ERS Charts of Note
Tuesday, November 30, 2021
Demand for table eggs tends to increase when holiday gatherings and cold weather encourage home baking and cooking. In accordance, wholesale table egg prices—the prices retailers pay to producers for eggs—tend to increase ahead of holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Leading up to the 2021 holiday season, however, wholesale prices of table eggs in the United States have fallen as effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19)-linked flock adjustments linger. In normal years, producers anticipate seasonal demand by adjusting the size of the table-egg laying flocks and the rate at which they produce eggs. In 2020, COVID-19-related disruptions in the demand for eggs led producers to reduce flock sizes. Flock sizes have slowly rebuilt since the summer of 2020 but remain smaller than the same time in 2019. However, the younger flocks produce more eggs per hen. The higher productivity can offset the effects of the small flock size and support increased production. At the beginning of October 2021 the size of the U.S. laying flock was just above the October 2020 levels and the rate of lay was 1.1 percent higher. This productivity bump is predicted to support about a 1 percent increase in October 2021 table egg production compared with a year ago, leading to a 9.6 percent price reduction compared to October 2020. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Monthly Outlook, published November 2021.
Monday, November 29, 2021
Water storage infrastructure includes dams and reservoirs that provide a way to store water across seasons and years to meet the demands of irrigators. According to data collected in the USDA’s 2019 Survey of Irrigation Organizations, less than 20 percent of water delivery organizations own and manage their own water storage reservoirs. The remaining water delivery organizations rely on natural streamflow or storage infrastructure owned by State or Federal agencies or other irrigation organizations. Large irrigation organizations, defined as those organizations that serve more than 10,000 irrigable acres, are the most likely to own water storage infrastructure. Almost 37 percent of large irrigation organizations have at least one water storage reservoir. Meanwhile, 21 percent of medium organizations and 10 percent of small organizations, have at least one reservoir. Storage infrastructure is particularly important in snowpack-dependent basins where the timing of spring runoff does not align with peak irrigation water demand. The role of water storage infrastructure will be critical as snowpack decreases, snowmelt runoff shifts to earlier in the growing season, and water demand increases. This chart can be found in the USDA, Economic Research Service report Irrigation Organizations—Water Storage and Delivery Infrastructure, published October 19, 2021.
Friday, November 26, 2021
In 2020, 19.7 million full- and part-time jobs were related to the agricultural and food sectors,10.3 percent of total U.S. employment. Direct on-farm employment accounted for about 2.6 million of these jobs, or 1.4 percent of U.S. employment. Employment in agriculture- and food-related industries supported another 17.1 million jobs. Of this, food service, eating and drinking places accounted for the largest share at 10.5 million jobs. Food and beverage stores supported 3.3 million jobs. The remaining agriculture-related industries together added another 3.3 million jobs. This chart appears in the collection Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials on the ERS website.
Wednesday, November 24, 2021
The U.S. harvest season for cranberries runs from around mid-September until the end of October, just in time for Thanksgiving. Total U.S. production of cranberries in 2021 is forecast for 7.9 million barrels, up less than 1 percent from last year. In three of the four top cranberry-producing States—Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Oregon—output is expected to increase slightly from last year. Wisconsin, the largest producer of cranberries in the United States, grew roughly 59 percent of the crop in 2020. Production in this State is expected to increase 1 percent from 2020 to 4.7 million barrels in 2021. In Massachusetts and Oregon, production volumes are forecast at 2.1 and 0.6 million barrels, respectively, representing slight net increases. In contrast, 2021 output is forecast to decrease in New Jersey; however, this decline is more than offset by gains in other States. Production of cranberries has gradually increased since 1990 as consumption has expanded from seasonal to year-round. This increase is driven in part by the rise in cranberries used in processing (mainly for juice and juice blends). This chart is drawn from Economic Research Service’s Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook, September 2021.
Monday, November 22, 2021
As U.S. consumers finalize their Thanksgiving menus, they might be curious to know how much ingredients will likely cost. If a homemade apple pie is on the menu, consumers can expect to pay about $7.32 for the ingredients, more than half of which ($4.22) is for apples. The same pie ingredients cost about $6.75 last year, meaning the total cost is 8.4 percent higher this year. The cost increase is driven by the price of Granny Smith apples, which increased from an average $1.26 per pound in October 2020 to $1.41 per pound in October 2021. Sugar, eggs, butter, and lemons also increased in price over the same period, while flour prices decreased. If the apple pie is served a la mode, plan to factor in an additional $0.31 per scoop, the same price as in 2020. USDA, Economic Research Service 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. The most recent data points are from October, meaning prices for Thanksgiving week may vary; savings may occur if grocers offer holiday discounts. Forecasts for aggregate food category prices can be found in the Food Price Outlook data product, which will next be updated on November 23.
