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Monday, December 01, 2014
ERS analyses of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey find that Americans age 18 and older who purchased fast food on a given day spent more time working and traveling and less time watching television and sleeping than the average for all adults. Over 2003-11, fast-food purchasers spent 28 more minutes per day working and 23 fewer minutes sleeping than the total adult average. Other research has found that less sleep is associated with poorer food choices. Those who purchased fast food on an average day spent 57 minutes eating and drinking compared with the 68-minute average for all consumers. Fast-food purchasers were also more likely than others to report that they spent no time eating or drinking as the primary (main) activity, as opposed to eating as a secondary activity done while doing something else. Instead, fast-food purchasers were more likely to engage in “secondary eating” while at work or while driving a vehicle. The statistics for this chart are from the ERS report, The Role of Time in Fast-Food Purchasing Behavior in the United States, released on November 20, 2014.
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Friday, November 28, 2014
With colder weather approaching, many cooks turn to traditional fall vegetables for their made-from-scratch dishes. According to ERS’s Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data, Americans consumed 49.7 pounds per person of traditional fall vegetables in their fresh form in 2012. Despite many of these traditional fall vegetables now being grown year-round in parts of the United States and eaten throughout the year, consumption has fallen 13.1 pounds per person since 1970. Much of this decline is due to consumption of fresh potatoes falling from 46.6 pounds per person in 1970 to 26.8 pounds in 2012. Per person consumption of potatoes in all forms (fresh, frozen, canned, dehydrated, etc.) has also fallen—by 10.8 pounds over the last 40 years. However, consumption of most of the other traditional fall vegetables in their fresh form has grown, including fresh onions, which were the second most consumed fresh fall vegetable at 8 pounds per person. Consumption of fresh pumpkins and sweet potatoes combined was 1.5 pounds per person in 2012. The data for this chart come from ERS's Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
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Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Wholesale and retail prices of whole turkeys tend to react differently to the surge in demand that occurs during the Thanksgiving season. Wholesale prices for whole turkeys typically reach their annual highs as demand increases during the Thanksgiving season, and USDA weekly price data indicate that wholesale prices are presently at a yearly high of just under $1.20/lb. Estimates for a 1.2-percent decline in 2014 turkey production and relatively low stocks of whole birds in cold storage again indicate upward pressure on wholesale prices this holiday season. However, wholesale and retail prices of turkey tend to converge during the Thanksgiving season, when retail turkey prices are commonly near annual lows. The percentage markup between wholesale and retail prices tends to shrink to an annual low point during November. The average wholesale-to-retail markup between January 2010 and September 2014 was 60 percent, while the average November markup over the same period was 42 percent. Find additional information and analysis in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: November 2014 and Turkey Sector: Background & Statistics.
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014
U.S. net farm income—a measure of the sector’s profitability—is forecast to be $96.9 billion in 2014, down over 21 percent from 2013’s estimate of $122.8 billion. The 2014 forecast would be the seventh highest value since 1970 after adjusting for inflation. Higher production expenses are the main driver of the 2013-14 change in net farm income, as changes in crop and livestock receipts are offsetting. Crop receipts are expected to decrease by 12.3 percent in 2014, led by declines in corn and soybean receipts, while livestock receipts are forecast to increase by 14 percent, largely due to anticipated record prices for beef cattle and milk. Total production expenses are forecast to increase 5.7 percent in 2014 extending a 4-year upward trend in expenses. Net cash income is forecast at $108.2 billion, down over 19 percent from its 2013 estimate, and is projected to decline less than net farm income primarily because it includes the sale of carryover stocks from 2013. This chart is found in 2014 Farm Sector Income Forecast, updated November 25, 2014.
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Monday, November 24, 2014
While the U.S. economy is now in its 6th year of recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-09, many rural areas have struggled to recover the jobs lost during the downturn. While urban employment now exceeds pre-recession levels, rural employment remains well below its 2007 peak and has continued to fall over the last year in many areas. Notable clusters of employment decline can be found in the Deep South, Appalachia, the Mountain West, and the Pacific Northwest. Employment in rural America as a whole is less than 2 percent above the employment trough reached during the recession, and rose less than 1 percent between mid-2013 and mid-2014. One example of employment growth, however, was seen in the Northern Plains, where new jobs have been generated by rising energy extraction. Rural counties that are adjacent to metro areas have also experienced faster-than-average job growth since 2009, after having suffered larger-than-average job losses during the 2007-09 recession. This map is found in the 2014 edition of Rural American at a Glance, EB-26, November 2014.
