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FAQs

Need a quick fact? Below are answers to questions we receive from policymakers, agribusiness, other researchers, and the media about food and diet, farming, conservation, and rural communities. Follow the links for more details.


Q: Which are the top 10 agricultural producing States?

A: In 2012, the top 10 agricultural producing States, in terms of cash receipts were (in descending order): California, Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, Indiana, and North Carolina. These and related statistics can be found in ERS's Farm Income and Wealth Statistics.

Q: What are the leading farm commodities in the United States, in terms of cash receipts?

A: In 2012, the largest cash receipts were from corn production, followed by production of cattle/calves, soybeans, dairy products, broilers, and hogs. These and related statistics can be found in ERS's Farm Income and Wealth Statistics.

Q: Are family farms disappearing?

A: No. In fact, family farms have accounted for a large majority of farm numbers and agricultural sales since the 1970s. But as production shifts to larger farms, family-owned farm businesses often become incorporated. Family corporations (having more than half the voting stock held by individuals related by blood or marriage) account for about a fifth of farm sales.

Q: How does farm household income compare with the income of other U.S. households?

A: Since the mid-1990s, the income of the average farm household has surpassed that of nonfarm households, and farm household income today derives from a number of income sources. The financial well-being of farm households today depends less on the income from the farm business and more on the availability of remunerative off-farm employment.

Q: Which States have the largest number of food processing plants?

A: California has the largest number of food manufacturing plants, followed by New York and Texas (see text under third pie chart).

Q: How does U.S. beef consumption today compare with consumption in the 1970s?

A: Americans are consuming less beef per capita than in the 1970s, or in the 1980s. We're also, per capita, consuming more food overall. The ERS Food Consumption (Per Capita) Data System provides data on the wide variety of foods in the American diet, and explains how the data are derived.

Q: What is the current outlook for U.S. retail food prices?

A: Retail food prices overall were flat in 2013, despite lingering commodity price effects from the severe 2012 drought in the Midwest. Prices for several agricultural commodities, particularly sugar and coffee, decreased in 2013. Relative to 2012, prices rose considerably for poultry, eggs, fish, and fresh vegetables; however, prices fell for nonalcoholic beverages, sugar and sweets, fats and oils, and other meats. For the remaining food categories, prices were mostly unchanged. From January to December 2013, average supermarket prices fell by 0.2 percent.

In 2014, ERS forecasts that food price inflation will return to a range closer to the historical norm; since 1990, grocery store prices have risen by an average of 2.8 percent per year. The food, food-at-home, and food-away-from-home CPIs are expected to increase 2.5 to 3.5 percent over 2013 levels. The ongoing drought in California could potentially have large and lasting effects on fruit, vegetable, dairy, and egg prices, and drought conditions in Texas and Oklahoma could drive beef prices up even further. However, processed or shelf-stable foods will experience lower than average inflation in 2014. It appears that supermarkets are maintaining minimal price inflation on packaged food products, possibly to keep prices competitive as costs are rising for most perishables.

Looking ahead to 2015, retail food prices are predicted to see normal to slightly lower than average inflation, increasing 2.0 to 3.0 percent. Meat prices will likely continue to experience the effects of the Texas and Oklahoma drought and the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus in the immediate future. Farmers’ decisions on calving and herd sizes based on current conditions are felt down the line due to the 6- to 18-month production process for pork and beef. Many processed foods will continue to see lower than average inflation, as wheat, rice, and oilseed supplies are expected to increase for 2014-15. ERS publishes monthly updates on food CPI analysis and forecasts.

Q: How prevalent is hunger in the United States?

A: Resource-constrained hunger refers to a potential consequence of food insecurity that, because of prolonged, involuntary lack of food, results in discomfort, illness, weakness, or pain that goes beyond the usual uneasy sensation. While USDA's measurement of food insecurity provides some information about the economic and social contexts that may lead to hunger, it does not measure hunger or the number of hungry people.

In 2012, 85.5 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the year, meaning that they had access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. An estimated 14.5 percent of American households were food insecure in 2012, meaning that they had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. In 2012, 5.7 percent of U.S. households had very low food security. In this more severe range of food insecurity, the food intake of some household members was reduced, and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year due to limited resources.

Q: How many people in the United States live in food deserts - low- income areas with low access to supermarkets or large grocery stores?

A: ERS’s Food Access Research Atlas estimates and maps census tracts that are low income and have low access to a supermarket, where low access is defined as having a significant number or share of people more than 1 mile from a supermarket in urban areas and more than 10 miles in rural areas. An estimated 18.3 million people in these low-income and low-access census tracts were far from a supermarket in 2010. The Food Access Research Atlas provides measures of access using ½-mile and 1-mile demarcations to the nearest supermarket for urban areas, 10-mile and 20-mile demarcations to the nearest supermarket for rural areas, and vehicle availability for all tracts.

Q: What are the main reasons that eligible households don't apply for food stamps?

A: According to ERS research, most households that are eligible but don't participate in the Food Stamp Program said they would apply for benefits if they were sure they were eligible. However, about a quarter of the eligible households not participating reported that they would not apply in any case, mainly because of a desire for personal independence.

