ land will shift to existing or new farms—or go into nonagricultural uses—as they exit agriculture. This chart is based on the information found in the Farm Structure and Organization topic page.
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Sweetener consumption in Mexico rebounded in 2014/15  
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Errata: On February 23, 2016, this chart was reposted to correct the axis label to million metric tons.

Domestic deliveries of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in Mexico—a useful indicator of human consumption—rebounded in the most recent marketing year (October/September) after declining about 6.5 percent the previous year. In January 2014, Mexico imposed a tax of one peso per liter on soft drinks in an effort to curb obesity by reducing consumption, and this is believed to be at least partially behind the reduction in sweetener deliveries observed during the 2013/14 marketing year. From October 2014 through September 2015, sweetener use by Mexican food processors returned to levels equivalent to just before the tax was imposed. Food consumption patterns change slowly and reflect many factors, so time and additional research is needed to fully understand the effect of Mexico’s soft-drink tax. This chart is based on the February 2016 Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook.
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China’s feed industry is growing rapidly as livestock sector modernizes  
Monday, February 22, 2016
China’s livestock industry has expanded rapidly in recent years as diets shift toward more animal proteins. China is now the world’s largest producer of livestock products and the largest manufacturer of animal feed. Commercial feed production grew from just 5 million metric tons (mmt) in 1982 to 198 mmt in 2014. The industry’s growth paralleled that of meat and egg production, which grew from about 15 mmt annu­ally in the early 1980s to 114 mmt in 2014. China’s surge in feed output for swine after 2007 reflects the Government’s emphasis on modernizing hog production and the substitution of commercial feed for locally procured materials. Feed produced for poultry grew steadily from 1990 to 2012 as feed companies promoted vertical coordination in poultry production beginning in the 1990s. Feed production for egg-laying poultry, aquaculture, cattle, and sheep also grew rapidly during 2004-2012. The growth of China’s commercial feed industry has increased its need for imported feed ingredients, making it a leading market for U.S. soybeans, sorghum, barley, and other commodities. This chart is from Development of China’s Feed Industry and Demand for Imported Commodities.
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Household income from farming varies by farm business type  
Friday, February 19, 2016
On average, households associated with farm businesses supplement farm income with income from off-farm sources. However, across different types of farm operations, the extent that off-farm income supplements farm income varies considerably. For example, with its extensive and ongoing time demands, managing a dairy farm rarely permits an operator to work many hours off-farm and is a main reason why farm income constitutes over four-fifths of these households’ total income. In 2014, households with farm businesses specializing in dairy and hogs had the highest average total household income (combining income from farm and off-farm sources), and the highest shares of household income derived from farming, followed by farms specializing in cash grains (corn, soybeans, sorghum, or wheat). Farm households with businesses specializing in beef cattle, other field crops, and poultry had the largest shares of average household income derived from off-farm activities. This chart is a variation of one found in the Farm Household Well-being topic page, and based on data available in ARMS Farm Financial and Crop Production Practices.
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Farm share of retail price down for all-purpose white flour  
Thursday, February 18, 2016
In 2015, the farm share of the retail price of all-purpose white flour—the ratio of the retail price of flour to prices received by farmers for their wheat—was 18 percent, the lowest farm share for flour in the last decade. While the retail price for all-purpose white flour has been relatively steady since 2011 at 52 to 53 cents per pound, the farm value of flour—the cost of the wheat in a pound of flour—has fallen from 14 cents in 2012 and 2013, to 12 cents in 2014, and to 10 cents in 2015. Abundant world wheat supplies have pushed down prices received by farmers for wheat in 2014 and 2015. With retail prices holding steady, the farm share of flour’s retail price fell from 26 percent in 2013 to 23 percent in 2014, and dropped again in 2015. More information on ERS’s farm share data can be found in the Price Spreads from Farm to Consumer data product, updated February 9, 2016.
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Climate change is projected to cause declines and shifts in fieldcrop acreage across the United States  
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
ERS research projects that climate change will result in a decline in national fieldcrop acreage over analysis years 2020, 2040, 2060, and 2080, when measured relative to a scenario that assumes continuation of reference climate conditions (precipitation and temperature patterns averaged over 2001-08). Acreage trends are explored for nine climate change scenarios, and substantial variability exists across climate change scenarios and crop sectors. When averaged over all climate scenarios, U.S. acreage in rice, hay, and cotton is projected to expand, while acreage in corn, soybeans, sorghum, wheat, and silage declines. Acreage response varies across crops as a function of the sensitivity of crop yields to changes in precipitation, temperature, and atmospheric carbon dioxide; the resulting changes in relative crop profitability; the coincidence of climatic shifts with geographic patterns of crop production; and variables related to the extent of crop reliance on irrigation. This chart is from the ERS report Climate Change, Water Scarcity, and Adaptation in the U.S. Fieldcrop Sector, November 2015.
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U.S. jobs supported by agricultural exports grew in 2014  
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Agricultural exports support job growth in the United States, and the number of jobs depends on the type of products exported. In calendar year 2014, $150 billion in U.S. agricultural exports supported an estimated 1,132,000 full-time civilian jobs, up from the 1,095,000 agricultural export-related jobs the previous year. Products that are largely unprocessed and sold in bulk tend to generate fewer jobs than higher value, more highly processed, nonbulk agricultural products. However, when prices for bulk commodities are low and export volume is high, the number of jobs supported by each billion dollars of export value can rise. This was the case in 2014, as the number of jobs supported by exports of bulk commodities rose by 23 percent from the previous year, while jobs supported by exports of nonbulk commodities declined by nearly 5 percent. Consequently, the growth in jobs associated with U.S. agricultural exports was driven purely by bulk commodities in 2014. Nevertheless, nonbulk commodities still account for the majority of U.S. agricultural exports, and continue to support the majority of jobs generated by agricultural exports. This chart is based on the Agricultural Trade Multipliers data product.