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Friday, November 21, 2014
U.S. supplies of processed cranberries will likely remain large despite a small drop in forecast production for 2014, continuing downward pressure on cranberry grower prices. Cranberry production in 2014 is forecast at 8.57 million barrels (100 lbs each), down 4 percent from the record 2013 output, but still the second largest on record. Weather conditions reduced yields in Wisconsin, the largest producing State which accounts for about 60 percent of production, but generally favorable weather benefited the crops in Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington. Following consecutive large harvests during 2011-2013, grower prices dropped 33 percent from $47.9 per barrel in 2012 to $32.3 per barrel 2013. This decline mostly reflected lower prices received for processing-use cranberries, which account for about three-quarters of domestic sales. For 2014, continued weak demand for some processed products and above-average beginning inventories signal continued weak grower prices. Find this chart and additional analysis in Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook: September 2014.
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Thursday, November 20, 2014
Above a temperature threshold, an animal may experience heat stress, which results in changes in its respiration, blood chemistry, hormones, metabolism, and feed intake. Depending on the species, high temperatures can reduce meat and milk production and lower animal reproduction rates. Dairy cattle are particularly sensitive to heat stress; experiments have shown that high temperatures lower milk output and reduce the percentages of fat, solids, lactose, and protein in milk. A 2010 USDA survey of dairy farmers shows how climate influences milk production in practice.  For small, medium and large dairies, milk output per cow was lower in areas with high heat stress compared to areas with low or medium heat stress.  In much of the United States, climate change is likely to result in higher average temperatures, hotter daily maximum temperatures, and more frequent heat waves. Such changes could increase heat stress and lower milk production, unless new technologies are developed and adopted that counteract the effects of a warner climate. This chart is based on data found in the ERS report, Climate Change, Heat Stress, and Dairy Production, ERR-175, September 2014.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2014
The average weight of cattle slaughtered in the United States is increasing in 2014, as rising prices for cattle and beef, coupled with declining feed costs, have induced growers to feed cattle for longer periods. The average dressed weight—the weight of the carcass minus  feet, head, hide, and organs—of U.S. slaughtered cattle has been increasing in recent years, but rose sharply from 799 lbs/head to 822 lbs/head between September 2013 and September 2014. U.S. cattle and beef prices have set a number of successive record highs since mid-2013 because of declining cattle inventories resulting from drought-degraded pasture and forage conditions during 2010-12.  With improved weather, cow-calf operators appear to be rebuilding herds by retaining heifers for breeding, adding upward pressure to cattle prices. Lower feed prices resulting from record U.S. corn and soybean crops are creating incentives to feed animals to higher weights. Also, as a direct result of placing fewer heifers in feed lots, there is a larger proportion of steers—which typically weigh more than heifers—in the slaughter mix, contributing to heavier average weights.  Find additional analysis in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: November 2014.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Taste rules when it comes to food shopping, according to responses gathered in the Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey module of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Respondents in all three groups analyzed—participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), other low-income consumers, and higher-income consumers—ranked taste as the most important factor when buying food from a grocery store. Nutrition was also important to the majority of shoppers, with SNAP and other low-income consumers more likely to rate it “very important” than higher-income consumers. SNAP respondents were also more likely to rank additional attributes, including price, convenience, and how well food keeps, as “very important” than higher-income adults. How well a product keeps was the second most highly-rated attribute among SNAP respondents, a group which typically has less easy access to food stores. This chart appears in “SNAP Households Must Balance Multiple Priorities to Achieve a Healthful Diet” in the November 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Monday, November 17, 2014
Agricultural businesses, particularly those specializing in crop production, are heavy users of energy and energy-intensive inputs. Ignoring the energy embodied in purchased machinery and services, energy-based purchases accounted for over 25 percent of farm operator expenses in 2012, on average. U.S. farm businesses are classified as industrial users of electricity; poultry production has the highest share of electricity expenses (5 percent) among all types of agricultural producers, while cotton and rice producers have the highest share of electricity expenses (3 percent) among crop producers, primarily for irrigation. While motor fuel accounts for about 6 percent of operator expenses, the farm sector is a heavy indirect consumer of natural gas. For example, up to 80 percent of the manufacturing cost of fertilizer can be for natural gas. Expenditures for fertilizer were over 11 percent of total operator expenses among farm businesses in 2012, with much higher expenditures for most crop farms. Natural gas as a source of electric power has been increasing in recent years, reaching 27 percent of electricity generation in 2013. As a result, the farm sector is particularly sensitive to fluctuations in the price of natural gas. This chart is found in the September 2014 Amber Waves data feature, "Agricultural Energy Use and the Proposed Clean Power Plan."
