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ERS Charts of Note

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014
The rapid growth in use of U.S. corn to produce ethanol that occurred during the 2000s has slowed sharply since 2010, and now tracks with U.S. gasoline consumption.  Lower U.S. gasoline use since 2007, combined with market constraints to increased blending of biofuel, now limits the demand for corn-based ethanol.  Nearly all retail gasoline sold in the United States is a 10-percent ethanol blend (E10). Although ethanol demand now plays a more limited role in driving growth in U.S. corn demand, it continues to account for a large share of total U.S. corn use, averaging 39 percent since 2010.  This chart is based on data found in ERS's Feed Grains Database and U.S. Bioenergy Statistics. For more analysis, see Feed Outlook: October 2014.
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Monday, October 20, 2014
Agritourism involves attracting paying visitors to farms by offering farm tours, harvest festivals, hospitality services (such as bed and breakfast), petting zoos, and other attractions. Farms that provide agritourism services, referred to here as agritourism farms, also typically produce agricultural commodities and may provide a variety of other goods and services. Some agritourism farms engage in direct marketing of fresh foods to individual consumers and/or retailers, value-added agriculture (such as the production of beef jerky, fruit jams, jelly, preserves, cider, wine, and floral arrangements), generating renewable energy, and custom work (such as machine hire and hauling for other farms). All of these are considered nontraditional or niche activities that involve innovative uses of farm resources. While to some extent these nontraditional activities complement the farm operation’s commodity and agritourism enterprises, research suggests that they also reflect higher levels of education and connections to the broader economy that are more typical of agritourism farm operators. This chart is found in the October 2014 edition of Amber Waves magazine.
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Friday, October 17, 2014
Global stocks of major crop commodities are forecast to expand in the 2014/15 marketing year, with total stocks of wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans completing recovery from the relatively low levels that preceded the 2008 spike in world crop prices. Record U.S. crops of corn and soybeans, along with good harvest by some other major producing countries, are forecast to push both U.S. and global stocks of these commodities to record levels. World wheat stocks are forecast to rise based on the outlook for record or near-record harvests by major foreign producers, including China, the EU, India, and the Former Soviet Union. While world rice stocks are forecast below peak levels of the early 2000s, good harvests and ample stocks are expected across the major producing regions in Asia. The supply outlook is expected to lead to lower commodity prices, with the average U.S. farm prices of corn (-24 percent), soybeans (-23 percent), wheat (-14 percent), and rice (-10 percent) all forecast down in their respective 2014/15 marketing years compared with 2013/14. Find additional analysis in the current editions of Feed Grain Outlook, Oil Crops Outlook, Wheat Outlook, and Rice Outlook.
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Thursday, October 16, 2014
Celebrated on October 16, World Food Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the worldwide problems of poverty and hunger. Countries vary in how much their citizens spend on food at home as a share of consumption expenditures. Consumption expenditures include all household spending, but not savings. High-income countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have higher food spending in absolute terms, but their food spending share is low. These two countries spent less than 10 percent of their consumption expenditures on food purchased from supermarkets and other food stores in 2013, while the share approached 50 percent in low-income countries such as Kenya. Per capita calorie availability follows the reverse pattern. In 2011, U.S. per capita calorie availability was 3,639 calories per day, while Kenya’s was 2,189 calories—more than one-third less. Middle-income countries such as Brazil and China surpassed daily calorie availability of 3,000 calories per person with a 16-percent share of consumption expenditures for food at home in Brazil and 26 percent in China. The data for this chart come from ERS’s Food Expenditures data product, updated on October 1, 2014, complemented with data from United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization, FAOSTAT.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014
The United Nations has designated 2014 as the “International Year of Family Farming” to highlight the potential family farmers have to help feed the world. But what is a family farm? USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) defines family farms as those whose principal operator, and people related to the principal operator by blood or marriage, own most of the farm business. Under the ERS definition, family farms represent 97.6 percent of all U.S. farms and are responsible for 85 percent of U.S. farm production. Other definitions rely on who supplies the labor. Large farms often rely heavily on hired labor, but farm families who own the farm and provide most of the farm’s labor still account for 87.1 percent of U.S. farms, with 57.6 percent of farm production. Some farms also hire firms to perform some farm tasks. If we account for the labor provided by those firms, family farms that provide most of the labor used on the farm still account for 86.1 percent of farms and nearly half of production. This chart can be found in “Family Farming in the United States” in the March 2014 Amber Waves.
