FAQs


Which are the top 10 agricultural producing States?

In 2016, the top 10 agricultural producing States, in terms of cash receipts were (in descending order): California, Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Washington. These and related statistics can be found in ERS's Farm Income and Wealth Statistics

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

In 2016, the largest 10 sources of cash receipts from the sale of U.S.-produced farm commodities were (in descending order): cattle and calves, corn for grain, soybeans, dairy products/milk, broilers, miscellaneous crops, hogs, wheat, chicken eggs, and grapes. These and related statistics can be found in ERS's Farm Income and Wealth Statistics.

Are family farms disappearing?

No. In fact, family farms still account for a large majority of farms and farm production. But as production shifts to larger farms, family-owned farm businesses often become larger. Farms with gross revenue of at least $1 million now account for half of farm production, and 90 percent of the 65,300 million-dollar operations are family farms. See the ERS report for more information:

America's Diverse Family Farms, 2016 Edition

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

Since the mid-1990s, the median income of the farm households has surpassed that of nonfarm households, and farm household income today is derived from a number of income sources. The financial well-being of the majority of farm households today depends less on the income from the farm business and more on the availability of remunerative off-farm employment. However, households operating commercial farms (those with more than $350,000 in gross cash farm income) typically derive most of their income from the farm operation, although many of those households also have substantial off-farm income. 

Which States have the largest number of food processing plants?

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

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

While total per capita food consumption has increased in the U.S. since 1970, Americans are consuming less beef per capita than in the 1970s or 1980s. The ERS loss-adjusted food availability (LAFA) data series in the ERS Food Consumption (Per Capita) Data System provides data on over 200 foods in the American diet. LAFA is derived from ERS’s food availability data series by adjusting for food spoilage, plate waste, and other losses to more closely approximate actual intake.

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

In 2017, ERS expects supermarket (food at home) prices to rise between 0.5 and 1.5 percent, a rate of inflation that is still below the 20 year historic average of 2.5 percent. Although prices for poultry, fish and seafood, and dairy have declined so far in 2016, prices for these foods are expected to increase in 2017. These forecasts are based on an assumption of normal weather conditions throughout the remainder of the year; however, severe weather or other unforeseen events could potentially drive food prices above or below the current forecast. In particular, drought conditions throughout the U.S. could have large and lasting effects on fruit, vegetable, dairy, and egg prices. Also, a stronger U.S. dollar could continue to make the sale of domestic food products overseas more difficult. This would increase the supply of foods on the domestic market, placing downward pressure on retail food prices. For more information see the Food Price Outlook, a monthly update on food CPI analysis and forecasts.

How prevalent is hunger in the United States?

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 2015, 87.3 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 12.7 percent of American households were food insecure in 2015, 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 2015, 5.0 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.

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

ERS’ 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 19 million people in these low-income and low-access census tracts were far from a supermarket in 2015. The Food Access Research Atlas provides measures of neighborhood access to healthy, affordable food for the entire Nation 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. Users can map low-income and low-supermarket access census tracts for 2015 and now compare the results with those for 2010.

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

According to ERS research (see link below), 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.

Food Stamp Program Access Study: Eligible Nonparticipants

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

U.S. agriculture enjoys a trade surplus, with the value of exports exceeding imports. In fiscal year 2016, the value of agricultural exports reached $129.7 billion compared to $113.1 billion worth of agricultural imports, resulting in a trade surplus of $16.6 billion. The level of the surplus varies over time, and reached a high of $43.1 billion in fiscal year 2014 when agricultural exports reached a record $152.3 billion. In more recent years the surplus has declined somewhat, as the value of imports continues to rise while the value of exports has declined from record-high levels amid lower commodity prices and higher volatility. ERS publishes monthly trade updates that provide up-to-date information on agricultural trade and the trade balance.

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

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. In recent years, the leading agricultural export products in terms of value have consistently been bulk commodities including soybeans, corn, and wheat. Top U.S. exports of high-value products include feeds and fodder, beef and veal (fresh or frozen), and almonds. State export calculations produced by ERS estimate the volume of agricultural production within each state that contributes to US export sales.

Is population in nonmetropolitan areas increasing, or decreasing?

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.

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

For calendar year 2014, the farm share was 17.2 cents of each food dollar expenditure, and the marketing bill was 82.8 cents, accounting for the remainder of the food dollar. This means that for every dollar spent in 2014 in the U.S. on domestically produced food (food dollar), U.S. farmers sold 17.2 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 rose 1.4 cents to 17.6 in 2011 and has since declined 0.4 cents between 2011 and 2014. 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 10.4 cents of the 17.2-cent farm share of each 2014 food dollar expenditure, up from 8.7 cents of farm value added in 2009.

