ERS Charts of Note
Get the latest charts via email, or on our mobile app for and
Thursday, June 8, 2023
In 2022, the United States exported more than 450,000 metric tons of cheese, valued at approximately $2.3 billion. Top export markets include Mexico, South Korea, Japan, Australia, and Canada. U.S. cheese is a mainstay among imported cheeses in these countries. In 2022, U.S. cheese accounted for nearly one-fifth of cheese imported by Canada and Japan by value and nearly one-fourth of cheese imported by Australia. More than 43 percent of cheese shipped to South Korea originated from the United States. U.S. cheese dominates the import market in Mexico, with 87 percent of Mexico’s cheese imports coming from the United States in 2022. All together, these five countries have accounted for nearly two-thirds of U.S. cheese exports since 2019, and U.S. cheese constitutes about a third of the value of all cheese imported by these five markets combined. Free trade agreements have partially supported U.S. cheese exports to each of these markets, including the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement, the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), and the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service report, U.S. Trade Performance and Position in Global Meat, Poultry, and Dairy Exports, April 2023.
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Frozen wholesale turkey breast prices climbed abruptly in response to the 2022 avian flu outbreak, a disease that led to sharply reduced poultry inventories. Before the outbreak started in February 2022, both frozen whole bird (hen) and wholesale turkey breast prices had been increasing gradually. Cumulative losses because of avian flu surpassed 7 million turkeys, and breast prices peaked at $2.98 per pound in the week ending October 7, 2022. Prices remained elevated for the remainder of the year. Once reports of new outbreaks slowed in mid-December 2022, whole turkey hen prices leveled off. At the same time, breast prices declined, averaging $2.34 per pound in the week ending April 28, 2023. This is $0.32 higher than a similar week in 2022, but down $0.64 from the peak price last year. Divergence in prices between frozen turkey breast meat and whole bird prices is, in part, explained by seasonality; demand for whole birds is much more seasonal than wholesale demand for turkey breast meat. Turkey breasts are more versatile than whole hens. At 4-8 pounds, turkey breasts can be sold directly at the retail level or used in deli meats and other processed products. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, May 2023.
Tuesday, June 6, 2023
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) covered 22 million acres of environmentally sensitive land at the end of fiscal year (FY) 2022, with an annual budget of roughly $1.8 billion. This made CRP the USDA’s largest single conservation program in terms of spending in FY 2022. Enrollees receive annual and other payments (such as partial reimbursement for cover establishment and incentive payments for enrollment and certain practices) for taking eligible land out of production for at least 10 years. Program acreage tends to be concentrated on marginally productive cropland that is susceptible to erosion by wind or rainfall. A large share of CRP land ranges from Texas to Montana across the Great Plains, where rainfall is limited and much of the land is subject to potentially severe wind erosion. Smaller concentrations of CRP land are found in eastern Washington, southern Iowa, northern Missouri, the Mississippi Delta, southeastern Idaho, and northwestern Utah. This chart is drawn from Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, published in January 2023.
Monday, June 5, 2023
In 2018, food products labeled “natural” accounted for slightly more than 16 percent of all consumer retail food purchases. USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration require producers to adhere to specific standards or processes to use certain label claims, such as USDA Organic. The “natural” claim, however, has minimal requirements and using the claim on a food product’s packaging does not require that the product provide any health or environmental benefits. Regulatory agencies treat the claim as meaning nothing artificial was added and the product was minimally processed. Even so, consumers sometimes attribute benefits to products labeled “natural,” research studies show. The share of products labeled “natural” varies by food category. The share of spending on “natural” products in 2018 was highest for dairy products (27.7 percent) and lowest for fruits (5.9 percent) and vegetables (5.4 percent). The data in this chart appear in the USDA, Economic Research Service report The Prevalence of the “Natural” Claim on Food Product Packaging, published in May 2023.
