ERS Charts of Note
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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.
Tuesday, May 2, 2023
U.S. consumers’ intakes of several key nutrients differ from Federal recommendations. Differences are associated with where they obtain food. Researchers from USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) and the University of Georgia examined diet patterns based on density—amounts of nutrients consumed per 1,000 calories—using the latest available national food consumption survey data collected in 2017–18. They compared average consumption densities of six nutrients with what would be needed to match Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations, assuming a typical 2,000-calorie intake. On average, intake densities of dietary fiber and iron were more than 20 percent below the recommended level; calcium densities were closer to the recommended level but still fell short of recommendations. Total fat intake was within 20 percent of the highest recommended percent of calories from total fats, which is 35 percent. The density of saturated fats for food away from home (FAFH) and densities of sodium from all sources (total, food at home, and FAFH) were more than 20 percent above the recommended limit. Generally, the nutrient densities of food purchased at grocery stores, supermarkets, and similar retailers for home food preparation were more in line with dietary guidelines recommendations than those of food obtained from commercial FAFH preparation sources (primarily restaurants and fast food establishments). This chart appears in the ERS report Dietary Quality by Food Source and Demographics in the United States, 1977–2018, published March 2023.
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.
Thursday, April 27, 2023
In September 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused major destruction across Puerto Rico’s agricultural sector. The destruction of infrastructure, operations, and crops led to an exodus of farmworkers, which further hampered the farm sector’s ability to recover. Data from the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Census of Agriculture, conducted every 5 years, show how the hurricanes impacted Puerto Rico’s farm income and expenses. Between 2012 and 2018, the number of farms declined by nearly 38 percent. Gross cash receipts—the sum of the sale of agricultural commodities, cash from farm-related income, and participation in Government farm programs—fell 19 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars from $718 million to $585 million. Cash expenses for Puerto Rican farms also decreased, falling 16 percent from $594 million to $500 million. Puerto Rico Planning Board’s data for net agricultural farm income, which includes non-cash income and expenses such as inventory changes, show a similar decline over the span of time that includes years not captured by NASS census data. From 2012 to 2020, net agricultural farm income (not adjusted for inflation) fell by $101 million. This chart first appeared in the USDA, Economic Research Service report, Puerto Rico’s Agricultural Economy in the Aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria: A Brief Overview, April 2023.
Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Errata: On April 28, the Chart of Note from Wednesday, April 26, 2023 was revised to correct the 2021 total sales, shipment values, and revenue from food and beverage manufacturing plants. The chart source was also revised to correct the survey year. No other data were affected.
Food and beverage manufacturing plants transform raw food commodities into products for intermediate or final consumption by using labor, machinery, energy, and scientific knowledge. These plants accounted for nearly $1.019 trillion or 16.8 percent of sales, shipment values, and revenue from all U.S. manufacturing plants in 2021, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census’ Annual Survey of Manufactures. Meat processing is the largest industry group in food and beverage manufacturing, with 26.2 percent of sales in 2021. Meat processing includes livestock and poultry slaughter, processing, and rendering. Dairy product manufacturing, which ranges from fluid milk to frozen desserts, accounted for the second-most sales at 12.8 percent in 2021. Other important industry groups by sales include other foods (12.4 percent), beverages (11.3 percent), and grain and oilseeds (10.4 percent). Other foods include snack foods, coffee and tea, flavorings, and dressings. This chart appears in the Manufacturing section of the USDA, Economic Research Service topic page Processing & Marketing, updated March 2023.
Tuesday, April 25, 2023
After peaking at 6.8 million farms in 1935, the number of U.S. farms and ranches fell sharply through the early 1970s. Rapidly falling farm numbers in the mid-20th century reflect the growing productivity of agriculture, increased mechanization, and increased nonfarm employment opportunities. Since 1982, the number of U.S. farms has continued to decline, but much more slowly. In 2022, there were 2.0 million U.S. farms, down from 2.2 million in 2007. Similarly, the acres of land in farms continue a downward trend with 893 million acres in 2022, down from 915 million acres 10 years earlier. The average farm size in 2022 was 446 acres, only slightly greater than the 440 acres recorded in the early 1970s. This chart appears in the ERS data product Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated March 2023.
