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Thursday, July 31, 2014
With the 2014/15 (September/August marketing years) soybean production forecast at a record 103.4 million metric tons (3.8 billion bushels), the United States is expected to reclaim the role of leading global soybean exporter that it lost to Brazil in 2012/13. A record harvested area of 84.1 million acres is expected to enhance U.S. price competitiveness and boost U.S. soybean exports to a record 45.6 million metric tons (mmt). U.S. soybean meal and oil exports are also expected to increase, with soybean meal shipments abroad forecast to edge up to 10.66 mmt in 2014/15 from 10.57 mmt this year, and soybean oil exports could reach 0.95 mmt, up from 0.77 mmt in 2013/14. If achieved, the plentiful US supplies will drive farm prices lower.  USDA forecasts the U.S. average farm price for soybeans in 2014/15 to fall within a range of $9.50-11.50 per bushel, down from an estimated $13.00 per bushel in 2013/14.  The last time the U.S. farm price for soybeans averaged below $12.00 per bushel for a crop year was in 2010/11 when it reached $11.30 per bushel, a record at the time.  Find this chart in the Oil Crops Chart Gallery, with additional analysis in the Oil Crops Outlook: July 2014.
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Wednesday, July 30, 2014
USDA’s Summer Food Service Program provides nutritious meals and snacks to children in low-income areas during the summer months, and during long vacation periods for schools on year-round schedules. USDA reimburses schools, local government agencies, camps, private non-profit organizations, and other sponsors for meals and snacks served to children at eligible sites. The program served 151 million meals and snacks at a cost to USDA of more than $427 million in fiscal 2013.  After rising in 2008 and 2009, the number of sites offering summer meals to children remained about the same from 2010 to 2012 but rose from 38,845 in 2012 to 42,654 in 2013.  Participation also increased in 2013, with the program serving more than 2.4 million children on an average operating day in July. This chart is from the Child Nutrition Programs: Summer Food Service Program topic page on the ERS website, updated June 23, 2014.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014
The Federal Government spent more than $6 billion in fiscal 2013 on conservation payments to encourage the adoption of practices addressing environmental and resource conservation goals, but such payments lead to additional improvement in environmental quality only if those receiving them adopted conservation practices that they would not have adopted without the payment. Some farmers have adopted specific conservation practices without receiving payments because doing so reduces production costs or preserves the long-term productivity of their farmland (e.g., conservation tillage). Many other farmers have not adopted conservation practices, presumably because the cost of doing so exceeds expected onfarm benefits, the value of which can vary based on many factors—soil, climate, topography, crop/livestock mix, producer management skills, and risk aversion. Since the value of onfarm benefits can vary widely across practices and farms, identifying which farmers will adopt a conservation practice only if they receive a payment is not straightforward, but research indicates that the likelihood a payment will result in additional environmental benefits increases as the implementation cost of the conservation practice increases and its impact on farm profitability declines. This chart is found in the ERS report, Additionality in U.S. Agricultural Conservation and Regulatory Offset Programs, ERR-170, July 2014.