Friday, November 19, 2021
Food insecurity among U.S. households was substantially higher in late 2020 when people were unable to work or were prevented from looking for work because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The annual Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement, sponsored by USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS), collected information on food security among the Nation’s households in December 2020. The survey included questions about effects of the pandemic on work activities during the prior 4 weeks. Households experiencing food insecurity in the 30 days before the survey reported they had difficulty providing enough food for all their household members because of a lack of resources. From mid-November to mid-December 2020, households with a reference person (an adult household member in whose name the housing unit is owned or rented) who was not employed (unemployed or not in the labor force) had a higher prevalence of food insecurity at 8.0 percent compared with all U.S. households (5.7 percent). Those with an employed reference person had a lower food insecurity prevalence at 4.2 percent. For households with a reference person unable to work because of the pandemic, the prevalence of food insecurity was 16.4 percent, substantially higher than the national average of 5.7 percent. The same is true for households that had an unemployed reference person who was prevented from looking for work because of the pandemic, with a food insecurity prevalence of 20.4 percent. The statistics appearing in this chart are included in a table in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2020, released September 8, 2021. A similar figure appears in ERS interactive charts on food security.
Thursday, November 18, 2021
The public rollout of Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccinations in the United States began in mid-December 2020. The early phases of vaccination prioritized frontline health care workers, adults age 65 and over, individuals with high-risk medical conditions, and essential workers. During this period, vaccination rates in metro (urban) and nonmetro (rural) counties increased at about the same rate, and by mid-April 2021, total vaccination rates for the Nation were slightly above 20 percent. After April 19, 2021, when all adults became eligible for vaccination, the share of fully vaccinated residents increased faster in metro counties than in nonmetro counties. In addition, the vaccination rate was consistently lower in persistently poor counties than in counties that were not persistently poor. Persistently poor counties are counties in which 20 percent or more of the population lived at or below the Federal poverty line during four consecutive U.S. census measurements dating to 1980. In July 2021, the highly infectious Delta variant began to spread. Rural persistently poor counties led the Nation in new infections through much of this surge, and the gap in vaccination rates between persistently poor and other counties started to close in mid-August. However, the rural-urban vaccination gap persisted. By early October 2021, the vaccination rate in urban counties had reached 53 percent, while the vaccination rate in rural counties was about 42 percent. This chart is included in the USDA Economic Research Service report Rural America at a Glance: 2021 Edition, published November 17, 2021.
Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Recently released USDA projections reveal expectations for U.S. crop prices to decrease over the next 10 years while prices for major animal products, except hogs, are forecast to increase. Expected declines for crops follow a period of generally higher prices that have peaked during the current marketing year. The price-bolstering effects of economic recovery, renewed export demand, and logistical problems in supply chains are forecast to subside after the recent peak during the 2021/22 marketing year, and crop prices are forecast subsequently to return to the earlier pattern of generally lower prices through 2031. Hog prices are projected to follow a similar pattern to crops and to move toward levels that reflect normal weather and an absence of major market shocks including policy changes. Beef cattle and broiler prices are expected to demonstrate a modest increase in the early years of the projection period before leveling off to slower growth, resulting in an average price increase of 8 to 17 percent over the decade. Similar to most animal products prices, prices that farmers are expected to receive for their eggs are forecast to rise steadily throughout the projection period, partly based on increased demand for cage-free eggs and regulatory changes that are projected to increase costs of production. This chart is based upon forecasts and projections using data available as of October 12, 2021, and long-term projections to 2031 released on November 5, 2021. Current projections are shown in the Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Agricultural Baseline Database. For 2020’s farm price projections, see the ERS Chart of Note from November 9, 2020.
Monday, November 15, 2021
During the decade from 2010-20, 24 States lost population in nonmetropolitan, or rural areas, according to the 2020 U.S. census. Sixteen of those States lost population overall or showed slow population growth (less than 5 percent) during the period. Data from the 2020 census show the U.S. population grew 7.4 percent from 2010 to 2020, slower than the 9.7 percent growth in the previous decade. West Virginia, Mississippi, and Illinois lost population in the most recent decade, with the population declining the most in West Virginia at 3.2 percent. West Virginia also was the only State to lose population in metropolitan areas as well as in nonmetro areas. The highest-population growing State from 2010 to 2020 was Utah at 18.4 percent, and Idaho, Texas, North Dakota, and Nevada also showed population growth of 15 percent or more. This map uses data from the USDA, Economic Research Service’s State Fact Sheets data product, updated in November 2021.
