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Number of U.S. hog operations declined between 1997 and 2017, while farm size and contract production increased

Friday, December 9, 2022

The structure of the U.S. hog sector changed between 1997 and 2017, shifting hog production to fewer, but larger, farms. According to data from the Census of Agriculture, which is administered by the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, the number of hog operations with inventory declined 37 percent between 1997 and 2002 and continued to drop through 2012. Despite ticking upward in 2017, the number of operations with inventory ended at roughly 66,000 operations, 47 percent less than in 1997. In contrast, the average farm size roughly doubled over those two decades, as measured by the number of head of hogs in inventory per farm. The share of the U.S. hog inventory on farms with 5,000 or more head rose from 40 percent in 1997 to 73 percent in 2017. Overall, the U.S. hog inventory increased by 18 percent over the period, and the average hog farm size rose to more than 1,000 head of hogs. Reductions in the number of hog operations and increases in hog farm size have occurred alongside increases in production contract use. For example, by 2017, the percentage of hogs sold under a production contract rose to more than 50 percent in Iowa and Minnesota (combined) and in North Carolina, three hog-producing States that together contributed to more than half the hogs sold in the United States. From 2012 to 2017, contract production rose from 51 to 59 percent in Iowa and Minnesota and from 83 to 91 percent in North Carolina. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report U.S. Hog Production: Rising Output and Changing Trends in Productivity Growth, published in August 2022.

Caloric sweetener availability dropped 17 percent over last two decades

Thursday, December 8, 2022

In 2021, the amount of caloric sweeteners available for consumption in the United States was 17 percent less than in 1999, falling to 127.3 pounds per person from 153.6 pounds. According to the USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, a reduction in the availability of total corn sweeteners (high-fructose corn syrup, glucose syrup, and dextrose) contributed to the drop. The availability of corn sweeteners fell from a peak of 85.7 pounds per person in 1999 to 55.3 pounds in 2021. Shifting preferences among consumers and food manufacturers, high corn prices, and competition with refined cane and beet sugars and other caloric sweeteners have contributed to this decline. The availability of refined cane and beet sugars fell from 102.3 pounds per person in 1972 to 60.0 pounds in 1986 and remained relatively flat for the next two and a half decades. Refined sugar availability began to rise in 2010, surpassing corn sweeteners in 2011 and reaching 69.7 pounds per person in 2021. Per capita honey availability stood at 1.5 pounds and per capita availability of edible syrups was 0.9 pounds in 2021. This chart is from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated December 2022.

Popularity of tangerines has soared, but oranges still favored

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Fresh oranges have long been a favorite fruit of U.S. consumers. They currently rank fourth among fresh fruit in per capita availability (a proxy for consumption) after bananas, melons, and apples. Nonetheless, the U.S. palate has changed over the last several decades. Between 2000 and 2022, domestic availability of fresh oranges fell from 11.7 pounds to 8.3 pounds per person, stabilizing over the last decade between 8 and 10 pounds depending on market conditions. At the same time, the tangerine citrus commodity group has soared in popularity, with per capita availability more than doubling between 2000 and 2022. This broad group includes tangelos, mandarins, clementines, and traditional tangerines. A comparison of per capita fresh tangerine and fresh orange availability over the last 20 years shows the share going to tangerines increasing from 20 to 40 percent. Growth of the U.S. tangerine market coincides with the launch of marketing campaigns for easy-peel seedless mandarins by some of the more prominent citrus supply companies. This chart is based on USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) Fruit and Tree Nuts Yearbook Tables, released November 2022. The data for this chart do not account for spoilage, waste, and other losses. For data that takes these losses into account, see ERS’ Loss Adjusted Food Availability.

About 40 percent of all cow-calf operations reported using rotational grazing in 2018

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Rotational grazing is a management practice in which ranchers rotate cattle through a series of paddocks. It is an alternative to continuous grazing in which cattle stay on a single pasture. About 40 percent of all cow-calf operations reported using a rotational grazing system, with cow-calf/retained stocker producers leading adoption. Retained stockers keep one or more of their calves through the initial feeder stage for later sale to feedlots. Based on data collected from the 2018 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) Cattle and Calves Cost and Returns Report, 54 percent of retained stocker operations have adopted some form of rotational grazing. This adoption rate is more than the rate for strictly cow-calf producers, who sell all calves at or around weaning (38 percent), or retained finisher producers, who retain calves until market weight (50 percent). Retained stockers are much more likely to employ intensive rotational grazing systems, which use an average grazing period of 14 or fewer days per paddock, than strictly cow-calf operations and finishers. Across all forms of cow-calf operations, 16 percent of producers use intensive rotational grazing and 24 percent use basic rotational grazing (using an average grazing period longer than 14 days per paddock). The type of grazing system an operator selects can be part of managing forage production, forage quality, animal health, and environmental quality. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report Rotational Grazing Adoption by Cow-Calf Operations, published in November 2022.