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Monday, July 28, 2014
Federal eligibility rules for USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) stipulate that households must meet three financial criteria: gross income, net income, and asset limits. States using broad-based categorical eligibility criteria are allowed to eliminate the asset limit and increase the monthly gross income limit from 130 percent of the Federal poverty line up to 200 percent when determining SNAP eligibility. This new eligibility option is among the many legislative and regulatory efforts to simplify SNAP administration and increase program access, especially for low-income working families. During the discussions leading up to the Agricultural Act of 2014, concerns were raised that the broad-based categorical eligibility option had allowed assistance to expand beyond the poorest Americans. In 2012, 5.2 percent of SNAP households had incomes above 130 percent of the Federal poverty line—compared to 1.0 percent in 2000—and they received 1.5 percent of total SNAP benefits.  This chart and a discussion of other SNAP-related provisions of the 2014 Farm Act can be found in “ 2014 Farm Act Maintains SNAP Eligibility Guidelines and Funds New Initiatives” in the July 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Friday, July 25, 2014
Imported fruits and vegetables account for a growing share of U.S. consumption and in most cases, U.S. imports are sourced from just a few supplying countries. Since 1990, U.S. per capita consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables has held steady, while the share of imports in U.S. fresh fruit consumption has risen from 12 to 34 percent and the import share for vegetables has risen from 10 to 25 percent.  Trade has played a role in changing U.S. consumer diets by making produce available outside the traditional U.S. growing season, as well as providing access to a greater variety of produce. Despite the diversity of products available to U.S. consumers, the national sources of these products tend to be relatively concentrated among a few countries, with some variation across commodities.  For strawberries, peaches, corn, artichokes, grapes, tomatoes, and cherries, more than 80 percent of imports come from a single country and nearly 100 percent come from just 3 suppliers. Overall, of the 29 imported goods studied by ERS, 18 had a single country supplying more than 80 percent of U.S. imports. Recent ERS research finds that source-country concentration does not appear to be related to U.S. phytosanitary regulations governing fresh fruit and vegetable imports, and may instead arise from market forces such as comparative advantage and specialization. Find more analysis in The Effects of Phytosanitary Regulations on U.S. Imports of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, released July 2014.
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Thursday, July 24, 2014
The Rural Development Title of the Agricultural Act of 2014 introduces or replaces a number of programs in rural business development, energy, and broadband Internet.  Specific to the rural development program area is the inclusion of the digital economy, or broadband technology use, in new and existing programs. These provisions are aimed at improving the economic impact of public investments in rural broadband Internet technologies. The Rural Gigabit Network Pilot Program provides $10 million per fiscal year for ultra-high-speed Internet service in rural areas.  While its geographic scope will be small, the pilot program will elicit new data on the need for, and the economic effect of, ultra-high-speed Internet technologies in rural settings. USDA’s Rural Broadband Loan Program continues as an ongoing source of funding for rural broadband networks, with improved reporting and data collection requirements. This chart is found on the page Rural Development in ERS’ Agricultural Act of 2014: Highlights and Implications, updated April 2014.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014
The most recent American Community Survey shows that the percentage of the working-age (adults between the ages of 25 and 64) rural population with schooling beyond a high school diploma increased from 44.5 percent in 2000 to 50.6 percent in 2008-12. As elsewhere, rural people have an economic incentive to acquire additional skills and higher educational attainment; doing so improves both their employment prospects and earnings potential. Even though urban places often offer higher wages than rural places for the college educated, good schools coupled with easy access to outdoor amenities and the potential for a higher quality of life can be an effective draw for rural in-migrants. Increasing school quality and educational attainment is often viewed as part of a broader economic development strategy for rural communities, particularly when paired with job creation strategies such as entrepreneurship and small business development. This chart is based on the ERS data product, County Level Data Sets, updated July 2014.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
The Federal crop insurance program has grown significantly over the last 20 years, expanding from about 82 million acres in 1992 to more than 282 million acres in 2012, but changes in coverage have varied by both state and commodity. Producers of corn, soybeans, and wheat—the three largest U.S. crops—remain the largest consumers of crop insurance, although the share enrolled in other crops has been rising as new programs and policies have been offered.  Federal crop insurance enrollments for corn, the largest U.S. field crop by area, are indicative of the variation in enrollment changes across states.  For example, in 1990, more than 60 percent of Iowa’s corn acres were enrolled in the program, with that share rising to 91 percent by 2012. In contrast, about 20 percent of Indiana’s corn acres were enrolled in 1990, climbing to about 74 percent by 2012. The variations likely reflect both differences in production risks across states and changes in federal program provisions, including subsidies for crop insurance premiums. Despite the variation among States, the differences in coverage between states shrank between 1990 and 2012. For corn, the lowest share of acres insured within a State rose from about 12 percent in 1990 (Michigan) to 70 percent in 2012 (Wisconsin). Find additional analysis in Premium Subsidies and the Demand for Crop Insurance, released July 2014.