Monday, April 24, 2023
The food-away-from-home retail landscape continues to evolve. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers recently examined the changing food-away-from-home landscape in nonmetropolitan counties between 1990 and 2019, with a focus on the most rural counties. As of 1990, full-service restaurants were the most common restaurant type, making up 76 percent of all food-away-from-home establishments in these counties. However, over the last several decades, this composition has shifted. While full-service restaurants remain the most common in rural counties, their prominence has fallen from about 75 percent of establishments to about 50 percent of establishments in 2019. By contrast, quick-service restaurants have become increasingly popular. Quick-service restaurants accounted for 18 percent of the total number of establishments in rural counties in 1990 but have since doubled, making up 36 percent of all food-away-from-home establishments in 2019. This shift could affect overall food options available for consumers in these rural areas. This chart appears in the ERS report, The Rural Food-Away-from-Home Landscape, 1990–2019, released in March 2023.
U.S. beef cow inventory settling at progressively lower levels, drought contributing to most recent declines
Thursday, April 20, 2023
Changes in beef cow inventory are related to the phases of the cattle cycle—the expansion (increase) and contraction (decrease) of the U.S. beef cattle herd over time. This cycle evolves gradually and tends to span 8 to 12 years. The cyclical pattern follows the biological nature of beef cattle production and cattle producers’ responses to changes in prices and climate conditions. The current cattle cycle, which began in 2014, is now in a contraction phase, with inventory contracting at an increasing rate each year since 2020. On January 1, 2023, U.S. beef cow inventory was 28.9 million head, 3.6 percent less than the previous year. Drought is a significant contributor to recent declines in beef cow inventory, in part because of the detrimental effects of dry weather patterns on pasture and range conditions. At the start of 2023, nearly 93 percent of U.S. beef cows were in States where most of the pasture and range were rated in “very poor” to “fair” condition based on data from the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Cattle producers periodically provide supplemental feed, such as hay, to maintain animals when pasture conditions are poor. According to NASS, producers faced record-high prices of non-alfalfa hay during the last two quarters of 2022 and in each month through the beginning of 2023. High hay prices increase the cost of maintaining cattle and provide an incentive for producers to remove cattle from their herds. Except for one month in 2022, monthly beef cow slaughter has been higher year over year since March 2021. Meanwhile, beef cow inventory has settled at progressively lower levels since the 1990–2004 cattle cycle. This trend is consistent with the general decline in cattle inventories observed since 1975. This chart appears in the special article published in the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: March 2023 .
Wednesday, April 19, 2023
The top two concerns raised by groundwater organizations related to groundwater depletion are degraded water quality and declining well capacity. Groundwater organizations are the local entities that influence on-farm groundwater use through statutory, regulatory, or other powers. In the United States, there are an estimated 735 such organizations that manage roughly 60 percent of all groundwater-fed irrigated acreage in the country. A national survey of these organizations found that 31 percent of them reported degraded water quality and 30 percent reported declining well capacity in 2019 as groundwater depletion concerns. These two issues affect about 53 and 59 percent of the acreage within organization service areas, respectively. When groundwater pumping exceeds the volume of groundwater recharge, the quality and quantity of the remaining water declines. For example, saltwater intrusion caused by groundwater depletion is a concern for many coastal and inland aquifers, since high salinity levels can hinder the growth of most common crops. Well capacity is another important groundwater depletion concern, since it limits the amount of water that can be applied to a crop within a given time, which can reduce irrigated crop yields and farm profits. Groundwater depletion has affected several of the nation’s most economically important aquifers, including the High Plains (Ogallala) and Central Valley aquifers. Additionally, 14 percent of groundwater organizations reported abandoned wells as an issue and 25 percent reported stream interaction issues, in which depleted groundwater can reduce streamflow and harm associated ecosystems. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service economic brief Irrigation Organizations: Groundwater Management, published in April 2023.