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

U.S. agricultural-environmental policy addresses a range of environmental concerns including soil quality, water quality, wildlife habitat, and air quality. The United States relies heavily on financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers who agree to adopt practices designed to improve their environmental performance. Financial and technical assistance support a number of conservation activities including land retirement, conservation practices on land in production (e.g., conservation tillage, nutrient management, or rotational grazing), protection of wetlands and grasslands, and preservation of productive farmland at risk of residential or commercial development. Key programs include the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Conservation Compliance also ties conservation effort to participation in other agricultural programs. Under Conservation Compliance, farmers must apply an approved soil conservation system on highly erodible cropland and refrain from draining wetlands to maintain eligibility for a wide range of agriculture-related benefits, including farm income support and crop insurance premium subsidies.

How important is agriculture to the overall economy?

In 2015, agriculture and its related industries had a 4.5 percent value-added share of nominal GDP, consisting of a 0.8-percent share for farms; a 1.4-percent share for 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 related activities.

Value added by industry as percent of GDP
  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Farms 0.9 1.1 0.9 1.1 1.0 0.8
Forestry, fishing, and hunting 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2
Food, beverages, and tobacco products 1.5 1.4 1.4 1.4 1.4 1.4
Textile mills and textile product mills 0.1 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 0.1
Food services and drinking places 1.9 1.9 1.9 1.9 1.9 1.9
Ag-Related as a percent of GDP 4.7 4.8 4.6 4.8 4.7 4.5
Source: Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Gross Domestic Product by Industry Accounts, Value Added by Industry as a Percentage of Gross Domestic Product, January 2015.

How many jobs in America are related to agriculture?

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. In 2015, 21.0 million full- and part-time jobs were related to the agricultural and food sectors—11.1 percent of total U.S. employment. Direct on-farm employment accounted for about 2.6 million of these jobs, or 1.4 percent of U.S. employment. Employment in agriculture- and food-related industries supported another 18.4 million jobs. Of this, food service, eating and drinking places accounted for the largest share—11.9 million jobs—and food/beverage stores supported 3.2 million jobs. The remaining agriculture-related industries together added another 3.3 million jobs. See the section on Ag and Food Sectors and the Economy in the ERS data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials for more information.

Are there any data that can be used to study household food choices that include food from all sources?

USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) is the first nationally representative survey to collect comprehensive data about household food purchases and acquisitions. These data include quantities, expenditures, and nutrition information for food and beverages purchased from grocery stores and other food retailers (food at home), as well as prepared food purchased from establishments such as restaurants and fast food places (food away from home). FoodAPS also contains detailed information about foods acquired for free from schools, family, friends, home gardens, and food pantries.

FoodAPS data reflect purchases and acquisitions by all household members recorded over the course of 7 days between April 2012 and January 2013. A total of 4,826 households, comprising 14,317 individuals, completed the survey. The survey oversampled households that participate in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other low-income households to provide a detailed picture of food demand among low-income Americans. Users can download the public-use data in three file formats: SAS, Stata, and CSV. Documentation for the datasets (including all codebooks and the user guide) also is available for download.

What industries employ the most people in rural areas?

  • A:  While agricultural employment is more important in rural areas than in urban areas, it only accounted for 7 percent of rural jobs in 2014. This is less than the share of rural jobs accounted for by recreation service industries (8 percent) or manufacturing (11 percent). Producer service industries (providing business-oriented services such as information, finance, and management) account for 16 percent of rural jobs, while services other than recreation and producer services account for just over 40 percent of all rural employment. See Rural America at a Glance, 2016 Edition for more information.

How do earnings in rural areas compare with earnings in urban areas?

  • A:  In 2015, median annual earnings for employed adults were substantially lower in rural areas ($26,715) than in urban areas ($31,935). However, this shortfall is mitigated to some extent by rural-urban differences in living costs, especially for housing. Both rural and urban earnings fell markedly during the Great Recession, but the decline in rural earnings was smaller. As a result, the ratio of rural earnings to urban earnings rose from 77 percent in 2007 to nearly 84 percent in 2015. See Rural America at a Glance, 2016 Edition  for more information.

How does SNAP improve the economic well-being of low-income participants?

SNAP benefits increase the food purchasing power of recipients, and ERS research has demonstrated that accounting for SNAP benefits in family income reduces the effective rate of poverty in the United States.  SNAP benefits lead to even greater reductions in the depth and severity of poverty, which factor in how SNAP benefits increase family income, even if they don’t lift them out of poverty. SNAP benefits have a particularly strong effect on poverty among children, who make up about half of SNAP recipients. For more information on this topic, see:

Alleviating Poverty in the United States: The Critical Role of SNAP Benefits
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