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Canada, Mexico, and the EU supply more than half of U.S. agricultural imports  
Friday, February 12, 2016
The value of U.S. agricultural imports has more than doubled since 2004, exceeding $114 billion in fiscal year 2015 and up 4 percent from the previous year. Canada and Mexico are the two largest sources of U.S. agricultural imports and account for about one-third of the total value, while the combined value of imports from the countries that comprise the European Union roughly equal the value of imports from Canada. Together, Canada, Mexico, and the European Union account for just over half of the value of agricultural products that the United States imports, and this share has held relatively constant over the past decade although the import shares for Canada and the EU have declined, while Mexico’s has grown. The $4.3 billion in agricultural imports from China in 2015 still accounts for less than 4 percent of the U.S. total, but has grown by nearly 170 percent since 2004. This data in this chart is from the ERS Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States data set.
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Over 80 percent of U.S. oranges available for domestic consumption are used in juice  
Thursday, February 11, 2016
According to the ERS Food Availability data, 66.3 pounds of oranges per person were available for domestic consumption in 2013. Fresh oranges made up 16 percent of the available oranges (10.4 pounds per person), while 84 percent was in the form of juice (55.9 pounds per person, fresh-weight equivalent). Per capita availability of orange juice, which accounts for over half of U.S. fruit juice availability, has declined by 42 percent from its high of 97.1 pounds per person in 1977. In addition to a long-term decline in demand, reduced production has played a role in lower orange juice availability. Diseases, primarily citrus canker and citrus greening, continue to plague the citrus industry, especially in Florida, the main supplier of U.S.-grown oranges for juice. Eradication efforts have resulted in reduced U.S. citrus acreage and declining production since the late 1990s, and steady orange juice imports have not offset reduced U.S. production. The data for this chart come from the Food Availability data series in ERS's Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
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Imported rice supports food security in Haiti  
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Rice is a critical component of the Haitian diet and access to adequate supplies of rice is a vital food-security objective of the Government of Haiti. Haiti began to open its market to imported rice in 1986, and the greater availability of rice allowed consumption to grow. Today rice consumption in Haiti accounts for about 23 percent of the total calories consumed each day. Rice production in Haiti has stagnated for decades, reflecting low productivity and poor access to financing, technology and skilled labor, so all of the growth in rice consumption since 1996 has been supplied by imports, which now account for 80 to 90 percent of rice consumption. The United States is the primary supplier of rice to Haiti, and Haitians have demonstrated a clear preference for U.S. long-grain varieties, greatly preferring them over cheaper Asian varieties. Efforts are underway to improve agricultural performance, but even with significant productivity gains, Haiti is likely to continue to rely on imports of rice for a significant part of its food needs. This chart is from the report Haiti’s U.S. Rice Imports.
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U.S. net farm income forecast to decline for third consecutive year in 2016  
Tuesday, February 09, 2016
Net cash farm income and net farm income are two popular, but distinct, measures of farm sector profitability. The first measure tracks cash receipts and cash expenses, while the second also includes noncash transactions, including implicit rents, changes in inventories, capital replacement costs, and others. Following several years of high income, both measures have trended downward since 2013. ERS forecasts that net cash farm and net farm income for 2016 will be $90.9 billion and $54.8 billion, respectively, or $81.1 billion and $48.9 billion, respectively, in inflation-adjusted dollars. These amounts are below their respective 10-year average, in both nominal and inflation-adjusted terms. Before recent dips, the 10-year averages for both income measures have largely trended upward. Over the 2010 to 2013 period, surging crop and animal (including animal-product) cash receipts led net cash farm income and net farm income higher. Prices are expected to have declined for a broad set of agricultural commodities in 2015, and fall further in 2016. Production expenses are forecast to contract in 2016, but not enough to offset the commodity price declines. Find additional information and analysis in ERS’ Farm Sector Income and Finances topic page, released February 9, 2016.
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Retail egg prices rose 21 percent in third quarter 2015   
Monday, February 08, 2016
Egg prices are among the most volatile in the grocery store. Unlike many other retail foods, shell eggs have a limited shelf life—they cannot be frozen or canned. If demand increases or supplies fall, there is limited inventory to draw upon and retail prices may rise. While some price fluctuations are expected due to seasonal demand for eggs throughout the year, there have been some above-average price increases over the past 16 years, mainly due to disease outbreaks affecting poultry or surges in feed prices. The most recent upswing in retail egg prices was largely due to an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which affected table-egg-laying flocks, primarily in the Midwest. To contain the outbreak, which ran from late 2014 to June 2015, producers destroyed about 33 million hens (roughly 11 percent of U.S. egg-laying hens). Retail egg prices rose 20.9 percent in the third quarter of 2015, and egg prices in September 2015, were 36.2 percent higher than in September 2014. As the industry recovers from the outbreak, retail egg prices have begun to adjust, falling 3.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015. This chart appears in “Retail Egg Price Volatility in 2015 Reflects Farm Conditions” in the February 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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U.S. spending on food away from home higher than on food at home in 2014  
Friday, February 05, 2016
U.S. consumers spent more for food in away-from-home establishments than for meals prepared and consumed at home for the first time in 2014. Spending at food-away-from-home establishments—restaurants, school cafeterias, sports venues, etc.—accounted for 50.1 percent of the $1.46 trillion spent on food and beverages by U.S. consumers, businesses, and government entities. The remaining 49.9 percent took place at grocery stores and other retailers. A 50.1-percent share of food expenditures does not equate to 50.1 percent of food quantities, as food purchased away from home is generally higher priced than food prepared at home. Food-away-from-home outlets incur costs for the variety of workers required to prepare and serve food, as well as for buildings, equipment, and utilities. The away-from-home market, which had a 26.3-percent share of total food expenditures in 1960, saw its share grow through the decades, except in some recession years. During the 2007-09 recession, food away from home’s share of total food spending dipped from 49.0 percent in 2007 to 48.5 percent in 2008 and did not rebound to its pre-recession share until 2012. The data for this chart are from ERS’s Food Expenditures data product, updated on January 26, 2016.
