ERS Charts of Note
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Monday, September 11, 2023
Total cash labor expenses for the U.S. agriculture sector are forecast to be $43.35 billion for 2023, based on the August 2023 forecast by USDA, Economic Research Service. This would be an increase of $0.78 billion, or 1.8 percent, over the 2022 level of $42.57 billion (in inflation-adjusted 2023 dollars). The projected 2023 level would remain below the high set in 2017 in inflation-adjusted labor expenses. Labor expenses are an important component of agricultural production costs. For every $100 spent on production expenses, almost $10 goes toward labor. Total labor expenses include contract and hired labor payments but exclude non-cash employee compensation. This information updates information in the Amber Waves article U.S. Agriculture Labor Expenses Forecast To Increase More Than 4 Percent in 2023, published in July 2023.
Thursday, August 31, 2023
The USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) forecasts inflation-adjusted U.S. net cash farm income (NCFI) to decrease by $60.5 billion (28.9 percent) from 2022 to $148.6 billion in 2023. Similarly, U.S. net farm income (NFI) is forecast to fall by $48.0 billion (25.4 percent) from 2022 to $141.3 billion in 2023. NCFI is calculated as gross cash income minus cash expenses. NFI is a broader measure of farm sector profitability that incorporates noncash items including changes in inventories, economic depreciation, and gross imputed rental income. The projected decreases in 2023 come after both NCFI and NFI reached all-time highs in 2022. NCFI reached $209.1 billion in 2022, and NFI reached $189.3 billion. Underlying these forecasts, cash receipts for farm commodities are projected to fall by $41.4 billion (7.5 percent) from 2022 to $513.6 billion in 2023. This includes forecasted declines of $13.9 billion (23.6 percent) in milk receipts and $11.6 billion (12.6 percent) in corn receipts. In addition, production expenses are expected to increase by $14.8 billion (3.3 percent) to $458.0 billion in 2023. Finally, direct Government payments to farmers are projected to fall by $3.5 billion (21.6 percent) from 2022 to $12.6 billion in 2023, because of lower supplemental and ad hoc disaster assistance. Find additional information and analysis on the USDA, ERS’ topic page Highlights from the Farm Income Forecast, reflecting data released on August 31, 2023.
Thursday, August 17, 2023
In the United States, most cow-calf operations are relatively small and have fewer than 50 cows though a few very large operations (with more than 1,000 cows) can be found. On cow-calf farms, calves are birthed, raised, and weaned on site. While some calves remain on the farm until they reach slaughter weight, most are either moved directly to feedlots after weaning or retained on-farm for additional weight gain before being sold to feedlots. Unlike many other animal production operations, cow-calf farms generally do not require a major upfront investment in capital assets specific to cow-calf production, such as housing. The combination of relatively lower cow-calf specific startup costs and pasture as a primary source of feed has resulted in a variety of operation sizes on a range of land types for both full- and part-time farmers. Data from USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Census of Agriculture indicate that between 1997 and 2017, most cow-calf operations remained small. In 2017, 54 percent of farms with beef cows had fewer than 20 cows, slightly down from 1997. However, across the two decades, the overall number of cow-calf operations in the United States decreased by 19 percent, while the average herd size of operations grew. These changes in farm number and herd size, while notable, have not been as significant as industry shifts in hog and dairy production. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service report Structure, Management Practices, and Production Costs of U.S. Beef Cow-Calf Farms, published in July 2023.
Thursday, July 13, 2023
Large family farms were more likely to have stronger financial performance than other farms, according to USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers reporting data from the 2021 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS). ERS researchers measured financial performance using operating profit margin (OPM), the ratio of operating profit to gross farm income. They categorized farms as low risk if they had an OPM larger than 25 percent. Large-scale family farms, defined as those with gross cash farm income (GCFI) of $1 million or more, were the most likely to have low-risk operating profit margins compared with nonfamily and family farms of other sizes. The share of large-scale family farms considered low risk was 54 percent in 2021, an increase from 48 percent in 2020. The large-scale category includes very large farms, with GCFI of $5 million or more. Large-scale family farms make up 3 percent of U.S. farms but contributed 46 percent of the value of production in 2021. Small family farms, those with GCFI less than $350,000, were less likely to have an operating profit margin over 25 percent. Small family farms represent 89 percent of U.S. farms and contributed 18 percent of the value of production. This chart appears in the ERS report America’s Farms and Ranches at a Glance, published in December 2022, and Examining Financial Risk Measures on Family and Nonfamily Farms, published in Amber Waves in June 2023.