Cover crop mixes account for 18 to 25 percent of major commodity acreage with cover crops

Monday, December 5, 2022

Farmers add cover crops to a rotation to provide living, seasonal soil cover between the planting of two cash (commodity) or forage crops. Including cover crops in a rotation can provide benefits such as improved soil health and water quality, weed suppression, and reduced soil erosion. Data from the field-level USDA Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) provide information on which cover crops were grown in the fall before planting corn, cotton, and soybeans. Cover crop mixes account for 18 to 25 percent of acres with cover crops. However, the use of single-species cover crops is more common. For corn fields in 2021, almost 75 percent of acres with cover crops used a grass or small grain cover crop, such as cereal rye, winter wheat, or oats. At 44 percent of acreage, cereal rye was almost twice as common as winter wheat (27 percent) as the cover crop on corn for grain fields. Rye and winter wheat were also the most common cover crops on soybean fields in 2018. Winter wheat was the most common cover crop used on cotton fields in 2019. The original version of this chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report Cover Crop Trends, Programs, and Practices in the United States, released in 2021.

Farm sector profits forecast to reach record highs in 2022

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.

Live holiday plant imports into the United States reach $80 million in 2022

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Christmas trees and poinsettias are iconic symbols of the holiday season. While the vast majority are grown in the United States for domestic use, a small share of both plants are imported from Canada. Trade is highly seasonal, with 99 percent of Christmas trees and 95 percent of poinsettias shipping between November and December. From 2000–15, live Christmas tree imports averaged around 2 million trees per year at an inflation-adjusted annual value of $36.1 million. However, by 2022, live tree imports reached nearly 2.8 million trees at a value of $68 million. Import values of live trees had previously spiked in 2020 because of COVID-19 supply chain issues, and prices have remained relatively high since. Poinsettias first grew in popularity as a Christmas flower in the United States after they were brought from Mexico in the 1820s. In the early 2000s, the United States imported as many as 5.9 million live plants per year before that number dipped to 1.2 million in 2011, in parallel to the narrowing of the U.S. to Canadian dollar exchange rate. In recent years, the number of plants has gradually increased with a more significant increase in value. In 2022, live poinsettia imports totaled 2.2 million plants worth $11.5 million. This chart is drawn from the Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade published by USDA’s Economic Research Service, November 2022.

Removal of China’s domestic price trade barriers could increase China’s imports of agricultural commodities

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

China imported more than $205 billion worth of agricultural products in 2021, including more than $37 billion from the United States, yet trade barriers deterred China’s imports from reaching even higher levels. China’s import barriers create what are called “price wedges,” in which domestic prices for agricultural commodities including beef, corn, pork, and wheat are higher than the world price. Researchers at USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) recently found that removing these price wedges would lead to increases in agricultural imports for the four commodities over the subsequent 5 to 10 years. For corn and wheat, removing price wedges was estimated to increase China’s imports by 91 and 249 percent, respectively. Both of these commodities are subject to a tariff-rate quota which could constrain additional imports. Removal of the beef price wedge was estimated to increase China’s beef imports by 46 percent, while for pork, it was estimated to increase China’s pork imports by 402 percent—the largest increase among the commodities considered. Overall, the benefits of removing these trade barriers would be widespread, increasing sales for producers in the United States and other exporting countries and yielding lower food prices for China’s consumers. This chart is drawn from the ERS report China’s Import Potential for Beef, Corn, Pork, and Wheat, published in August 2022.