Friday, November 12, 2021
USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) reports that the total value of U.S. agricultural imports reached a new high in fiscal year (FY) 2022 (October–September) and will remain elevated in FY 2022. Total U.S. agricultural import values were recorded at more than $163 billion in FY 2021 and are forecast to exceed $159 billion in FY 2022. By dollar value, the largest category of U.S. agricultural imports is horticultural products, which includes fruit, vegetables, tree nuts, wine, beer, and spirits. Values of fresh fruit imports, such as bananas, avocados, strawberries, and blueberries, have trended upward in recent years as more produce is imported during the off-season to meet U.S. consumer demand for year-round produce. Rising import volumes and values of fresh vegetables, wine, and beer also contributed to overall growth in horticultural imports. The value of horticultural product imports is $86.1 billion in FY 2021, up almost $19 billion from the 5-year average of $67.5 billion. Livestock, dairy, and poultry imports in FY 2021 are valued at $21.0 billion, up from their 5-year average of $17.4 billion to $20.1 billion in FY 2022. Sugar and tropical products, which include coffee and cocoa, increased to $23.9 billion, up from their 5-year average of $21.6 billion. This chart is drawn from data in ERS’s Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade, and data in ERS's U.S. Agricultural Trade Update, which shows that U.S. agricultural exports were at a new high in FY 2021 as well.
Wednesday, November 10, 2021
In 2020, U.S. family farm households received $4.3 billion in Federal assistance during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic from Economic Impact Payments (EIP) (also known as stimulus payments). USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers used data from the most recent available 2019 Agricultural Resource Management Survey on farm households’ adjusted gross income and household composition to estimate the average EIP disbursed. The estimated average was $924, $2,408, and $2,466 for single, head of household, and joint filers, respectively. This disparity partly reflects the lower income thresholds for single households, which resulted in some not receiving the maximum EIP and others not receiving EIP at all. Additionally, since unmarried people with dependents were assumed to file as head of household, these households were estimated to have received an additional $500 per dependent. Among family farm households, ERS researchers estimated that 18 percent of single filers did not receive EIP, compared with 17 percent of head of household filers, and 13 percent of joint filers in 2020. In April and May 2020, U.S. households of all types—farm or otherwise—received more than $266 billion from the EIP program. This chart appears in the Amber Waves feature “U.S. Agriculture Sector Received an Estimated $35 Billion in COVID-19 Related Assistance in 2020,” released September 2021.
Monday, November 8, 2021
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food packages, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and health care referrals at no cost to pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children up to 5 years of age who are at nutritional risk. Before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, most WIC services, including certification, recertification, and supplemental food package issuance, were provided in-person at WIC clinics. During the pandemic, USDA issued waivers that enabled WIC State agencies to provide various WIC services remotely to protect the health and safety of staff and participants through social distancing. For example, most WIC State agencies applied for and received USDA waivers to allow for remote certification and recertification of WIC recipients, which may have influenced WIC participation. During the second half of fiscal year (FY) 2020 (April through September 2020), average monthly participation rates for women and infants declined by about 42,000 women and 22,000 infants per month, while average monthly participation rates for children 1 to 4 years of age increased by about 200,000 children per month. Further, many State WIC agencies received waivers to allow for substitutions to items included in participants’ food packages to address pandemic-induced food shortages. Despite these allowances, USDA spending on WIC food package redemptions, referred to as WIC food costs, fell in the months following the onset of the pandemic. On average, monthly food costs in the second half of FY 2020 were about $20 million lower than food costs in the first half of FY 2020. This chart is based on data available as of January 2021 that is subject to revision and appears in the October 2021 Amber Waves article, “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Transformed the U.S. Federal Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape”.