Thursday, June 1, 2023
In 2022, dairy farmers received a larger share of the retail price of Cheddar cheese than during the previous year. The ratio of what dairy farmers received for the milk used in making Cheddar cheese (farm value) compared with what consumers paid in grocery stores (retail price), called the farm share, increased to 36 percent from 29 percent in 2021. The farm value of the 10.3 pounds (1.2 gallons) of milk used to make a pound of Cheddar cheese rose 49 cents to $2.06 in 2022 from $1.57 after subtracting the value of the whey coproduct. However, the average retail cheese price increased only 32 cents to $5.76 per pound from $5.44 the previous year. U.S. dairy farmers faced high operational costs and increased their collective output by less than one tenth of one percent in 2022, leaving milk processors and cheese manufacturers to compete for limited milk supply at a higher price. Wholesale prices for Cheddar cheese rose by 21 percent when packaged in 40-pound blocks and by 31 percent for 500-pound barrels. Retailers absorbed much of these wholesale price increases instead of passing them on to consumers. This allowed domestic use of American-type cheeses (including Cheddar, Colby, Monterey, and Jack) to increase above 2021 levels. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) hosted a data training webinar in 2022 on farm-to-retail price spreads and farm share statistics. More information on farm share data can be found in the ERS Price Spreads from Farm to Consumer data product, updated in April 2023.
Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Tight cattle inventories and record wholesale beef prices through the first 3 months of 2023 have supported a stronger-than-expected seasonal climb in fed cattle prices—prices for slaughter-ready steers marketed by feedlots. Reported prices for a 5-area marketing region including Texas/Oklahoma/New Mexico; Kansas; Nebraska; Colorado; and Iowa/Minnesota set a record at $180.44 per hundredweight (cwt) for the week ending April 16, 2023, surpassing the previous high in November 2014. Prices averaged over $177 per cwt in April 2023, more than $35 above April 2022, and $46 higher than the 2013–22 average for the month of April. Drought, forage availability, and high input costs have led producers to liquidate their herds over the last few years, shrinking the national herd size. As of April 1, 2023, a more than 4 percent decrease year-over-year in the total number of cattle on feed is evidence of the continuation of this trend. Through the rest of 2023, cattle inventory in the United States is expected to remain tighter than last year, supporting higher prices as beef demand remains strong. The forecast price in the 5-area marketing region for 2023 is $167 per cwt, more than $22 higher than the previous year. With even fewer cattle expected to be marketed in 2024, beef supplies are projected to remain tight while prices are forecast to increase $6 to $172 per cwt. This chart appears in the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: May 2023.
Tuesday, May 30, 2023
In 2022, 35 percent of the total jobs available through the H-2A visa program for temporary foreign agricultural workers were in three States. The U.S. Department of Labor certified around 370,000 temporary jobs in fiscal year (FY) 2022 under the H-2A program. This program enables U.S. agricultural employers anticipating a shortage of domestic workers to fill seasonal farm jobs with temporary foreign workers. The top 3 States were Florida, with 14 percent of total H-2A jobs certified, California, with 12 percent, and Georgia, with around 9 percent. Other States in the top 10 included Washington with around 9 percent; North Carolina with 7 percent; Michigan, Louisiana, and Arizona each with 4 percent; and Texas and New York with 3 percent each. Increases in employment were particularly large in California, which gained over 11,000 H-2A jobs, a 35-percent increase from 2021. H-2A certifications increased in all U.S. States except Georgia (which declined by less than 1 percent), Delaware (20 percent decline), and Alaska (no change), compared with 2021. Not all certifications lead to the issuance of H-2A visas. In 2021, 258,000 H-2A visas were issued, whereas, in 2022, this number increased to 298,000. This chart updates information in the USDA, Economic Research Service report The H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Program in 2020, published in August 2022.
Thursday, May 25, 2023
Japan’s pork imports are estimated to increase to more than $6 billion over the next 5 years. Growth is supported by trade agreements Japan ratified between 2018 and 2021 with its major pork suppliers: the United States, the European Union (EU), and the 10 countries party to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). These agreements mandate reductions in Japan’s trade barriers on pork imports. For example, import tariffs on pork carcasses and other unprocessed meat products will drop from 4.3 percent in 2018 to zero by 2027. Similarly, tariffs on processed meat products will be lowered from 8.5 percent in 2018 to zero by 2028. A recent report from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) estimates these trade agreements will boost 2028 exports to Japan from the United States, EU, and CPTPP countries to totals of $2.08 billion, $2.04 billion, and $2.03 billion, respectively. For the United States, this is a large gain compared with a scenario in which the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement did not exist. Under that scenario, U.S. pork exports to Japan would have totaled $1.41 billion, and EU and CPTPP countries would have gained market share at the expense of the United States. This chart was drawn from the ERS report The Impact of Recent Trade Agreements on Japan’s Pork Market, published in May 2023.
