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Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Over the last 2 months of 2014, egg prices in most markets experienced a brief and very sharp price spike. Egg prices traditionally are strong in the fourth quarter, but the spike in 2014 was larger than usual, considering that table egg production increased in November 2014.  The high prices nationwide in the fourth quarter of 2014 are likely the result of both strong exports of table eggs to Mexico in November and uncertainties about the future of the table egg market in California due to new cage size regulations that went into effect on January 1, 2015. In the short term, the new regulations have widened the price difference between the California market and other parts of the United States. At the end of October 2014, the difference between the wholesale prices of Grade A large eggs in the Southern California market and the New York City market was around 12 cents per dozen. Prices in Southern California rose to average $2.68 per dozen by the middle of December.  Like in other markets, prices then began to decline, but by the beginning of 2015 had only fallen to around $2.28 per dozen, resulting in a price differential between the Southern California market and the New York City market of over $1.00 per dozen. This chart is based on information from the report, Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook: January 2015.
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Tuesday, January 27, 2015
USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are the lead Federal agencies in conducting and funding human nutrition research designed to help ensure a healthy citizenry. A recent ERS analysis of data maintained by DHHS’s National Institutes of Health shows that Federal investments in nutrition research more than doubled in real (inflation-adjusted) terms from 1985 to 2009. All of this growth is due to increased DHHS funding, especially between 1999 and 2003. The number of Federally supported nutrition research projects has similarly grown from 2,178 in 1985 to 4,419 in 2009, with a larger share of support in recent years directed toward studies of the relationship between nutrition and obesity. From 1999 to 2009, the number of DHHS supported projects grew 7.4 percent annually, while USDA supported projects fell by 2.8 percent annually. In 2009, DHHS funded 86 percent of Federal nutrition research projects, and USDA funded 14 percent.  This chart appears in the ERS report, Improving Health through Nutrition Research: An Overview of the U.S. Nutrition Research System, released on January 26, 2015.
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Monday, January 26, 2015
USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and Economic Research Service recently conducted the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) of the U.S. broiler chicken industry. Results indicate that several sanitation and biosecurity practices were widespread on broiler operations in the United States in 2011. Almost all operations used practices to control rodent and wild bird access to facilities, and almost all rotated flocks on an all-in, all-out basis, aimed at limiting the spread of pathogens and disease among animals. Nearly half of broiler operations reported that they follow the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) or a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan, which are designed to improve animal health, food safety, and food quality. One-fifth of operations fully cleaned out and sanitized their houses after each flock removal. USDA may provide support for incineration and composting facilities, as well as litter management practices, through payments made under the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). ARMS results find that seven percent of contract growers received EQIP payments related to broiler production in 2011. This chart is found in the ERS/NASS report, 2011 ARMS - Broiler Industry Highlights.
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Friday, January 23, 2015
The Federal Crop Insurance (FCI) program is the primary USDA program to help farmers manage risks of crop losses. The size and cost of the FCI has grown since the early 2000s; insured acreage expanded by almost 90,000 acres from 2000 to 2013—about a 45 percent increase—in large part due to higher subsidies introduced in the 2000 Agricultural Risk Protection Act (ARPA) and the 2008 Farm Act. Higher insured acreage, increased subsidy rates—especially for the more costly coverage levels—and higher crop prices have combined to boost the price of insurance premiums in recent years. The major costs of the FCI program—premium subsidies and loss claims (which can vary greatly from year to year)—are tied to the value of premiums. In 2012, the widespread U.S. drought led to a large increase in the government share of indemnities due to crop losses. Under the current premium subsidy structure, an average of 62 percent of total premiums is paid by the Federal Government on behalf of insured producers in 2013. Administrative and operating subsidies, which include subsidies paid to insurance companies for selling and servicing insurance policies, are relatively stable over time, but have increased from an average of $0.96 billion in 2003-05 to about $1.52 billion in 2011-13. Find this chart and additional information on the Risk Management topic pages.