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The United States and Australia compete to supply Japan’s beef imports  
Thursday, February 04, 2016
Japan is one of the largest beef importing countries in the world and an important market for the United States. In 2014, it imported nearly $3.5 billion of beef and beef products, making it the third-largest beef importer in the world. The United States and Australia are the primary suppliers, and together repre­sent roughly 90 percent of Japan’s 2014 beef imports. From 2004 to 2006, Japan banned imports of U.S. beef due to the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, boosting imports from Australia and making it the top supplier of beef to Japan. The U.S. share of this market has since recovered but imports remain below pre-ban totals. The 2015 Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA) significantly reduces tariffs on Australian beef, potentially at the expense of U.S. beef. ERS research shows that providing similar market access to the U.S. and Australia would result in a significant net gain in Japanese imports of U.S. beef. This chart is from Tariff Reforms and the Competiveness of U.S. Beef in Japan.
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Restrictions on antibiotic use for production purposes in U.S. hogs and broilers likely to have modest effects on prices, quantities  
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Livestock farmers use antibiotics to treat, control, and prevent disease, and also for production purposes, such as increasing growth and feed efficiency. A new U.S. Food and Drug Administration initiative seeks to eliminate the use of medically important antibiotics for production purposes. ERS research shows that only a portion of hog and broiler producers use antibiotics for production purposes, and the productivity increases from such uses are 1-3 percent. Modelling the effect of production-specific antibiotic restrictions suggests that such a policy would have a modest effect on wholesale prices and quantities produced of chicken and pork—less than a 1-percent increase in wholesale prices and a net decline in production of less than 0.5 percent. Because prices increase more than quantities decrease, gross revenues (price times quantity) would increase slightly. This chart is based on the table found in the Amber Waves feature, “Restrictions on Antibiotic Use for Production Purposes in U.S. Livestock Industries Likely To Have Small Effects on Prices and Quantities,” November 2015.
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U.S. production and use of high-fructose corn syrup is declining  
Tuesday, February 02, 2016
Domestic use of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) declined 0.8 percent in the 2014/15 fiscal year (October 1-September 30) to 7.2 million short tons, continuing a decade-long decline. Since 2004/05, domestic use has fallen by 19.1 percent, and it is down 21.8 percent since its peak in 2001/01.  Production is trending lower as well, but by a smaller magnitude: 2014/15 production was 7.1 percent below 2004/05 levels and down 10.6 percent from its peak in 1999/2000. Several factors have contributed to this decline, including high corn prices, price competition with refined sugar and other caloric sweeteners, and changing preferences of consumers and food manufacturers.  As domestic deliveries have fallen, HFCS exports have become an increasingly important segment of the market. In particular, exports to Mexico increased substantially beginning in 2009/10, shortly after the integration of U.S. and Mexican sweetener markets under NAFTA.  This chart is based on the January 2016 Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook.
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Tillage practices vary across the United States  
Monday, February 01, 2016
No-till and strip-till are two of many tillage methods farmers use to plant crops. In a no-till system, farmers plant directly into the undisturbed residue of the previous crop without tillage, except for nutrient injection; in a strip-till system, only a narrow strip is tilled where row crops are planted. These tillage practices contribute to improving soil health, and reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. During 2010-11, about 23 percent of land in corn, cotton, soybeans, and wheat was on a farm where no-till/strip-till was used on every acre (full adopters). Another 33 percent of acreage in these crops was located on farms where a mix of no-till, strip-till, and other tillage practices were used on only some acres (partial adopters). In the Prairie Gateway, Northern Great Plains, and Heartland regions—which account for 72 percent of corn, soybean, wheat, and cotton acreage—more than half of these crop acres were on farms that used no-till/strip-till to some extent. Partial adopters have the equipment and expertise, at least for some crops, to use no-till/strip-till; these farmers may be well positioned to expand these practices to a larger share of cropland acreage. This chart is from the ERS report, Conservation-Practice Adoption Rates Vary Widely by Crop and Region, December 2015.
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Per-capita participation in USDA’s School Breakfast Program grew from 2009 to 2014 in almost all States  
Friday, January 29, 2016
Per-capita participation in USDA’s School Breakfast Program (SBP) has increased from 3.6 participants per 100 U.S. residents in 2009 to 4.2 participants per 100 residents in 2014, and most States’ per-capita SBP participation levels rose. For most States, changes in population and in enrollment in schools that serve USDA school meals were less important than changes in the share of students who take school breakfast. For example, West Virginia’s increase from 5.1 to 7.1 SBP participants per 100 residents reflected small increases in the State’s population and school enrollments, and a large jump in the number of students taking school breakfast—increasing from 31 to 44 percent of students. In only four States did per-capita SBP participation levels decline, and these declines were 0.2 percentage point or less. School Breakfast Program participation across the whole United States has increased steadily from 11.1 million students in 2009 to 13.6 million in 2014 due to a variety of factors, including more schools offering the program, more schools offering free breakfast for all students, and increasing use of formats such as breakfast in the classroom, which reduces arrival-time barriers for many children. This map is from ERS’s Food Environment Atlas.
