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Tuesday, September 23, 2014
If future agricultural productivity growth is less than anticipated, how will farmers and consumers respond? Using the ERS Future Agricultural Resources Model, researchers simulated the world in 2050 assuming productivity growth similar to past trends, and then simulated the world with a lower rate of agricultural productivity (20 percent lower than anticipated) in 2050. These scenarios reflect considerable uncertainty about future growth in agricultural productivity in the face of global climate change, unpredictable public and private agricultural research and development investments, and myriad other factors that could affect productivity trends. ERS researchers find that reduced productivity growth could lead to a decline in average crop yields, more area planted in crops, and shifts in the location of production, with only a small decline in world average production and consumption of major field crops in 2050.  International trade allows worldwide crop consumption to adjust to geographic variation in crop production. Actual yield does not fall as much as land productivity because other inputs increase as crop prices increase. The productivity shock is largely absorbed through intensification of agricultural production and an increase in harvested area. This chart is found in the ERS report, Global Drivers of Agricultural Demand and Supply, ERR-174, September 2014.
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Monday, September 22, 2014
Developing regions account for an increasing share of global gross domestic product (GDP)—a measure of total economic output—a trend that reflects their growing role in driving growth in consumer demand, including demand for agricultural products. Relatively high rates of GDP growth in developing regions, particularly China and other developing Asian countries, have boosted the developing country share of global GDP from 21 percent in 1990 to 27 percent in 2000, and about 38 percent in 2014. This ongoing shift in the world economy is a driver of food demand because developing country consumers tend to spend larger shares of additional income on food.  China and Developing Asia together accounted for 34 percent of U.S. agricultural exports in fiscal 2013, while developing countries as a whole accounted for 65 percent. USDA long-term projections for agriculture, which assume continued income growth in developing countries, indicate that developing countries will account for more than 90 percent of the growth in world imports of meats, grains, and oilseeds over the next decade. This chart is based on data found in ERS’s International Macroeconomic Data Set.
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Friday, September 19, 2014
Worth $2.2 trillion, farm real estate (land and structures) accounted for 82 percent of the total value of U.S. farm assets in 2012. Because it comprises such a significant portion of the U.S. farm sector’s asset base, change in the value of farm real estate is a critical barometer of the farm sector's financial performance. Changes in farmland values also affect the financial well-being of agricultural producers, because farm real estate is the largest single component in a typical farmer's investment portfolio and it serves as the principal source of collateral for farm loans. Following the 1980s farm crisis—during which farmland prices declined in response to rapidly rising interest rates and higher energy prices—farm real estate values have trended upward. Despite expectations of lower farm income this year, U.S. farm real estate values increased in 2014. This chart updates one found in the ERS report, Trends in U.S. Farmland Values and Ownership, EIB-92, February 2012.
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Thursday, September 18, 2014
In 2010, U.S. producers saw average returns of $307 per acre for conventional corn, compared with $557 per acre for organic corn, primarily because higher organic corn prices more than offset lower organic corn yields. Total operating and ownership costs per acre (seed, fertilizer, chemicals, custom operations, fuel, repairs, interest, hired labor, capital recovery of machinery and equipment, taxes, and insurance) were not significantly different between organic and conventional corn, although many of the individual cost components differed. Three major components of operating costs—seed, fertilizer, and chemicals—are lower for organic corn than for conventional corn, while some components of ownership costs—the capital recovery of machinery and equipment, and taxes and insurance—are higher for organic corn. Although the acres planted to organic corn nearly tripled between 2001 and 2010, organic corn accounted for less than 1 percent of total 2010 corn acres.  Find this chart and additional analysis in Characteristics and Production Costs of U.S. Corn Farms, Including Organic, 2010.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Retail food-at-home prices in the second quarter of 2014 were 2.3 percent higher than a year ago, as most at-home food categories increased in price. Retail beef and veal prices were up 10.8 percent as the supply of beef is strained by historically low herd sizes. Over the same time period, pork prices increased 11.2 percent, partially the result of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, which has reduced litter sizes and increased piglet mortality.  Egg prices are also up, in part due to increasing exports and a strong domestic demand for eggs and egg products. The increases in beef and veal, pork, and egg prices are the largest year-over-year increases since the fourth quarter of 2011. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Spending section of ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated September 10, 2014.  More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can also be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014
U.S. consumption of dairy products is expanding, with the fastest growth occurring in products with relatively high milk-fat content. ERS estimates commercial disappearance (a measure of consumption) of fluid milk and other dairy-containing products in two different ways: one based on the milk fat content of the various products (milk-equivalent milk-fat basis) and the other based on the skim solids (proteins, lactose, and minerals) content of the products (milk equivalent skim-solids basis). Estimates on a milk-fat basis place greater weight on products with relatively high milk-fat content, such as butter and cheese, while estimates on a skim-solids basis place greater weight on products with relatively high skim solids, such as beverage milk and nonfat dry milk.  Since 1995, commercial disappearance on a milk-equivalent, milk-fat basis has grown twice as fast as disappearance on a milk-equivalent skim-solids basis. This pattern reflects increasing U.S. per capita consumption of cheese, butter, and other products with relatively high milk-fat content, along with declining per capita consumption of fluid milk. Find these data in the new commercial disappearance dairy product tables provided in Dairy Data.
