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ERS Charts of Note

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See also: Editor’s Pick 2015: Best of Charts of Note gallery.

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Global cotton production projected to rebound from 13-year low  
Monday, October 03, 2016
The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates for 2016/17 project world cotton production at 102.5 million bales, 6 percent above the previous season’s 13-year low. The three largest cotton-producing countries remain India, China, and the United States. In 2016/17, these countries are forecast to account for 62 percent of global production, slightly below the 3-year average (approximately 64 percent) as larger harvests are expected from a number of other cotton-producing countries such as Pakistan and Brazil. India is expected to remain the leading producer, after first surpassing China in 2015/16. Globally, 2016/17 cotton production is rising as a result of a higher yield expectation. World cotton area, on the other hand, is declining for a second consecutive season and projected to dip to its lowest since 1986/87. The reduction in planted cotton area may be due to declining global cotton prices as well as reduced imports from China. The ratio of cotton prices to alternative fibers such as polyester has also remained high even as cotton prices have fallen. This is due in part to the recent declines of global oil prices, which constitutes a key input in polyester production. This chart is based on data reported in the ERS Cotton and Wool Outlook published September 2016.
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Some manure nutrients produced in the Chesapeake Bay watershed can be captured for later use  
Friday, September 30, 2016
In 2010, to help meet water quality goals, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted a limit on the amount of pollutants that the Chesapeake Bay can receive. Nitrogen and phosphorus, in particular, can lead to adverse effects on public health, recreation, and ecosystems when present in excess amounts. The EPA estimates that applications of manure contribute 15 percent of nitrogen and 37 percent of phosphorus loadings to the Bay. Furthermore, ERS estimates that animal feeding operations (AFOs), which raise animals in confinement, account for 88 percent of manure nitrogen and 84 percent of manure phosphorus generation in that watershed. ERS also estimates that about a third of nitrogen and half of phosphorus produced at AFOs can be recovered for later use. That adds to about 234 million pounds of nitrogen and 106 million pounds of phosphorus recovered. These nutrients can then be redistributed regionally to fertilize agricultural land, thereby lessening nutrient run-off problems in the Bay. The remaining nutrients cannot be recovered. Both nitrogen and phosphorus may be lost during collection, storage, and transportation; nitrogen may also volatize into the atmosphere. This chart is based on the ERS report Comparing Participation in Nutrient Trading by Livestock Operations to Crop Producers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, released in September 2016.
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U.S. 2016/17 rice crop projected at a near-record 237.1 million cwt  
Thursday, September 29, 2016
The 2016/17 U.S. rice crop is projected to reach near record levels according to USDA forecasts. The projection of 237.1 million cwt (hundredweight or cwt is equal to 100 pounds) would be the second highest rice harvest on record—following only 2010’s production of 243.1 million cwt. The forecast projects a large growth in production compared to the 2015/16 harvest, when production totaled 192.3 million cwt. The growth is due in part to a 20 percent increase in planted area (to 3.1 million acres). Factors contributing to the increased planted area include the relaxation of water use restrictions in Texas and California, a lack of more profitable planting options, and a return to more normal weather in the Mississippi Delta region. The majority of U.S. rice is produced in five states: Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas. This chart is based on data found in ERS’s September 2016 Rice Outlook report.
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Decline in agricultural sector’s net value added borne by equity owners  
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
ERS forecasts net value added will decline by 6.1 percent and payments to stakeholders will increase by 0.9 percent ($0.5 billion) in 2016 (in current dollars, the chart shows inflation-adjusted series trends). Net value added represents the sum of economic returns to all stakeholders and equity owners. Stakeholders provide the hired labor, leased capital, and rental land used in agricultural production, but in most cases do not directly share risk in the short term. Stakeholders receive a fixed ­payment in return for their services while equity owners share in the profits (net farm income). In general, the payments that stakeholders receive adjust more slowly over time than net returns to the equity owners of agricultural production. Find additional information and analysis in ERS’ Farm Sector Income and Finances topic page, released August 30, 2016.
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In 2015, 42.2 million people lived in food-insecure households  
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
USDA measures food security status at the household level. Food-insecure households were, at times, unable to acquire adequate food for one or more household members due to insufficient money and other resources. Statistics on the number of persons residing in food-insecure households should be interpreted carefully. Within a food-insecure household, different household members may have been affected differently. Some members—particularly young children—may have experienced only mild effects of food insecurity or none at all, while adults were more severely affected. In 2015, 42.2 million people lived in food-insecure households. Out of these individuals, 14.6 million lived in households in the severe range of food insecurity, described as very low food security. Households with very low food security were food insecure to the extent that eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced at some point during the year. The statistics for this chart are from Statistical Supplement to Household Food Security in the United States in 2015, AP-072, released on September 7, 2015.
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U.S. per capita consumption of beef and pork projected to rise over the next decade  
Monday, September 26, 2016
USDA baseline projections provide a long-term view of the U.S. farm sector. These projections show that production of beef and pork will expand steadily between 2016 and 2025, driven by lower feed costs and strong meat demand domestically and abroad. As a result of this greater production, beef and pork prices are projected to drop 10.6 percent and 11.6 percent, respectively, over the same period. Cheaper prices will help reverse a multiyear decline in meat consumption in the United States. Per capita consumption of beef is also forecast to increase 2.7 percent by 2025, outpacing growth in consumption of broilers (2.3 percent) and pork (1.7 percent). USDA expects this will increase the total amount of meat consumed per person in the U.S. from 211 pounds in 2015 to nearly 219 pounds by 2025. This chart appears in the ERS Amber Waves finding "U.S. Beef and Pork Consumption Projected to Rebound" released September 2016.
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American adults who eat at fast food places averaged 2.7 visits a week in 2014  
Friday, September 23, 2016
Eating out accounts for a significant share of Americans’ food budgets and diets. ERS analysis of data from the Eating and Health Module of the American Time Use Survey provides a snapshot of which household types are purchasing “fast food” and how often. Fast food in the analysis includes prepared food from a deli, carry-out and delivery food, and food from a fast food restaurant. Over an average week in 2014, 58.2 percent of American adults purchased fast food and those who purchased fast food did so an average of 2.7 times. Couples with children were the most likely to purchase fast food (64.5 percent), whereas single-person households were the least likely (51.1, percent). However, single-person households had the highest average number of weekly fast food purchases. Men who purchased fast food did so an average of 3 times per week, whereas women who had purchased fast food averaged 2.5 times. This chart appears in the ERS report, Americans’ Eating Patterns and Time Spent on Food: The 2014 Eating & Health Module Data, July 2016.
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Record harvested area drives surge in 2016 dry edible pea and lentil production  
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Dry pea and lentil harvested area for 2016 is estimated by the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service at slightly more than 2 million acres, a near 34 percent increase from the previous year, setting a new record. This surge is representative of the recent trend in expanded harvested area for both crops. Since 2011/12, harvested area has increased by an average of nearly 24 percent in each marketing year. Rising harvested area has supported growth in dry edible pea and lentil production, projected at more than 3.4 billion pounds for the 2016/17 marketing year.  The number of acres planted to dry peas and lentils, and subsequently harvested, is correlated with decreases in prices for other commodities such as wheat, corn, and barley. Since 2013/2014, Wheat prices have fallen more than $3 per bushel, while corn and barley prices have fallen about $1.30 and $1.10 per bushel, respectively. In the same period, dry pea and lentil prices have generally increased, providing incentive for farmers to switch some acreage to dry peas and lentils. This chart is drawn from data reported in the ERS Vegetables and Pulses Outlook released August 30, 2016.
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Older farm operators often responsible for running small family farms  
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
A notable characteristic of principal farm operators—the person most responsible for running the farm—is their relatively advanced age. In 2014, 33 percent of principal farm operators were at least 65 years old. This is nearly three times the U.S. average (12 percent) for older self-employed workers in nonagricultural businesses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most older principal farm operators run small family farms. Retirement farms had the highest percentage of older operators (67 percent), followed by low-sales farms (41 percent) and moderate sales farms (28 percent). Older operators made up about one-fifth of each of the remaining groups. The advanced age of farm operators is understandable. The farm is also home for most farmers and they can gradually phase out of farming. Improved health and advances in farm equipment also allow operators to farm later in life than in past generations. This chart appears in the 2015 ERS report America’s Diverse Family Farms.
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2009 Stimulus Act boosted food spending of SNAP participants  
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) was implemented to address the economic crisis following the 2007-09 recession. ARRA temporarily increased benefit levels in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and expanded SNAP eligibility for jobless adults without children. A recent ERS report examined the effects of the benefit increase on SNAP households’ food purchases in supermarkets, supercenters, and other food retailers (food at home). Quarterly food-at-home spending by SNAP households rose from an average of $502 per household over October 2008 to March 2009 to $550 after April 2009 when ARRA was implemented. SNAP households with incomes below $15,000 per year, single-parent SNAP households, and SNAP households with an unemployed member increased their food-at-home spending in response to the increased benefit levels. While SNAP benefits can only be used for at-home food purchases, additional benefits can free up cash spent on food for other purchases. The entire benefit increase is generally not spent on food. The ERS analysis found that, on average, SNAP households spent 53 percent of the 2009 ARRA increase on food and the rest on other household needs. This chart appears in the ERS report, The Stimulus Act of 2009 and Its Effect on Food-At-Home Spending by SNAP Participants, released on August 31, 2016.
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Hispanics help some rural counties avoid population loss  
Monday, September 19, 2016
Between 2010 and 2015, the population of rural and small-town America declined by 0.3 percent, according to Census population estimates. This loss of 137,000 people was a relatively small change that masked larger racial-ethnic trends. The non-Hispanic White population declined by 738,000 in rural (nonmetro) counties, while all other racial-ethnic groups increased by 601,000. The rural Hispanic population alone grew by 376,000 (10 percent) during this time period. The increasing Hispanic population helped nearly 10 percent of rural counties (188 counties) in Texas, New Mexico, and 32 other states maintain population growth, continuing a 30-year trend. Immigration and domestic migration drove this trend early on as Hispanic workers filled jobs in textiles, food processing, and other agricultural-related industries. Today, immigration has slowed and most of the growth in the rural Hispanic population comes from natural increase (more births than deaths). The resulting change in the composition of Hispanic families may lead to new community needs for housing, schools, and family services. Find county-level maps and data on the U.S. Hispanic population in ERS’s Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America.
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Prices Received by Dairy Farmers Down in 2015-16  
Friday, September 16, 2016
Over the past decade, farm-level prices for milk have been variable. In September 2014, the all-milk price (the average price received by dairy farmers) peaked at $25.70 per 100 pounds, or cwt (1 cwt is just under 12 gallons). A year later, dairy farmers were receiving $17.50 per cwt. By April 2016, the all-milk price was down to $15.00 per cwt. As of June 2016, USDA forecasts indicate that the all-milk price will average between $14.95 and $15.35 per cwt for 2016. Relatively low feed prices in 2015-16 have mitigated the impact of low milk prices on dairy farmers’ incomes. In October 2014, the dairy producer’s margin, or the difference between the all-milk price and ERS’s estimate of average feed costs per cwt of milk was $12.85. As the all-milk price started to fall, the estimated margin hit a low point of $4.14 in July 2015. It thereafter increased slightly to a value of $6.46 in December 2015. By contrast, during the previous downturn in milk prices in 2009-10, the margin reached a low of negative $0.15 in June 2009. This chart is from the ERS Amber Waves article, "Processing and Marketing Blunt the Impact of Volatile Farm Prices on Retail Dairy Prices" released on August 1, 2016.
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Share of income spent on food by poorer U.S. households is relatively large and volatile  
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Over the past two and a half decades, U.S. households in the lowest income quintile (the poorest 20 percent of households) spent between 28.8 and 42.6 percent of their annual before-tax income on food, compared with 6.5 to 9.2 percent spent by households in the highest income quintile. Before-tax income includes earnings and other money income, public assistance, Supplemental Security Income payments, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The share of income spent on food is more volatile for poorer households reflecting their less stable incomes and changes in grocery store (food-at-home) prices. Higher at-home food prices disproportionately affect the spending behavior of low-income households and often require them to allocate a larger share of their incomes to food. The lowest income households saw their share of income spent on food drop from 41.1 to 28.8 percent over the years 2001 to 2007, rise to 35.5 percent in 2009, rise again to 37.8 percent in 2013, and return to 35.5 percent in 2014. Over the same period, the highest income households saw relatively minor yearly swings of 0.5 to 1.0 percentage points. This chart appears in “Percent of Income Spent on Food Falls as Income Rises” in the September 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Gains in productivity drive growth in U.S. agricultural output  
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
U.S. agricultural output more than doubled between 1948 and 2013, growing on average at 1.52 percent annually. Total input use (for example, land, labor and materials such as seed and feed) grew at only 0.05 percent per year on average. Improvements in how efficiently inputs are transformed into outputs, known as Total Factor Productivity (TFP), fueled almost all of the output growth. Advancements in technology—such as improvements to machinery, seeds, and farm structures—enabled agricultural TFP to grow an average of 1.47 percent annually. This rate exceeded the productivity growth of most U.S. industries, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In recent years, between 2007 and 2013, TFP growth has kept up with its historic rate. This strong productivity growth has offset the decline in the use of agricultural inputs, allowing agricultural output to continue to grow by 0.91 percent annually. A version of this chart is found in the September 2016 Amber Waves feature, "Productivity Growth Is Still the Major Driver in Growing U.S. Agricultural Output".