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More pork produced with fewer breeding animals, as sow productivity increases  
Thursday, January 28, 2016
U.S. annual pork production has grown by more than 63 percent since 1990, and in 2015 it reached an all-time record of more than 24.3 billion pounds. Over the same period, the size of the U.S. hog breeding herd declined by more than 13 percent, reflecting strong productivity increases in hog production. Technical innovation in breeding and genetic research has yielded larger numbers of piglets per sow: U.S. average litter rates grew from fewer than 8 pigs per litter in 1990 to more than 10 today.  At the same time, improvements in nutrition and barn management practices, together with heavier slaughter weights, have allowed the hog industry to reduce the size of its breeding herd while expanding production of pork. This chart is based on the ERS Livestock & Meat Domestic Data and the January 2016 Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook report.
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Productivity in U.S. agriculture, not increased input use, has fueled agricultural output growth  
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
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. From 1948 to 2013, U.S. farm sector output grew by 170 percent with about the same level of farm input use over the period, and thus the positive growth in farm sector production was substantially due to productivity growth. While aggregate input use in agriculture has been relatively stable over time, the composition of agricultural inputs (not shown in this chart) has shifted. Between 1948 and 2013, labor use declined sharply by 78 percent, land use in agriculture dropped by 26 percent, while the use of intermediate goods (such as energy, agricultural chemicals, purchased services, and seed/feed) and capital (farm machinery and buildings) expanded. Long-term agricultural productivity is fueled by innovations in animal/crop genetics, chemicals, equipment, and farm organization that result from public and private research and development. This chart is found in the ERS data product Agricultural Productivity in the U.S., updated December 2015.
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Agricultural exports and trade balance are declining  
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
The value of U.S. agricultural exports and imports increased each year from fiscal year (FY) 2009 (October 1-September 30), through FY 2014, when the agricultural trade balance reached an all-time high of $43.1 billion. In FY 2015 the value of agricultural exports fell by 8.3 percent while imports grew by 4.5 percent, cutting the trade balance to $25.7 billion. The forecast for FY 2016 is for this pattern to continue: lower exports and higher imports are expected to push the agricultural trade surplus below $10 billion for the first time since 2006. Lower commodity prices account for some of the decline in the value of exports, but a stronger U.S. dollar also plays a role. Unlike in 2009 when both exports and imports fell due to the global recession, in 2015 and 2016 imports are growing at the same time that exports are falling, reflecting the greater purchasing power of the U.S. dollar in international markets and the reduced purchasing power of foreign currencies to buy U.S. goods. This chart is from the USDA/ERS Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States(FATUS) dataset and the December Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade report.
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Chicken’s popularity makes it the most consumed U.S. meat  
Monday, January 25, 2016
In 2013, 57.7 pounds of chicken per person on a boneless, edible basis were available for Americans to eat, compared to 53.6 pounds of beef and 43.4 pounds of pork, according to ERS’s food availability data. From 1909 to the early 1940s, chicken availability had been around 10 pounds per person a year, while yearly per-person beef and pork availability had ranged from between 30 and 50 pounds. Chicken began its upward climb in the 1940s, as innovations in breeding, mass production, and processing made chicken more plentiful, affordable, and convenient for the dining-out market and for cooking at home. By 1996, chicken had overtaken pork as the second-most-consumed meat, and in 2010, chicken overtook beef for the No. 1 spot. Beef availability rose during the second half of the last century, peaking at 88.8 pounds per capita in 1976. Pork availability, which had fallen in 2010 and 2011, was up in 2012 and again in 2013. This chart appears in ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product.
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Among age groups, children faced highest poverty rates in rural America in 2014  
Friday, January 22, 2016
Poverty rates for rural children underwent the largest increase during the 2007-09 recession, rising from 21.9 percent in 2007 to 24.2 percent in 2009. (The poverty status of children depends on the income, size, and composition of their families.) Child poverty continued to increase at the start of the economic recovery and was 25.2 percent in 2014. Poverty for the rural working-age population also increased during the recession and climbed modestly in recovery. Conversely, the poverty rate for rural seniors declined during the recession and has changed little during the recovery. Rural children were also more likely to be deeply poor—in families with an income below half of the poverty level—than were other age groups. In 2014, 11.3 percent of rural children lived in deep poverty, compared with 7.8 percent of the rural working-age population. This chart is found in Rural America At A Glance 2015 Edition, November 2015.
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Falling prices for corn and gasoline drive ethanol prices lower  
Thursday, January 21, 2016
Errata: On January 26, 2016, this chart was reposted to correct the data labels for ethanol and gasoline, which were switched in the original chart.

Each gallon of automobile gasoline typically contains about 10-percent ethanol, reflecting a mandate under the Renewable Fuels Standard that specifies the volume of ethanol that must be blended into the Nation’s gasoline supply. The steep decline in crude oil prices over the past 18 months has pushed the price of many conventional fuels down by more than 50 percent, including gasoline, which has fallen to price levels not seen since 2007. The price of ethanol has also fallen, driven primarily by the more than 50-percent decline in the price of corn—the primary ethanol feedstock—since summer 2013. Although ethanol is not derived from crude oil, its price is still influenced by the price of gasoline (as well as the price of corn) since ethanol and gasoline can substitute as an energy source, and as an oxygenate or octane booster, ethanol competes against petroleum-based alternatives. The price of ethanol is usually below the price of gasoline because of ethanol’s lower energy content, but the most recent data show wholesale gasoline prices falling slightly below the price of ethanol. This pattern, if it continues, suggests further downward pressure on ethanol prices. This chart is from the USDA/ERS U.S. Bioenergy Statistics data set.