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Monday, September 15, 2014
Median total farm household income is forecast to decline slightly in 2014 to $70,992, down from $71,504 forecast for 2013. Given the broad USDA definition of a farm and the large number of relatively small farms, most farm households earn all of their income from off-farm sources.  In 2014, median off-farm income is projected to increase by 3.7 percent to $64,840.  On the other hand, many farms are not profitable businesses even in the best farm income years; as a result, median income from farming is negative when calculated for all farm households. Sector-wide farm income is expected to dip in 2014, and median farm household income from farming is expected to decline to -$1,626. (Note: Because they are based on unique distributions, median total income will generally not equal the sum of median off-farm and median farm income.)  This chart is found in the ERS topics page, Farm Household Well-being, updated August 26, 2014.
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Friday, September 12, 2014
Thailand is forecast to reclaim its position as the largest global exporter of rice in 2015, aided by abundant domestic supplies, competitive prices, and the outlook for record global import demand. Thailand lost its position as the largest rice exporter to India in 2012, after implementation of new price policy—the Paddy Pledging Scheme (PPS)—reduced the price competitiveness of Thai rice and led to the accumulation of government stocks. With the PPS terminated in the spring of 2014, Thai rice exports are forecast to recover to 10 million tons in 2015. India’s rice exports are forecast to slip to 8.7 million tons, because of the outlook for a smaller rice harvest and renewed competition from Thailand. Vietnam and the United States are forecast to have good 2014 harvests and to expand rice exports in 2015. For 2015, world rice output is forecast at a record 477.3 million tons, and exports at a record 41.2 million tons. Sub-Saharan Africa and China are forecast to import record volumes of rice in 2015. Find this chart in the Rice Chart Gallery and additional analysis in Rice Outlook: August 2014.
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Thursday, September 11, 2014
ERS’s Food Dollar Series was expanded in 2014 to include 16 commodity specific at-home food dollars that break out the value added, or cost contributions, from 12 industry groups in the U.S. food supply chain. Comparing the bakery-products dollar with the red meat-dollar highlights the larger role of processing and marketing costs for processed foods. For bakery products such as breads, crackers, cookies, and other sweet goods, processing costs were the largest cost component at 37.7 cents in 2007. In comparison, processing costs made up 18.1 cents of the beef, pork, and other red-meat food dollar, while farm production and agribusiness combined at 26.6 cents was the largest cost component. (Agribusinesses produce the services and products used by farmers, such as veterinary services and fertilizers.) For bakery products, farm-production costs was one of the smallest components at 2.3 cents, smaller than packaging and advertising. Statistics for these dollars and the other 14 commodity food dollars for benchmark years 1997, 2002, and 2007 can be found in ERS’s Food Dollar Series data product.
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Fiscal 2015 U.S. agricultural exports are projected at $144.5 billion, down $8 billion from the record $152.5 billion forecast for fiscal 2014, primarily because of the outlook for lower commodity prices. Lower prices are projected to reduce fiscal 2015 exports of oilseeds and products by $5.1 billion and cotton by $600 million, while lower prices and volumes reduce grain and feed exports by $4.9 billion, compared with fiscal 2014. Horticultural exports are, however, projected to rise $2.9 billion to a record $37.0 billion in fiscal 2015, eclipsing exports of grains and feeds for the first time. Agricultural exports to China are forecast down $3.0 billion from fiscal 2014, but China is expected to remain the top U.S. agricultural market. Exports to Russia are projected to decline by $800 million to $400 million in fiscal 2015 as a result of trade restrictions against the United States. U.S. agricultural imports are forecast at a record $117 billion in fiscal 2015, $7.5 billion higher than in fiscal 2014, with the largest gains in horticultural products, sugar and tropical products, and livestock products. Find these data and additional analysis in the Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade: August 2014.