Monday, June 26, 2023
In 2021, more than 34 percent of the 1.96 million U.S. family farms received Government payments through four types of programs: countercyclical, marketing loan, conservation, and other programs. These Government payments totaled $14.3 billion based on data from USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS). Economists with USDA’s Economic Research Service examined three groupings (commercial, intermediate, residence) of family farms to find that about 75 percent of commercial family farms—those with $350,000 or more in gross cash farm income (GCFI)—received Government payments. For intermediate family farms—those with less than $350,000 in GCFI and a principal operator whose primary occupation is farming—31 percent received Government payments. Finally, Government payments went to 29 percent of residence family farms, defined as those with less than $350,000 in GCFI and where the principal operator is retired from farming or has a primary occupation other than farming. Overall, on average, commercial farms received $66,314, intermediate farms received $12,794, and residence farms received $8,354 in Government payments in 2021. This chart is drawn from data in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s ARMS Farm Financial and Crop Production Practices data product and in the May 2023 Amber Waves article Commercial Farms Led in Government Payments in 2021. For more information on Federal programs, visit the Farm & Commodity Policy topic page.
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.
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.
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 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.
Wednesday, May 3, 2023
In 2022, the Chapter 12 bankruptcy rate reached the lowest level in nearly two decades, 0.78 bankruptcies per 10,000 farms. Under Chapter 12 bankruptcy, a financially distressed family farmer can propose and carry out a plan to repay their debts fully or partially, and the total number of these bankruptcies is an indicator of financial stress in the farm sector. In 2003, the annual bankruptcy rate reached a high of 3.3 per 10,000 farms and then declined to a low of 0.5 per 10,000 farms in 2004. After 2010, the bankruptcy rate declined until 2014 but started to increase again in 2015 with another peak in 2019 (2.9 bankruptcies per 10,000 farms). Since then, bankruptcies have declined to the lowest level in two decades after 2004. In 2022, 0.78 farms per 10,000 filed for Chapter 12 bankruptcy, almost two-thirds lower (61.0 percent) than the 10-year annual average of 2.00 bankruptcies per 10,000 farms. Based on the data from U.S. courts, the number of bankruptcies not only declined nationally, but also in the major agricultural States. When examining the 10-year average bankruptcy rate (2013–22) for major agricultural States, Wisconsin had the highest rate at 5.66 per 10,000 farms, followed by Nebraska and Kansas. Texas had the lowest average bankruptcy rate among the top 10 agricultural States at 0.77 per 10,000 farms. This chart uses data from U.S. courts and the USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) to update information in Agricultural Income and Finance Situation and Outlook: 2021 Edition and the Amber Waves article, Chapter 12 Bankruptcy Rates Have Increased in Most Agricultural States, published in November 2021.
Monday, May 1, 2023
Farm sector debt tied to real estate is expected to be at a record high of $375.9 billion in 2023, according to data from the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS). Farm sector real estate debt has been increasing continuously since 2009 and is expected to reach an amount that is 87.5 percent higher in 2023 compared with 2009 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Real estate debt now far outpaces debt that is not secured by a mortgage (non-real estate debt). Historically, real estate debt and non-real estate debt have trended similarly, but they have diverged in recent years. Non-real estate debt showed an 11.9-percent year-to-year increase in 2014 in inflation-adjusted dollars but has shown decline after 2017. Meanwhile, there has been a continuous increase in real estate debt since 2009. Growth in farm real estate asset values and relatively low interest rates contributed to the increase in farm real estate debt. In 2023, real estate debt is expected to be 33.0 percent higher than the 10-year average (2012–2021), while non-real estate debt is expected to be 10.2 percent lower than the 10-year average. According to the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Land Value 2022 Summary, the average value of farm real estate reached a record $3,800 per acre in 2022, a 12.4-percent increase from 2021. Find information and analysis on ERS’s Farm Sector Income & Finances topic page, which is updated four times a year.
Monday, April 10, 2023
Beginning farms tend to be more concentrated in Southern and Western States than in other areas of the United States. In some counties in California and Texas, for instance, the proportion of beginning farms is more than one-third of the total farms. As of 2017, there were about 340,000 farms—with almost 900,000 operators—on which all operators were beginning farmers with 10 or fewer years of farm management experience. Most beginning farms are small-scale operations; about 67 percent of beginning farms produced less than $10,000 worth of output. Less than 2 percent of beginning farms achieve an annual production value of more than $1 million. New beginning farms and ranches accounted for 17 percent of the 2 million farms in the United States and 8 percent of the total agricultural production. Among farms with at least $10,000 in production value or sales, principal operators—the people most responsible for making day-to-day decisions—of beginning farms were 43 years old on average. In contrast, the age of operators of established farms averaged 63 years old. USDA offers numerous resources for beginning farmers. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service bulletin Access to Farmland by Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers: Issues and Opportunities, published in December 2022.