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Thursday, January 22, 2015
With the strong growth in U.S. agricultural exports since 2000, agriculture’s share of total U.S. exports has been rising. Agriculture’s share of U.S. exports fell during the 1980s and 1990s, when the value of agricultural exports grew more slowly than total exports, but that trend has reversed since 2000. Since then, the combination of strong global demand, particularly in developing countries, and higher prices for farm commodities, has boosted agriculture’s share of all U.S. exports from a low of 6.6 percent in 2000 to an average of 9.1 percent during 2011-2013. Although U.S. agricultural imports have also grown since 2000, agricultural exports have grown more rapidly, leading to the expansion of the U.S. agricultural trade surplus, with that surplus reaching a record $40 billion in 2013.  This chart is based on data found in Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Time use diaries reveal that on an average day during 2003-11, 19.5 percent of Americans age 18 and older ate at a sit-down restaurant and 13 percent purchased fast food or carryout food. Men were more likely than women to eat at a sit-down restaurant (20.4 versus 18.5 percent) and purchase fast food (13.5 versus 12.5 percent). The largest difference in eating out patterns was between employed and not employed adults in their purchases of fast food—15.2 percent of employed adults purchased fast food versus 8.8 percent of adults that were not employed (those actively looking for work and those who are retired, in school, or not looking for work). Income plays a role, but time constraints may be more of a factor for those working. On an average day, employed persons spent less time eating and drinking beverages, sleeping, and watching television, and they spent more time traveling from place to place due to their work schedules, suggesting that they may be more time pressured than others and use fast foods as a time-saving option. This chart appears in the ERS report, The Role of Time in Fast-Food Purchasing Behavior in the United States.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Both urban (metro) and rural (nonmetro) unemployment rates have dropped since the highs reached at the end of the most recent recession. In 2007, the rural unemployment rate averaged 5.1 percent, compared to 4.5 percent in urban areas. As the recession unfolded, metro and nonmetro unemployment rates rose rapidly and converged, peaking at 10 percent in the first quarter of 2010. Since that time, the two unemployment rates have followed similar downward trends. The seasonally adjusted rural unemployment rate stood at 6.4 percent in the second quarter of 2014, while the urban rate fell to 6.2 percent. Until recently, the bulk of the decline in the rural unemployment rate is due to a reduction in the number of people seeking work, not an increase in the number of people working.  This chart is found in the October 2014 Amber Waves feature, " Rural Employment in Recession and Recovery."
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Friday, January 16, 2015
Net farm income is forecast to be $97.3 billion in 2014, down nearly $32 billion (25 percent) from 2013’s estimate. The 2014 forecast would be the lowest since 2010, but still $12.3 billion above the previous 10-year average. Crop receipts are expected to decrease by $25.1 billion, led by a projected $10.9-billion decline in corn receipts and a $9.5-billion decline in oil crop receipts, largely due to weak prices. Livestock value of production is expected to have strong gains, with increases across almost all livestock categories and the largest gains expected in cattle/calves and milk. Total production expenses are forecast to increase $18 billion in 2014, extending the upward movement in expenses for a fifth straight year. The elimination of direct payments under the Agricultural Act of 2014 resulted in a projected 4-percent decline in government payments due to offsetting supplemental and ad hoc disaster assistance payments related to drought. For additional analysis, see the 2014 Farm Sector Income Forecast, updated December 12, 2014.
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Thursday, January 15, 2015
U.S. retail choice beef values climbed through 2014, reaching a record high of $6.30 per pound in November. Retail value is defined as the average value at the grocery store of a basket of beef cuts, measured in cents per pound of retail weight. In November 2014, retail values were about $1.00 above the highs reached in 2013 and roughly $1.50 per pound above the previous five-year average. The sharpest jump in month to month prices in the past 5 years occurred between July and August 2014, when prices increased $0.29 per pound. Higher retail beef prices reflect increased cattle prices due to historically low cattle inventories and cattle being held off the market for breeding purposes as growers attempt to rebuild herds. The pace of slaughter has also slowed as feedlots take advantage of lower feed costs to hold cattle back longer and raise them to record high weights. U.S. beef production is forecast to decline further in 2015, indicating that retail prices are likely to remain high. This chart is based on data from Meat Prices Spreads that was last updated December 17, 2014.
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Wednesday, January 14, 2015
In 2013, spending at grocery stores and other retailers accounted for 50.4 percent of the $1.4 trillion spent on food and beverages by U.S. consumers, businesses, and government entities. The remaining 49.6 percent took place at restaurants, school cafeterias, food concession stands at movie theaters and ball parks, and other away-from-home eating places. In 1960, the away-from-home market had a 26.3-percent share of total food expenditures, and its share has grown through the decades except in some recession years. Most recently, food-away-from-home’s share of total food spending fell from 49.1 percent in 2007 and did not rebound to its pre-recession share until 2012. Two-earner households and busier lifestyles have led consumers to spend less time cooking and seek the convenience of food prepared away from home. This chart appears in the ERS data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials. More information on U.S. food sales and expenditures can be found in ERS’s Food Expenditures data product.