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Southern and southwestern States have higher per capita participation in School Breakfast Program  
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
In fiscal year 2014, 13.6 million students participated in USDA’s School Breakfast Program (SBP) on an average school day, with 85 percent of participants receiving the meals for free or at a reduced price. On a per-capita basis, this translates into 4.2 SBP participants per 100 U.S. residents. Per-capita participation in the SBP ranged from 1.6 participants per 100 residents in New Hampshire to 7.1 per 100 residents in New Mexico and West Virginia. Per-capita participation reflects both the percentage of the population that are enrolled in schools offering USDA meals, as well as the proportion of those students who take school breakfast. For example, in Texas, where per-capita participation is 6.9 participants per 100 residents, school-aged children in schools offering USDA meals make up 19 percent of the population, and 35 percent of those students participate in the SBP. New Hampshire’s lower rate reflects a low percentage of residents that are of school age (14 percent) and a lower rate of children participating in the program (11 percent of students). This map is from ERS’s Food Environment Atlas.
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No-till and strip-till were widely used—although not predominantly—on U.S. crop acres in 2010-11  
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
No-till and strip-till are two of several tillage methods farmers use to plant crops. These practices disturb the soil less than other methods, reducing soil erosion, helping maintain soil carbon, and can contribute to improved soil health. In a no-till system, farmers plant directly into the undisturbed residue of the previous crop without tillage, except for nutrient injection; in a strip-till system, only a narrow strip is tilled where row-crops are planted. Overall, 39 percent of the combined corn, soybean, wheat, and cotton acres (the four most widely grown crops in the U.S.) were in no-till/strip-till in 2010-11 (89 million acres per year), with adoption rates higher for some crops. Farmers may be more likely to use no-till/strip-till on crops that are thought to be well suited for the practices (e.g., soybeans) and more likely to use conventional tillage or other conservation tillage methods for crops where no-till/strip-till management is perceived as more risky (e.g., corn). Some farmers may also vary tillage based on field characteristics or weather. Tillage practices are often part of conservation plans that must be in use on highly erodible land to meet eligibility requirements (conservation compliance) for most Federal agricultural programs, including commodity programs and (after 2014) crop-insurance premium subsidies. This chart is from the ERS report, Conservation-Practice Adoption Rates Vary Widely by Crop and Region, December 2015.
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Educational attainment rates were lower for rural minorities in 2014  
Friday, January 15, 2016
Higher educational attainment is closely tied to economic well-being—through higher earnings, lower unemployment, and lower poverty. While educational attainment in rural (nonmetro) America has improved over time, rural areas still lag urban (metro) areas in educational attainment. Moreover, within rural areas, educational attainment varies across racial and ethnic categories. In general, minority populations within rural areas have lower average levels of educational attainment. About a quarter of adults age 25 and over in the rural Black and Native American/Alaskan Native populations, and 40 percent of rural Hispanics, had not completed high school or the equivalent in 2014. These shares are considerably higher than for rural Whites, with 13 percent lacking a high school diploma. Lower attainment levels for minorities may both reflect and contribute to high rates of poverty; poverty in child­hood is highly correlated with lower academic success and graduation rates, while lower educational attainment is strongly associated with lower earnings in adulthood. This chart is found in the ERS publication, Rural America At A Glance, 2015 Edition, November 2015.
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One in five households with children were food insecure at some time in 2014  
Thursday, January 14, 2016
In 2014, 19.2 percent of households with children were food insecure at some time during the year. Parents often are able to maintain normal or near-normal diets and meal patterns for their children, even when the parents themselves are food insecure. In about half of food-insecure households with children in 2014, only adults were food insecure (9.8 percent of households with children); in the rest, children were also food insecure. Thus, both children and adults were food insecure in 9.4 percent of households with children (3.7 million households). In 1.1 percent of households with children (422,000 households), food insecurity among children was so severe that caregivers reported that children were hungry, skipped a meal, or did not eat for a whole day because there was not enough money for food. In some households with very low food security among children, only older children may have experienced the more severe effects of food insecurity while younger children were protected from those effects. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2014.
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The dollar gained considerable strength in 2015  
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
The value of the U.S. dollar against other major currencies strengthened considerably in 2015, accelerating a trend that began in 2011. The agricultural trade-weighted exchange rate is a broad measure of the value of the dollar against 79 foreign currencies, weighted by their share of U.S. agricultural exports. The dollar exchange rate affects the price of U.S. commodities in foreign markets, with a stronger dollar making U.S. products more expensive in terms of the local currency of importing countries. On the other hand, a stronger dollar makes U.S. imports less expensive in dollar terms. Since the dollar exchange rate affects the relative price of U.S. and foreign commodities in global markets, it can have important implications for agricultural trade. With the strengthening of the dollar in 2015, agricultural exports are expected to fall below 2014 levels, while imports are forecast to increase. ERS exchange rate projections used for the USDA Agricultural Projections to 2025 report (the current Agricultural Baseline) suggest the dollar will continue to gain strength—but at a slower pace—in 2016 and 2017, before trending lower from 2018 through 2025. This chart is based on the International Macroeconomic Data Set.