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Monday, July 21, 2014
Reducing sodium intake is a key recommendation in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  Intake data from the 2007-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reveal that Americans age 2 and older consumed an average of 1,649 milligrams (mg) of sodium for each 1,000 calories eaten, compared to the recommended maximum of 1,100 mg per 1,000 calories. Foods prepared by restaurants, fast-food places, schools, and other away-from-home sources contain more sodium than foods prepared at home—1,879 mg per 1,000 calories versus 1,552 mg per 1,000 calories. Foods consumed at school cafeterias were found to be less sodium dense than foods eaten at restaurants and fast-food places, but higher than at-home foods. The statistics in this chart are from ERS’s Food Consumption and Nutrient Intakes data product, updated on June 27, 2014.
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Friday, July 18, 2014
U.S. organic food sales have shown double-digit growth during most years since the 1990s and were estimated to have reached over $34 billion in 2013. According to the Nutrition Business Journal, organic food purchases now account for approximately 4 percent of total at-home U.S. food sales.  Certified organic farmland has also expanded, although not as fast as organic sales, as organic production of acreage-extensive feed grains and oilseed crops has lagged growth in other organic sectors. Fresh produce is still the top organic sales category, and California and other States that grow these high-value organic crops have experienced growth in organic acreage since the 1990s.  Overall, acreage used for organic agriculture accounted for 0.6 percent of all U.S. farmland in 2011 (0.5 percent of all U.S. pasture and 0.8 percent of all U.S. cropland). Major retailer initiatives to expand the number of organic products they sell could further boost demand. The 2014 Farm Act includes provisions to expand organic research, assist with organic certification costs, and provide other support for U.S. organic producers. This chart is found in “ Support for the Organic Sector Expands in the 2014 Farm Act” in the July 2014 Amber Waves online magazine.
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Thursday, July 17, 2014
Global corn stocks are forecast to rise to the highest level in 15 years by the end of 2014/15 (September/August), leading to downward pressure on U.S. and global corn prices. Stocks fell to relatively low levels during 2003/04-2006/07, prior to the 2008 spike in world commodity prices, but are now forecast to reach 188.1 million tons in 2014/15, just 3 percent below the recent high of 194.4 million tons in 1999/2000. Since 2008/09, world corn production has exceeded total consumption in 5 out of 7 years.  In addition to the United States and China—the two largest global producers and consumers of corn—production and stocks have been generally rising in Brazil, Russia, and Ukraine—countries that are also playing an expanding role as corn exporters.  With a second consecutive above trend U.S. corn harvest forecast for 2014/15, the United States is expected to account for most of the 8-percent increase in global corn stocks forecast in 2014/15. With growing inventories, the U.S. season average farm price of corn is expected to decline to $4.00 per bushel, down 10 percent from $4.45 per bushel in 2013/14, and 42 percent from $6.89 per bushel in the U.S. drought year of 2012/13. Find this chart in the Feed Grain Chart Gallery and additional analysis in Feed Outlook: July 2014.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014
The 2010 Affordable Care Act includes a provision that will require restaurant chains with 20 or more locations to provide consumers with calorie information on menus and other nutrition information on demand. Understanding who uses current nutrition information provided voluntarily by eating places is useful for anticipating the Act’s impact. Using data from the 2007-08 and 2009-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, ERS researchers found that roughly 90 percent of respondents visited a fast-food or pizza place in the last year and about 88 percent patronized a full-service restaurant. Less than a quarter of those respondents reported seeing nutrition information. In general, women were more likely to see the nutrition information than men, and also more likely to use it in making their eating out selections. For example, in fast-food and pizza places, 48.7 percent of women who saw nutrition information used it, while only 33.1 percent of men did.  In full-service restaurants, 59.6 percent of women who saw nutrition information used it, compared to 48.1 percent of men. This chart is based on statistics found in the ERS report, Consumers’ Use of Nutrition Information When Eating Out, released on June 27, 2014.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014
In the early 1960s, over 80 percent of broiler production was marketed as whole birds, and only 2 percent as further processed products. By 2011, only 12 percent of production was marketed as whole birds, as production shifted to cut-up parts (42 percent of production) and to further processed products such as boneless chicken, breaded nuggets and tenders, and chicken sausages (46 percent of production). The shift to cut-up and processed products spurred growth in demand for chicken, which in turn elicited production increases. Different products come from birds of different sizes, and changes in demand composition have shifted production toward larger birds for processed products. Smaller broilers are usually marketed bone-in (whole or cut into parts) to the fast-food and foodservice sectors, while intermediate sizes are normally marketed to retail groceries in tray-pack or bagged forms. The largest birds can be sold whole as roasters but are also marketed deboned and processed into parts and value-added products. Growing and processing birds of such widely varying sizes requires tight coordination between the hatchery, grow-out, slaughter, and processing stages. This chart is found in the ERS report, Technology, Organization, and Financial Performance in U.S. Broiler Production, EIB-126, June 2014.