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Continued progress in improving agricultural productivity—producing more output from a unit of aggregate inputs—is key to meeting expanding global food needs. Total factor productivity (TFP) in agriculture is an indicator of the rate of technical change based on a comprehensive measure of the amount of output attained from all of the land, labor, capital, and material resources employed in production. Over the 2002-2011 decade, agricultural TFP rose in every region of the world. In all regions except Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, gains in TFP accounted for most of the increase in agricultural output.  In regions like Europe, Oceania, and North America, positive TFP growth compensated for declining input use to keep output growth positive in all cases except Europe.  While Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa achieved the most rapid expansion in agricultural output over the decade, the former Soviet Union, Asia, and West Asia/North Africa regions recorded the most rapid gains in TFP.  Estimates of TFP growth are derived by ERS using data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This chart is based on data found in ERS's International Agricultural Productivity dataset.
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Friday, October 10, 2014
If you have a sweet tooth, you are not alone. A recent analysis of intake data from the 2007-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that U.S. children ate an average of 9.7 teaspoons of added sugars for each 1,000 calories consumed, and adults consumed 8.4 teaspoons of added sugars per 1,000 calories. Added sugars are the sugars, syrups, and other caloric sweeteners added to foods, including table sugar added to coffee and high fructose corn syrup used in soft drinks, ketchup, and other processed foods. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise that added sugars and added fats should account for no more than 258 calories of a 2,000-calorie diet. Half of this maximum coming from added sugars would equal 3.9 teaspoons per 1,000 calories—less than half of what Americans are consuming. The analysis also found that on average, lower-income individuals consumed more added sugars than higher-income individuals. 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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Thursday, October 09, 2014
During the 2007-09 recession, unemployment rates rose fastest in the West, South, South Atlantic, and parts of the Midwest. States most reliant on manufacturing—including Michigan, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and North Carolina—were hit especially hard. Many of the States with the smallest increases in unemployment were located in the Great Plains and had relatively high employment shares in agriculture, which was largely unaffected by the recession. Similarly, States in the West South Central region (which includes Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas) saw their unemployment rates held in check by growth in oil and gas drilling. Since 2009, unemployment rates have fallen in all States, with large improvements in a few. In general, States that experienced the largest increases in unemployment rates during the recession have seen the largest reductions in unemployment rates during the recovery. Still, most of the hardest-hit States continue to have above-average unemployment rates. As a result, the current geography of county unemployment rates still reflects the patterns established during the recession. Many of the counties with the lowest unemployment rates (below 4.7 percent) are located in or near the Great Plains. The highest unemployment rate counties (above 8.7 percent) are concentrated in the West, South, and South Atlantic, as well as in Appalachia and parts of the Rust Belt. This chart is found in the October 2014 edition of Amber Waves.
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Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Since disease, pest outbreaks, and severe storm damage led to the decline of U.S. commercial lime production in the early 2000s, nearly all U.S. demand for fresh limes has been met through imports, originating almost exclusively from Mexico. Monthly shipment volumes and U.S. prices of limes generally reflect the seasonal pattern of supplies from Mexico, with lower volumes and higher prices during the winter months. In the spring of 2014, U.S. prices for limes spiked to record levels after heavy rainfall in Veracruz, Mexico in the fall of 2013 that led to a smaller harvest of Persian limes. The average shipping-point f.o.b. (free-on-board) price for Mexican limes peaked at $79.65 per 40-pound carton in April 2014, more than 3 times higher than in April 2013. National average advertised retail prices reported by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) show that prices climbed to $1.02 per lime in April 2014, over triple the April 2013 price of $0.29 per lime. The price spike subsided by July 2014, as lime shipments increased with the beginning of the spring harvest in April 2014. Although there was speculation that a cartel in the state of Michoacán was behind the sharp rise in prices, that region primarily grows key limes rather than the Persian variety that is exported to the United States. Find this chart and additional analysis in Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook.