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Friday, November 14, 2014
Increasing demand in China for imported dairy products has become a major driver in global markets, especially for milk powders and whey products. The largest increase in Chinese imports has been milk powders with greater than 1.5 percent butterfat, which includes whole milk powder. New Zealand has been the primary supplier of whole milk powder to China, while the United States has been a significant supplier of skim milk and whey products. In 2013, the United States supplied about 23 percent of China’s imports of skim milk powder and about 47 percent of its imports of whey products. Most milk powders are further processed and used for infant formulas, ultra-high temperature (UHT) milk, yogurt, milk-based beverages, and food processing.  About half of the imported whey products are used for animal feed, with the rest mainly used for the processed food industry and infant formula. Find additional data and analysis of dairy markets in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: October 2014 and Dairy Data.
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Thursday, November 13, 2014
Expressing food consumption in terms of density—the amount of food eaten per 1,000 calories—allows a person’s intake to be compared with benchmark densities based on recommendations in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Such comparisons can reveal shortfalls and excesses in American diets. Analysis of intake data from the 2007-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that Americans under-consume whole grains, fruits, low-fat dairy products, and vegetables. In 2007-10, U.S. adults consumed 0.76 cups of total vegetables per 1,000 calories and 0.25 cups of dark green, red, and orange vegetables, while children consumed 0.49 cups and 0.17 cups, respectively. The Dietary Guidelines recommend 1.25 cups of total vegetables and 0.50 cups of dark green, red, and orange vegetables per 1,000 calories for a 2,000-calorie diet. Lower income individuals consumed a smaller amount of dark green, red, and orange vegetables than those with higher incomes. This chart appears in “Food Consumption and Nutrient Intake Data—Tools for Assessing Americans’ Diets” in the October 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Despite harsh winter conditions in parts of the country, total U.S. apple production is forecast to rise 4 percent to 10.9 billion pounds in 2014, the third largest crop since 1990. Abundant supplies are expected to move into the fresh apple market and place downward pressure on U.S. fresh apple prices.  Production in western States is expected to be up 13 percent, more than offsetting weather-reduced output in central and eastern States, including Michigan and New York. Washington’s 2014 apple crop is forecast to be 14 percent larger than in 2013, bringing in larger than normal supplies of apples for fresh use during the 2014/15 marketing season (August-July). Overall, about 7.5 billion pounds of production are forecast for fresh use, increasing fresh market supplies 8 percent from 2013 and 15 percent above the previous 5-year average. Early-season grower prices have weakened relative to recent years; the August 2014 average price of $0.375 per pound  is 15 percent below the 2008-2012 average August  (USDA did not report apple prices for August 2013). Find this chart and additional analysis in Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook: September 2014.
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Monday, November 10, 2014
Nearly 4 million veterans resided in rural (nonmetropolitan) America in 2012. They are a rapidly aging and increasingly diverse group of men and women who comprise over 10 percent of the rural adult population despite their persistently declining numbers; the number of veterans living in rural areas declined from 6.6 million in 1992 to 3.8 million in 2012. A drop in the size of the active military population since 1990, from 3 million to roughly 1.4 million, and natural decrease due to aging (over half of rural veterans were age 65 or older in 2012, compared to 18 percent of the nonveteran rural population) means the downward trend in the number of rural veterans will likely continue for many years. Whether due to their military service or because of their age profile, over 20 percent of rural, working-age veterans report disability status compared with 11 percent of nonveterans. Taken together, their older age and higher incidence of disabilities make the well-being of rural veterans, as a group, increasingly dependent on access to medical care in rural areas. This chart comes from Rural Veterans at a Glance, EB-25, November 2013.
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Friday, November 07, 2014
U.S. cattle imports have increased from both Canada and Mexico in 2014, totaling 1.413 million head through August. Imports are up 14 percent from Mexico and 12 percent from Canada due to stronger U.S. demand for feeder cattle. U.S producers are seeking to rebuild animal inventories reduced by several years of dry weather and take advantage of the low U.S. feed prices stemming from record 2014 U.S. corn and soybean harvests. U.S. feeder cattle demand is reflected in the sharp increase in the average price for Nebraska feeder steers (7-8 hundredweight [cwt]) from $149.45/cwt during the first three quarters of 2013 to $205.57/cwt during the same period of 2014.  Imports over the summer months, typically the slowest season, were well above last year’s levels, and there are indications that increased shipments continued into September 2014. U.S. cattle imports are now forecast at 2.200 million head in 2014 and 2.225 million head in 2015. Although both Canada and Mexico have relatively low cattle inventories, strong U.S. prices are expected to continue to pull cattle across the border. Find this chart and additional analysis in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: October 2014.