Friday, November 5, 2021
Foods purchased at grocery stores, supercenters, and other retail venues were exempt from sales taxes in 57 percent of U.S. counties in 2019. The remaining counties taxed food purchases at various levels across 18 states, mostly in the Southeast and Midwest. Alabama’s Tuscaloosa and Cullman counties had the highest grocery tax rate at 9 percent (4 percent State plus 5 percent county). Grocery tax rates not only vary across different States, counties, and cities, but they can also change over time. Using county-level tax data in combination with the USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS), researchers at USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) recently examined whether grocery taxes are associated with how much money U.S. households spend for food at retail outlets and restaurants. ERS found that grocery taxes were associated with differences in food spending among lower-income households that were eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) but did not participate in it. Among those households, researchers were able to associate taxes on groceries with reduced food spending at retail stores and increased food spending at restaurants. However, Federal law and USDA regulations stipulate that foods purchased with SNAP benefits are exempt from State and local sales taxes, and no such relationship was found among households participating in SNAP. This chart is drawn from the ERS report Food Taxes and Their Impacts on Food Spending, released September 2021.
Wednesday, November 3, 2021
Irrigation organizations that deliver water to farms and ranches use main and lateral canals, tunnels, and pipelines to transport water from natural waterways, reservoirs, or other infrastructure to irrigated farms and ranches. Transporting water to farms and ranches can result in conveyance losses, or water that is unavailable for irrigation use because of evaporation or seepage. Lining water canals with quasi-impermeable materials, such as concrete or plastic membranes, can reduce conveyance losses as less water is lost to seepage. However, the cost of lining canals may be prohibitively high for many irrigation organizations. According to data collected in the USDA’s 2019 Survey of Irrigation Organizations, almost 76 percent of water delivery organizations cite expense as a reason for leaving conveyance infrastructure unlined. In some scenarios, lining canals may not be feasible or warranted. For example, unlined canals may beneficially recharge aquifers or soil and geologic attributes may minimize seepage losses. A smaller percentage of organizations cite those as reasons for not lining main and lateral canals. This chart can be found in the USDA, Economic Research Service report, Irrigation Organizations—Water Storage and Delivery Infrastructure, published October 19, 2021.
Monday, November 1, 2021
Remembering to defrost the turkey might not be the only challenge families face as they try to get that perennial centerpiece onto the Thanksgiving table this year. As of August 31, 2021, inventories of frozen whole turkeys and turkey parts were 24 percent lower than 3-year average volumes. Stocks of frozen turkey meat typically follow a seasonal pattern, building throughout the year until the fall, when retailers prepare to meet holiday demand. In 2021, the seasonal build-up was less pronounced than usual, and stock volumes appear to have peaked before starting an earlier-than-normal decline. At the end of August 2021, 428.1 million pounds of turkey meat were in cold storage, a 19-percent decrease from the same month last year, and a decline of about 7 million pounds from the end of July 2021. Stocks are lower partly because production of turkeys is lower than average this year. At 474.2 million pounds, August 2021 turkey production was mostly unchanged from the same time in 2020 but below the 3-year average, in part a result of high feed costs. August placements of turkey chicks, down about 4 percent from the 3-year average, are dampening expectations for both turkey production and stocks. August marks the latest date by which a turkey chick can mature in time to be harvested for Thanksgiving. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, October 2021.
Friday, October 29, 2021
Beginning in March 2020, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic caused school and childcare provider closures, disrupting the distribution of meals through USDA’s largest child nutrition programs: The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), and Child and Adult Care Food Program. In response, USDA expanded the scope and coverage of the NSLP’s and SBP’s Seamless Summer Option (SSO) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The SSO and SFSP typically provide meals to children and teens in low-income areas during unanticipated school closures between October and April or when schools are not in session, such as during summer break. USDA waived these requirements, allowing qualifying organizations to serve free meals to children and teens in all areas throughout the year. As a result, the number of free meal sites open to all children as reported by States grew rapidly in the early months of the pandemic. At least 28,987 sites were operating in March 2020, and at least 31,347 by May 2020, well above the 6,254 sites reported in May 2019. In June and July of 2020, the number of reported free meal sites open to all children was lower compared to the same months in 2019. Although fewer free meal sites were reported as operating, more children received meals through the SSO and SFSP during June and July of 2020 compared with the same months in the previous year. This chart is based on data presented in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s COVID-19 Working Paper: Filling the Pandemic Meal Gap: Disruptions to Child Nutrition Programs and Expansion of Free Meal Sites in the Early Months of the Pandemic, released October 12, 2021.
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
Errata: On November 9, 2021, the chart and text were revised to clarify that the Paycheck Protection Program eligibility simulation was carried out on both commercial and intermediate farm operations. No other data or findings are changed.