Tuesday, April 18, 2023
Most U.S. nonmetropolitan (rural) counties had 5 or fewer restaurants per 1,000 people in 2019, and many had fewer than 2. This means people in rural areas had fewer food-away-from-home options when wanting to dine out or grab a quick, convenient meal. Nonmetropolitan areas occupy more land in the United States away from the coasts, so residents of the Great Plains and Northern Plains regions may not only be limited in their own counties, but also would have to travel farther to reach a more urban location where restaurant and other food-away-from-home options are varied and available. A select number of counties are both nonmetropolitan and offer more than 5 options for food away from home per 1,000 people. The primary industry in these counties may explain some of these differences. Counties whose economies are most reliant on tourism/recreation typically host more food-away-from-home establishments per capita than other nonmetropolitan counties. An example of recreation-dependent counties with larger numbers of restaurants per 1,000 people can be found in the Rockies, on the western side of Colorado. This map appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report The Rural Food-Away-from-Home Landscape, 1990–2019, released March 29, 2023.
Monday, April 17, 2023
The acreage of organic fruits protected by Federal crop insurance has increased notably from 2011 to 2021. For instance, the acreage of insured organic apples more than doubled from about 12,000 acres to more than 27,000 acres in that period, and organic grapes went from 9,500 acres to more than 15,000 acres. The USDA, Risk Management Agency (RMA) offers various types of crop insurance for farmers through the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP) to protect against production or revenue loss. Organic commodities have generally commanded a higher price than their conventional counterparts, and in 2014 RMA began expanding the availability of prices that reflect the actual value of the insured crop. Eligible organic growers were then able to choose separate, higher organic price elections under their policy, and insured acres grew. RMA significantly increased the number of available organic policies, offering 84 distinct organic price elections by 2021. Apples and grapes are the two organic fruit crops with the most acreage covered under the program. In 2021, the United States harvested more than 31,000 acres of organic apples and more than 42,000 acres of organic grapes. In that same year, more than 27,000 planted acres of organic apples were insured, and more than 15,000 planted acres of organic grapes were insured. In 2021, these and other specialty crops accounted for 25 percent of the value of U.S. crop production. In 2022, RMA increased protection and flexibility with the Transitional and Organic Grower Assistance Program, which provides 10 percentage points of premium subsidy for all crops transitioning to organic production, and Whole-Farm Revenue Protection policies covering transitioning or certified organic crops. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service bulletin Specialty Crop Participation in Federal Risk Management Programs, published in September 2022.
Thursday, April 13, 2023
U.S. retail cotton use—an estimate of cotton product usage by consumers—decreased 8 percent in 2022 to 9.1 billion pounds. This decline was realized after a nearly 30-percent surge in 2021 when U.S. retail cotton use rebounded from the effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020. In the United States, most retail clothing purchases are of imported products. Accordingly, clothing imports are used as an economic indicator for the health of the global textile and apparel industry. In 2021, U.S. cotton product imports—mostly clothing—jumped dramatically, as did U.S. mill use and cotton product exports—mostly yarn and fabric. By 2022, however, U.S. retail demand for cotton products slipped to near its pre-pandemic trend but was still the second highest in over a decade. Although each component of U.S. retail cotton use—cotton mill use, product exports, and product imports—decreased in 2022, the import decline was significantly larger and led the reduction in retail cotton use. As a result, the U.S. per capita estimate of retail cotton use slipped from nearly 30 pounds in 2021 to 27.5 pounds in 2022. With U.S. and world economic expansion projected to slow in 2023, limited growth is also expected for U.S. retail cotton use. This information is drawn from the Economic Research Service’s March 2023 Cotton and Wool Outlook.