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Tuesday, September 09, 2014
In 2013, 19.5 percent of U.S. households with children were food insecure at some time during the year. Parents often are able to maintain normal or near-normal diets and meal patterns for their children, even when the parents themselves are food insecure. In about half of food-insecure households with children in 2013, only adults were food insecure. But in 9.9 percent of households with children (3.8 million households) both children and adults experienced food insecurity. In 0.9 percent of households with children (360,000 households), food insecurity among children was so severe that caregivers reported that children were hungry, skipped a meal, or did not eat for a whole day because there was not enough money for food. The subset of households with children experiencing these difficult conditions was down from 1.2 percent in 2012.  This chart appears in Household Food Security in the United States in 2013, ERR-173, released September 3, 2014.
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Monday, September 08, 2014
About 75 percent of irrigated cropland in the U.S. is located in 17 western States based on the 2008 Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey (the most recent available), conducted by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. While the amount of irrigated land in the West has increased by over 2 million acres since 1984, the amount of water applied has declined slightly as irrigation systems have shifted toward more efficient methods. In 1984, 71 percent of Western crop irrigation water was applied using gravity irrigation systems that tend to use water inefficiently. By 2008, operators used gravity systems to apply just 48 percent of water for crop production while pressure-sprinkler irrigation systems, which can apply water more efficiently, accounted for 51.5 percent of irrigation water use. In 2008, much of the acreage using pressure irrigation systems included drip, low-pressure sprinkler, or low-energy precision application systems. Improved pressure-sprinkler systems resulted in remarkably stable agricultural water use over the past 25 years, as fewer acre-feet were required to irrigate an increasing number of acres. This chart is found in Water Conservation in Irrigated Agriculture: Trends and Challenges in the Face of Emerging Demands, EIB-99, September 2012.
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Friday, September 05, 2014
The rate of growth in farm assets, debt, and equity is forecast to moderate in 2014, the result of an expected decline in net farm income, higher borrowing costs, and moderation in the growth of farmland values. The value of farm assets is expected to rise 2.3 percent in 2014, while farm sector debt is expected to increase 2.7 percent. Even with the expected slowdown in asset growth, the sector’s financial position remains strong due to the historically low level of debt relative to assets and equity. The sector continues to be well-insulated from the risks associated with commodity production (such as adverse weather), changing macroeconomic conditions in the United States and abroad, as well as fluctuations in farm asset values that may occur due to changing demand for agricultural assets. This chart is found in the topic page for Farm Sector Income & Finances, and the underlying data are available in Farm Income and Wealth Statistics, updated August 26, 2014.
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Thursday, September 04, 2014
In 2013, 14.3 percent (17.5 million) of U.S. households were food insecure. Households that are food insecure 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 remained essentially unchanged from 2012 to 2013; however, the cumulative decline from 14.9 percent in 2011 was statistically significant. In 2013, 5.6 percent of U.S. households (6.8 million households) had very low food security, essentially unchanged from 2011 and 2012. 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. This chart appears in Household Food Security in the United States in 2013, ERR-173, released September 3, 2014.
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Wednesday, September 03, 2014
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remains the most food-insecure region in the world, but gains in crop yields associated with increased cultivation of modern varieties are leading to improved food availability and food security conditions. Because domestic grain production accounts for about 80 percent of supplies across SSA and grain yields are among the lowest in the world, boosting yields is key to improving food security in the region.  Policy reforms and incentives for farmers have spurred adoption of new technologies, such as modern seed varieties. In Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Senegal, Malawi, and Zambia, 27-55 percent of crop area was devoted to modern varieties in 2006-10; in each of these countries, grain yields have increased between 4 and 16 percent per year.  Scenario analysis indicates the potential for significant additional improvements in SSA food security if more countries are able to increase adoption of modern crop varieties. This chart and analysis is based on Productivity Impacts on Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa, an article in International Food Security Assessment, 2014-2024.