As part of its response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the U.S. Federal Government implemented the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Agricultural producers could use forgivable loans from this program to help keep employees on payroll and offset some of their operating costs. The maximum PPP loan amount was 2.5 times the monthly average profit plus payroll and eligible overhead expenses, such as the employer’s share of insurance payments and unemployment taxes. If used on eligible expenses within the first 24 weeks of disbursement, PPP loans were fully forgiven. According to data from USDA’s 2019 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), 72 percent of all farm businesses (operations with gross cash farm income of more than $350,000 or smaller operations where farming is reported as the operator's primary occupation) had either positive net income or positive payroll, which met the two most important eligibility requirements to apply for PPP loans. Individual Small Business Administration (SBA) loan data indicated that almost 121,000 farm operations applied for a total of $6.0 billion in PPP loans in 2020. That accounted for 17 percent of presumed-eligible farm businesses based on the 2019 ARMS. Out of the total PPP loans that was disbursed to farm operations in 2020, $3.9 billion (65 percent) went to crop operations, and the remaining $2.1 billion (35 percent) went to livestock operations. This chart appears in the Amber Waves finding “U.S. Producers Received Almost $6.0 Billion From the Paycheck Protection Program in 2020,” released October 2021.
Monday, October 25, 2021
Pumpkins are a staple of fall traditions for many Americans who pick them, carve them into jack-o’-lanterns, or bake pumpkin desserts. Although pumpkins are grown in many States, most of the production comes from only 10 States. By acreage and by weight, Illinois is consistently the Nation’s largest pumpkin producer. However, unlike other States, most of Illinois’ pumpkins are used for pie filling and other processed foods, which receive a lower price per pound than ornamental jack-o’-lantern-style pumpkins. Production value of pumpkins in Illinois was ranked third in 2020 at $21.3 million. In 2020, Texas led the Nation in the value of pumpkins produced at $25.9 million, followed by Pennsylvania at $22.5 million, Illinois, and California at $20.7 million. Dry weather in Texas led to higher quality and lower yields, contributing to prices that exceeded those received by growers in any other State in 2020. Retail prices for pumpkins typically fluctuate week to week leading up to Halloween. In the second week of October 2021, the average retail price for jack-o’-lantern-style pumpkins was $4.09 per pumpkin, up 12 percent compared with the same week in 2020. This chart is drawn from Economic Research Service’s Trending Topics page, Pumpkins: Background & Statistics.
Friday, October 22, 2021
The USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) typically provides free nutritious meals to children and teens in low-income areas through qualifying organizations during unanticipated school closures from October through April or when schools are not in session, such as during summer break. In response to school and childcare provider closures caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, USDA expanded the scope and coverage of the SFSP by allowing qualifying organizations to serve free meals throughout the year and in all areas through the program. As a result, the program set a record in fiscal year 2020 for number of meals served. In July 2020, participation in the program reached a historical high of 4.7 million. However, the increase in participation was not matched by an increase in SFSP sites. The number of SFSP free meal sites, including sites open to all children and sites serving only enrolled children, had steadily increased over much of the last decade, peaking at 50,080 in July 2017 before declining to 47,471 by July 2019 and 37,498 in July 2020. This chart is based on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s COVID-19 Working Paper: Filling the Pandemic Meal Gap: Disruptions to Child Nutrition Programs and Expansion of Free Meal Sites in the Early Months of the Pandemic, released October 12, 2021.
Wednesday, October 20, 2021
The H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers Program attracts foreign farmworkers on temporary work visas to fulfill short-term labor contracts. All positions to be filled with H-2A workers are first certified by the Department of Labor, then U.S. consulates issue corresponding visas. The number of positions certified each year generally exceeds the annual number of visas issued, in part because an H-2A worker may fill multiple positions on the same visa. At the onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, temporary changes to H-2A program rules provided visa extensions to H-2A workers already in the country and allowed them to more easily switch to certified positions with other employers. In the first few months of the pandemic, the gap between positions certified and the number of visas issued grew. Position certifications typically peak in March, while visas issued peak a month later as workers begin work. In March and April 2020 combined, a record 81,000 positions were certified, and 57,000 visas were issued during the corresponding months of April and May. This difference is larger than previous years and suggests that proportionally fewer certified positions were filled with new H-2A entries in 2020. This chart first appeared in the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) report, Farm Labor Markets in the United States and Mexico Pose Challenges for U.S. Agriculture, published in November 2018, and has been updated through 2020. For more information on how H-2A visas have fulfilled seasonal labor requirements, see the ERS report Examining the Growth in Seasonal Agricultural H-2A Labor, published in August 2021, and the Amber Waves feature “Use of H-2A Guest Farm Worker Program More Than Triples in Past Decade,” published in September 2021.