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Trade liberalization and regulatory cooperation have facilitated growth in United States-Mexico agricultural trade beyond the NAFTA Period  
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
As the United States and Mexico liberalized their bilateral trade, they continued to cooperate on sanitary, phytosanitary, and other regulatory issues affecting the agricultural sector. For example, new phytosanitary protocols (measures for the control of plant and animal diseases) enabled the export of Mexican avocados to the United States, while a coordinated campaign by all three NAFTA governments established a harmonized approach to mitigating the risks associated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, often referred to as mad cow disease). Together, this trade liberalization and continuing regulatory cooperation provided the policy setting for an increase in U.S.-Mexico agricultural trade. Between 1993 and 2015, U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico grew from $3.6 billion to $17.7 billion, while Mexican agricultural exports to the United States increased from $2.7 billion to $21.0 billion. This chart appears in the ERS report, Opportunities for Making U.S.-Mexico Agricultural Trade More Agile released in August 2016.
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Younger farm operators are less likely to own all of the land they farm  
Monday, September 12, 2016
Farms can be classified as full-owner, part-owner, or full-tenant operations based on whether the farmer owns all, some, or none of the land in the operation. In 2014, 60 percent of farmland acres in the United States were found in part-owner operations, 32 percent in full-owner operations, and 8 percent in full-tenant operations. Acreage in full-tenant operations make up a much higher share—27 percent of acres operated—for younger farmers, and much less—7 percent—for farmers 65 or older. It can take time for farmers to build up the financial capacity to purchase land outright; rental agreements can help young farmers and ranchers gain access to land during this time. The majority of farmland, nearly three-fourths of U.S. acreage, is operated by farmers 55 and older, who account for 83 percent of all land in full-owner operations. A version of this chart is found in the ERS report, U.S. Farmland Ownership, Tenure, and Transfer, released on August 25, 2016.
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Climate change is projected to cause declines and shifts in fieldcrop acreage across U.S. regions  
Friday, September 09, 2016
Climate models predict U.S. agriculture will face changes in local patterns of precipitation and temperature over the next century. These climate changes will affect crop yields, crop-water demand, water-supply availability, farmer livelihoods, and consumer welfare. Using projections of temperature and precipitation under nine different scenarios, ERS research projects that climate change will result in a decline in national fieldcrop acreage in 2080 when measured relative to a scenario that assumes continuation of reference climate conditions (precipitation and temperature patterns averaged over 2001-08). Acreage trends show substantial variability across climate change scenarios and regions. When averaged over all climate scenarios, total acreage in the Mountain States, Pacific, and Southern Plains is projected to expand, while acreage in other regions--most notably the Corn Belt and Northern Plains--declines. Over half of all fieldcrop acreage in the U.S. is found in the Corn Belt and Northern Plains, and projected declines in these regions represent 2.1 percent of their combined acreage. Irrigated acreage for all regions is projected to decline, but in some regions increases in dryland acreage offset irrigated acreage losses. The acreage response reflects projected changes in regional irrigation supply as well as differential yield impacts and shifts in relative profitability across crops and production practices under the climate change scenarios. 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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Prevalence of food insecurity in 2015 was lower than 2014, still above level before Great Recession  
Thursday, September 08, 2016
In 2015, 87.3 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the year. The remaining 12.7 percent (15.8 million households) were food insecure; they had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. The percentage of U.S. households that were food insecure declined from 14.0 percent in 2014. Additionally, in 2015, 5.0 percent of U.S. households (6.3 million households) had very low food security. In this more severe range of food insecurity, the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year due to limited resources. The rate, or prevalence, of very low food security in 2015 declined significantly from that in 2014 (5.6 percent). The 2015 declines in food insecurity and very low food security prevalence were the largest year-to-year changes in these rates since the two rates rose in 2008. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2015, released September 7, 2016.
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Russia forecast to become the world’s top wheat exporter in 2016/17  
Wednesday, September 07, 2016
In 2016/17 (July-June marketing year), virtually all major wheat–exporting countries in the world (United States, Australia, Canada, Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan) have been enjoying near perfect weather conditions, and most are likely to have record or near-record wheat output this year. Among them, Russia is expected to have by far the largest wheat harvest in its history, despite having a much smaller area devoted to wheat than it did during its historical highs in the 1960s and 70s. One big exception to this upbeat wheat production outlook is the western part of the European continent where poor weather has undermined the quality and quantity of the wheat harvest this year. Record wheat output in Russia combined with its price-competitiveness—Black Sea wheat is currently by far the cheapest in the world—is expected to propel Russia to become the world’s top wheat exporter this year at 30 million tons, unseating the European Union, which became the world leader in 2013/14. While this year’s developments are driven in part by a poor EU wheat harvest, Russia has been gaining wheat export share for several years, alongside the EU, its main competitor and the top exporter over the previous three years. The gains by Russia and the EU in the global wheat market come mainly at the expense of the United States, whose share of world wheat trade is trending lower. This chart is based on the August 2016 Wheat Outlook report, using information from the Production, Supply, and Distribution database of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
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Non-Hispanic Blacks were the only racial/ethnic group to increase whole fruit and total fruit consumption between 1994-98 and 2007-08  
Tuesday, September 06, 2016
A recent linking of ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data with food intake surveys from 1994-2008 revealed that Non-Hispanic Blacks were the only group of the racial/ethnic groups examined that had higher whole fruit and total fruit consumption in 2007-08 compared with 1994-98. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that at least half of a person’s recommended fruit consumption be whole fruit. Non-Hispanic Blacks increased their whole fruit consumption to 71.4 pounds per person in 2007-08—an amount still below that of Hispanics and the "other" racial/ethnic group. All four racial/ethnic groups consumed smaller quantities of orange juice and larger quantities of apple juice in 2007-08. Non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics had the largest increases in apple juice consumption. This chart appears in“A Closer Look at Declining Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Using Linked Data Sources” in the July 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Obese adults spend more time watching TV and movies and less time engaged in sports and exercise  
Friday, September 02, 2016
Data from the ERS-developed Eating and Health Module of the American Time Use Survey provide information on activities and behaviors of different segments of the U.S. population. Survey respondents age 20 and older were asked their height and weight, allowing for calculation of their Body Mass Index (BMI) which was then grouped into normal, overweight, and obese weight categories. On an average day in 2014, time spent eating and drinking as a primary, or main, activity did not vary much across the weight groups; neither did eating while doing something else. However, other activities did show different patterns. The most pronounced was watching TV and movies. Obese adults spent an average of 190 minutes a day watching TV and movies, compared with 153 minutes by normal weight individuals and 171 minutes by overweight adults. Sports and exercise was another activity where time use patterns differed. Normal weight and overweight adults spent the same amount of time, statistically-speaking—18 minutes and 20 minutes—engaged in sports or exercise, while those who were obese averaged 11 minutes a day. This chart appears in the ERS report, Americans’ Eating Patterns and Time Spent on Food: The 2014 Eating & Health Module Data, July 2016.
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Land in shale areas more likely to leave Conservation Reserve Program  
Thursday, September 01, 2016
Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and oil trapped in shale formations has diverse impacts on agriculture. Farmers in shale regions have the potential to receive lease or royalty payments, but may face competition with energy companies for labor, water, and transportation infrastructure, and may also have an increased risk of soil or water contamination. In addition, shale energy development may affect farmers’ participation in certain USDA programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP covered about 27 million acres of environmentally sensitive land at the end of 2013, with enrollees receiving annual rental and other incentive payments for taking eligible land out of production for 10 years or more. About 28 percent of CRP land is located in counties that overlay shale formations (“shale counties”). From 2007 to 2012, the CRP exit rate (including early exits and non-reenrollments) was greater, on average, in shale counties than in non-shale counties. Early exits and decisions not to re-enroll could be due to a number of factors, including the placement of oil or natural gas wells, pipelines, and access roads through CRP land. For acres that exit the CRP, landowners must pay an early-exit penalty, which is the sum of all CRP payments received since enrollment plus interest. This chart is found in the ERS report, Trends in U.S. Agriculture’s Consumption and Production of Energy: Renewable Power, Shale Energy, and Cellulosic Biomass, released on August 11, 2016.
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Imports supply about a third of U.S. watermelon consumption  
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
The majority of watermelons consumed in the United States are produced domestically, but imports have grown rapidly in recent years. Watermelon acreage in the United States has declined by about 50 percent since the early 1990’s, but increases in productivity from a greater use of irrigation and improved varieties helped keep annual production levels above 3.5 billion pounds through most of the past 20 years. Watermelons can be grown in most parts of the United States but do best in the South due to long growing season and consistently warm temperatures. Florida, Texas, California, Georgia, and South Carolina account for over 70 percent of U.S. production. While domestic production has trended lower over the past five years, the U.S. appetite for watermelons has not. From 2010-15, watermelon domestic use has grown to an average 4.9 billion pounds annually, aided in part by four consecutive years of record-high imports, reaching 1.5 billion pounds in 2015. Watermelon imports continue to grow, and accounted for a third of domestic use in 2015, up from 11 percent in 2000 and 7 percent in 1990. Most watermelons imported to the United States come from Mexico, followed by Guatemala and Honduras. This chart is based on data found in the ERS’s report Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook: March 2016.
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Reduced cash receipts lead to lower expected net cash and net farm income for the third straight year  
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Net cash farm income (NCFI) and net farm income (NFI) are two common measures of farm sector profitability. NCFI includes cash receipts and farm program government payments less cash expenses; it represents the net cash income available to farmers in a given year. NFI is a broader measure that represents the net value added to the U.S. economy by the agricultural sector, and includes noncash transactions such as changes in inventories, capital replacement, and implicit rent and expenses related to the farm operators’ dwelling. Following several years of high income, both measures have trended downward since 2013. ERS forecasts that, in 2016, net cash farm and net farm income will fall to $94.1 billion and $71.5 billion, respectively ($84.6 billion and $64.3 billion, when adjusted for inflation); these values are below their 10-year averages in both nominal and inflation-adjusted terms. Lower forecasts for NCFI and NFI reflect price declines across a broad set of agricultural commodities in 2015 that are expected to continue in 2016. A forecast increase in government payments and decline in production expenses in 2016 only partially offset the drop in commodity receipts. Find additional information and analysis on the 2016 farm sector income forecast in ERS’ Farm Sector Income and Finances topic page, released August 30, 2016.
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U.S. egg prices continue to adjust following the 2015 HPAI outbreak  
Monday, August 29, 2016
Wholesale prices for table eggs are typically variable, reflecting changes in supply, demand, as well as seasonal patterns. The Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak that affected U.S. poultry farms between December of 2014 and June of 2015 led to a significant reduction in the supply of eggs, and a corresponding spike in prices.  As the outbreak intensified in the spring of 2015, the price of a dozen “grade A” large eggs in the New York market increased from $1.29 in April to $2.61 in August. In the two years prior to the outbreak, the average price of a dozen eggs in this market was $1.33. Prices remained elevated through the remainder of 2015 as producers worked to rebuild capacity. As production returned to pre-outbreak levels in early 2016, prices fell sharply to a low of $0.63 per dozen in May 2016, the lowest price since July 2006, before increasing modestly in June and July. This chart is based on data found in the ERS Livestock and Meat Domestic Data.
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Ten percent of all land in farms is expected to be transferred during 2015-19  
Friday, August 26, 2016
The relatively advanced age of the U.S. farming population—about a third of principal farm operators in 2014 were at least age 65 compared with 12 percent of self-employed workers in nonagricultural businesses—has sparked interest in the manner in which land will be transferred to other landowners, including the next generation of farm operators. Farmland owners planned to transfer 93 million acres in the next 5 years (2015-19)—10 percent of all land in farms—through a variety of means. Landowners anticipated selling 3.8 percent of all farmland, with just 2.3 percent planned to be sold to non-relatives. A larger share of land (6.5 percent) is expected to be transferred through trusts, gifts, and wills. The share of farmland available for purchase by non-relatives during 2015-19 will likely rise above 2.3 percent as some individuals (or entities) that inherit land may choose to sell it. And, those who inherit land but don’t sell it may decide to rent it out to farm operators. In 2014, 39 percent of all farmland was rented and 61 percent was owned by farm operators. This chart comes from the ERS report U.S. Farmland Ownership, Tenure, and Transfer, released on August 25, 2016.