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Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Larger farms often require more management and labor than an individual can provide. Additional operators can provide the necessary labor, management, and possibly other resources such as capital or farmland. Having a secondary operator may also provide a successor when an older principal operator phases out of farming. Multiple-operator farms are prevalent among large and very large family farms. In 2013, 38 percent of all U.S. farms were multiple-operator farms, while 73 percent of very large family farms had more than one operator. Since farms are generally family businesses, 68 percent of all secondary operators were spouses. About 16 percent of all multiple-operator farms (and 6 percent of all farms) were multiple-generation farms in 2013, with at least 20 years' difference between the ages of the oldest and youngest operators. The presence or absence of younger related operators may affect farm expansion and contraction decisions, depending on the principal operator's lifecycle position. This chart updates one found in the ERS report brochure, America’s Diverse Family Farms, EIB-133, December 2014.
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Monday, January 12, 2015
While the number of all farms in the United States remained fairly constant, the number of hog farms fell by about 70 percent between 1992 and 2009, from over 240,000 to about 71,000. Despite fewer hog farms, the Nation’s hog inventory was stable during the period, averaging about 60 million head, with cyclical fluctuations between 56 and 68 million head. Thus, hog production consolidated as fewer, larger farms accounted for an increased share of total output. From 1992 to 2009, the share of the U.S. hog and pig inventory on farms with 2,000 head or more increased from less than 30 percent to 86 percent. In 2009, farms with 5,000 head or more accounted for 61 percent of all hogs and pigs. This chart is found in the ERS report, U.S. Hog Production From 1992 to 2009: Technology, Restructuring, and Productivity Growth, ERR-158, October 2013.
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Friday, January 09, 2015
Reflecting growing supplies, corn prices have been trending lower since reaching a record high season average farm price of $6.89 per bushel for the 2012/13 marketing year (September/August). Monthly average corn prices fell sharply between July 2013 and January 2014, and then declined further through 2014, reflecting a record 2014 corn crop, projected at 14.4 billion bushels. Corn prices in 2014/15 are projected at $3.50 per bushel, down 50 percent since the summer of 2013. However, throughout this period ethanol prices have remained relatively steady, averaging $2.41 per gallon. Corn is the leading feedstock for ethanol production in the United States, and ethanol represents about 40 percent of total corn use. With the price of corn declining and ethanol prices steady, ethanol producer margins have strengthened over the past 18 months. Higher margins would typically encourage greater production, but with domestic use limited to the 10 percent ethanol blend already used in most gasoline, the market can only expand through increased gasoline use or higher exports.  This chart is based on data found in the U.S. Bioenergy Statistics database.
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Thursday, January 08, 2015
Dietary intake data reveal that like most Americans, the dietary patterns of participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) do not meet recommendations. ERS researchers used data from the 2003-10 waves of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to assess the diets of adult SNAP participants and other adult respondents relative to the 2010 version of the Healthy Eating Index (HEI). The HEI summarizes how closely one’s diet conforms to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Total HEI scores for adult SNAP participants averaged 46 out of a possible 100 HEI points, compared to 50 for income-eligible adults not receiving SNAP benefits, and 53 for higher-income adults (those with household incomes above 185 percent of the Federal poverty threshold). Adult SNAP participants scored lower on many components of the HEI; sodium intake was the only HEI component on which SNAP participants did better than higher-income adults. An expanded version of this chart appears in “ SNAP Households Must Balance Multiple Priorities to Achieve a Healthful Diet” in the November 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Wednesday, January 07, 2015
In 2013, 98 percent of U.S. farms were family farms, where the principal operator and his or her relatives owned the majority of the business. Two features of family farms stand out. First, there are many small family farms—those reporting less than $350,000 in gross cash farm income (GCFI)— and they account for 89 percent of all U.S. farms and operate 48 percent of U.S. farmland. Second, while most production—65 percent—occurs on the 9 percent of farms classified as midsize/large-scale family farms, small farms’ 22-percent share of production is larger than that of midsize farms alone (20 percent) or nonfamily farms (12 percent). This chart updates one found in Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: Family Farm Report, 2014 Edition, EIB-132, December 2014.
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Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Over the last two decades, a major transformation of the dairy sector reduced the number of dairy farms by nearly 60 percent, even as total milk production increased by one-third. The accompanying shift to larger dairy farms is driven largely by farm profitability. Average costs of production per hundredweight of milk produced fall as herd size increases even among the largest farms (e.g., average costs are lower for farms with 2000+ cows compared to 1000-1999 cows). Production costs include the estimated cost of the farm family’s labor as well as capital costs and cash expenses. While some small farms earn profits and some large farms incur losses, most of the largest dairy farms generate gross returns that exceed full costs, while most small and mid-size dairy farms do not earn enough to cover full costs. The cost differences reflect differences in input use; on average, larger farms use less labor, capital, and feed per hundredweight of milk produced. These financial returns provide an impetus for the shift to larger dairy farms.  This chart is drawn from the December 2014 Amber Waves data feature, " Milk Production Continues Shifting to Large-Scale Farms."