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Monday, July 14, 2014
When school is not in session, USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides free meals and snacks to children and teens at approved sites such as schools, churches, parks, community centers, and day camp programs.  SFSP meals must meet Federal nutrition guidelines and are served in areas with high concentrations of low-income children. In July 2012, the percent of a State’s total population participating in SFSP ranged from 0.2 percent in Nevada to 1.9 percent in New Mexico and New York.  That same year, 5.7 percent of the District of Columbia’s population participated in the program. Demographic factors help explain differences in program participation as a percentage of total population; higher SFSP participation rates could reflect a higher proportion of school-age children relative to total population, or a higher number of low-income children relative to the overall school-age population.  Differences in availability and accessibility of SFSP sites also play an important role in the variability across States. This map is from ERS’s Food Environment Atlas.
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Friday, July 11, 2014
Producers of corn, soybeans, and wheat—the three largest crops produced in the United States—are the largest consumers of Federal crop insurance, although producers of other crops are a growing share of program enrollment. In 1997, corn, soybeans, and wheat crops accounted for 80 percent of all acres enrolled in the program; including cotton and sorghum raised the share to nearly 90 percent of all acres enrolled. Over the last 15 years, with new types of policies being offered and more crops added to the program, the share of enrolled acres attributed to these major crops fell as participation in the Federal crop insurance program continued to rise. Pasture, forage and range land have accounted for the bulk of recent gains in enrolled acres, expanding from zero in 1997 to 48 million acres in 2012. By 2012, corn, soybeans, and wheat made up roughly 68 percent of all acres enrolled, with cotton and sorghum accounting for an additional 7 percent. The share of acres enrolled in crop insurance varies by crop and region, but these differences decreased between 1990 and 2012 as coverage rates increased. For more data and analysis, see The Effects of Premium Subsidies on Demand for Crop Insurance, released July 2014.
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Wednesday, July 09, 2014
By leaving at least 30 percent of crop residue covering the soil surface after all tillage and planting operations, conservation tillage (including no-till, ridge-till, and mulch-till) reduces soil erosion, increases water retention, and reduces soil degradation and water/chemical runoff. Conservation tillage also reduces the carbon footprint of agriculture. By 2006, approximately 86 percent of land planted with herbicide tolerant (HT) soybeans was under conservation tillage, compared to only 36 percent of conventional soybean acres. Differences in the use of no-till were just as pronounced. While approximately 45 percent of HT soybean acres were cultivated using no-till technologies in 2006, only 5 percent of the acres planted with conventional seeds were cultivated using no-till techniques, which are often considered the most effective of all conservation tillage systems. Cotton and corn data exhibit similar, though less pronounced, patterns. This chart is found in “ Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops by U.S. Farmers Has Increased Steadily for Over 15 Years” in the March 2014 Amber Waves online magazine.