Tuesday, March 7, 2023
Between 1948 and 2019, the volume of crops produced in the U.S. grew 186 percent, and livestock production grew 140 percent. USDA, Economic Research Service researchers classify crop output into six subcategories: food grains, feed crops, oil crops, vegetables and melons, fruits and nuts, and other crops. Of those, production of oil crops increased the most, by more than seven times. Growth in fruits and nuts ranked second, with production more than doubling. Food grains grew the least, at 78 percent. Among three categories of livestock and products, poultry and egg production increased the most, by more than seven times. Dairy products grew 132 percent, and meat animal production grew 92 percent. The varying growth rates reflect changes over the past 70 years in consumer demand and preferences, international market demand, and technological advancements among products. Overall, crop production is more volatile than livestock production because of weather changes. This chart appears in the Amber Waves article U.S. Agricultural Output Has Grown Slower in Response to Stagnant Productivity Growth, published in October 2022.
Monday, February 27, 2023
In 2021, about 89 percent of all farms were small family farms. Small family farms operated 45 percent of U.S. agricultural land and produced 18 percent of the total value of production. Farm size classifications are based on annual gross cash farm income, a measure of a farm's revenue—including sales of crops and livestock, payments made under Federal agricultural programs, and other farm-related cash income—before deducting expenses. Small family farms have gross cash farm income (GCFI) below $350,000. In comparison, large-scale family farms, with GCFI above $1 million, operated 27 percent of agricultural land and were responsible for 46 percent of the total value of production in 2021. Midsize family farms, with GCFI between $350,000 and $1 million, operated 18 percent of agricultural land and similarly generated 18 percent of the total value of production. Overall, family farms of all sizes comprised about 83 percent of the overall production value while making up 98 percent of all farms. The remaining 2 percent of farms were classified as nonfamily. This category includes partnerships (of unrelated partners), nonfamily corporations, and farms with a hired manager unrelated to the owners. Despite accounting for such a small percent of farms, the nonfamily category was responsible for 17 percent of the total value of production. This chart appears in the ERS report America’s Farms and Ranches at a Glance, 2022 edition.
Tuesday, February 7, 2023
The USDA, Economic Research Service forecasts inflation-adjusted U.S. net cash farm income (NCFI)—gross cash income minus cash expenses—to decrease by $44.7 billion to $150.6 billion in 2023. This marks a 22.9 percent decline after reaching a forecast record high of $195.3 billion in 2022. U.S. net farm income (NFI) is forecast to decrease by $30.5 billion (18.2 percent) to $136.9 billion in 2023 after reaching a forecast of $167.3 billion in 2022, its highest level since 1973 after adjusting for inflation. (Calculations include rounding.) Net farm income is a broad measure of farm sector profitability that incorporates noncash items, including changes in inventories, economic depreciation, and gross imputed rental income. If these forecasts are realized, both NCFI and NFI would remain above their respective 20-year averages (2002–2021) in 2023. Underlying these forecasts, cash receipts for farm commodities are projected to fall by $38.9 billion (7.0 percent) from 2022 to $519.8 billion in 2023. During the same period, production expenses are expected to increase by $5.7 billion (1.3 percent) to $459.5 billion. Additionally, direct Government payments to farmers are projected to fall by $5.8 billion (36.2 percent) from 2022 levels to $10.2 billion in 2023, largely because of anticipated lower payments from supplemental and ad hoc disaster assistance programs. Find additional information and analysis on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s topic page Highlights from the Farm Income Forecast, reflecting data released on February 7, 2023.
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
U.S. farm cash receipts from animals and animal products totaled $195.8 billion in 2021, led by receipts for cattle and calves at $72.9 billion (37 percent). Poultry and egg products made up the next largest share of 2021 cash receipts at $46.1 billion (24 percent), followed by dairy at $41.8 billion (21 percent), hogs at $28.0 billion (14 percent), and other animals and animal products at $7.0 billion (4 percent). As part of its Farm Income and Wealth Statistics data product, each year in late August or early September, USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) releases estimates of the prior year’s farm sector cash receipts from agricultural commodity sales. These data include cash receipt estimates by type of commodity, which can help in understanding the U.S. farm sector. The estimates may be revised as new information becomes available. Additional information and analysis are on the ERS Farm Sector Income and Finances topic page, updated December 1, 2022.