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U.S. diets are still out of balance with Federal recommendations  
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
While Americans are consuming more vegetables, dairy products, and fruit than in 1970, the average U.S. diet still falls short of Federal recommendations for these major food groups, as provided in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released January 7, 2016. In contrast to the recommended daily 2.5 cups of vegetables on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, Americans consumed an average of 1.7 cups in 2013, according to ERS food availability data. That is 68 percent of the recommended amount, up from 60 percent in 1970. In 2013, U.S. consumers ate or drank an average of 1.8 cups of dairy products per day—60 percent of the recommended 3 cups and an increase from 1.6 cups in 1970. Fruit consumption for Americans was the farthest below guidance at 43 percent of the recommended 2 cups. Americans, on average, consumed more than the recommended amount of meat/eggs/nuts and grains in 2013. The data for this chart come from the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series in ERS's Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
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Farming is important to the economies of many counties in the Plains States  
Monday, January 11, 2016
ERS determined that farming was an important part of the local economy in 391 nonmetro counties and 53 metro counties, based on data on farming employment and earnings from the period 2010-12. These farming-dependent counties had at least 25 percent of average annual employee and self-proprietor personal earnings attributable to farming during 2010-12, or 16 percent or more of county jobs in farming in the same period, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The proportion of earnings derived from farming ranged up to 83 percent of total employee and self-proprietor personal earnings and farming employment ranged up to 49 percent of total jobs among farming-dependent counties. Farming-dependent counties were primarily located in sparsely populated areas remote from major urban centers and are geographically concentrated in the Midwest and Great Plains. ERS analysis reveals the total number of farming-dependent counties fell from 511 in 2001 to 444 in 2010-12, continuing its long-term decline. A version of this map is found in the Amber Waves article, “ERS County Economic Types Show a Changing Rural Landscape,” and the underlying codes may be found in the ERS data product, County Typology Codes, updated December 7, 2015.
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Midsize and large-scale family farms dominate the production of dairy, cotton, and cash grains/soybeans  
Friday, January 08, 2016
In 2014, 99 percent of U.S. farms were family farms, where the principal operator and his or her relatives owned the majority of the business. Most of U.S. farm production—68 percent—occurred on the 9 percent of farms classified as midsize or large-scale family farms having at least $350,000 in annual gross cash farm income (GCFI). Those farms together accounted for most production of dairy (87 percent of production), cotton (81 percent), and cash grains/soybeans (76 percent). Large-scale family farms alone (those with annual GCFI of $1 million or more) produced 73 percent of dairy output in 2014. Although small family farms (with less than $350,000 annual GCFI) accounted for 90 percent of U.S. farms, they contributed just 22 percent to U.S. farm production. Among some commodity specializations, though, small family farms account for a much higher share of production, accounting for over half of poultry output (mostly under production contracts) and hay. Non-family farms accounted for 10.4 percent of all production, but were most prominent in high-value crops and beef (through operating feedlots). This chart is found in America’s Diverse Family Farms: 2015 Edition, released in December 2015. 
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The United States is the leading exporter of poultry to Sub-Saharan Africa  
Thursday, January 07, 2016
Over the past decade, Africa has emerged to become an important market for U.S. poultry exports. Rising incomes, population growth and urbanization support strong demand for poultry across much of Africa, while limitations in domestic production have led to a heavy reliance on imports from the United States, the European Union, and Brazil. For the United States, the overwhelming share (93 percent) of poultry exports to Africa are sent to Sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2012, the United States has been the leading supplier of poultry to this region, followed by the European Union and Brazil.    Africa’s share of U.S. poultry exports grew to 12.6 percent in 2014, making it the second largest destination after Mexico (23.8 percent) and ahead of Hong Kong (8.6 percent), China (5.8 percent) and Canada (3.7 percent). U.S. exports to Sub-Saharan Africa reached 455 million kilograms in 2014 (compared to 487 million kilograms to all of Africa), valued at $523.6 million. This chart is from the December 2015 Livestock Dairy and Poultry Outlook report.
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More efficient irrigation methods are being adopted on farmland in the Western United States  
Wednesday, January 06, 2016
About 75 percent of irrigated cropland in the United States is located in the 17 western-most contiguous States, based on USDA’s 2013 Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey (the most recent available). Between 1984 and 2013, while the amount of irrigated land in the West has remained fairly stable (at about 40 million acres) and the amount of water applied has been mostly flat (between 70 and 76 million acre-feet per year), the use of more efficient irrigation systems to deliver the water has increased. In 1984, 71 percent of Western crop irrigation water was applied using gravity irrigation systems that tend to use water inefficiently. By 2013, operators used gravity systems to apply just 41 percent of water for crop production, while pressure-sprinkler irrigation systems (including drip, low-pressure sprinkler, or low-energy precision application systems), which can apply water more efficiently, accounted for 59 percent of irrigation water use and about 60 percent of irrigated acres. This chart is found in the ERS topic page on Irrigation & Water Use, updated October 2015.
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China’s growing feed industry depends heavily on imported ingredients  
Tuesday, January 05, 2016
After nearly four decades of transitioning from a largely plant-based diet toward greater meat consumption, China is now the world’s largest producer of livestock products and has also emerged as the largest manufacturer of animal feed. This industry’s need for a reliable supply of feed ingredients has led to a reduction of China’s import barriers for many agricultural commodities and to China’s emergence as the world’s largest importer of soybeans and a growing market for imported distillers dried grains, sorghum and barley. The need for corn is still met largely through domestic production, but China became a net corn importer in 2009. The continued growth of the feed industry and demand for feed ingredients could further curb the use of trade barriers that protect Chinese grain and oilseed producers. As advocates for lower import barriers, Chinese feed companies help to forge closer integration between China’s agricultural markets and global markets. This chart is from Development of China’s Feed Industry and Demand for Imported Commodities.