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Tuesday, July 08, 2014
USDA monitors the food security of the Nation’s households—their consistent access to adequate food for active healthy lives—through an annual survey. During the 2007-09 recession, food insecurity increased from 11.1 percent of U.S. households in 2007 to 14.6 percent in 2008, and remained near that level through 2012.  Since the end of the recession, unemployment rates have fallen, leading researchers to question why food security has not improved with employment.  A recent ERS study of the associations of food insecurity with household characteristics and national economic conditions over 2001-12 estimated that declines in the highest monthly unemployment rate, from 10.0 percent in 2009-10 to 8.3 percent in 2012, would have reduced food insecurity by 0.9 percentage point. However, higher annual inflation and larger increases in food prices relative to other goods and services are estimated to have increased the prevalence of food insecurity by 1.1 percentage points. Most of the year-to-year variation in the national prevalence of household food insecurity was associated with changes in these three national economic indicators. The predicted prevalence of food insecurity in 2012 was 14.7 percent, nearly the same as the observed prevalence of 14.5 percent. The statistics in this chart are from the ERS report, Prevalence of U.S. Food Insecurity Is Related to Changes in Unemployment, Inflation, and the Price of Food, released on June 20, 2014.
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Monday, July 07, 2014
A recent ERS international food security assessment indicates that Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most food-insecure region in the world, although the region shows significant improvement over previous assessments. The share of the population that is food insecure is projected to decline to under 30 percent in 2014, compared with 50 percent or more of the population estimated to be food insecure in the late 1990s. Estimates of the distribution gap—the amount of additional food needed to increase per capita consumption in all income groups to the nutritional target of about 2,100 calories per day—show that the overall gap for the region will decline about 17 percent in 2014. However, the intensity of food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa—measured by the distribution gap—is expected to remain high relative to other regions studied. The overall improvement in food security in the region in 2014 is primarily due to the outlook for increased grain production. The ERS assessment also foresees improved food security conditions in 2014 in Asia and the Latin America and Caribbean region, as well as improvements in the generally food-secure conditions in North Africa. Find this chart and additional analysis in International Food Security Assessment, 2014-2024.
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Thursday, July 03, 2014
Could your 4th of July burger be topped with mozzarella or provolone this year instead of a slice of American cheese? Over the last four decades, Americans have increased their consumption of cheese, especially Italian varieties such as mozzarella, parmesan, and provolone. In 2012, cheese availability was 33.5 pounds per person, almost triple the amount in 1970 at 11.4 pounds. Availability of Italian cheeses increased to 14.9 pounds per person from 2.1 pounds in 1970. Since 2005, availability of American cheese has remained around 13 pounds per person. Innovative, convenient packaging of shredded cheeses and other cheese offerings and the inclusion of cheese in prepared foods such as frozen pizza and macaroni and cheese have boosted consumption. The popularity of cheese-rich Italian and Tex-Mex cuisines has also contributed to increased cheese consumption. This chart appears in “ Trends in U.S. Per Capita Consumption of Dairy Products, 1970-2012” in the June 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
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Wednesday, July 02, 2014
USDA projections for 2014/15 indicate that world cotton stocks will rise for a fifth consecutive season in 2014/15 (August/July marketing years), leading to continued downward pressure on global cotton prices. Global ending stocks are now projected at a record 102.7 million bales for 2014/15, nearly 4 percent above 2013/14, with China accounting for the bulk of the world total. Cotton stocks increased over the past several seasons after relatively high cotton prices led simultaneously to higher global production and slowed growth in cotton mill use. The rise in global stocks has largely occurred in China due to government policies, including national reserve purchases, that have supported global cotton prices by effectively keeping supplies out of the marketplace. Stocks in China at the end of 2013/14 are estimated at 60.3 million bales, or 61 percent of global stocks, and are not projected to change significantly in 2014/15. Cotton prices jumped to average $1.65 per pound in 2010/11 in response to tight global stocks, but have weakened since. The world cotton price is expected to decrease from an average of 92 cents per pound during 2013/14 to about 80 cents per pound in 2014/15. Find this chart in the Cotton & Wool Chart Gallery and additional analysis in Cotton & Wool Outlook: June 2014.
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