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Average share of income spent on total food in the United States has remained relatively constant since 2000  
Thursday, August 25, 2016
In 2014, Americans spent an average of 9.7 percent of their disposable personal incomes (DPI) on food. After falling from 17.0 percent in 1960 to 10.0 percent in 1999, the share of DPI spent on total food by the average American has remained between 9.5 and 9.8 percent since 2000. The share of DPI spent on food away from home  (food purchased from restaurants, fast food places, schools, and other food-away-from-home eating places) was 3.9 percent in 2000, 4.1 percent in 2005 and, after flattening out during the 2007-09 recession through 2012, reached 4.3 percent in 2014. In contrast, the share of DPI spent on food at home (food purchased from supermarkets, convenience stores, warehouse club stores, supercenters, and other retailers) declined from 5.8 percent in 2000 to 5.5 percent in 2014. This chart appears in the ERS data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials. More information on U.S. food sales and expenditures can be found in ERS’s Food Expenditures data product.
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Two demographic trends contribute to the concentration of older populations in some rural counties  
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
For nearly 4 out of 10 rural counties in the U.S., 20 percent or more of the population was 65 years or older in 2015, compared with about 1 in 10 urban counties. Two long-term demographic trends help explain the concentration of older population in some of these rural “older-age” counties. First, retirees and near-retirees tend to migrate to more scenic destinations; about a third of older-age rural counties are classified by ERS as being retirement destinations, having recreation-based economies, or both. Second, young-adults tend to migrate away from more remote and less scenic rural counties, while older residents stay; another third of older-age rural counties are classified as persistent population loss counties. Many of the remaining third of older-age counties combine retiree attraction with young-adult out-migration, such as in the Ozarks in northern Arkansas or along the Virginia-North Carolina border. While these two trends create similar county age profiles, population growth and population decline generate different challenges for the communities involved. This map is based on data found in the Atlas of Rural and Small Town America.
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Fast food plays a larger role in all children’s diets, but school food remains relatively more important for lower income children  
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Federal food intake surveys conducted between 1977 and 2012 reveal that, in the 1990s, fast food overtook school food as the largest source of food prepared away from home in children’s diets. However, school foods have remained a more important source of calories for lower income children than for higher income children. The mandated cutoff for free or reduced-price USDA school meals is a household income at or below 185 percent of the Federal poverty level. In 1977-78, school meals provided 10.1 percent of the calories consumed by lower income children eligible for free or reduced-price school breakfasts and lunches and 7.5 percent of higher income children’s total calories. In that same year, fast food provided 4.5 percent of higher income children’s average daily energy intake and 3.2 percent of lower income children’s calories. School food continued to provide about 10 percent of lower income children’s total calories in 1994-98 but, by 2011-12, the school food share fell to 8.1 percent and the fast food share rose to 14.2 percent. This chart appears in “Linking Federal Food Intake Surveys Provides a More Accurate Look at Eating Out Trends” in the June 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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U.S. sugar and sweetener trade with Mexico grew under NAFTA  
Monday, August 22, 2016
Agreement by the United States and Mexico to implement the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with respect to bilateral trade in sugar and sweeteners starting in fiscal year 2008 led to a substantial increase in this trade. During fiscal years 2011-15, U.S. sugar imports from Mexico averaged about 1.5 million metric tons per year—contributing about 12 percent of the U.S. sugar supply—and U.S. exports of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to Mexico averaged about 950,000 metric tons—equal to about 12 percent of U.S. production. Agreements reached in December 2014 to suspend U.S. antidumping and countervailing duty investigations on sugar imports from Mexico imposed new restrictions on the quantity, price, and composition of U.S. imports of Mexican sugar. However, these measures still allow for larger volumes of trade than prevailed before 2008, and before the start of NAFTA’s implementation back in 1994.  This chart is from the ERS report, A New Outlook for the U.S.-Mexico Sugar and Sweetener Market released on August 11, 2016.
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Food insecurity is expected to decline across much of the globe, but remain most pronounced in Sub-Saharan Africa  
Friday, August 19, 2016
The 2016 USDA International Food Security Assessment projects that food insecurity will decline over the next 10 years for the 76 low­ and middle-income countries examined by ERS. The projected improvement, which is based on a new, demand-driven model introduced in this year’s report, is the result of the outlook for declining real food prices and rising incomes across most of the countries that is provided in USDA Agricultural Projections to 2025, released in February 2016. The share of population that is food insecure in the 76 countries is projected to fall from 17 percent in 2016 to 6 percent in 2026. At the regional level, the greatest improvement in food security is projected for Asia, where the food-insecure share of the population falls from 13 to 2 percent. In 16 of the Asia region’s 22 countries, less than 5 percent of the population is projected to be food insecure in 2026. In the Latin America and the Caribbean region, the share of population that is food insecure is projected to fall from 15 percent in 2016 to 6 percent in 2026, with strong gains expected in all countries except Haiti, where improvement is expected to be relatively modest. Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to remain the most food-insecure region in the world but, like the other regions, its food security situation is shown to improve over the decade—although at a slower rate. This chart is from the ERS report, International Food Security Assessment: 2016­-2026, released June 30, 2016.
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Genetically engineered corn and cotton with both herbicide tolerance and insect resistance are now the norm  
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Genetically engineered (GE) seeds are widely used in U.S. field crop production. Herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops were developed to survive the application of certain herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds. Insect-resistant crops contain a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that produces a protein that is toxic to specific insects. Seeds that have both herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant traits are referred to as “stacked.” Recent data show that the adoption of stacked corn varieties has increased from 15 percent of U.S. corn acres in 2006 to 76 percent in 2016. Adoption rates for stacked cotton varieties have also grown, from 39 percent in 2006 to 80 percent in 2016. Generally, many different GE traits—each aimed at a specific herbicide or insect—can be stacked; varieties with three or four GE traits are now common. Research suggests that stacked corn seeds have higher yields than conventional seeds or seeds with only one GE trait. This chart is based on data found in the ERS data product, Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., updated July 2016.
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Potatoes, tomatoes, and sweet corn remain most popular vegetables among U.S. consumers  
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
According to ERS’s food availability data, an average of 385.4 pounds of fresh and processed vegetables per person were available for U.S. consumers to eat in 2014, up from 334.1 pounds in 1974, but down from peak per capita vegetable availability of 424.3 pounds in 1996. Potatoes, tomatoes, and sweet corn were the three most popular vegetables in 1974 and remained the most popular in 2014. While per capita availability (a proxy for consumption) of potatoes and sweet corn has declined over the last four decades, per capita tomato availability grew from 73.2 pounds in 1974 to 87.8 pounds in 2014. Fresh tomato availability increased by 74 percent and canned tomatoes by 10 percent. Onion availability also grew from 12.7 to 19.7 pounds per person over 1974-2014. In 2014, cucumbers and romaine and leaf lettuce at 11.3 and 10.8 pounds per capita, respectively, replaced cabbage and carrots in the top 7 rankings. Head lettuce was the fourth most popular vegetable in 1974, but dropped to fifth in 2014, perhaps related to the growing popularity of romaine and leaf lettuce. The data for this chart come from the Food Availability data series, part of ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, updated August 3, 2016.
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U.S. agricultural exports weaken as dollar strengthens  
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Macroeconomic factors, including the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar, played a key role in the strong growth of U.S. agricultural exports that began in the early 2000s, with exports peaking in U.S. fiscal year (FY) 2014/15 (October/September). While other variables, particularly robust income gains in developing countries, supported market growth, an extended period of dollar depreciation during FY2003-14 increased the competitiveness of U.S. exports. Since FY2014, however, U.S. agricultural exports have declined in real terms as global income growth has slowed and the dollar has strengthened against the currencies of many U.S. agricultural export markets and competitors. A stronger dollar tends to have the greatest impact on U.S. exports of bulk and intermediate goods that are more readily substituted for by exports from other suppliers. Exports of consumer-oriented products that are more differentiated from those of competitors tend to be less affected by a stronger dollar. The real trade-weighted dollar exchange rate is an indicator that accounts for both the change in each country’s exchange rate with the U.S. dollar and its share of U.S. agricultural exports. This is an updated version of a chart found in Global Macroeconomic Developments Drive Downturn in U.S. Agricultural Exports released on July 12, 2016.
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Energy-based expenses vary across farm businesses  
Monday, August 15, 2016
Farms consume energy directly in the form of gasoline, diesel, electricity, and natural gas; and indirectly in energy-intensive inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides. Farm businesses—operations with annual gross cash farm income of over $350,000 or smaller operations where farming is reported as the operator’s primary occupation—vary in mix and intensity of direct and indirect energy use. In 2014, farm businesses concentrating on rice, peanut, wheat, and cotton production spent 43-49 percent of their total cash expenses on direct and indirect energy inputs, more than any other crop and livestock producers.  Fertilizer and pesticides, which are indirect energy uses because they require large amounts of energy to manufacture, account for the greatest share of energy expenses among farm businesses primarily producing crops. For livestock producers, feed is also an important indirect energy expense but, in this analysis, these costs are accounted for in the crop budgets. Fertilizer expenses accounted for 18-22 percent of total cash expenses for farm businesses concentrating in wheat, corn, and other cash-grain production, and 14-17 percent for farm businesses primarily producing other field crops. Cotton and rice production were associated with relatively high shares of direct energy inputs: fuel is used to apply chemicals and electricity powers irrigation equipment. Peanut producers, which use electricity for irrigation and on-farm drying of harvested peanuts, had the highest share of electricity use at 6 percent, followed by farm businesses concentrating on poultry and cotton at 4 percent. This chart is found in the ERS report, Trends in U.S. Agriculture’s Consumption and Production of Energy: Renewable Power, Shale Energy, and Cellulosic Biomass, released on August 11, 2016.
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Changing rural demographics contributed to rising child poverty  
Friday, August 12, 2016
Using data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and a modified official poverty measure, ERS researchers found that rural child poverty rose from 18.7 percent in 2003 to 22.1 percent in 2014. The bulk of this 3.4-percentage point increase—3.2 percentage points—was due to rising income inequality, and not a decline in average incomes. A portion of this increase in inequality, in turn, was driven by changing rural demographics. An increase in the number of children in the average rural family raised poverty by 0.6 percentage points, while declines in the number of adults of prime working age and in the share of household heads that were married raised rural child poverty by 0.9 and 0.7 points, respectively. A slight increase in the average age of the household head helped reduce rural child poverty by 0.5 percentage points. The most beneficial demographic change was a rise in the share of rural household heads with a college degree, which rose from 15.8 to 19.5 percent, helping to reduce child poverty by 0.9 percentage points. The net impact of all these demographic changes was to contribute 0.9 percentage points towards the increase in rural child poverty. This chart is based on a data table found in the May 2016 Amber Waves feature, “Understanding Trends in Rural Child Poverty, 2003-14.”
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Use of crop insurance on U.S. farms continues to grow  
Thursday, August 11, 2016
The share of U.S. cropland insured has increased from less than 30 percent in the early 1990s to nearly 90 percent—299 million acres—in 2015. Passage of the Federal Crop Insurance Reform Act in 1994 led to a spike in the use of crop insurance, reflecting the introduction of low-coverage, fully subsidized Catastrophic Risk Protection Endorsement (CAT) insurance and a temporary requirement that producers obtain insurance coverage to be eligible for other commodity support programs. CAT insurance pays only 55 percent of the price of the commodity on crop losses in excess of 50 percent, and farmers have increasingly opted to purchase insurance with higher coverage levels—known as “buy-up” insurance—for greater protection against risk. Premiums for buy-up policies are also subsidized, and these subsidies were increased in the 1994 Act as well as under the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000. While buy-up policies are not fully subsidized like CAT insurance—in 2015 producers paid, on average, 38 percent of the total cost of buy-up policies—they in some cases can protect more than 75 percent of the value of a crop. By 2015, buy-up policies covered 95 percent of insured cropland. This chart is from the ERS report, How Do Time and Money Affect Agricultural Insurance Uptake? A New Approach to Farm Risk Management Analysis, released on August 1, 2016.