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Thursday, November 06, 2014
In 1982, the Census of Agriculture reported 38 percent of principal operators had operated their farm for less than 10 years, but by 2007, this number had declined to 26 percent. In 2012, beginning farms—those headed and completely operated by farmers with 10 or fewer years of experience—made up just 17 percent of family farms. Although beginning farmers are more likely to be younger than established farmers—17 percent are under age 35, and their average age is 11 years younger (49 versus 60)—nearly 13 percent of beginning farmers are 65 or older. Beginning farmers are also more likely to be female than established farmers; nearly one in five principal operators of a beginning farm is female. Beginning farmers are also more likely than established farmers to have at least a 4-year college degree. The differing demographic profiles of beginning and established farmers may signal change for the sector as older farmers retire.  This chart is from the ERS topic page on Beginning & Disadvantaged Farmers, updated October 2014.
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Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Sales of food and nonfood grocery products by the 20 largest U.S. grocery retailers accounted for 63.8 percent of the $703.9 billion in total 2013 U.S. grocery sales.  2013 marked the first increase in sales share for the top 20 grocery retailers since 2008, when their share stood at 65.1 percent. The 4 largest grocery retailers—Wal-Mart Supercenters, Kroger, Safeway, and Publix Super Markets—accounted for 36.4 percent of total grocery sales in 2013, a 1.7-percentage point drop since 2008.  Wal-Mart Supercenters maintained their number one spot, with grocery sales that were 53 percent higher than second-place Kroger. Kroger’s 2013 acquisition of Harris Teeter and the pending 2014 sale of Safeway to Albertson’s—along with the continued sales growth of supercenters such as Wal-Mart and Target—are likely to increase the sales shares of the largest U.S. grocery retailers during the next few years. This chart appears in “Slow Sales Growth and Increased Company Acquisitions Impact U.S. Food Retailing” in the November 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Tuesday, November 04, 2014
In 2013, U.S. beekeepers produced 149.5 million pounds of honey, down about 35 percent from levels produced 20 years earlier. Over the same period, per-colony honey production also declined from 80.2 pounds in 1993 to a record low 56 pounds in 2012. Declining production has occurred despite rising prices; the average farm-gate price of honey increased 98 percent from $1.01 per pound in 2006 to $1.99 per pound in 2012. The causes of falling per-colony honey output are uncertain, but likely include a combination of factors. The relatively recent onset of multiple honey bee health challenges may be weakening colony strength (measured in numbers of adult bees) and productivity. Also, the value and quantity of honey produced by foraging bees is affected by the crops from which bees gather nectar. A higher percentage of colonies are now being used to pollinate almond orchards instead of crops that are more productive for commercial honey production, potentially lowering the average volume of useable honey per colony. Other factors may include the effect of prolonged dry weather  in some U.S. regions on forage availability, and a drop in summer foraging area in the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest because of declining acreage enrolled in USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program and  expanding area planted to corn and soybeans. Find these data and additional analysis in Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook: October 2014.
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Monday, November 03, 2014
In 2012, U.S. public sector agricultural research and development (R&D) investment totaled about $4.7 billion. After adjusting for inflation, this represents a decline of nearly 25 percent since the mid-2000s. Expenditures for State Agricultural Experiment Stations and other State-based cooperating institutions accounted for a little under two-thirds of all public agricultural R&D, while USDA agencies accounted for the remaining third. Internal funding sources account for almost all of USDA’s in-house R&D expenditures while State institutions rely on a variety of funding sources. USDA-administered funding to States was about $660 million in 2012. Of this, there were two notable funding streams:  $284 million in “formula funds,” and $189 million in competitive grants for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. In 2012, State appropriations provided $1.1 billion in State R&D funds, while non-USDA Federal agencies provided about $550 million, and private industry, product sales, and other non-Federal sources provided about $750 million. This chart updates one found in the Amber Waves finding, "Sources of Public Agricultural R&D Changing," June 2007.
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Friday, October 31, 2014
In 2013, the top 6 U.S. pumpkin producing states supplied over 1.13 billion pounds of pumpkins. Pumpkin production is widely dispersed, with crop conditions varying greatly by region. Illinois remains the leading producer of pumpkins, with a majority of the state’s production processed into pie filling and other uses. Supplies from the remaining top five pumpkin producing states are targeted primarily towards the seasonal fresh market for ornamental uses, as well as home processing. Demand for specialty pumpkins continues to expand as consumers look for new and interesting variations. In addition to the traditional jack-o-lantern market, there is an increase in pumpkins available in alternative colors (white, blue, striped), shapes (oblong, upright), skin (deep veins, warts) and sizes. This chart is based on information provided in Pumpkins: Background & Statistics.
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Last updated: Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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