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Monday, January 05, 2015
Each year, roughly a million people in the United States become ill from a foodborne Salmonella infection according to 2011 estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For most healthy people, the infection causes short-lived symptoms that do not require medical attention. However, 7 percent of those infected are sick enough to visit a physician before recovering. Over 19,000 people a year are admitted to the hospital with a foodborne Salmonella infection, and roughly 380 of them die. Salmonella ranks first among 15 leading U.S. foodborne pathogens in terms of economic burden. Foodborne Salmonella infections impose an estimated $3.7 billion each year in the United States in medical costs, wages lost from time away from work, and societal willingness to pay to prevent deaths. Almost 90 percent of this burden—$3.3 billion—is due to premature deaths; 8 percent is due to hospitalization, and the remaining 3 percent are the costs associated with the non-hospitalized cases. The statistics for this chart and similar costs for 14 other foodborne pathogens can be found in ERS’s Cost Estimates of Foodborne Illnesses data product.
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Friday, January 02, 2015
China’s demand for imported grains, much of it from the United States, has surged recently, with imports of cereal grains rising to 16 million tons in 2012 and 18 million in 2013. Imports in 2013 included 3 million tons of corn and 4 million tons of DDGS (distillers dried grains with solubles; a co-product of U.S. corn ethanol production used for feed) from the United States.  In 2013, the United States supplied 70 percent of China’s wheat imports and, for the first time, China became a major market for U.S. sorghum. China’s demand for feed grains appears to have reached a turning point, as a tightening labor supply and rising feed costs force structural change in China’s livestock sector. Labor scarcity, animal disease pressures, and rising living standards are prompting rural households to abandon “backyard” livestock production and shift more production to specialized farm enterprises that rely more heavily on commercial feed. Because of this, China has switched from being a corn exporter to importing 3-5 million tons annually since 2009. Rising feed demand has also pushed up costs and motivated feed mills and livestock producers to explore new feed ingredients like DDGS and sorghum. Find this chart and additional analysis in " China in the Next Decade: Rising Meat Demand and Growing Imports of Feed" in the April Amber Waves. Originally published Thursday May 22, 2014.
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Wednesday, December 31, 2014
When advised to “eat your vegetables,” Americans may also need to be reminded “and watch how you prepare them.”  ERS researchers recently looked at the types of vegetables and vegetable-containing foods eaten by Americans and found that instead of eating vegetables in their simple, unadorned state, Americans often eat vegetables in ways that add calories and sodium and reduce dietary fiber. For potatoes prepared at home, potato chips were the most commonly eaten form, accounting for 28 percent of potato consumption. In restaurants, fast food places, and other away from home eating places, fried potatoes accounted for 59 percent of potato consumption. Food intake surveys show other potato dishes, such as mashed and scalloped potatoes, are often prepared with added fats and sodium. Baked and boiled potatoes accounted for 19 percent of at-home potato consumption and 12 percent away from home, and the skin was usually not eaten, reducing dietary fiber content. This chart appears in “ Healthy Vegetables Undermined by the Company They Keep” in the May 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine. Originally published Monday August 11, 2014.
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Tuesday, December 30, 2014
The severity and duration of the ongoing drought in California has raised concerns over its role in rising food prices at the grocery store, especially for fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2012, California produced nearly 50 percent (by value) of the nation’s vegetables and non-citrus fruit. Droughts in California are generally associated with higher retail prices for produce, but price increases are lagged due to the time it takes for weather conditions and planting decisions to alter crop production, which then influence retail prices. In 2005, following five years of drought, retail fruit prices rose 3.7 percent and retail vegetable prices increased 4 percent. Prices continued to rise in 2006, one year after drought conditions began to improve. However, other factors such as energy prices and consumer demand also affect retail produce prices. For example, prices for fresh produce fell in 2009 despite drought conditions, as the 2007-09 recession reduced foreign and domestic demand for many retail foods. As of October 2014, ERS analysts are forecasting fresh fruit prices to increase 4.5 to 5.5 percent in 2014 and vegetable prices to be 2 to 3 percent higher. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Consumers section of the 2014 California Drought page on the ERS website. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated October 24, 2014. Originally published Thursday October 30, 2014.
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