Farm share of U.S. food dollar reached historic low in 2021

Monday, November 28, 2022

U.S. farm establishments received 14.5 cents per dollar spent on domestically produced food in 2021—a decrease of 1.0 cent from a revised 15.5 cents in 2020—to the lowest recorded farm share value in nearly three decades. The remaining portion of the food dollar—known as the marketing share—covers the costs of getting domestically produced food from farms to points of purchase, including costs related to packaging, transporting, processing, and selling to consumers. One contributor to the 2021 decline in farm share was a shift to food-away-from-home (FAFH) spending. Farm establishments typically receive a smaller share of FAFH spending because of the large amount of value added by FAFH outlets such as restaurants. As a result, the farm share generally decreases when FAFH spending increases faster year-over-year than food-at-home spending. FAFH spending increased markedly in 2021 after a sharp decrease early in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Accordingly, the farm share returned to its pre-pandemic downward trend in 2021 after an increase in 2020. The USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) uses input-output analysis to calculate the farm and marketing shares from a typical food dollar. The data for this chart can be found in ERS’s Food Dollar Series data product, updated November 17, 2022.

Many American Indians and Alaska Natives are concentrated in high poverty rural areas

Friday, November 25, 2022

According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2015-19, there were 469 nonmetropolitan (nonmetro) counties with a poverty rate of 20 percent or more, which USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) designates as high poverty. The high poverty classification in more than half of the counties (236) is characterized by a concentration of poverty within racial and ethnic minority groups, including Black or African American (153 counties), Hispanic (49 counties) and American Indian and Alaska Natives (34 counties). Many of the American Indian and Alaska Native high poverty counties are areas of historic tribal presence or were designated as reservation settlements in the 19th century. The average poverty rate for those 34 counties is 31.5 percent for the total population and 40.5 percent for the American Indian and Alaska Native population alone, a level considered to be extreme poverty. The average poverty rates for the other racial-ethnic high poverty county types are below 30 percent for the total population and below 40 percent for the Black or African American and Hispanic population groups. This chart uses information from the ERS Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America to update information on the Rural Poverty and Well-being topic page and the Amber Waves feature Anatomy of Nonmetro High-Poverty Areas: Common in Plight, Distinctive in Nature, published in February 2004.

California lead supplier of organic potatoes and sweet potatoes, while Massachusetts produces most organic cranberries

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Certified organic versions of potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and celery are widely available to consumers for the holidays and beyond. But where are these organic crops produced? Organic potatoes (indicated by the brown State color in the map above) most often come from California, which has 57 percent of U.S. harvested acres, followed by Colorado. Organic sweet potatoes (blue flags on map) come from California and North Carolina, which together have 91 percent of the Nation’s acreage. The top organic cranberry-producing States (red flags) are Massachusetts, with 66 percent of production, and Wisconsin. The U.S. harvest season for cranberries runs from around mid-September until the end of October, just in time for Thanksgiving. Organic celery production (green flag) is almost exclusive to California (91 percent of the U.S. crop). Consumer demand for organically produced food has grown since the 1990s, and certified organic U.S. cropland acres increased by 73 percent from 2011 to 2019, with 3.5 million acres in 2019. USDA implemented national organic standards in 2002 that required certification for all except the smallest (less than $5,000 in sales) organic growers. Organic farming systems rely on practices such as cultural and biological pest management and prohibit nearly all synthetic chemicals in crop production. This map includes data found in USDA, Economic Research Service’s Organic Agriculture topic page and in the ERS State Fact Sheets data product.

Rising food costs baked into Thanksgiving pies in 2022, no matter how you slice it

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Pie is a time-honored staple of Thanksgiving around the country. U.S. consumers baking a homemade apple pie this year can expect to pay about $8.76 for the ingredients, an increase of about 19.5 percent from 2021. Prices increased for all ingredients. Apples comprised about half the cost of a pie ($4.56), and prices for Granny Smith apples increased from an average $1.41 per pound in October 2021 to $1.52 per pound in October 2022. Prices increased the most for eggs (90.0 percent) and flour (34.6 percent), but rising butter costs had the largest impact on the total, adding an additional $0.68 to the cost of a pie between 2021 and 2022. If serving the apple pie a la mode, ice cream adds $0.36 per scoop. The most recent average price data are from October; prices for Thanksgiving week may vary. For example, savings may occur if grocers offer holiday discounts. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) used average price data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service Weekly Advertised Fruit and Vegetable Retail Price data to derive the cost for the ingredients of an apple pie. Forecasts for aggregate food category prices can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated November 22.