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Costs per school breakfast drop more sharply than per-lunch costs as number served increases  
Monday, January 04, 2016
Across America, on a typical school day more than 30 million children sit down to meals prepared and served through USDA’s National School Lunch Program and 13.5 million through the School Breakfast Program. Some school districts serve as many breakfasts as lunches, but other districts serve mainly lunches. Since production costs often depend on volume, this smaller number of breakfasts served raises questions about how per-breakfast costs compare with per-lunch costs. To examine how size affects costs, ERS researchers used data from a 2004 national survey (latest regionally representative cost data available) of local school food authorities (SFAs). The researchers constructed cost indices to examine how breakfast and lunch costs would vary if more meals were served. They found that for all three urbanicity types—urban, suburban, and rural—per-breakfast costs dropped by about 50 percent as the number of breakfasts grew from below average to above average. Because SFAs were already serving more lunches, lunch costs also dropped, but by just 20 percent. This chart appears in “Schools Vary—And That Means Meal Costs Vary Too” in the December 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Editor’s Pick 2015, #1: One in five rural counties had child poverty rates over 33 percent  
Thursday, December 31, 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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Editor’s Pick 2015, #2: China’s meat imports surge, driven by rising domestic demand and prices  
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
As China enters a new phase of its economic development, its demand for higher-valued products like meat and dairy products is growing rapidly. China’s imports of meats during 2013-14 were more than double the volume imported during the early 2000s. Growing demand and higher prices of domestic meat products have driven the growth in China’s meat imports over the past few years. China’s meat imports have shifted from items like chicken feet and animal offal to muscle meat, as living standards rose and China opened its market to more beef and mutton imports. The U.S. is currently the top supplier of China’s poultry and pork imports. U.S. exports of meat, dairy products, and other consumer-oriented products, such as fruits, nuts, and wine to China rose from $234 million in 2000 to $3 billion in 2013, comprising nearly 12 percent of the value of total U.S. agricultural exports to China that year. The growth in China’s meat imports could mean new opportunities for U.S. exporters. This chart is based on the ERS report, China’s Growing Demand for Agricultural Imports.
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Editor’s Pick 2015, #3: Single-mother households consistently have higher rates of food insecurity than other households with children  
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
In 2014, 14.0 percent of U.S. households were food insecure. These food-insecure households had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. During the Great Recession and its aftermath, the prevalence of food insecurity rose from 11.1 percent in 2007 to 14.9 percent in 2011, before falling as the economy improved and unemployment declined. Food insecurity rates for single-parent households are substantially higher than the national average, especially for single-mother households. In 2014, 35.3 percent of single-mother households and 21.7 percent of single-father households in the United States were food insecure. While food insecurity rates for single-father households and married couples with children have fallen over the last few years, the rate for single-mother households remains high. This chart appears in ERS’s Interactive Chart: Food Security Characteristics, released September 9, 2015.
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Editor’s Pick 2015, #4: Non-operating landlords own 31 percent of U.S. farmland  
Monday, December 28, 2015
Of the 911 million acres of land in farms, 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 individual or partnership arrangements, nearly half were held by a retired farmer or rancher in 2014. Six 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 Land Use, Land Value & Tenure topic page.
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Editor’s Pick 2015, #5: Rural employment yet to recover to prerecession levels  
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Employment fell by roughly 5 percent in urban areas and 6 percent in rural areas between the first quarter of 2008 and the fourth quarter of 2009—a period that includes the Great Recession. In 2010, the first full year of the economic recovery, urban and rural employment levels grew at comparable rates, and rural areas experienced modest growth the following year. This was followed by 2 years of near-zero employment change before growth resumed in early 2014. An annual growth of more than 1 percent between mid-2014 and mid-2015 has brought the number of employed rural residents (total rural employment) back above 20 million people for the first time since 2008. As of mid-2015, that number remained more than 3 percentage points below its prerecession peak in 2007. This chart is found in the 2015 edition of Rural America At A Glance, released November 30, 2015.
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Share of eating-out expenditures at limited-service places more than tripled during the past half century  
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Expenditures in the food-away-from-home sector (FAFH) totaled $ 705.9 billion in 2013, 49.6 percent of total U.S. food spending for that year. Full-service restaurants and limited-service eating places accounted for 77.9 percent of FAFH expenditures in 2013; 50 years ago, their combined share stood at 59.8 percent. In 1963, FAFH spending made up 28.6 percent of total food expenditures. Americans’ FAFH sources were more diverse that year than in 2013, with relatively more away-from-home eating taking place in hotels and motels, in schools and colleges, and in stores, bars, and from vending machines. During the last half century, full-service restaurants’ share of FAFH expenditures fell from 50.1 to 40.9 percent, while limited-service eating places’ share more than tripled—from 9.7 percent of FAFH expenditures in 1963 to 37.0 percent in 2013. The only other sector whose share of the total FAFH market has risen during the last 50 years was food sales at recreational places, such as theaters and sports venues, which rose from 2.5 percent of the FAFH total in 1963 to 4.1 percent in 2013. The statistics in this chart are from ERS’s Food Expenditures data product.
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Decline in 2015 forecast for U.S. net cash farm income reflects lower receipts for livestock, crops  
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
U.S. net cash farm income (NCFI)—the funds available to farm operators to meet family living expenses and pay down debt—is forecast to decline in 2015. This would be the second consecutive year of decline for NCFI, after reaching recent highs in 2012 and 2013. NCFI is expected to drop by $35.6 billion (28 percent) to $93 billion in 2015. If realized, the 2015 forecast would be the lowest since 2009, and $14.7 billion (in real terms) below the previous 10-year average. The drop in NCFI reflects a broad decline in commodity receipts. Crop receipts are expected to decrease by $18.2 billion from 2014, led by projected declines in receipts for corn ($8.6 billion) and soybeans ($5.7 billion).  Livestock receipts are expected to decline by $25.4 billion, with the largest decreases in receipts expected for dairy ($13.9 billion), hogs ($6.6 billion), and broilers ($4.4 billion). Partially offsetting reduced cash receipts, total cash expenses are forecast to decrease by $7.9 billion in 2015, the first decline since 2009. Government payments are also projected to rise 10 percent ($1.0 billion) to $10.8 billion in 2015. This chart is based on information found in the 2015 Farm Sector Income Forecast, released November 24, 2015.