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Tuesday, October 07, 2014
ERS’s Quarterly Food-Away-From-Home Prices (QFAFHP) data product provides quarterly average prices for products at away-from-home eating places (full- and limited-service restaurants, vending machines, and schools) across geographic areas and over time, and can be combined with the Quarterly Food-At-Home Price Database to make comparisons between at-home and away-from-home markets. Using these data, ERS researchers observed that beverages away from home are generally more expensive than at-home versions. In the last quarter of 2010, nonalcoholic beverages purchased at limited-service restaurants cost $1.37 for a 16-ounce serving, while beverages purchased at vending machines cost $1.00 for 16 ounces. Beverages purchased in food stores cost even less—$0.44 for 16 ounces.  From 1999 to 2010, inflation-adjusted beverage prices at limited-service restaurants and vending machines grew only 1 percent per year on average, while they declined 1 percent at food stores. This chart appears in “New Data on U.S. Food-Away-From-Home Prices Show Geographic and Time Variation” in ERS’s September 2014 Amber Waves magazine.
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Monday, October 06, 2014
According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, women are the principal operators of nearly 14 percent of U.S. farms, but their share varies widely by farm specialization. Women operate a disproportionately large portion of sheep/goat farms and “other livestock farms,” three-quarters of which are horse farms. Farms in these two categories tend to be small; 46 percent of sheep/goat farms and 57 percent of other livestock farms have sales less than $1,000, compared with only 20 percent of all U.S. farms. Establishments of this size qualify as farms under USDA’s definition because they have sufficient acres of crops or head of livestock to indicate they could normally have $1,000 or more in sales. For example, five horses or ponies would qualify an establishment as a farm even if the operator has no plans to sell the animals. On the other hand, 1 percent of farms with a woman principal operator (2,486 farms) have sales of $1 million or more. This chart is an update of one found in the ERS report, Characteristics of Women Farm Operators and Their Farms, EIB-111, April 2013.
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Friday, October 03, 2014
Most of the largest individual country markets for U.S. agricultural exports are in Asia and North America. China, with its strong demand for soybeans, cotton, cattle hides, tree nuts, and other horticulture products, has become the largest single U.S agricultural market, with annual U.S. exports averaging $23.5 billion during 2011-13. Canada (with 2011-13 average U.S. exports of $20.3 billion) and Mexico ($18.5 billion) are the second and third largest markets, with trade in a broad range of agricultural commodities aided by reforms introduced by the 20-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Japan ($13.2 billion) is the fourth largest U.S. market, and the next five top ranked markets are also in Asia: South Korea ($6.0 billion), Hong Kong ($3.5 billion), Taiwan ($3.3 billion), Indonesia ($2.7 billion), and the Philippines ($2.3 billion).   Total U.S. agricultural exports were a record $144.1 billion in 2013, and averaged $140.6 billion during 2011-13. Find this chart and more in Selected Charts 2014, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials.
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Thursday, October 02, 2014
Between 1990 and 2013, the Hispanic population in the United States (including both foreign and U.S. born) increased from 22.4 million to 54.1 million, growing 142 percent compared with 16 percent for the non-Hispanic population for the same period. Prior to 1990, growth of the Hispanic population was concentrated in larger cities and in relatively few States, mostly in the Southwest. The rural (nonmetro) Hispanic population grew at less than half the rate seen in urban (metro) areas during the 1980s—2.2 percent per year compared with 4.5 percent.  Since 1990, however, growth in the Hispanic population has been widespread, occurring in metropolitan and rural communities in every region of the country; average annual population growth rates have been identical for metro and nonmetro Hispanic populations since 2000. However, both rural and urban areas have experienced lower rates of growth among Hispanics since the recession, due in part to a decline in immigration. Rural population growth remains above 2 percent per year for Hispanics, in marked contrast to population decline among non-Hispanic populations, averaging -0.2 percent per year since 2010. This chart updates one found in the ERS newsroom feature, Immigration and the Rural Workforce.
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Wednesday, October 01, 2014
In fiscal 2013, USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) served an average of 8.7 million low-income participants per month, with expenditures totaling $6.4 billion. Containing program costs is a continual issue because WIC is funded annually by Congressional appropriations, making the program’s capacity largely dependent on funding levels and costs per participant. In turn, costs per participant depend in part on the prices charged for the WIC foods by WIC-authorized retailers. States are required to authorize an appropriate number and distribution of retailers to ensure adequate participant access to supplemental foods. A recent study found that smaller retailers in California charge higher prices than larger retailers for comparable WIC foods. However, prices did not decrease steadily with increases in store size. Stores with three or four check out registers had lower prices than did the smallest stores, and prices dropped again for stores with five or six registers, but prices were comparable among all stores with at least five registers. This chart is from “WIC Foods Cost More in Smaller Stores” in the September 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Developments in fresh fruit markets over the past 30 years, including changing production patterns, increased imports, improved storage, and shifts in consumer demand, have influenced the seasonal pattern of prices faced by U.S. growers. ERS analysis indicates that market conditions unique to each commodity affect the seasonality of grower prices. Products such as strawberries demonstrate a classic seasonal pattern for fresh produce, with higher prices at the beginning and/or end of the marketing season.  However, there have been changes over time in the months when low and high fresh strawberry prices are realized. In the 1980s, the average monthly price index was at its lowest point in May, when shipment volumes were near their peak, but by the 2000s the low price point had moved to June, with high grower prices also shifting to later in the year. The range between high and low grower price indices did not change significantly for strawberries over the period studied, but it did for other fresh fruit, such as fresh peaches, grapes, and oranges. Find this chart and more in Evolving U.S. Fruit Markets and Seasonal Grower Price Patterns.