U.S. cranberry harvest expected to be 5 percent larger in 2022

Monday, November 21, 2022

With the 2022 U.S. cranberry harvest wrapping up just in time for Thanksgiving, this year’s crop is forecast to be 5 percent larger than last year’s crop. The 2022 cranberry crop is estimated at 7.44 million barrels but is expected to be smaller than in any of the previous three years (2018–20). Cranberry production, as measured by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), comes from four States: Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Oregon, and New Jersey. In Wisconsin, the largest growing State, production is forecast at 4.3 million barrels, up 3 percent from last year. Larger crops are expected in all States but most prominently in Massachusetts, where production is forecast at 2 million barrels, an 11 percent increase from last year. According to NASS, Wisconsin and Massachusetts growers reported the crop experienced cold, wet weather and hail early in the growing season, stalling the planting season. However, warmer temperatures and better weather conditions helped cranberry plants and berries to develop. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, September 2022.

Thanksgiving is filled with food activities, while non-food shopping is popular on Black Friday

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Do people really spend more time preparing food, eating, drinking, and cleaning up the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day compared with other holidays? Do they really spend more time shopping on Black Friday than on other days? The answer to both questions is “Yes.” Over a survey period from 2003 to 2021, people in the United States spent an average of 91 minutes eating and drinking on Thanksgiving Day. This was 21 minutes greater than the time spent eating and drinking on average for six other major holidays and 21 more minutes than on an average weekend day. Similarly, compared with the average for non-Thanksgiving holidays and weekends, people spent more time preparing meals and cleaning-up on Thanksgiving (126 minutes versus 47 minutes on non-Thanksgiving holidays and 36 minutes on weekends). When it comes to the day after Thanksgiving, people in the United States tend to spend more of their time shopping for items other than food relative to other days. Indeed, people spent 41 minutes shopping for non-food items on an average Black Friday, which is more than 240 percent higher than on an average non-Thanksgiving holiday. For more information, see USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Eating and Health Module of the American Time Use Survey in ERS’s Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product.

Share of working-age population in nonmetro areas declined from 2010 to 2020

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

In nonmetro areas from 2010 to 2020, the working-age population (ages 18 to 64) declined by 4.9 percent, and the population under age 18 declined by 5.7 percent. At the same time, the population of those 65 years and older grew by 22 percent. In metro areas, the working-age population increased by 6 percent during the 2010s; however, this growth was overshadowed by the 37 percent growth in the 65 and older population. Nationwide, the overall U.S. population has aged as the baby boomer generation entered their 60s and 70s. Nonmetro areas, in addition to having an aging population, also face population decline. Between 2010 and 2020, U.S. Census data show the population in nonmetro counties declined by 0.6 percent, the first decade of overall nonmetro population decline in U.S. census history. Nonmetro population subsequently increased in the first year and a half of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic from 2020 to 2021 which saw people move out of metro areas into rural places. However, population gains due to COVID-19 were not enough to offset a decade-long slide in the share of the population that is of working-age nor to reduce the share of the rural population that was 65 or older during this period. Overall, population decline and an increase in average age in rural areas will affect the makeup and availability of the rural labor force. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report Rural America at a Glance: 2022 edition, published on November 15, 2022.

Ahead of Thanksgiving, August stocks of frozen whole hen turkeys up 12 percent from 2021 despite avian flu production woes

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

U.S. residents gobble up a lot of turkey each year at Thanksgiving. In anticipation of the holiday, producers raise turkeys and place inventories into cold storage throughout the year, with inventories often reaching peak levels in August. August 2022 storage data indicated that producers prioritized building up supplies of whole hens in time for Thanksgiving despite an outbreak of avian flu in 2022 that set back overall turkey production relative to the previous year. While production of turkey for meat in 2022 was forecast in November to be 7 percent lower than in 2021, total turkey meat in cold storage at the end of August 2022 was 1 percent higher than the same time last year. At the same time, August cold stocks of whole hens, the birds typically served for Thanksgiving dinner, were more than 12 percent higher than the same time last year at 114.4 million pounds, but below the 5-year average. August also marks the latest date by which a turkey chick can mature in time for Thanksgiving. August placements of turkey chicks were 2 percent above the 5-year average, indicating producers were working to make up for lost production earlier in the year. As is typical, September stocks were lower than August’s, falling to 105.4 million pounds but remained nearly 9 percent higher than in September 2021. This chart first appeared in USDA, Economic Research Service’s Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: October 2022.