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Tuesday, September 02, 2014
U.S. cattle and beef prices have moved into record territory since mid-2013, primarily due to drought impacts on U.S. cattle inventories. In addition to the widespread U.S. drought in 2012, drought conditions have affected important U.S. cattle raising regions, particularly in the Plains and Southwest, since 2010. The dry weather degraded pasture conditions and forage supplies, leading cow-calf operators to liquidate herds. Increases in U.S. imports of feeder cattle from Mexico and Canada have been insufficient to maintain or build U.S. inventories, in part because Mexican producers are trying to build their herds to supply more beef to the U.S. market. U.S. feed and forage supplies have improved in 2014, but herd rebuilding, as indicated by retention of heifers for breeding, is progressing slowly because some growers are selling animals while prices are high, rather than retaining them for herd rebuilding. Reduced beef supplies and high prices have  led to an estimated 5 percent decline in U.S. per capita beef disappearance (a measure of consumption), as well as a sharp reduction in U.S. net beef exports, between 2011 and 2014. Find additional analysis in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: August 2014.
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Friday, August 29, 2014
The 2014/15 U.S. soybean crop is forecast at 103.8 million tons (3.82 million bushels)—13.6 percent above the previous record set in 2009/10—based on the outlook for record area harvested and yield.  The first USDA objective yield forecast for the 2014 crop indicates an all-time high of 3.05 tons per hectare (45.4 bushels per acre), 4.7 percent above the 2013/14 record.  Harvested area is forecast at 34.02 million hectares (84.1 million acres), 9.7 percent above the previous record set in 2010/11. Higher supplies are forecast to raise season-ending soybean stocks to 11.7 million tons (430 million bushels), with the growing stocks forecast leading USDA to trim its 2014/15 forecast of the U.S. average farm price by 15 cents to $9.35-$11.35 per bushel.  Seventy percent of the U.S. soybean crop was rated in good-to-excellent condition as of August 24—a level surpassed only once for this date (in 2004). Favorable growing conditions have been widespread throughout the country, with record yields anticipated for Illinois, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Find additional analysis in Oil Crops Outlook: August 2014.
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Thursday, August 28, 2014
“Back to school” means back to school-provided lunches and breakfasts for many students.  Intake data from the 2007-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reveal that school foods provide the highest dairy product density among all food sources in children’s diets. For each 1,000 calories consumed by children age 2-19, school foods offer an average of 1.9 cups of dairy products, compared to 0.9 cups for foods from restaurants and fast food places. School foods are the only food source that meets the recommended amount of dairy products. Foods consumed by children at home contain 1.2 cups of dairy products for each 1,000 calories, higher than the 0.9 cups in food consumed by adults at home.  The statistics for this chart are from ERS’s Food Consumption and Nutrient Intakes data product.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014
In December 2007, six years of economic growth ended as the U.S. economy entered the most severe recession since the Great Depression. Despite starting earlier and falling slightly more, employment trends in rural (nonmetro) areas followed much the same pattern as urban (metro) areas during the recession and the beginning of the economic recovery. Beginning in 2011, nonmetro employment grew much more slowly than urban employment, and growth fell to zero or slightly below throughout 2012 and 2013. Preliminary data for 2014 show an uptick in nonmetro employment; however, at the end of the second quarter of 2014, nonmetro employment remained 3.5 percent below its pre-recession peak while metro employment exceeded pre-recession levels. A lower (often negative) rate of population growth, and an older, less-educated work force have all contributed to sluggish employment growth in nonmetro counties since the end of the 2007/09 recession. This chart updates data presented in the ERS report, Rural Employment Trends in Recession and Recovery, ERR-172, August 25, 2014.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Net farm income is forecast at $113.2 billion in 2014, down about 14 percent from the 2013 forecast of $131.3 billion.  If realized, the 2014 forecast would be the fourth-highest value since 1970 after adjusting for inflation. Lower cash receipts for crops, and to a lesser degree, higher production expenses and reduced government farm payments, drive the expected drop in net farm income. Net cash income is forecast at $123 billion, down almost 6 percent from the 2013 forecast. Net cash income is projected to decline less than net farm income primarily because it reflects the sale of more than $10 billion in carryover stocks from 2013. Despite expected record-setting harvests, crop receipts are expected to decrease more than 7 percent in 2014 due to lower prices. Livestock receipts are forecast to increase by more than 15 percent in 2014, largely due to higher prices. This chart is found in the topic page on the 2014 Farm Sector Income Forecast on the ERS website, updated August 26, 2014.
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Last updated: Monday, September 22, 2014

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