Agricultural Production and Prices

Markets for major agricultural commodities are typically analyzed by looking at supply-and-use conditions and implications for prices. From an economic perspective, these factors determine the market equilibrium. In the U.S. agricultural sector, many interactions and relationships exist between and among different commodities. For example, corn production and prices affect feed costs in the livestock sector.

Overall U.S. crop production is concentrated in California and the Midwest

The five states with the highest value of crop sales are California, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska. With its large horticultural sector, California's overall crop value of more than $33 billion (in 2017) is about 59 percent higher than that of Illinois, the second-ranked State. In contrast to California, crop values in the next four leading States derive from grains and oilseeds (particularly corn and soybeans). For other crops, Washington State typically leads the country in apple production, while Florida is the largest producer of oranges.

Livestock production is scattered across the country

Livestock production and sales occur in all 50 States. California, Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, and Kansas lead the country in sales value of livestock and their products. The cattle sector is the dominant source of value in Texas, Kansas, and Nebraska. Milk from cows account for about 56 percent of livestock-sale value in California. Both the hog and cattle sectors are large sources of sales value in Iowa. Since 2012, Georgia has overtaken North Carolina as the leader in poultry and egg production.

Corn and soybean acreage has increased since 1990, while fewer acres are planted with wheat

Since 1990, combined acreage planted to corn, wheat, soybeans, and upland cotton in the United States has ranged from 219 million to 242 million acres. Starting in the 1990s, policy changes increased planting flexibility provided to farmers. These changes have allowed farmers to respond to market signals in their cropping choices. Over the past 10 years (2012–22), the combined annual planting acreage for these crops has maintained a higher average (236 million acres) than the prior decade (228 million acres). Since 1990, the three highest combined annual planting totals for these crops occurred in 2012, 2014, and 2018. Acreage dropped in 2019, mostly as a result of a large decrease in the planting of soybeans. Wheat planted area total has been on a steady decline since around 1996.

Agricultural prices trended upward in 2021

Prices for agricultural commodities tend to vary from year to year, but they remained relatively stable for both crops and livestock for a four-year period from 2016 through 2019. In 2020, aggregate crop prices jumped 18 percent and continued to rise another 14 percent year-over-year in 2021 to the highest levels on record. While crop prices rose at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, livestock prices initially fell 6 percent in 2020. Prices received for livestock rebounded in 2021 as strong demand pushed prices up 17 percent from the previous year to the highest aggregate prices seen since 2015.

Last updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2023

For more information, contact: Sara Scott