Disability status can affect food security among U.S. households

Monday, November 14, 2022

In 2021, households that included an adult with disabilities reported higher food insecurity rates than households with no adults with disabilities. Food-insecure households are those that had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources. In 2021, for U.S. households that included an adult out of the labor force because of a disability, 28 percent were food insecure (low and very low food security). Among U.S. households with an adult age 18-64 who reported a disability but was not out of the labor force because of it, 24 percent were food insecure. In contrast, 7 percent of households with adults without disabilities were food insecure in 2021. Households that include at least one adult 65 and over who reported a disability had food insecurity prevalence rates similar to households with adults without disabilities (9 percent). Very low food security, the more severe form of food insecurity in which normal eating patterns were disrupted and the food intake of some household members was reduced, was also higher for households that included adults with disabilities. In 2021, the prevalence rate of very low food security for households that included adults not in the labor force because of a disability was more than five times that of households that included adults without disabilities (13 percent compared with 2 percent of households). Households that include adults ages 18–64 with a disability, but not out of the labor force because of the disability, also experienced higher prevalence rates of very low food insecurity at 10 percent. This chart appears in USDA, Economic Research Service’s Interactive Charts and Highlights page.

Counties with high veteran poverty rates tend to be nonmetropolitan

Thursday, November 10, 2022

USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) analysis of the American Community Survey estimates for 2015–19 reveal the poverty rate for veterans to be nearly 5 percentage points lower than for non-veteran adults (8.2 percent compared to 12.8 percent). However, in many areas of the nation, veterans have higher poverty rates than nonveterans, especially in nonmetropolitan counties. During the 2015–19 data period, there were 248 counties with a high rate of poverty (equal to or greater than 20 percent) for the veteran population. The adult non-veteran population had high poverty rates in less than half of those counties (119). Of the 129 counties in which only veterans had high poverty, there were 15 counties with extreme high poverty rates (equal to or greater than 40 percent) for veterans. Across all the 248 counties in which there was high veteran poverty, nearly 90 percent (219 counties) were nonmetropolitan counties. This chart uses data found in the ERS Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America and updates statistics that appear in the ERS Economic Brief Rural Veterans at a Glance, published in November 2013.

SNAP participation varied across States from 2019 to 2021

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

In fiscal year (FY) 2021, USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) served an average of 41.5 million people monthly, an increase of about 5.8 million per month compared with FY 2019. SNAP participation increased nationwide during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to around 12.5 percent of the total U.S. population in FY 2021 from about 10.9 percent in FY 2019. In addition, SNAP participation data in February 2019 were artificially low because of the Federal Government shutdown (Dec. 22, 2018–Jan. 25, 2019), impacting the average participation rate. SNAP participation also varied across States because of differences in program administration and economic conditions. Over this 2-year period, 41 States saw an increase in SNAP participation, which ranged from a 0.1-percent increase in Mississippi to a 6.6-percent increase in the District of Columbia (D.C.). In D.C., the percentage of participants increased to 20.9 percent in FY 2021 from 14.3 percent in FY 2019. SNAP participation fell across 10 States in FY 2021: Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, and Vermont. The drops in State participation ranged from 0.1 percent in Utah to 0.8 percent in Delaware. The FY 2019 map is updated from the August 2020 Amber Waves article Taking a Closer Look at Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation and Expenditures and the FY 2021 map appears in Charting the Essentials, updated October 2022.

U.S. sweet potatoes are enjoyed around the world, export data show

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

The United States is not the only country enjoying U.S. sweet potatoes. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the United States was the top global exporter, by volume, of sweet potatoes in 2020. U.S. sweet potato exports on a fresh-weight basis increased 1,157 percent from 2001 to 2021, and the annual value of exports grew from $14 million to $187 million in the same period. Promotion of the tuber’s health benefits and food companies’ expanding sweet-potato offerings, such as sweet potato chips and fries, have helped fuel the expansion. Exports to the United Kingdom and European Union experienced strong year-over-year growth from the mid-2000s until 2018. Rising global competition and the damage caused by Hurricane Florence to the 2019 crop in North Carolina—the State leading U.S. production—cooled the export market. From 2018 to 2021, exports declined to the United Kingdom by 28 percent and to the European Union by 12 percent. Meanwhile, exports have continued to increase to Canada, among other destinations. The United States ranks seventh globally in sweet potato production, according to FAO. Over the past 20 years, top-producing U.S. States more than doubled sweet potato production to meet growing international and domestic demand. This trend has plateaued since U.S. sweet potato production reached a record high in 2017. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s Vegetables and Pulses Outlook: April 2022.