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
Food spending estimates for Washington, DC, differ widely from the 50-State average estimates. From 1997 to 2020, Washington, DC, had higher inflation-adjusted per capita sales at food-away-from-home (FAFH) establishments, such as restaurants, than the State average, although the gap narrowed over time. In 1997, FAFH spending in Washington, DC, was more than 3 times the 50-State average and 1.7 times the 50-State average in 2019 and 2020. The difference could be attributed to nonresident workers commuting into Washington, DC, and spending more at FAFH establishments. FAFH spending per capita in 2019 was 24 percent higher in Washington, DC, than in the highest State (Hawaii). Meanwhile, sales at food-at-home (FAH) outlets, such as grocery stores and supercenters, across the 50 States have steadily increased, with an average annual growth rate of 0.8 percent since 1997. However, FAH spending in Washington, DC, has been more volatile and has trended downward over time. Inflation-adjusted per capita spending on FAH in Washington, DC, was 40.8 percent lower in 2019 than in 1997, before increasing 8.2 percent in 2020 during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. FAH spending in Washington, DC, was roughly equal to the 50-State average in 1997 but fell to approximately half the average from 2017 to 2020. FAH spending per capita in Washington, DC, in 2019 was 37 percent lower than the lowest State (Arkansas). This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service’s State-level Food Expenditure Series, which launched in May 2023 and provides annual data on food spending for each State and Washington, DC, from 1997 to 2020.
Tuesday, May 23, 2023
U.S. consumers’ eating patterns differ from Federal recommendations for many food categories, and where food is obtained plays a role. Researchers from USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) and the University of Georgia examined diet patterns based on density—amounts of food consumed per 1,000 calories—using the latest available national food consumption survey data collected in 2017–18. They compared average consumption densities of 17 food categories with what would be needed to match the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations, assuming a 2,000-calorie intake. Average total consumption densities for 11 food categories fell more than 20 percent outside of recommended levels, with whole grains more than 70 percent below the recommended amount. Refined grains, on the other hand, had a consumption density of more than 85 percent above the recommended level. Densities of 6 food categories were within 20 percent of the recommended range. Generally, food purchased at grocery stores, supermarkets, and similar retailers for home preparation had consumption densities more in line with dietary recommendations than food obtained from commercial away-from-home sources (primarily restaurants and fast food establishments). This chart is drawn from the ERS report Dietary Quality by Food Source and Demographics in the United States, 1977–2018, published March 2023.
Monday, May 22, 2023
Created in 1916, the Federal estate tax is a tax on the transfer of property to a person’s heirs upon death. In 2022, the Federal estate tax exemption amount was $12.06 million per person and the federal estate tax rate was 40 percent. Under the present law, the estate of a person who owns assets above the exemption amount at death must file a Federal estate tax return. However, only returns that have an estate above the exemption after deductions for expenses, debts, and bequests will pay Federal estate tax. Researchers from USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) estimate that in 2022, 39,534 estates were created from principal operator deaths. Of those estates, ERS forecasts that 305 (0.77 percent) will be required to file an estate tax return, and a further 87 (0.22 percent) will likely owe Federal estate tax. Total Federal estate tax liabilities from the 87 farm estates owing taxes are forecast to be $566 million in 2022. The exemption amount was increased to $12.92 million per person in 2023. This chart appears in the ERS Topic Page, Federal Estate Taxes, published in April 2023.
Thursday, May 18, 2023
Lettuce—the main ingredient in many salads and a popular sandwich topper—is the most widely consumed leafy green in the United States. In 2022, lettuce accounted for nearly one-fifth of the $21.8 billion that U.S. growers received in cash receipts from sales of vegetables and melons. Romaine lettuce sales totaled $1.54 billion, iceberg lettuce sales were $1.33 billion, and leaf lettuce sales trailed at $1.25 billion. An estimated 85 percent of the lettuce available for consumption in the United States was produced domestically in 2022. While production of lettuce occurs year-round, areas of production shift with the growing seasons. From mid-November through early April, most lettuce sold in the United States is sourced from the irrigated desert valleys of Southern California’s Imperial County and the Yuma area of Arizona. Shipments of lettuce from Florida help fill in regional market gaps during winter and spring months. From late April through mid-November, production shifts to Central California. From spring through fall, local production in most other States serves farmers markets, regional/local retail and restaurant demand, and community-supported agriculture. This chart is drawn from an article titled, “Lettuce Trends: Conventional, Organic Growth, and Production,” from USDA, Economic Research Service’s Vegetables and Pulses Outlook, April 2023.