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Georgia is the leading U.S. producer of pecans  
Monday, December 21, 2015
Pecan trees, a species of hickory, are the source of the only commercially produced tree nut native to the United States. The United States is the world’s leading producer of pecans, and Georgia is historically the leading pecan-producing State, typically accounting for about 33 percent of U.S. production. In 2015, Georgia’s pecan crop is forecast at 100 million pounds (in-shell), an increase of 32 percent over the 2014/15 harvest. New Mexico has the second highest production, with the 2015 harvest expected to reach 72 million pounds (in-shell), accounting for 26 percent of the U.S. harvest. Texas rounds out the top three pecan-producing States, with 2015 production forecast at 37 million pounds. Texas producers have more acreage planted in native and seedling pecans as opposed to improved varieties and production in that State tends to be more variable year to year than in New Mexico or Georgia, as illustrated by the nearly 40-percent drop in 2015 production compared to the 2014 harvest of 61 million pounds. This chart is based on the September 2015 Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook.
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The price of sorghum has returned to below the price of corn  
Friday, December 18, 2015
Sorghum is a common feed grain that can substitute for corn in livestock feed rations and in the production of ethanol. Corn tends to be preferred over sorghum as a feed ingredient, so sorghum typically sells at a discount compared to corn in global markets.  Throughout much of the 2014 marketing year (September-August) this situation reversed, and due in large part to strong demand from China, sorghum began selling at a premium over corn, at times exceeding 20 percent. As a result, sorghum use for ethanol production declined while acreage for the 2015 harvest increased to result in a record-large U.S. crop. This, combined with recent changes in China’s import policy that could reduce U.S. sorghum’s export prospects for the 2015 crop, has greatly increased the availability of sorghum in domestic markets for feeding and ethanol production. Because of the greater availability of sorghum, the price fell back below the price of corn and is now more in line with historic relationships. Given these lower prices, sorghum use for ethanol production is expected to expand more than fivefold this year, and U.S. shipments to Mexico, which were hampered by the high prices for the 2014 crop, are expected to at least partially resume during the current marketing year, which began in September 2015. This chart is based on the October 2015 Feed Outlook and the ERS Feed Grains database.  
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Prevalence of food insecurity varies across the country  
Thursday, December 17, 2015
USDA monitors the extent and severity of food insecurity in U.S. households at the national and State levels. Food-insecure households are defined as those that had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. Food insecurity rates differ across States due to characteristics of the population, State-level policies, and economic conditions. Estimated prevalence rates of food insecurity during 2012-14 ranged from 8.4 percent in North Dakota to 22.0 percent in Mississippi. Data for 2012-14 were combined to provide more reliable State statistics. The prevalence of food insecurity was higher than the national average of 14.0 percent in 14 States and lower than the national average in 20 States. In the remaining 16 States and the District of Columbia, differences from the national average were not statistically significant. This map appears in ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials
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Agricultural production in India shifting to high-value outputs  
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
India’s economic growth and rising incomes have expanded consumer food demand to include higher valued foods, such as fruit, vegetables, and some meat products. Indian farmers appear to be meeting these new growth opportunities. A look at average production shares in the 1980-84 and the 2004-08 periods shows that growth in production of animal and horticulture products reduced the share of production growth attributable to grains. Accordingly, India’s real value of farm production increased an average 3 percent each year, rising from 2.6 trillion rupees in 1980 to 7.3 trillion rupees in 2008, or from $42 billion to $116 billion. This chart is based on Propellers of Agricultural Productivity in India, December 2015.
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Almost half of U.S. apples available for domestic consumption are used in juices  
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Apples are a fall and winter staple, showing up in lunch boxes, pies, cobblers, crisps, and cider. Second to oranges as the most popular fruit in the United States, 45.8 pounds of apples per person were available for domestic consumption in 2013, according to ERS’s Food Availability data. Forty-seven percent of the available apples for U.S. domestic use (21.4 pounds per person) was in the form of juice and cider, and 38 percent (17.4 pounds per person) was fresh apples. Canned, frozen, dried, and other forms made up the remaining 15 percent of apple availability in 2013. Per-person apple availability peaked at 51.2 pounds in 2006. Much of the decrease since 2006 is due to declining availability of apple juice and cider. In 2006, 26.6 pounds of apples per person were used in juices and cider, while fresh-apple availability in 2006 was 17.9 pounds per person. The data for this chart come from the Food Availability data series in ERS's Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System
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Not all California’s crops have seen declines in acreage during drought  
Monday, December 14, 2015
Long-term trends in California agriculture reflect shifting production, which may have implications for water use during droughts. Annually harvested crops such as cotton, corn, and wheat are on a downward trend and have seen a 31-percent reduction in planted acreage in California since 2012. Similarly, rice acreage has dropped 27 percent during the past 2 years (2013-15) of the drought. California’s hay and vegetable acreage has been more stable. In contrast, almonds, grapes, and walnuts acreage is on a strong upward trend that does not appear to have slowed during the drought. Orchards and vineyards require larger capital investments than annual crops, and because of the potential loss of that investment, orchard/vineyard owners are generally less willing to reduce water usage during droughts. However, orchards and vineyards are also more dependent upon ground-water than volatile surface-water supplies. California orchard/vineyard farmers are also more likely to have invested in more-efficient irrigation systems, such as low-pressure sprinkler and micro-irrigation systems that reduce water lost to evaporation, runoff, and deep percolation, thereby increasing the share of applied water that is beneficially used by the crop. This chart is found in the November 2015 Amber Waves statistic, “Long-Term Response to Water Scarcity in California.” 
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Last updated: Wednesday, May 04, 2016

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