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Monday, September 29, 2014
Crop receipts are expected to decline 7 percent in 2014, the second annual decrease following a record high in 2012. Even with record corn production projected, cash receipts for corn are expected to decline by over 20 percent due to a significant decrease (-32 percent) in the annual average corn price. Declines in receipts are also expected for most other major crops including fruits and nuts, wheat, soybeans, and vegetables/melons. A notable exception is cotton, which is projected to recover from a significant decline in 2013. Conversely, record livestock prices are projected to drive a 15.3-percent increase in livestock cash receipts. Despite expected declines in beef production, cattle/calves receipts are expected to set a record in 2014 due to higher prices. Hog production is also expected to decline, but higher expected annual average prices drive the forecast increase in hog cash receipts. Wholesale milk and broiler receipts are expected to benefit from higher production and record annual average prices. See the Farm Income and Wealth Statistics data product for more information on USDA’s 2014 forecast for the farm economy, released on August 26, 2014.
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Friday, September 26, 2014
The successful cultivation of many U.S. specialty and orchards crops (including almonds, sunflowers, canola, grapes, and apples) is dependent upon commercial insect pollination. The European honey bee is largely preferred over other pollinators due to their relative ease of transport and management. Migration routes often include a stop in California to pollinate almonds in early spring. An estimated 60-75 percent of U.S. commercial hives are employed for the State’s almond bloom, which draws hives from as far away as Florida and Texas. Migratory paths diverge after the almond bloom; some beekeepers remain in California while others move north to service mainly orchard and berry crops, and others depart for southern and eastern States to pollinate a variety of specialty field crops. During the pollination season, an estimated 65-80 percent of commercial hives spend part of the summer foraging in the northern Great Plains. At the end of the summer, many operations return their hives to overwintering sites in southern States.  Find this map and further discussion on U.S. pollination markets in Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook.
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Thursday, September 25, 2014
Food price spreads—the difference between a food’s retail price and the value of the farm commodities used in the food—measure the cost of processing, wholesaling, and retailing food from the farmer to consumer. Price spreads vary by food products, reflecting different degrees of processing and marketing. The price spread for white flour, which averaged 30 cents per pound over 2000-2013, is smaller than the price spread for white bread.  Multiple ingredients are required to produce bread (including flour, high fructose corn syrup, and vegetable oil) and bread must be mixed, baked, sliced, packaged, and advertised. These additional processing and marketing costs resulted in an average price spread for bread of $1.13 per pound over 2000-2013.  Large price spreads signal that changes in farm prices will likely have a weaker effect on retail prices. When wheat prices climbed 162 percent from 2000 to 2013, the retail price of flour rose 79 percent, while retail bread prices were only 52 percent higher. The statistics for these charts come from ERS’s data product, Price Spreads From Farm to Consumer, updated August 11, 2014.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Questions in the 2007-08 and 2009-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) allow researchers to examine demographic and health-related characteristics of consumers who use nutrition information when eating away from home. Using these data, ERS researchers found differences across population subgroups. Participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and low-income nonparticipants are less likely to go to fast-food places than are higher-income people. About 85 percent of SNAP participants and low-income nonparticipants said they ate at fast-food places during the previous 12 months, compared with 93 percent of higher-income people. All three groups are about equally likely to notice nutrition information on fast-food menus. However, upon seeing the information, SNAP participants are more likely to use it (52 percent) than low-income nonparticipants (39 percent) and higher-income people (41 percent). This chart appears in “Calorie Labeling on Restaurant Menus—Who Is Likely to Use It?” in the September 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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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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Last updated: Monday, October 20, 2014

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