Wednesday, May 17, 2023
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the United States disrupted the food industry in 2020. Inflation-adjusted total U.S. food expenditures were 6.6 percent lower in 2020 than in 2019. However, individual States experienced varying degrees of food spending decline during this period. The USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) newly developed State-level Food Expenditure Series helps to illustrate annual food spending changes across States since 1997, including Washington, DC. From 2019 to 2020, each State saw decreases in inflation-adjusted, per capita total food spending. The smallest decreases in food spending were in Iowa (2.2 percent), South Carolina (2.6 percent), and North Carolina (4.1 percent). The States that saw the largest decreases in inflation-adjusted, per-capita food spending were Hawaii (15 percent), Washington, DC (13.9 percent), Florida (11.8 percent), and Nevada (11.6 percent). These States typically have large out-of-State population inflows from nonresident workers and tourists. The median change of total food spending occurred in Delaware, with a decrease of 7.2 percent. These spending changes occurred as health concerns and mobility restrictions during the first year of the pandemic led consumers to spend less at restaurants and other eating out establishments in favor of relative cost-efficient outlets, such as grocery stores and supercenters. This chart is drawn from ERS’ State-level Food Expenditure Series, which launched in May 2023 and provides annual data on food spending for each State and Washington, DC, from 1997 to 2020.
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
Socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers tend to be more concentrated in southern and western regions of the country than in other areas of the United States. USDA defines socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers as those belonging to groups that have been subject to racial or ethnic prejudice. They include non-white and Hispanic farmers. In some counties, the proportion of operations classified as racially or ethnically socially disadvantaged is more than 58 percent, such as in parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida. Overall, socially disadvantaged farms accounted for 9.4 percent of the 2 million farms in the United States, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture. In 2017, 1.3 percent of all producers identified themselves as Black or African American only, 1.7 percent identified as American Indian or Alaska Native only, 0.6 percent identified as Asian only, 0.1 percent as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander only, and 0.8 percent of all producers reported more than one race. In addition, 3.3 percent of all producers of any race indicated Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report Access to Farmland by Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers: Issues and Opportunities, published in December 2022.
Monday, May 15, 2023
Thirty percent of groundwater organizations cite nitrate contamination as a groundwater quality concern. Nitrates can come from animal manure and chemical fertilizers that leach into groundwater. When groundwater pumping exceeds the volume of groundwater recharge, the concentration of contaminants like nitrates can increase. Nitrate contamination is a concern on more than half of the groundwater-fed irrigated acreage within groundwater organization service areas. USDA’s Survey of Irrigation Organizations collected information on the estimated 735 local entities that manage on-farm groundwater use through statutory, regulatory, or other powers. While nitrate contamination was the most common groundwater quality concern reported, contamination by salinity, other nutrients, and heavy metals are a concern for 27, 19, and 18 percent of groundwater organizations, respectively. Contaminated groundwater can harm crops or make the water unusable for irrigation entirely. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service report Irrigation Organizations—Groundwater Organizations published in April 2023.
Thursday, May 11, 2023
Consumers are eating fewer raisins, based on U.S. per capita availability data. In the past 10 years, acreage planted to raisin-type grapes declined more than 33 percent in California, which produces almost all U.S. raisins. Average per capita availability (a proxy for consumption) of dried raisins fell 15 percent in that time, according to USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) estimates. This trajectory continues the gradual decline observed since availability peaked at more than 2 pounds per person in the late 1980s to a current low of 1.1 pounds. Some of the reasons behind the decline may include greater year-round availability of fresh fruit and competition from other dried fruit, such as cranberries, cherries, and blueberries. Pressure faced by U.S. raisin growers is not limited to declining per capita availability, however. Higher labor costs and lower priced exports from Turkey have also challenged the U.S. raisin industry in recent years. Along with an overall decrease in acreage and production, the United States has reduced both total export volume and the share of domestic production going to exports. This chart is drawn from ERS’ Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, March 2023.