Wednesday, April 12, 2023
Hog producers pay close attention to the weights at which they market hogs. Hog feed rations, whose principal components are corn and high-protein soybean meal, typically account for more than half of hog production costs. Producers will often add additional weight to hogs when hog prices offset the additional costs of doing so. In the three years leading up to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, hog weights reflected moderate feed costs and hog prices. Hog dressed weights, the weight of the animal available after processing, averaged 212 pounds per hog. As the U.S. economy reopened in 2021 after shutdowns related to COVID-19, demand for pork increased significantly. Consequently, 2021 hog prices increased dramatically, reflecting recovery of the processing sector and reduced pork production. Dressed weights responded to higher hog prices in 2021, averaging almost 214.7 pounds, despite significantly higher feed costs. Through most of 2022, lower production combined with strong consumer demand drove hog prices to year-over-year higher levels, largely compensating producers for increased costs of adding weight to hogs. Dressed weights in 2022 averaged 215.6 pounds per head compared with 214.7 pounds in 2021. However, average dressed weights dropped below previous year levels in late 2022. Factors including inflation, high interest rates, economic uncertainty, and negative producer returns in November and December created incentives for producers to market hogs at lighter weights. This trend has continued through the first 9 weeks of 2023. During this time, hog weights averaged 217.4 pounds—1.1 pounds below 2022 because of high feed costs, weak consumer demand in the current inflationary environment, and disease losses in major hog-producing States. This chart first appeared in the USDA, Economic Research Service Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, March 2023.
Tuesday, April 11, 2023
The proximity of livestock production helps explain the type of manure farmers apply to crops. Livestock production is geographically concentrated in the United States, and manure can be expensive to transport because of its low nutrient density and high proportion of water. Accordingly, farmers typically apply the type of manure that is available from local animal production. Since most hogs are produced in the Midwest, hog manure is applied more often to corn and soybeans that are grown in the region. Dairies, which tend to be located in the western, midwestern, and northeastern U.S., supply the largest share of manure applied to corn, barley, and oats. Most chickens are raised in the southeastern U.S. and poultry manure is used to meet crop nutrient needs of cotton and peanuts that are mainly grown in the region. Beef cattle operations in the Great Plains supply more than 50 percent of the manure applied to wheat acreage. In 2020, manure was applied to about 8 percent of the 240.9 million acres planted to seven major U.S. field crops. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report Increasing the Value of Animal Manure for Farmers, published March 2023.
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.
Thursday, April 6, 2023
In March 2023, 22.8 percent of Black non-Hispanic households reported that their children sometimes or often did not have enough to eat during the past week. Additionally, 19.5 percent of Hispanic households, 13.1 percent of Other non-Hispanic, 10.1 percent of Asian non-Hispanic, and 8.1 percent of White non-Hispanic households reported child food insufficiency. The Household Pulse Survey, which provides these food insufficiency estimates, was developed through a partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau to produce timely information on the economic and social effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on U.S. households. Households were classified as having child food insufficiency if the adult survey respondent said children in the household were not eating enough “sometimes” or “often” in the last 7 days because the household could not afford enough food. The prevalence of child food insufficiency for Hispanic households with children peaked in April 2022 at 29.7 percent, while Black non-Hispanic households with children experienced similarly high rates in May (29.2 percent), June (28.7 percent), and July (30.0 percent) of 2022. In contrast, White non-Hispanic households with children experienced a high of just more than 10 percent in August 2022, and Asian households with children reached a high of 13.7 percent in June 2022. The prevalence of child food insufficiency for Other non-Hispanic households with children has fluctuated between these two groups during the same time period. While the prevalence of child food insufficiency for some groups declined from peak levels by March 2023, it continues to affect certain groups more than others. For more information on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s food security research and comparisons of food insecurity and food insufficiency measurements, see the Food Security in the U.S. topic page on the website. This chart appears on the Food Sufficiency During the Pandemic trending topics page.