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Redemption rates of WIC benefits at large stores differs across States  
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
In fiscal 2015, 8 million women, infants, and children under age 5 participated in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Participants in 48 States and the District of Columbia received paper vouchers or electronic benefit cards redeemable at authorized retail stores for a set of nutrient-rich supplemental foods. WIC participants in Mississippi pick up their WIC foods at distribution centers, and prior to 2016, Vermont participants had their WIC foods delivered to their homes. Using two USDA administrative data sources, a recent ERS report found that over three-fourths of the WIC benefits redeemed in stores in fiscal 2012 were redeemed at large stores (supercenters, supermarkets, and large grocery stores), ranging from 50 percent in California to 99 percent in Nevada. Large stores accounted for 91 percent or more of WIC retail redemptions in 17 States and 81-90 percent in 13 States.  Other types of stores, such as medium and small grocery stores and WIC-only stores, account for a sizable share of WIC redemptions in some States. This chart appears in “States Differ in the Distribution of WIC Benefits Across Types of Retail Food Stores” in the August 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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U.S. orange juice production continues to decline  
Tuesday, August 09, 2016
U.S. orange juice production peaked during the 1997/98 season at 1,555 million gallons (single-strength equivalent; sse), but has trended lower since then to only 533 million sse gallons expected for the 2015/16 season. The production decline reflects many factors, including the increased prevalence of diseases such as citrus canker and citrus greening, as well as pressures from urbanization in parts of Florida that have reduced the area devoted to citrus production. The United States has been a net importer of orange juice for the entire period of analysis (1986/87 to 2015/16). Exports of orange juice have remained fairly constant over time, whereas imports have increased in recent years, but not by enough to compensate for the decline in U.S. production. As a result, orange juice availability per capita (a proxy for consumption) has trended lower as well, falling from a peak of 6.27 gallons in the 1997/98 season to a forecast low of 2.74 gallons in 2015/16. The decline in orange juice consumption over the past decade is consistent with trends that have also been observed for other types of fruit juice and caloric soft drinks in the United States. This chart is based on data found in ERS’s June 2016 Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook report.
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Few farms affected by 2014 Farm Act eligibility income cap  
Monday, August 08, 2016
The 2014 Farm Act revised the maximum income limitations (the income cap) that determine eligibility for most commodity and conservation programs and payments by replacing the separate limits on farm and nonfarm income specified in the 2008 Farm Act with a single total adjusted gross income cap of $900,000. Based on data for 2009-14--a period of overall increasing farm sector income--a comparison of the impact of the income caps imposed by the 2008 and 2014 Farm Acts finds that the number of potentially ineligible farms increases over the period under both income caps. The potential number of farms affected by the 2014 income cap is below the number affected by the 2008 income caps, averaging 1,500 farms per year (about 0.1 percent of all farms) for the period 2009-14. This chart is found in the August 2016 Amber Waves feature, “Farm Bill Income Cap for Program Payment Eligibility Affects Few Farms.”
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Meat thermometer usage higher in households with children  
Friday, August 05, 2016
The 2014 ERS Eating & Health Module of the American Time Use Survey features new questions about food safety practices when preparing meals. This is the first nationally-representative, large scale Federal survey to ask Americans about their use of meat thermometers when preparing meat, poultry, or seafood. Survey respondents who said that they are the usual meal preparers or those who split the task with other household members were asked whether they had prepared any meals with meat, poultry, or seafood in the last week. Eighty-nine percent of the usual/split meal preparers prepared some form of meat. Of those, 12.9 percent used a meat thermometer in preparing meals. Meal preparers in households with children had a higher rate of meat thermometer usage (15.2 percent) than in households without children (11.7 percent). The shares of men and women meal preparers who used a meat thermometer—14.2 and 12.2 percent, respectively—were not statistically different from each other. The data for this chart are from the ERS report, Americans’ Eating Patterns and Time Spent on Food: The 2014 Eating & Health Module Data, released on July 28, 2016.
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Farm households vary in their reliance on income from farming  
Thursday, August 04, 2016
The roughly 2.05 million U.S. family farms vary widely in size and by the share of household income from farming. Farm income contributes little to the annual income of farm households operating residence farms--those with annual gross cash farm income (GCFI) less than $350,000 and where the principal operator is either retired or has a primary occupation other than farming.  In contrast, farm income is a secondary source of income for households with intermediate farms—those with annual GCFI less than $350,000 and a principal operator whose primary occupation is farming. For commercial farms with annual GCFI greater than $350,000, farm income is a primary source of income. In 2014, 40 percent of residence farms had positive income from farming activities, which contributed only 7 percent to total household income for the typical (or median) household reporting positive farm income. For households of intermediate farms, 56 percent had positive farm income, which comprised 27 percent of their total household income. Most commercial farms--85 percent--had positive farm income, and farm income typically accounted for 77 percent of total income for these households. Annual income from farming is volatile--15 percent of households of commercial farms experienced a loss from their farming operation in 2014. This chart is found in the ERS topic page on Farm Household Well-being.
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Growth in U.S. fresh apple exports reflects changes in supply and demand  
Wednesday, August 03, 2016
Most apples produced in the United States are consumed in the domestic market, but exports have been growing steadily over the past few decades. Export volume rose from an average of 607 million pounds in the 1980s to a record 2.3 billion pounds in the 2014/15 marketing year (August-July), and the export share of production climbed from 14 percent to more than 28 percent over the same period. The growth in exports reflects changes in both supply and demand. Domestic demand for apples faces growing competition from counter-seasonal imports of fruits such as grapes, berries, and stone fruits, which are increasingly available in the winter months when fresh apples were once one of the few types of fruit readily available to most consumers. On the supply side, production continues to grow faster than domestic demand, and producers have focused on many new varieties such as Fuji and Gala that are popular in key export markets. Today, Mexico, Canada, and India account for more than half of U.S. fresh-apple exports, with Mexico alone receiving more than 25 percent of the total U.S. export volume. This chart is from the July 2016 Amber Waves article, “A Bigger Piece of the Pie: Exports Rising in Share of U.S. Apple Production.”
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Prices of basic food ingredients outpaced prices of more convenient foods but with little impact on basic ingredient spending    
Tuesday, August 02, 2016
Beginning in 2004, prices of basic food ingredients purchased in grocery stores grew faster than prices of ready-to-eat meals and snacks purchased in grocery stores. Basic ingredients are raw or minimally processed foods, such as milk, dried beans, and fresh meat, used in producing a meal or snack. Ready-to-eat meals and snacks, such as refrigerated entrees and side dishes, yogurt, and candy, require no preparation beyond opening a container. A recent ERS analysis found that between 1999 and 2010, spending by a typical American household on basic ingredients was not as responsive to these price changes as spending on ready-to-eat meals and snacks. In the first quarter of 1999, 5.2 percent of the average food budget was spent on basic ingredients and 18.0 percent on ready-to-eat meals and snacks. By the fourth quarter of 2007, the share of total food expenditures spent on basic ingredients remained fairly constant but increased during the 2007-09 recession. The share of total food expenditures spent on ready-to-eat meals and snacks, on the other hand, steadily declined to 17.1 percent before rising back to 1999 levels during and following the 2007-09 recession. This chart appears in the ERS report, U.S. Households’ Demand for Convenience Foods, July 29, 2016.
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Food acquisition locations differ by household income and SNAP participation  
Monday, August 01, 2016
Understanding where U.S. households acquire food, what they acquire, and what they pay is essential to identifying which food and nutrition policies might improve diet quality. USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) provides a complete picture of these key aspects during a 7-day period in 2012 by including both food at home and food away from home acquisitions. Higher-income households are more likely to visit large grocery stores (88 versus 83 percent) and small or specialty food stores (20 versus 14-15 percent) than households that participate in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and lower-income non-SNAP households. SNAP households are more likely to report an acquisition in the ‘all other stores’ category compared with both non-SNAP groups (51 versus 39-41 percent), which includes convenience stores, gas stations, and pharmacies. Considering food away from home, SNAP households are least likely to visit restaurants/other eating places when compared to lower-income non-SNAP and higher-income households. In addition, a larger share of SNAP households obtain food from schools (20 percent) than lower-income non-SNAP households (12 percent) and higher-income households (14 percent). Finally, higher-income households are twice as likely to get food from work than the other two groups, which is not surprising given their greater employment rates. The data for this chart can be found in the ERS report, Where Households Get Food in a Typical Week: Findings from USDA’s FoodAPS, released on July 27, 2016.
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Farm sector real estate debt trends vary by lender  
Friday, July 29, 2016
Since the late 1970s, the Farm Credit System (FCS) has been the largest U.S. lender to the farm sector for loans secured by real estate. The trend in outstanding real estate debt held by FCS closely tracks the overall sector real estate debt trend. Debt held by FCS peaked in the early 1980s and then declined for the next decade before increasing to an inflation-adjusted high of $81.7 billion in 2014. Prior to the 1990s, commercial banks held substantially less debt than the FCS. However, farm sector real estate debt held by commercial banks has increased sharply since the 1990s, leading commercial banks to become the second most prominent farm real estate lender. Farmer Mac, though small relative to FCS and commercial banks, has also shown growth in real estate debt outstanding during the period. While the real estate debt outstanding at FCS, commercial banks, and Farmer Mac has grown sharply since the 1990s, the trend has held relatively flat or declined modestly for the other lenders in that period. This chart is found in the July 2016 Amber Waves article, “Trends in Farm Sector Debt Vary by Type of Debt and Lender.”
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U.S. corn production and use expected to reach a new record in 2016  
Thursday, July 28, 2016
U.S. corn area in 2016/17 is estimated at 94.1 million acres, of which 86.6 million is expected to be harvested for grain, up 5.9 million from last year. With a national average yield forecast of 168 bushels, corn production this year would reach 14.5 billion bushels, 939 million bushels above last year’s harvest and 324 million more than was harvested from the record-large 2014/15 crop. The larger supply is expected to have a dampening effect on prices, making U.S. corn more competitive in the global market and boosting exports to 2.1 billion bushels in 2016/17, up from 1.9 million from the 2015/16 crop and the highest since 2007/08 when they reached 2.4 billion. Use for ethanol as well as other food, seed and industrial uses is expected to increase only modestly (less than 1 percent) to 6.7 million bushels, reflecting the maturity of those markets. Feed and residual use (a category that mainly includes livestock feed as well as other uses unaccounted for) is expected to consume 5.5 billion bushels, up 300 million from the 2015/16 crop. With projected supply expected to exceed total use of the 2016/17 crop, ending stocks are forecast to grow to 2.1 billion bushels, up from the 1.7 billion bushels expected to be on hand at the end of the 2015/16 crop year. This chart is from the ERS report Feed Outlook, July 2016.
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Declining potato consumption driving Americans’ falling vegetable consumption  
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Americans’ consumption of vegetables has not increased, despite advice to the contrary from the health and nutrition community. A recent linking of ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data with intake surveys reveals that total vegetable consumption fell across four U.S. age and gender groups between 1994-98 and 2007-08, though the decline for women was small. Much of the vegetable decline was driven by reduced consumption of potatoes. Boys had the largest drop; their potato consumption fell from 63.7 pounds (fresh-weight equivalent) per person per year in 1994-98 to 45.2 pounds in 2007-08. Intake of tomatoes—the second most consumed vegetable—held fairly steady for all age groups. When consumption of potatoes and tomatoes is subtracted from the mix, consumption of other vegetables by girls, boys, and men fell, too, but not as sharply as that of potatoes. For women, annual consumption of nonpotato and nontomato vegetables increased by 2.2 pounds per person. This chart appears in “A Closer Look at Declining Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Using Linked Data Sources” in the July 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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U.S. cotton production and share of global supply are expected to be up in 2016  
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
The 2016 U.S. cotton crop is expected to reach 15.8 million bales (1 bale = 480 pounds), 23 percent larger than the 2015 crop, reflecting a 17-percent increase in acreage, lower abandonment and higher yields compared to last year. Globally, cotton production is projected to reach 102.5 million bales in 2016, up 5 percent from last year. Global cotton production is concentrated among a small number of countries, with India and China accounting for nearly half of world production and the top five producers expected to supply 77 percent of the world’s cotton this year. Production in most countries is expected to increase at least modestly this year, with the exception of China, where production is expected to fall 4.5 percent to 21.4 million bales as acreage there falls to historically low levels. Given the large increase in U.S. production, the U.S. share of global supply is expected to increase from 13.2 percent in 2015 to 15.4 percent in 2016, compared to a 27-percent share supplied by India and 21 percent by China. This chart is from the ERS report Cotton and Wool Outlook report, July 2016.
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Genetically engineered varieties of corn, cotton, and soybeans have plateaued at more than 90 percent of U.S. acreage planted with those crops  
Monday, July 25, 2016
U.S. soybeans, cotton and corn farmers have nearly universally adopted genetically engineered (GE) seeds in recent years, despite their typically higher prices. Herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops, developed to survive the application of specific herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds, provide farmers with a broader variety of options for weed control. Insect-resistant crops (Bt) contain a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that produces a protein toxic to specific insects, protecting the plant over its entire life. “Stacked” seed varieties carry both HT and Bt traits, and now account for a large majority of GE corn and cotton seeds. In 2016, adoption of GE varieties, including those with herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, or stacked traits, accounted for 94 percent of soybean acreage (soybeans have only HT varieties), 93 percent of cotton acreage, and 92 percent of corn acreage planted in the United States. This chart is found in the ERS data product, Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., updated July 2016.