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Apples held the top spot for total fruit available for consumption in 2021 at more than 26 pounds per person after adjusting for losses. The USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) loss-adjusted food availability data adjusts food availability data for food spoilage, plate waste, and other losses to more closely approximate actual consumption. According to recently released estimates, people in the United States consumed an average of 14.7 pounds (equivalent to 1.7 gallons) of apple juice, roughly 9 pounds of fresh apples, and a total of 3.1 pounds of canned, dried, and frozen apples in 2021. Among the top seven consumed fruits in 2021, apples were the only fruit in which data were available for all five forms: fresh, canned, frozen, dried, and juice. Pineapples were the only other canned option among these seven fruits for which data were available, while strawberries were the only other frozen fruit. Bananas (13.2 pounds per person) topped the list of most popular fresh fruits, while orange juice (16.6 pounds or 1.9 gallons) was the most popular fruit juice in the United States. This chart is drawn from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated May 2023.
Tuesday, May 9, 2023
Fresh-cut flowers and plants are popular gifts for special occasions such as birthdays and Mother’s Day. Many bouquets contain flowers grown in countries where cool, wet climates have historically favored production. In fiscal year 2022, the United States imported nearly $3.3 billion worth of cut flowers, plants, and nursery stock products from 81 countries. Imports of fresh-cut roses totaled more than $800 million, while other fresh-cut flowers such as chrysanthemums, carnations, and lilies were valued at a combined $1.1 billion. Live plant imports were valued at nearly $860 million, and imports of other nursery stock products such as bulbs and greenery were valued at $492 million. Of the many countries supplying flowers and other nursery stock, Colombia made up the largest import value at $1.2 billion. From 2018 to 2022, Colombia provided about 37 percent of U.S. cut flower and nursery stock value. Other leading suppliers in 2022 included Canada, Ecuador, and the European Union, as well as smaller supplying countries of Mexico, Taiwan, and Costa Rica. This chart is drawn from the Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade published by USDA’s Economic Research Service, February 2023.
Monday, May 8, 2023
After reaching recent highs in 2021 and 2022, the average net cash income (gross cash income minus cash expenses) of U.S. farm businesses is expected to decline by 18 percent in 2023 compared with 2022. Farm businesses across the country are forecast to see higher production expenses, lower cash receipts, and lower Government payments in 2023, resulting in lower expected average net cash farm income. However, this overall decline will vary considerably across the country, driven primarily by the commodities produced in each resource region. The USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) uses resource regions to depict the geographic specialization in production of U.S. commodities. ERS defines farm businesses as the operations with gross cash farm income of at least $350,000 or smaller operations in which farming is reported as the operator’s primary occupation, which includes just over half of all U.S. farms. Farm businesses in the Northern Crescent region, which leads the Nation in dairy production, are forecast to see the largest average percentage decrease (30 percent), while those in the Mississippi Portal, which leads the Nation in rice production, are forecast to see the smallest percent decrease (9 percent). Find additional information and analysis on the ERS topic page Farm Business Income, reflecting data released on February 7, 2023. For more details on the ERS Farm Resource Regions, see Agricultural Income and Finance Situation and Outlook: 2021 Edition.
Thursday, May 4, 2023
Exports constitute a significant market for U.S. farm and food products and send ripples of activity through the Nation’s economy. For instance, exports of grain first generate economic activity on the farm through purchases of inputs such as fuel and fertilizer, spurring additional economic activity in the manufacturing, trade, and transportation sectors. Moving grain to the export market requires data processing, financial, legal, managerial, and administrative services. This additional economic activity is estimated annually by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) using an agricultural trade multiplier that measures the employment and output effects of trade in farm and food products on the U.S. economy. U.S. agricultural exports valued at $177.3 billion in 2021 generated an additional $190.5 billion in economic activity, for a total of $367.8 billion in economic output. This means that on average, every $1 of U.S. agricultural product exported generated a total of $2.07 of domestic economic activity. The services, trade, and transportation sector benefited the most from agricultural exports, generating an estimated $79.5 billion worth of additional economic activity. On the farm, agricultural exports supported an additional $43.6 billion of business activity beyond the value of the agricultural exports themselves. This chart is drawn from ERS’s Agricultural Trade Multiplier, released March 2023.