Wednesday, April 5, 2023
Manure has long been used as a source of primary plant nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. However, the proportions available in manure are unlikely to match a crop’s nutrient needs perfectly. For instance, while manure could be used to satisfy many crops’ nitrogen requirements, this would result in more phosphorus being applied than what most crops need. Excessive application of manure on cropland can cause nutrients to accumulate in soil, leach, or to run off into nearby bodies of water. To help avoid over-application of nutrients, farmers can test the nutrient content of manure, restrict manure applications, and/or apply just enough supplemental commercial fertilizer nutrients to meet their crop’s needs. Between 2013 and 2019, producers of seven major crops in the United States who used manure were asked how much manure they applied per acre on these croplands. Using this information, ERS estimated crop nutrient application rates. Corn received the highest application rate of nitrogen from a manure source—92 pounds per acre—followed by cotton, wheat, barley, oats, soybeans, and peanuts. Cotton led phosphorus application at 37 pounds per acre, and corn led potassium application at 59 pounds per acre. Soybeans and peanuts require less nitrogen fertilization; therefore, they were applied with the lowest manure nitrogen application rates. Manure applied to soybeans and peanuts is valued primarily for its phosphorus and potassium. In 2020, manure was applied to about 8 percent of the 240.9 million acres planted to 7 major U.S. field crops. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report Increasing the Value of Animal Manure for Farmers, published March 2023.
United Kingdom agricultural trade depends heavily on imports, especially consumer-oriented and agricultural-related goods
Tuesday, April 4, 2023
The United Kingdom (U.K.) is the world’s fifth-largest importer of agricultural and related goods and a large market for U.S. products. The U.K. imported $78.2 billion in agricultural and related goods in 2021 and exported $31.9 billion, less than half the value of imports. Historically, the European Union has been the largest trading partner with the U.K., but the U.K.’s formal departure from the European single market, known as “Brexit,” will likely impact the UK’s trade dynamics as the country seeks to diversify trading partners. An estimated two-thirds of agricultural goods imported by the U.K. in 2021 were high-value, consumer-oriented products, such as distilled spirits, dairy products, and processed seafood products. Imports of agricultural-related products, namely forest products (primarily wood pellets used for power generation), have reached double-digit growth in recent years. Forest products were the largest single commodity group imported into the U.K. from the global market in 2021 at $9.66 billion, with the United States the top country-level supplier at $1.33 billion. The United States also exported about $1.12 million in alcoholic beverages to the U.K. in 2021. On the other side of trade, the U.K. is a top supplier of alcoholic beverages (primarily distilled spirits) to the United States, although its share has given way to larger, more efficient producers such as France in recent years. Agreements between the U.K. and the United States in 2022 to allow for the export of British beef and lamb to the United States for the first time since the 1990s are expected to generate $50 million in trade over the next 5 years based on British estimates. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service report, United Kingdom Agricultural Production and Trade Policy Post-Brexit, February 2023.
Monday, April 3, 2023
The availability of healthcare professionals in rural areas lags that of urban areas. As of 2020, rural (nonmetro) areas recorded 5.1 primary care physicians per 10,000 residents, while the number in urban (metro) areas was 8.0. Similarly, the number of dentists was 4.7 in rural areas compared with 7.6 in urban areas, while the number of nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and certified nurse midwives was 11.1 in rural areas compared with 14.7 in urban areas. Lower availability of primary healthcare services has been associated with a higher likelihood of poor health and lower life expectancy. Healthcare services are important not only for people’s health, but also for rural economies. Further, the healthcare services sector is one of the largest and most rapidly growing economic sectors across all parts of the United States. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service report, Linkages Between Rural Community Capitals and Healthcare Provision: A Survey of Small Rural Towns in Three U.S. Regions published in March 2023.
Thursday, March 30, 2023
Markets for organic food began emerging in the 1970s as consumers became concerned about the growing use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and their effect on the environment and health. At that time, standards were developed on a State-by-State basis, and organic foods were largely sold in natural food stores. Natural food stores, both large and small, remained the major outlet for organic food sales until the mid-2000s. In 2000, USDA established the National Organic Program and set organic standards for production, along with consistent national labeling. Organic retail food sales moved into conventional grocery retailers, and made up almost 60 percent of retail sales in 2020. Organic food subscriptions such as seasonal fruit baskets, online meal boxes, and other internet sales have created new supply chains for organic food. In 2019, internet sales jumped to 5 percent from 2 percent of total sales in 2012 and rose again in 2020 as consumers responded to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report, U.S. Organic Production, Markets, Consumers, and Policy, 2000–21, published March 2023.