Q: What is the value of U.S. agricultural exports and U.S. agricultural imports?

A: U.S. agriculture enjoys a trade surplus, with the value of exports exceeding imports. The level of the surplus has changed over time, with increasing agricultural imports. ERS publishes monthly trade updates.

Q: How important are exports to the U.S. agricultural sector?

A: Trade is essential to the U.S. agricultural sector, with agricultural exports accounting for more than 20 percent of the volume of U.S. agricultural production. (Scroll down to "Food and Fiber Sector Indicators."). The export share of food grains is among the highest of specific commodity groups.

Q: Is population in nonmetropolitan areas increasing, or decreasing?

A: The population of nonmetro counties has been declining since 2010, the result of out-migration to metropolitan areas and an historically low rate of natural increase (births minus deaths). Hundreds of individual counties have lost population over the years, but this is the first period of overall population decline in nonmetro America. ERS provides data on demographic trends in nonmetro areas, including how "nonmetro" is defined.

Q: What is the farm share of the U.S. retail food dollar?

A: For calendar year 2012, the farm share was 17.4 cents of each food dollar expenditure, and the marketing bill was 82.6 cents, accounting for the remainder of the food dollar. This means that for every dollar spent in 2012 in the U.S. on domestically produced food (food dollar), U.S. farmers sold 17.4 cents of farm products, on average, to non-farm establishments (farm share). After falling to 16.2 cents in 2009, the farm share of food dollar expenditures in 2012 rose to a level comparable to the 2007-08 level. The farm share covers the cost of purchased inputs used in farm production plus the value added on farms which is attributed to the use of farmland, farm labor, farm machinery and equipment. Farm value added contributed 9.7 cents of the 17.4-cent farm share of each 2012 food dollar expenditure, up from 8.3 cents of farm value added in 2006.

Q: How does U.S. agricultural policy address agricultural-environmental issues?

A: U.S. agricultural-environmental policy addresses a range of environmental concerns including soil quality, water quality, wildlife habitat, air quality, and other issues of concern. The United States uses a number of policy instruments, notably land retirement programs, but relies most heavily on financial incentives and technical assistance to agricultural producers who agree to adopt practices designed to improve their environmental performance.

Q: How important is agriculture to the overall economy?

A: In 2012, agriculture and related industries had a 4.8 percent value-added share of nominal GDP, consisting of a 1.0-percent share for farms; a 1.4-percent share for processed food, beverage, and tobacco products; a 1.9-percent share for food service and drinking establishments; a 0.2-percent share of textiles and leather apparel; and a 0.2-percent share for forestry, fishing, and hunting.

Value added by Industry as Percent of GDP
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Farms 0.9 0.8 0.9 1.1 1.0
Forestry, fishing, and hunting 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2
Processed foods, beverages, and tobacco 1.4 1.7 1.5 1.4 1.4
Textile mills and textile product mills 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Apparel and leather and allied products 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Food services and drinking places 1.9 1.9 1.9 1.9 1.9
Ag-Related as a percent of GDP 4.5 4.7 4.7 4.7 4.8

Source:
Commerce Dept. Bureau of Economic Analysis
Gross Domestic Product by Industry Accounts
Value Added by Industry as a Percentage of Gross Domestic Product
Release date January 23, 2014
Note on measuring Ag's contribution to GDP

Q: How many jobs in America are related to agriculture?

A: USDA does not have an official estimate of the number of jobs associated with specific industries or sectors. Published U.S. Government data are available for direct farm employment and for employment in selected industries or sectors related to agriculture. The Bureau of Economic Analysis publishes data on the number of full- and part-time jobs for agricultural and related industry sectors. The table (below) shows the data for the last five years. These are defined as follows:

  • Farms (including both farm proprietor self-employment and hired labor)
  • Forestry, fishing, and related activities (including forestry and logging; fishing, hunting and trapping; and agriculture and forestry support activities)
  • Food and beverage and tobacco manufacturing
  • Textile mills and textile mill products
  • Apparel and leather and allied products
  • Food services and drinking places
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Number of Full- and Part- Time Jobs
Farm Employment1 2,635,000 2,633,000 2,657,000 2,626,000 2,616,000
Forestry, fishing and related activities2 855,200 829,400 846,400 847,600 864,700
Food Manufacturing 1,528,900 1,512,200 1,492,300 1,519,300 1,530,200
Beverage and Tobacco product manufacturing 207,700 202,700 195,800 199,600 206,600
Textile mills 156,100 129,100 125,600 128,800 125,900
Textile product mills 154,200 134,400 129,500 129,800 130,100
Apparel manufacturing 230,400 210,700 198,000 183,300 176,000
Leather and allied product manufacturing 38,800 36,100 34,300 40,600 44,700
Food Services and drinking places 10,302,600 10,081,500 10,147,600 10,390,100 10,799,300
Total Farm and Agriculture-Related 16,108,900 15,769,100 15,826,500 16,063,100 16,493,500

1Includes farm proprietor employment and hired labor

2Includes: Forestry and Logging; fishing, hunting and trapping; agriculture and forestry support activities.

Last updated: Thursday, August 07, 2014

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