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U.S. production of fresh-market sweet cherries expected to be down this year  
Friday, July 22, 2016
Warm weather prompted an early start to the harvest season for sweet cherries in the northwestern United States. Despite the early harvest, U.S. production is expected to be down 6 percent from last year and 11 percent below the 5-average, mostly reflecting smaller crops in the two largest producing states, Washington and California. In California, heavy rains in May reduced the quality and size of the crop, while in Washington a shortened bloom period limited pollination and untimely rains prior to harvest undermined the size of the crop. About 90 percent of sweet cherry production is sold in the fresh market, and most of the crop is consumed domestically. Between one-quarter and one-third of U.S. production is exported, and major markets include Canada, South Korea and Japan. The United States imports sweet cherries during the off-season (when domestic supplies are unavailable), but imports tend to account for less than 10 percent of domestic availability. Chile is the primary source for sweet cherry imports, with smaller volumes also supplied by Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.  This chart is from the Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook report, released June 30, 2016.
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Organic eggs displayed largest swings in retail price premiums of 17 organic foods  
Thursday, July 21, 2016
A recent ERS study estimated price premiums in grocery stores for 17 commonly purchased organic foods relative to their nonorganic counterparts from 2004 to 2010. Price premiums for most of the organic products studied did not steadily increase or decrease during the 7-year period, but fluctuated. Premiums for organic bread ranged from 25 to 45 percent above the nonorganic price, and premiums for organic milk ranged from 50 to 80 percent. The wide fluctuations in the price premium for organic eggs—66 to 173 percent—may be a result of the large retail price swings common for nonorganic eggs. Organic carrots, on the other hand, had a narrower range of premiums. Organic carrots were priced between 20 and 27 percent higher than nonorganic carrots during 2004 to 2010. This chart appears in “Investigating Retail Price Premiums for Organic Foods” in the May 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Recent changes in farm real estate values exhibit wide variation across States  
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Between 2010 and 2015, change in inflation-adjusted average farm real estate values (the value of farmland and buildings) varied widely across the 48 contiguous States. The value of farm real estate is expected to change over time to reflect changes in expectations for income streams from future use—including both agriculture and nonagricultural uses. Over 2010-15, the largest State percentage increases in farm real estate values occurred in the Northern Plains and Midwest regions, presumably based on expectations of high farm-based earnings. In contrast, while farmland values in the Northeast region are typically among the highest in the country, this is largely due to urban proximity rather than agricultural returns, and declines in farm real estate values generally reflect regional impacts from the downturn in the residential housing market. This map is based on the data visualization, Charts and Maps of U.S. Farm Balance Sheet Data, in the Farm Income and Wealth Statistics data product, February 2016.
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August to January is becoming the most active period for Brazil’s corn exports  
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Corn is Brazil’s second largest crop (after soybeans), accounting for 20 percent of planted area, and Brazil is the world’s second largest corn exporter, behind the United States. Due to a favorable climate and long growing season, double-cropping is possible in much of the country, and the majority of corn in Brazil is harvested as a second crop planted after soybeans. Brazil tends to use most of its first-crop corn (harvested primarily during February-April) domestically because it is grown near the poultry and pork enterprises in the South, and the transportation system is focused on moving soybeans into global markets. But second-crop corn is harvested during June-August just as Brazil’s peak soybean export period ends, freeing up port capacity and transportation resources to move corn into export markets. Second-crop corn production in Brazil has expanded rapidly over the past 5 years, and over the same period the seasonal pattern of Brazil’s corn exports has shifted such that a much larger portion now enters export markets from August to January, months when harvesting begins and supplies peak in the United States. This chart is from the ERS report, Brazil’s Corn Industry and the Effect on the Seasonal Pattern of U.S. Corn Exports, released June 15, 2016.
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After surpassing butter in the 1950s, Americans’ per capita consumption of margarine now below that of butter  
Monday, July 18, 2016
For the first half of the 20th century, supplies of butter available for U.S. consumers to eat (a proxy for consumption) averaged 16 pounds per person per year, compared with 2.8 pounds of margarine. Shortages and rationing of butter during World War II led consumers and food processors to substitute margarine for butter. After the war, many earlier public policies and restrictions on margarine (including restrictions on coloring margarine yellow) were relaxed, and some consumers had become more accustomed to the taste of margarine. Expanding soybean oil supplies contributed to margarine’s lower price relative to butter. Between 1942 and 1972, butter availability fell from 16.4 to 5.0 pounds per person per year, while annual per person availability of margarine increased from 2.9 to 11.1 pounds. In the second half of the 1970s, margarine availability began trending downward, more steeply starting in 1994. By 2005, margarine availability had fallen below butter availability, despite butter’s higher price. In 2013, per capita availability of butter was 5.5 pounds. Butter may owe part of its recent increase in popularity to concerns about trans fats in margarine and suggestions that saturated fat is not as unhealthy as once thought. This chart appears in “Butter and Margarine Availability Over the Last Century” in the July 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Consumer demand drives growth in the organic food sector  
Friday, July 15, 2016
U.S. organic food sales were an estimated $37 billion in 2015, according to the latest data from Nutrition Business Journal. Organic food products are still gaining ground in conventional supermarkets as well as natural foods markets, and organic sales accounted for about 5 percent of total U.S. food sales in 2015, according to industry estimates. Although the annual growth rate for organic food sales fell from the double-digit range in 2009-10 as the U.S. economy slowed, growth rates since 2011 have rebounded to 10-12 percent, and are more than double the annual growth rate forecast for all food sales. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the top selling organic category, followed by dairy products. Organic farmers often earn substantial price premiums for their products. 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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Emerging markets account for most of the growth in U.S. agricultural exports  
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Growth in demand for food, and by extension for agricultural imports, is particularly sensitive to growth in per capita incomes in developing countries, where relatively large shares of rising incomes are typically spent on increasing both the amount and diversity of foods consumed. In contrast, consumers in more developed countries, where per capita incomes and food intake are already relatively high, are less likely to spend as much of new income on increasing the amount of food they eat. Emerging markets averaged higher rates of real per capita gross domestic product growth and accounted for all of the volume growth in U.S. exports of bulk and intermediate agricultural prod­ucts and most of the growth in U.S. exports of consumer-oriented products during 2000-15. The volume of U.S. exports of bulk and intermediate agricultural goods to developed countries actually declined during the period, and U.S. exports of consumer-oriented goods to developed markets grew only about a third as fast as to emerging markets.  This chart is from the ERS report, Global Macroeconomic Developments Drive Downturn in U.S. Agricultural Exports, released July 12.
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Food insecurity in U.S. Hispanic households tracks closely with the U.S. unemployment rate  
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Between 2000 and 2014, food insecurity for U.S. Hispanic households followed U.S. labor market conditions—as measured by the unemployment rate—and was more responsive to employment changes than the Nation as a whole. Food-insecure households have difficulty consistently obtaining adequate food for all household members because of limited economic resources for food. The prevalence of food insecurity among U.S. Hispanic households dropped more sharply than the national prevalence rate in 2005, when unemployment declined after the 2001 recession, and increased more sharply than the national prevalence rate with the onset of the 2007-09 recession. In 2008, food insecurity rose from 20.1 percent to 26.9 percent for Hispanic households and from 11.1 to 14.6 percent for all U.S. households. Similarly, as the economy improved, food insecurity in Hispanic households dropped more quickly than in all U.S. households. Food insecurity declined among all U.S. households from 14.9 percent in 2011 to 14.0 percent in 2014, but Hispanic households had a larger decline—from 26.2 percent to 22.4 percent over the three years. This chart appears in “Food Insecurity and Hispanic Diversity” in the July 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Distribution of farm program payments varies by farm type  
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Farmers can receive government farm program payments from three broad categories of agricultural programs: commodity-related programs, working-land conservation programs, and land-retirement conservation programs. The distribution of payments in each category varies by farm type. In 2014, nearly 70 percent of commodity-related program payments went to moderate-sales, midsize, and large family farms, roughly proportional to their 80-percent share of acres in program-eligible crops. Midsize and large family farms together received about 60 percent of working-land payments that help farmers adopt conservation practices on agricultural land in production. Land-retirement programs pay farmers to remove environmentally sensitive land from production. Retirement, off-farm occupation, and low-sales farms received about three-fourths of these payments. Retired farmers and older farmers on low-sales farms may be more likely to take land out of production as they scale back their operations. Although government farm program payments can be important to the farms receiving them, 75 percent of farms in 2014 received no government payments. (These data summarize payments made in 2014. The Farm Act that was passed in 2014 introduced changes to commodity programs as part of a shift to greater reliance on crop insurance; most of those changes will be reflected in the source data beginning in 2015. Nevertheless, who receives particular government payments will continue to reflect farm and operator characteristics.) This chart is found in the ERS report America’s Diverse Family Farms: 2015 Edition.  
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The share of world population that is food insecure is projected to decline  
Monday, July 11, 2016
The latest International Food Security Assessment suggests food security will improve over the next 10 years for the 76 low- and middle-income countries examined by ERS.  The improvement is driven by expectations of falling food prices and rising incomes across most of these countries. The share of the total population within these 76 countries that is food insecure is projected to fall from 17 percent in 2016 to 6 percent in 2026. The report estimates per capita food consumption and evaluates that against a nutritional target of 2,100 calories per person per day to determine whether population groups should be considered food secure. At the regional level, the greatest improvement in food security between 2016 and 2026 is projected for Asia, where the share of population that is food insecure falls from 13.2 to 2.4 percent. The share of population that is food insecure in the Latin America and the Caribbean region is projected to fall from 14.6 percent in 2016 to 6.4 percent in 2026. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most food-insecure region in the world, and like the other regions, its food-security situation is projected to improve over the decade—but at a slower rate. The share of the region’s population that is food insecure is projected to fall from 29 to 15 percent. This chart is from the ERS report, International Food Security Assessment: 2016-2026, released June 30.
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Adulteration violations in imported foods increased the most for spices, flavors, salts, and seafood  
Friday, July 08, 2016
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the safety of most food sold in the United States. Part of this oversight includes inspecting imported foods at the border or port of entry for evidence of adulteration or misbranding. FDA uses risk-based criteria to determine which shipments are inspected, rather than a random sample. A recent ERS study examined patterns in FDA import refusals over 2005-2013 and compared results with an earlier study of data from 1998-2004. Compared with the earlier period, spices, flavors, and salts, as well as fishery and seafood products, had the largest increases in the number of violations per year for adulteration—problems relating to safety issues, packaging integrity, or sanitation. In fishery and seafood products, the most common adulteration violations were for filth (visually apparent non-food material), the presence of Salmonella bacteria, and veterinary drug residues. In spices, flavors, and salts, the most common violation was for Salmonella. This chart is from “Patterns in FDA Imported Food Refusals Highlight Most Frequently Detected Problems” in ERS’s Amber Waves magazine, March 2016.
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Sugarcane production in Brazil has expanded, and about half is used for ethanol  
Thursday, July 07, 2016
The Government of Brazil has supported the production of ethanol as an automotive fuel for many years, beginning in 1975 with the Proálcool program, to encourage production of ethanol from sugarcane and including many programs that remain in effect today—including mandatory ethanol-blending requirements in gasoline and tax exemptions for ethanol-powered cars. Sugarcane is nearly the exclusive ethanol feedstock in Brazil, and Brazil is the world’s largest sugarcane producer, accounting for 39 percent of world production. Until the mid-1990s, the share of sugar production turned into ethanol was set by government policy, but since then market forces have determined the share that is converted to ethanol. In particular, the relationship among the prices of sugar, gasoline, and ethanol, as well as storage capacity at sugar mills, all play a role. Production of both sugar and ethanol in Brazil has expanded rapidly since the mid-1990s. Sugarcane production reached 640 million tons in 2014, up 188 percent since 1991, while over the same time, the share used for ethanol production declined from 72 percent in 1991 to a low of just over 49 percent in 2003 and a 2014 level of 55 percent. This chart is from the ERS report, Brazil’s Agricultural Land Use and Trade: Effects of Changes in Oil Prices and Ethanol Demand, released June 29, 2016.