Thursday, January 12, 2023
From 2015 to 2021, the median total household income for commercial U.S. farms rose an estimated 16 percent, to $278,339 from $238,994. Commercial farms earn more than $350,000 gross cash farm income regardless of the principal operator’s occupation. In 2021, the median total household income for commercial farms remained above the median income of $75,201 for all U.S. households. Farm households rely on a combination of on-farm and off-farm sources of income. On-farm income is determined by farm costs and returns that vary from year to year, and in any given year a majority of farm households report negative farm income. Off-farm sources—including wages, nonfarm business earnings, dividends, and transfers—are the main contributor to household income for most farm households. Because households operating commercial farms rely mostly on on-farm sources of income, they experience the largest shocks in household income when farm sector income rises or falls. This chart uses data from the new USDA, Economic Research Service and USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) webtool, released in December 2022, as shown through the ARMS Farm Financial and Crop Production Practices data product.
Thursday, December 1, 2022
USDA’s Economic Research Service forecasts inflation-adjusted U.S. net cash farm income (NCFI)—gross cash income minus cash expenses—to increase by $30.1 billion (19.1 percent) to $187.9 billion in 2022. This total would be the highest on record for the inflation-adjusted data series. U.S. net farm income (NFI) is forecast to increase by $10.7 billion (7.2 percent) to $160.5 billion in 2022, its highest level since 1973 after adjusting for inflation. Net farm income is a broader measure of farm sector profitability that incorporates noncash items such as changes in inventories, economic depreciation, and gross imputed rental income. Cash receipts from farm commodities drive these income increases, with a projected increase of $78.5 billion (17.0 percent) to $541.5 billion, their highest level on record. In addition, total commodity insurance indemnities paid to farmers are expected to rise by $8.3 billion (70.1 percent) to $20.2 billion, also a record. Production expenses are forecast to increase by $46.6 billion (11.8 percent) to $442.0 billion in 2022, offsetting some income growth. Additionally, direct Government payments to farmers are projected to decrease by $11.0 billion (40.0 percent) from 2021 to $16.5 billion in 2022, mainly because of lower anticipated USDA and non-USDA payments for Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic assistance. Find additional information and analysis on the ERS topic page for Farm Sector Income and Finances, reflecting data released on December 1, 2022.
Wednesday, October 19, 2022
U.S. farmers who would like to hire temporary foreign workers through the H-2A visa program usually work with a third party (such as an agent, association, or lawyer) to make the application; employers themselves filed applications for only 15 percent of all jobs requested. Across the U.S., agents filed applications for 45 percent of all H-2A jobs, an association of farm enterprises filed for 21 percent of jobs, and 19 percent came from a lawyer representing the farmer. However, the usage rates for third parties differ across States. For instance, lawyers tend to file for most of the jobs in California, while agents and associations account for almost two-thirds of the job filings in Florida. The H-2A program allows farm operators who foresee a shortage of domestic workers to bring nonimmigrant foreign workers to the U.S. temporarily to perform agricultural labor or services. Many employers rely on specialized third parties to file H-2A applications on their behalf because of the perceived complexity of the process to certify their need for labor. Once a job is certified, the employer may then search for workers to employ. This chart appears in the ERS Economic Information Bulletin, The H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Program in 2020, published in August 2022.
Thursday, October 13, 2022
USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) annually estimates the previous year’s farm sector cash receipts—the cash income received from agricultural commodity sales. This data includes State-level estimates, which offer background information about States subject to unexpected events that affect the agricultural sector, such as Hurricane Ian, which swept across Florida and surrounding States in late September 2022. In 2021, commodities produced in Florida contributed about $7.5 billion (1.7 percent) of the $434 billion in total U.S. cash receipts. Floriculture, the cultivation of flowers, accounted for the largest share of Florida’s cash receipts. Valued at $1.1 billion (14.9 percent of the State’s total), floriculture receipts for Florida were higher than for any other State in 2021. The next largest commodities in Florida in terms of cash receipts were oranges ($670 million), sugarcane ($553 million), cattle and calves ($546 million), milk ($470 million), strawberries ($399 million) and tomatoes ($324 million). Certain Florida crops accounted for large percentages of U.S. cash receipts in 2021, such as sugarcane with 51 percent and oranges with 42 percent, while bell peppers and grapefruit accounted for roughly a third of U.S. production. In addition to floriculture, Florida led the nation in cash receipts for sugarcane, cabbage, cucumbers, watermelon, sweet corn, and snap beans. This chart uses data from the ERS U.S. and State-Level Farm Income and Wealth Statistics data product, updated in September 2022.