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Dairy farmers shifted to catastrophic coverage under the MPP-Dairy Program in 2016  
Wednesday, July 06, 2016
The Margin Protection Program-Dairy (MPP-Dairy) is a risk management program introduced in the 2014 Farm Act. MPP-Dairy is designed to protect agricultural producers against adverse movements in the difference between milk and feed prices (the margin). Enrollees receive catastrophic coverage, for an annual $100 enrollment fee, that provides payments when a national-average margin falls below $4 (the average monthly margin was $8.30 in 2004-13). Farmers can purchase additional “buy-up” coverage, for margin thresholds ranging from $4 to $8 in 50-cent increments. Almost 25,000 farms—55 percent of licensed U.S. dairy operations, accounting for 80 percent of 2014 U.S. milk production—enrolled in the program for 2015 coverage. Forty-four percent of enrollees—with more than three-quarters of production covered by MPP—chose catastrophic coverage. Farms may change coverage annually, and many did so in 2016, as the shares of farms and production under catastrophic coverage rose, moving away from all levels of buy-up coverage. This chart is based on data found in the ERS report, Changing Structure, Financial Risks, and Government Policy for the U.S. Dairy Industry, March 2016.
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The 30-year upward trend in eating out briefly reversed in 2007-10  
Tuesday, July 05, 2016
Over the past three decades, food prepared away from home—whether eaten at restaurants, picked up or delivered to eat at home, or served in school cafeterias—has become a regular part of more and more Americans’ diets. Between 1977-78 and 2005-06, the share of calories obtained away from home for the average American age 2 and older rose from 18 to 34 percent. Increased consumption of fast-food fare drove this trend. The share of calories obtained from fast food increased from 6 percent in 1977-78 to 16 percent in 2005-06. In 2007-08, the share of calories obtained away from home dropped to 32 percent and then fell again in 2009-10 to 29 percent. This period roughly corresponds to the 2007-09 recession in America—the most severe recession since the 1930s. The drop in calories eaten away from home shows that Americans economized during this time by eating out less, not just shifting to lower cost options. By 2011-12, food away from home’s share of total calories grew to 34 percent, and the fast-food share rebounded to 16 percent. This chart appears in “Linking Federal Food Intake Surveys Provides a More Accurate Look at Eating Out Trends” in the June 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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U.S. rice ending stocks could rise to the highest level in three decades  
Friday, July 01, 2016
U.S. ending stocks of rice for the 2016/17 (August-July) marketing year are projected at 50.9 million hundredweight (cwt), up 19 percent from a year earlier and the highest since 1986/87. The substantial buildup in stocks is the result of a large increase in 2016/17 production that exceeds the gains expected in domestic use and exports. U.S. rice production for the 2016/17 marketing year is expected to reach 231.0 million cwt, the highest since 2010/11 and third largest on record. The bumper crop—up 20 percent from a year earlier—is primarily due to a large increase in harvested area as well as a slightly higher expected yield. At 3.06 million acres, 2016/17 plantings are up 17 percent from a year earlier and the highest since 2010/11. The substantial area increase is largely due to a return of several hundred thousand acres in the South that were not planted last year due to adverse weather, a lack of economically viable alternatives at planting time in the southern States, and an end to water restrictions in the Texas Rice Belt. The rising level of rice stocks in the United States is in contrast to the tightening stock levels currently faced by several  of the world’s  largest exporters—primarily India, Thailand, and Pakistan. Global ending stocks, excluding China, are expected to be down 13 percent from a year earlier, the fourth consecutive year of decline and the lowest since 2004/05. This chart is from the Rice Outlook June 2016 report.
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Lower ground beef prices reduce cost of home-grilled cheeseburgers by just over 6 percent from a year ago   
Thursday, June 30, 2016
If cheeseburgers are on the menu for your July 4 barbecue, they will cost you less this year than last year. Thanks to lower prices for ground beef, bread, and tomatoes, the cost of a home-prepared cheeseburger was 6.3 percent lower in May 2016 compared with May 2015. In May 2016 (latest available prices), the ingredients for a quarter-pound cheeseburger totaled $1.72 per burger, with ground beef making up the largest cost at $0.93 and cheddar cheese accounting for $0.34. This same cheeseburger would have cost $1.83 to prepare in May 2015. Ground beef prices decreased 10.1 percent between May 2015 and May 2016, translating to a $0.10 per quarter-pound savings. Bread and tomato prices also decreased, bread prices fell 5.5 percent and tomato prices 2.6 percent. Cheddar cheese prices increased 1 percent from last May. Lettuce prices, on the other hand, were up 3.2 percent, but due the small piece of lettuce topping the cheeseburger, this translated into an increase of less than a cent per burger. More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated June 24, 2016.
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Nonmetro population change varies across the United States  
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Population loss in nonmetro counties reached nearly 150,000 between July 2010 and July 2015, but this overall net loss of just -0.3 percent masks significant regional and local demographic diversity. First, the number of individual nonmetro counties losing population in a 5-year period reached a 50-year high of 1,320, with a net population loss of nearly 650,000. Since the Great Recession (which ended in mid-2009), new areas of population loss have emerged throughout the eastern United States, especially in manufacturing-dependent regions. Second, the 501 nonmetro counties with moderate population growth (less than 4 percent during 2010-15) together added just over 200,000 people. Many of these moderate-growth counties are located in rural parts of the Mountain West, southern Appalachia, and other scenic areas where population growth slowed considerably for the first time in decades. Third, most nonmetro population growth was concentrated in just 154 counties that grew by 4 percent or more, adding close to 300,000 people. Workers attracted to the oil and gas boom caused rapid growth in the northern Great Plains, western and southern Texas, and southeastern New Mexico. However, recent production cutbacks in these regions slowed population growth in mining-dependent counties in the past year (2014-15). At the same time, modest population recovery can be seen in nonmetro counties adjacent to metropolitan areas (in the path of renewed suburbanization) and in scenic counties with recreation-based economies. This map is based on the ERS topic page on rural Population and Migration and the June 2016 Amber Waves finding, "Five Years of Population Loss in Rural and Small-Town America May Be Ending.
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Percent of residents receiving SNAP benefits in 2015 varied across States, reflecting differences in need and program policies  
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) served an average of 45.8 million people per month in fiscal 2015. The percent of Americans participating in the program declined from 15.0 percent in 2013 to 14.2 percent in 2015, marking the second consecutive year of a decline in the percent of the population receiving SNAP. Between 2014 and 2015, 39 States and the District of Columbia saw a decrease in the percent of residents receiving SNAP benefits, while 11 States experienced no change or small increases. The percent of State populations receiving SNAP benefits ranged from a low of 5.6 in Wyoming to a high of 21.7 in New Mexico, reflecting differences in need and in program policies. Southeastern States have a particularly high share of residents receiving SNAP benefits, with participation rates of 16.4 to 21.3 percent. Maine had the largest decline from 2014 to 2015, with the percent of residents receiving SNAP decreasing from 17.3 to 15.2 percent. This chart appears in the ERS data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated June 3, 2016.
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India emerges as major beef exporter  
Monday, June 27, 2016
Since the late 2000s, India’s exports of beef—specifically water buffalo meat, also known as carabeef—have expanded rapidly, with India moving just ahead of Brazil to become the world’s largest exporter in 2014. India’s beef exports during the period have grown at an annual rate of about 12 percent, rising from an average volume of 0.31 million metric tons during 1999-2001 to an estimated 1.95 million during 2013-15. India’s robust export growth contributed to the expansion of world beef trade during this period and also increased the country’s share of the volume of shipments by major world beef exporters from just 5 percent during 1999-2001 to about 20 percent during 2013-15. The U.S. market share fluctuated during this period but declined from an average of 18 percent during 1999-2001 to 12 percent during 2013-15. This chart is from the ERS report, From Where the Buffalo Roam: India’s Beef Exports, released June 22, 2016.
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The cost of producing corn and soybeans varies across the three leading exporters  
Friday, June 24, 2016
The cost of producing agricultural commodities varies across countries and regions due to many factors, including the quality of resources, climatic conditions, and the cost and availability of necessary inputs. Differences in cost of production help to determine a country’s export competitiveness in global markets, with low-cost producers usually capturing a larger share of global exports. Corn and soybeans are among the most important agricultural commodities traded in global markets, and the United States, Brazil and Argentina are the leading exporters, accounting for a combined 88 percent of world soybean exports and 73 percent of world corn exports between 2008 and 2012. Based on data for 2010 and 5-year average yields, the cost of producing soybeans in Argentina average $8.81 per bushel, compared to $7.47 in Brazil and just over $8.00 in the United States. For corn, Brazil had the highest cost of production at $4.74 per bushel, compared to $3.93 for Argentina and $3.80 in the United States. This chart is from the ERS report, Corn and Soybean Production Costs and Export Competitiveness in Argentina, Brazil and the United States, released on June 22, 2016.
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Supermarket shrink varies by type of fresh fruit and vegetable  
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Food loss, or shrink as retailers call it, occurs when grocery retailers remove dented cans, misshaped produce items, overstocked holiday foods, and spoiled foods from their shelves. Estimates of supermarket shrink for fresh produce were developed by comparing data on pounds of shipments received with pounds purchased by consumers for 2,900 U.S. supermarkets in 2011-12. Average supermarket shrink was 12.6 percent for 24 fresh fruits and 11.6 percent for 31 fresh vegetables. For the fresh fruits, loss ranged from 4.1 percent for bananas to 43.1 percent for papayas. Pineapples and apricots had the second- and third-highest shrink rates for fresh fruits. The highest shrink in 2011-12 among the fresh vegetables was for turnip greens, followed by mustard greens, and escarole/endive. Leafy greens are more prone to moisture loss, and hence weight loss, than other types of produce. Uncertain or uneven demand for highly perishable produce items may also contribute to higher loss rates. The statistics in this chart are from the ERS report, Updated Supermarket Shrink Estimates for Fresh Foods and Their Implications for ERS Loss-Adjusted Food Availability Data, released on June 21, 2016.
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Organic producers reported economic losses from unintended presence of genetically engineered crops   
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
U.S. organic farmers, and conventional farmers who produce crops for non-GE (genetically engineered) markets, must meet the tolerance levels for accidental GE presence set by domestic and foreign buyers. If their crops test over the expected tolerance level, farmers may lose their organic price premiums and incur additional transportation and marketing costs to sell the crop in alternative markets. Although data limitations preclude estimates of the impact just on organic farmers who grow the 9 crops with a GE counterpart, the data do reveal that 1 percent of all U.S. certified organic farmers in 20 States reported that they experienced economic losses (amounting to $6.1 million, excluding expenses for preventative measures and testing) due to GE commingling during 2011-14. The share of all organic farmers who suffered economic losses was highest in Illinois, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, where 6-7 percent of organic farmers reported losses. These States have a high percentage of farmers that produce organic corn, soybeans, and other crops with GE counterparts. While California has more organic farms and acreage than any other State, most of California’s organic production is for fruits, vegetables and other specialty crops that lack a GE counterpart. This map is based on data 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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Corn production in Brazil is expanding  
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Since 2000/01, corn production in Brazil has doubled, reaching a record 85 million metric tons in 2014/15, equivalent to 8.4 percent of global corn production. Corn is now Brazil’s second largest crop (after soybeans), accounting for 20 percent of planted area, and Brazil is the world’s second largest corn exporter, behind the United States. Due to a favorable climate and long growing season, double-cropping is possible in much of the country, and the majority of corn in Brazil is harvested as a second crop planted after soybeans. Technological advances in soil management and improvements in hybrid corn varieties have supported this expansion. The second-crop corn harvest largely serves the export market, putting it in direct competition with the timing of the U.S. corn harvest. This chart is from the ERS report, Brazil’s Corn Industry and the Effect on the Seasonal Pattern of U.S. Corn Exports, released on June 15, 2016.
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Most U.S. farm estates exempt from Federal estate tax in 2015  
Monday, June 20, 2016
The Federal estate tax applies to the transfer of property at death. Under present law, the estate of a decedent who, at death, owns assets in excess of the estate-tax exemption amount ($5.43 million in 2015) must file a Federal estate-tax return. However, only those returns that have a taxable estate above the exempt amount (after deductions for expenses, debts, and bequests to a surviving spouse or charity) are subject to tax at a graduated rate, up to a current maximum of 40 percent. Based on simulations using farm-level survey data from USDA’s 2014 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), about 3 percent of farm estates would have been required to file an estate tax return in 2015, while 0.8 percent of all farm estates would have owed any Federal estate tax. This chart is based on the ERS topic page on Federal Estate Taxes.
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Incomes remained lower for the poorest rural families with children in 2014  
Friday, June 17, 2016
By 2014, average income (adjusted for inflation) for all U.S. families with children exceeded prerecession levels, and average income had almost completely recovered for all rural families with children as well. For the bottom 25 percent of rural families (when ranked by income), however, average income remained considerably below its prior peak. In 2003, the average income for families in this lowest income quartile was $17,200 (in 2014 dollars) and it fell by 6.0 percent between 2003 and 2007, despite the fact that the U.S. economy was growing. Not surprisingly, incomes for the bottom quartile fell by another 4.6 percent between 2007 and 2010, due to the Great Recession (December 2007-June 2009). When economic growth resumed, however, it did not immediately translate into growth for these low-income rural families: by 2012, their average income had fallen by another 10.1 percent. Average income for the bottom quartile rebounded somewhat between 2012 and 2014, but remained 13.4 percent below the 2003 level. This chart is based on the Amber Waves feature, “Understanding Trends in Rural Child Poverty, 2003-14.”
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U.S. milk production continues to grow  
Thursday, June 16, 2016
Milk production in the United States continues to grow, with year-over-year output increasing each month over the past few years. U.S. average daily milk production in April was 1.2 percent higher than the same period last year, following year-over-year gains of 1.8 percent in March, 1.0 percent in February and 0.2 percent in January. The increases reflect a combination of herd expansion and increasing production per cow.  Despite relatively low farm milk prices in recent months, low feed prices and favorable weather conditions have contributed to growth in milk production. At the same time, as dairy farms have grown larger, many have developed economies of scale that enable them to maintain profitability and in some cases even expand production in the face of lower margins. This chart is from the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: May 2016.
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U.S. direct government payments to farmers expected to rise in 2016  
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
“Direct” farm program payments are those paid directly from the U.S. Government to farmers and include fixed payments, crop price- and revenue-based payments, and other payments such as conservation payments and disaster relief. Direct farm program payments are forecast to rise by about 31 percent in 2016 to $13.9 billion. The forecast reflects changes made in the 2014 Farm Act that eliminated several programs and added new price- and revenue-based support programs in an environment of declining crop prices. The largest of these (in terms of payouts in 2015) were the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC). Although these programs commenced in 2014, payments corresponding to 2014 crop production (based on average prices received over the 2014-2015 crop marketing year) were made in the latter part of 2015. PLC and ARC together are expected to account for over $9 billion in 2016—about 96 percent of all crop price- and revenue-based payments. The majority of ARC payments were paid to farms with a history of corn production, followed by wheat and soybeans. PLC payments were primarily made to farms with a history of long-grain rice, peanuts, and canola production. This chart is found in the ERS topic page on the 2016 Farm Sector Income Forecast.
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U.S. agricultural exports down, imports up, in 2016  
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
The value of U.S. agricultural exports is forecast at $124.5 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2016 (ending September 30), down $15.2 billion from FY 2015 and the second consecutive decline since a record $152.3 billion in agricultural exports was achieved in FY 2014. The declining export values over the past few years reflect a combination of lower commodity prices, a relatively weak global economy, and a strong U.S. dollar—which makes U.S. products more expensive in foreign currency terms. The value of imports, on the other hand, continues to grow and is forecast to reach a record $114.8 billion this year, up $800 million from FY 2015. With lower exports and higher imports, the FY 2016 agricultural trade balance is forecast to fall to $9.7 billion, down $16.0 billion from last year and the lowest since FY 2006. This chart is from the ERS report Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade: May 2016.
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Six foodborne pathogens rank high on per case costs and/or total economic burden  
Monday, June 13, 2016
Both the total economic burden of a disease and the severity of individual cases are important indicators of how serious the disease is. ERS estimates the aggregate economic burden of 15 major foodborne illnesses at over $15 billion per year. But these 15 illnesses—and the pathogens that cause them—have very different total and per case impacts. For example, Salmonella’s total annual economic burden ($3.7 billion) is over 10 times Vibrio vulnificus’s ($320 million). But the per case burden of Vibrio vulnificus ($3.3 million) is almost 1,000 times that of a Salmonella case ($3,568). High per case burdens are the result of severe health outcomes, such as birth defects, renal failure, and death. Total annual economic burden reflects per case costs and how many people are sickened by the pathogens each year. Toxoplasma gondii ranks second behind Salmonella in terms of total economic burden and has a per case cost of $38,114. Listeria ranks high on both a per case basis ($1.8 million) and a total annual burden basis ($2.8 billion). Like Salmonella, Norovirus and Campylobacter also stand out as having high total impacts, though relatively lower per case costs. The statistics for this table are from ERS’s Cost Estimates of Foodborne Illnesses data product, March 2016.
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Labor productivity is higher on larger U.S. dairy farms than on smaller farms  
Friday, June 10, 2016
Most labor on small U.S. dairy farms is provided by the operator and the opera­tor’s family, whereas large dairy farms, while usually still family-owned and operated, rely extensively on hired labor. Labor productivity—output of milk per hour of labor—is much higher on larger dairy farms, with the largest (farms with milking herds of at least 2,000 cows) realizing 10 hundredweight (cwt) per hour of labor, compared to 2-4 cwt per hour on farms with herds of 50-500 head. Large farms operate differently than small dairy farms, as their size allows them to apply practices and technologies that result in higher milk yields and labor productivity. For example, farms with at least 500 cows are much more likely to milk three times a day, while smaller farms typically milk twice a day. Thrice-daily milking raises per-cow milk yields, allows farms to offer more work and higher pay to their hired labor, and creates more intensive use of milking equipment. Greater labor productivity is one source of the cost advantages accruing to larger dairy operations. This chart is based on data found in the ERS report, Changing Structure, Financial Risks, and Government Policy for the U.S. Dairy Industry, March 2016.
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India is the world’s leading importer of soybean oil  
Thursday, June 09, 2016
India is the world’s largest importer of soybean oil, surpassing China in 2013/14 as China’s expanding crushing industry began to focus on importing raw soybeans for processing into meal and oil. China’s soybean oil imports are projected to grow modestly over the next 10 years to reach 1.4 million tons by 2025/26, while India’s imports could reach 3.9 million tons over the same period. India’s large population and rising incomes, combined with poor soybean yields and limited area for expanding production, increase its reliance on imports to meet domestic vegetable oil demand. Despite its history of high import tariffs on vegetable oils—40 percent for soybean oil and as high as 85 percent for other oils—India has long been a major importer of vegetable oil. In 2008, in response to high food prices, India slashed its soybean oil tariffs, further contributing to the projected rise in imports. Argentina is the world’s largest exporter of soybean oil and the primary supplier to both India and China. The United States is the world’s second largest exporter of soybean oil, accounting for about 10 percent of global soybean oil trade, with most of that oil destined to markets in the Western Hemisphere. This chart is from the May 2016 Amber Waves article, “Major Factors Affecting Global Soybean and Products Trade Projections.”
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U.S. honey consumption per person has risen in recent years  
Wednesday, June 08, 2016
While Americans’ per capita consumption of all caloric sweeteners has been falling for the last decade and a half, per capita honey consumption has been on an upward trend. In 2014, Americans consumed an average of 0.9 pound of honey per person, according to ERS’s Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data, up from 0.5 pound in 1990. Much of the increased honey consumption is imported honey. Honey imports in 2014 totaled 365.3 million pounds, up from an average of 104.4 million pounds per year in the early 1990s. Domestic net production of honey (domestic production minus exports and stocks), once at an average of 167.9 million pounds in the early 1990s, has fallen to an average of 106.7 million pounds in the last 7 years, despite short-term increases in 2010 and 2014. Weakening colony strength from multiple honey bee health challenges and changes in land use patterns are among the factors contributing to declining domestic honey production. The data for this chart come from the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series in ERS's Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System and the Sugar and Sweeteners Yearbook Tables.
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Racial/ethnic diversity in rural America is increasing  
Tuesday, June 07, 2016
Racial and ethnic minorities made up 21 percent of rural residents in 2014. Hispanics (who may be of any race) and Asians are the fastest growing minority groups in the United States as a whole and in rural areas. Over 2010-14, the rural Hispanic population increased 9.2 percent, and their share of the total rural population rose from 7.5 to 8.2 percent. Asians and Pacific Islanders represent a small share of the rural population—about 1 percent—but their population grew by 18 percent between 2010 and 2014, while rural Native American and Black populations grew at more modest rates. This is in contrast to the rural non-Hispanic White population, which declined by 1.7 percent between 2010 and 2014. Overall rural population loss (which was -0.2 percent for the period) would have been much higher if not for the growth in the rural racial and ethnic minority groups. Rural minorities tend to be younger on average and have larger families than non-Hispanic Whites, and this, along with net migration, is reflected in the varying growth rates. This chart updates one found in the ERS publication, An Illustrated Guide to Research Findings from USDA's Economic Research Service.
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More sites offered USDA’s Summer Food Service Program in 2015  
Monday, June 06, 2016
The Summer Food Service Program provides nutritious meals and snacks at no charge to children in low-income areas when their schools are not in session. Summer Food Service Program sites include schools, camps, parks, playgrounds, housing projects, community centers, churches, and other public sites where children gather in the summer. Sites are eligible to offer free USDA-funded meals and snacks if the sites operate in areas where at least half of the children come from families with incomes at or below 185 percent of the Federal poverty level or if more than half of the children the site serves meet this income criterion. The number of sites offering summer meals rose from 45,170 sites in 2014 to 47,585 in 2015. Participation on an average operating day in July dropped slightly from 2.7 million children in 2014 to 2.6 million in 2015. Many low-income children also obtain free meals while school is out through the Seamless Summer Option of the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. This chart is from the Child Nutrition Programs: Summer Food Service Program topic page on the ERS website, updated May 25, 2016.
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U.S. stocks of natural cheese are at the highest levels since 1984  
Friday, June 03, 2016
The volume of natural cheese held in cold storage in the United States has grown to 1.214 billion pounds as of the end of April 2016, the highest level since March 1984. However, unlike 1984, inventories today are almost exclusively privately held and reflect the needs of a growing market instead of the consequence of government policy. In the 1980s, the Milk Price Support Program was very active in purchasing large quantities of cheese to support dairy prices. The U.S. Government owned about 60 percent of cheese stocks, which it often distributed through food donation programs in the United States and abroad. In recent years, government purchases of dairy products fell to zero as market prices exceeded support prices, and the Milk Price Support Program was repealed by the 2014 Farm Act. At the same time, commercial cheese stocks have grown to help meet the growing demand for cheese. Total commercial use of cheese (which does not include government donations) grew from 4.6 billion pounds in 1984 to 11.9 billion pounds in 2015, due to population growth as well as increasing consumption per capita and higher exports. Commercial cheese stocks have been growing particularly fast in recent months, reflecting an increasing milk supply, relatively low export demand, and anticipation of further growth in the domestic market. This chart is based on the May 2016 Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook report and the ERS Dairy Data product.
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Organic retail price premiums vary by food product  
Thursday, June 02, 2016
Organic foods are generally higher priced than their nonorganic counterparts. Price premiums for organic foods reflect both costs to produce and bring organic foods to consumers as well as consumers’ willingness to pay more for organic products. A recent ERS study estimated price premiums in grocery stores for 17 commonly purchased organic foods relative to their nonorganic counterparts from 2004 to 2010.  Eggs and milk had the highest premiums in 2010, at 82 and 72 percent, respectively. Organic eggs and dairy products have high production costs since the chickens and cows must be fed organic feed, have access to the outside, and be free of hormones and antibiotics. Organic fresh fruits and vegetables, generally recognized as the largest part of the organic market, had the widest spread of premiums in 2010—ranging from 7 percent for spinach to 60 percent for salad mix. Price premiums for organic processed foods ranged from 22 percent for granola to 54 percent for canned beans. This chart appears in the ERS report, Changes in Retail Organic Price Premiums from 2004 to 2010, released on May 24, 2016.
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World cotton consumption expected to exceed production for second consecutive year  
Wednesday, June 01, 2016
World cotton consumption is expected to grow modestly during the 2016/17 marketing year (August-July), reaching 110.8 million bales. That is similar to 2014/15 levels after dipping slightly in 2015/16. Modest growth in the global economy and relatively low cotton prices are expected to support mill use in most countries. China, India, and Pakistan are expected to lead world cotton mill use and account for a combined 62 percent of the total, similar to 2015/16. Global cotton production is forecast at 104.4 million bales in 2016/17, a modest increase following the 16-percent reduction in production in 2015/16—the result of inclement weather and pest damage in a number of producing countries. While cotton area is expected to decline, a rebound in yields would support the increase in production. With global cotton consumption forecast to exceed production for a second consecutive season, 2016/17 world ending stocks are projected to decline 6 percent from 2015/16, but at more than 96 million bales, ending stocks remain historically high and will continue to weigh on prices and production. This chart is from the May 2016 Cotton and Wool Outlook report.
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USDA conservation funding shifts from land retirement toward working land  
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
USDA relies mainly on voluntary programs providing financial and technical support to encourage farmers to conserve natural resources and protect the environment. In inflation adjusted terms, USDA conservation program expenditures increased by roughly 70 percent between 1996 and 2012. Much of the increases in real spending over this period occurred in working land programs and agricultural easements. Working land programs provide assistance to farmers who install or maintain conservation practices (such as nutrient management, conservation tillage, and the use of field-edge filter strips) on land in crop production and grazing. Agricultural easements provide long-term protection for agricultural land and wetlands. The Conservation Reserve Program—which pays farmers to remove environmentally sensitive land from production and encourages partial-field practices such as using grass waterways and riparian buffers—is still USDA’s largest conservation program, but has slowly ebbed in prominence. While real spending on USDA conservation programs rose under the 2002 Farm Act (2002-07) and the 2008 Farm Act (2008-13), the 2014 Farm Act reduced mandatory spending, and expenditures over 2014 and 2015 appear to be leveling off. This chart is found in the Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product on the ERS website.
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The number and share of veterans living in rural America is declining  
Friday, May 27, 2016
The number of veterans living in rural areas has been falling at an increasing rate, dropping from about 4.5 million in 2007 to 3.4 million in 2014, despite an influx of more than 100,000 post-9/11 veterans over the same period. This overall decline was largely due to natural decrease in the pre-Vietnam era population. The World War II rural veteran cohort alone declined by more than 400,000, with additional losses among all other service cohorts. Despite these declines, veterans continue to be overrepresented in rural America. In 2014, rural areas accounted for 17.5 percent of the total veteran population but only 14.7 percent of the U.S. civilian adult population. However, the rural share of the veteran population has been declining and is likely to decline further in the near future, as the newest veteran cohorts have overwhelmingly returned to urban areas and the current rural veteran population ages. Find county-level maps and data on the U.S. veteran population in ERS’s Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America.
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Food price inflation varies across U.S. metropolitan areas  
Thursday, May 26, 2016
U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) experience different rates of inflation for food sold in supermarkets, supercenters, convenience stores, and other retailers. For example, from 2006 to 2015, retail food prices rose 34.4 percent in Pittsburgh but only 17.4 percent in Detroit. Several factors account for variations in food price inflation across MSAs. Changes to the costs associated with transporting food products to the grocery store can also vary geographically, and volatile fuel prices can contribute to variation in retail food price inflation across MSAs. Fluctuations in retail overhead costs, such as labor and rent, may also differ from one area to another. Increases in retail overhead costs are often passed onto consumers as higher prices. However, in MSAs with falling consumer incomes, grocers may not be able to pass on price increases to budget-constrained consumers, dampening food price inflation. This chart appears in “Retail Food Price Inflation Varies Geographically” in the May 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Beef prices declining as 2016 grilling season approaches  
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Memorial Day is the traditional start to the summer grilling season, and beef is one of the most popular grilling items. Conditions in the livestock markets have changed considerably over the past year and suggest lower beef prices through the summer months. Historically heavy slaughter weights coupled with larger-than-anticipated cattle slaughter volumes in late April and early May have driven beef supplies higher and pushed wholesale beef prices lower. At the same time, soft demand for ground beef products and the popular beef “middle meat” grilling items—such as ribeye and sirloin steaks—ahead of the grilling season has kept prices under pressure. The Choice cutout value—a common indicator of wholesale prices for beef graded as Choice—for the week ending May 6 was $205.72 per hundredweight/cwt, down nearly $17 from the first week of April and almost $51 lower than the same time last year when supplies were much tighter. These lower wholesale prices should translate to lower foodstore prices, but the degree to which retailers feature beef in June and July will depend on demand as well as the market conditions for pork and chicken. This chart is based on the Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook report, released May 16, 2016.
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Working-age Americans spend more time eating while doing something else than other age groups do  
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Analyzing the time Americans spend in various activities, and, in particular, food-related activities, may provide some insight into why nutrition and health outcomes vary over time and across different segments of the population. According to the ERS-developed Eating and Health Module of the nationally representative American Time Use Survey, on an average day in 2014, Americans age 15 and older spent 64 minutes eating and drinking as a “primary” or main activity. They spent an additional 16 minutes in eating as a secondary activity, that is, while doing something else such as watching television, driving, preparing meals, or working. People age 65 and older spent considerably more time on average in primary eating and drinking—76 minutes—than those in the younger age groups. Those age 65 and older who were employed spent about the same amount of time in primary eating/drinking and in secondary eating as their peers who were not employed, indicating that there may be generational differences in eating patterns not driven by the amount of time available in retirement. Working-age individuals, ages 25-64, spent the most time in secondary eating in 2014. This chart is from ERS’ Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product, updated May 16, 2016.
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Industry specialization varies across rural counties  
Monday, May 23, 2016
The ERS county economic typology codes are a classification system that provide a tool to analyze and characterize the economic dependence of U.S. counties. This typology reveals that rural (nonmetropolitan) counties have diverse industrial specializations. Where farming was once almost synonymous with rural, the predominance of farming as an industry in rural areas of the United States is now largely confined to the Plains States, and only 6 percent of the rural population in 2015 lived in the 391 rural farming-dependent counties. In contrast, although also declining in number, manufacturing predominated in the economies of a similar number of rural counties (351)—concentrated mainly east of the Mississippi but also including a scattering of counties further west—and these account for about 22 percent of the rural population. The 183 rural mining dependent counties accounted for 7 percent of rural population in 2015, and were the only economic type among rural counties to see strong population growth (1.6 percent) in 2010-15. 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.
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Rice accounts for a growing share of the Haitian diet  
Friday, May 20, 2016
Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the world, and rice is a critical component of the Haitian diet. In 1985, the supply of rice per capita in Haiti was estimated at only 13.1 kilograms per year, well below the 31 kilograms for corn and 94 kilograms for starchy roots, historically the largest component of Haiti’s food supply. In 1986, Haiti began to open its market to imported rice, and by 2011 per-capita rice availability grew to 48 kilograms. Rice imports also changed the character of the Haitian diet, with rice now accounting for almost one-quarter of total calorie consumption. Since 1985, per-capita food availability of all foods, in calories, increased by about 11 percent, mirroring the increase in rice and resulting in improved food security. Efforts are underway in Haiti to increase its domestic agricultural output, but even with significant productivity gains, Haiti is likely to continue to rely on imported rice for a large part of its food needs. This chart is from the February 2016 report, Haiti’s U.S. Rice Imports.
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A growing number of school meals are served at no charge to students  
Thursday, May 19, 2016
On a typical school day in fiscal 2015, 30 million children participated in USDA’s National School Lunch Program and 14 million in the School Breakfast Program. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of Federal poverty guidelines are eligible for free meals, and those from families with incomes between 130 and 185 percent of poverty guidelines are eligible for reduced-price meals. Children from families with incomes over 185 percent of poverty guidelines pay full price, although their meals are subsidized to a small extent. Over twice as many meals were served in the National School Lunch Program (5 billion) as in the School Breakfast Program (2.3 billion) in FY 2015. About 80 percent of breakfasts were served free compared with 65 percent of lunches. Another 6 percent of breakfasts and 7 percent of lunches were served at a reduced price. The share of free meals served in both programs has increased since 2005. Increases in the poverty rate for children and the recent Community Eligibility Provision, which allows schools in areas with high poverty rates to offer breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students, may be among the factors that contributed to the increase in children receiving free school meals. The 2015 data for this chart are from the ERS report, The Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2015 Annual Report, March 2016.
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Rising income inequality drove most of the increase in child poverty between 2003 and 2014  
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Between 2003 and 2014, the percent of children living in poverty as measured by ERS researchers increased by 3.4 percentage points in rural areas and 3.0 percentage points in urban areas. Changes in rural and urban average household income between these two dates were small, and had little effect on child poverty rates. Instead, most of the rise in child poverty was the result of an increase in income inequality, meaning that lower income families fared worse than average. In rural areas, 1.2 percentage points of increased child poverty could be attributed to changes in family characteristics and other demographic factors, including a decline in the share of children living in married-couple families, a slight decline in the number of working-age adults per family, and a slight rise in the number of children per family. The remaining increase—accounting for 1.9 percentage points in increased child poverty—reflects rising inequality within demographic categories. For urban children, family characteristics and other demographic factors had little net effect on child poverty. This chart is based on the ERS report, Understanding the Rise in Rural Child Poverty, 2003-2014, released May 16, 2016.
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Among U.S. Hispanic adults, those with Puerto Rican origins have highest food insecurity rates  
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
In 2014, 20.6 percent of U.S. Hispanic adults lived in food-insecure households compared to 11.8 percent of non-Hispanic adults. Food-insecure households have difficulty consistently obtaining adequate food for all household members because of limited economic resources for food. The percent of adults living in households with very low food security—a more severe level of food insecurity—was also higher for Hispanics: 7.0 percent compared to 5.2 percent for all U.S. non-Hispanic adults. Food insecurity rates varied among Hispanics of different origin (the individual’s place of birth or that of their parents or ancestors). Food insecurity in 2011-14 was least prevalent among Hispanic adults identifying as having Cuban origin (12.1 percent) and most prevalent among Hispanic adults identifying as Puerto Rican, followed by those with Mexican origins and other Central and South American origins. In 2011-14, 14.3 percent of Hispanic adults identifying as having Mexican origin reported very low food security, compared to 4.2 percent of Hispanic adults of Cuban descent. This chart appears in the ERS report, Food Security Among Hispanic Adults in the United States 2011-2014, released on May 11, 2016.
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China’s demand for imported soybeans expected to remain strong  
Monday, May 16, 2016
China is the world’s largest importer of soybeans. The country’s dominance as an importer reflects government policies that favor imports of soybeans over feed grains, coupled with dietary shifts toward more animal proteins, which creates a strong demand for soybean meal used for livestock feed rations. In 1995, China adopted a policy of 95 percent self-sufficiency for grains, and from 2008 to 2012 the country increased price supports for wheat, rice, and corn at higher rates than those for soybeans, making soybean production less attractive to farmers and resulting in an 18-percent decline in domestic production while soybean imports jumped 50 percent. China’s border policies also favor soybean imports. Import tariffs for soybeans are lower than those for soybean meal or oil, resulting in China’s oilseed-crushing industry becoming the largest in the world, and supplied mainly with imported soybeans. With China’s policies continuing to favor grain production over soybeans and its feed and livestock industries expected to continue growing, the country’s demand for imported soybeans is projected to remain strong over the next decade, increasing from 83 million tons in 2016/17 to 109.5 million tons in 2025/26. This chart is from the May 2016 Amber Waves article, “Major Factors Affecting Global Soybean and Products Trade Projections.”
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Soybeans dominate expansion of cropland in Argentina  
Friday, May 13, 2016
Land planted to soybeans in Argentina grew from fewer than 5 million hectares in 1992/93 (April-March) to 20 million hectares in 2015/16, while wheat and corn area has seen little or no growth over this period (1 hectare = 2.47 acres). Soybean meal is a major component of livestock feed, and growing demand for meat and livestock products worldwide has supported increased soybean production and trade. In Argentina, tax policies have played a role in soybean production as well. In 2002, the country imposed taxes on its agricultural exports as a way to generate government revenue. Argentina applies lower export taxes on soybean meal and oil than it does on raw soybeans, which stimulated the construction of large oilseed crushing facilities and, consequently, led to more soybean meal and oil exports. In 2008, the Government of Argentina increased export taxes and imposed a permitting system that further restricted exports of products such as corn, wheat, and beef. Soybean products face fewer obstacles in export markets and abundant opportunities to expand planted area through double cropping and adjusting crop-pasture rotations on marginal lands in the northwest part of Argentina. As a result, Argentina’s soybean area has expanded rapidly and is projected to reach over 22 million hectares by 2025/26. This chart is from the May 2016 Amber Waves article, “Major Factors Affecting Global Soybean and Products Trade Projections.
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Americans are consuming less caloric sweeteners, with children leading the way  
Thursday, May 12, 2016

A recent linking of ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data with intake surveys from 1994-2008 reveals that American children are doing a better job of cutting down on sugary beverages and other sweetened foods than adults are. In 1994-98, children ages 2 to 19 consumed 94.0 pounds per person per year of caloric sweeteners compared with 81.4 pounds consumed by adults. Over the next decade, per-capita consumption of caloric sweeteners by children fell to 77.4 pounds per year, while adults’ consumption rose before returning to 1994-98 levels. Caloric sweeteners include cane and beet sugar, high fructose corn sweeteners, glucose, dextrose, honey, and edible syrups—common ingredients in sweetened beverages, baked goods, spaghetti sauces, ketchups, and a host of other processed foods. Over 1994-2008, consumption of sweeteners declined across all income and race/ethnicity groups, with Hispanics and other races/ethnicities consuming less caloric sweeteners than non-Hispanic Whites and non-Hispanic Blacks. The data for this chart and similar information on 62 other food commodities can be found in the ERS report, U.S. Food Commodity Consumption Broken Down by Demographics, 1994-2008, March 2016.
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Last updated: Friday, September 30, 2016

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