June 2015
Ag Insight

Ag Insight


Rural population decline continues

The number of people living in rural (nonmetropolitan) counties declined for the fourth year in a row according to population estimates recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

While hundreds of individual counties have lost population over the years, especially in remote or sparsely settled regions, this marks the first period of population decline for rural (nonmetro) areas as a whole.

Population declines stem from a combination of fewer births, more deaths and changing migration patterns. From July 2013 to July 2014, the increase in rural population that came from natural change (58,348 more births than deaths) did not match the decrease in population from net migration (89,251 more people moved out than moved in), leading to overall population loss.

The contribution of natural change to rural population growth will likely continue its gradual downward trend due to historically low fertility rates and an aging population. However, net migration rates are prone to short-term fluctuations in response to economic conditions.

Alabama damson USDA assessment list

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that $73 million will be invested this year to rehabilitate and assess dams across the nation to ensure this critical infrastructure is protecting Americans from harm, securing public health and expanding water supplies in drought-affected areas. About 150 projects and assessments in 23 states will be funded.

The effort includes assessments of 11 dams in Alabama, with an allocation of some $250,000.

New agreements reached for beef, pork exports

The USDA has recently reached agreements allowing U.S. beef and pork producers greater access to consumers in Mexico and Peru. The two agreements will allow U.S. producers to export slaughter cattle to Mexico and expand access to consumer markets in Peru for U.S. fresh and chilled pork.

"Our priority at USDA is not only to open or reopen markets for our producers, but to help drive U.S. economic growth through trade by supporting and creating American jobs on and off the farm," Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. "Mexico is an important market for U.S. cattle producers with the potential to import $15 million of live U.S. cattle per year, and we expect Peru’s market could generate $5 million annually in additional pork sales."

The United States and Mexico reached an agreement that takes effect immediately and will allow U.S. producers to export slaughter cattle to Mexico for the first time in over a decade. The USDA has been working with Mexico since 2008 to reopen this market. Exporters and producers can find the required documents on the APHIS website or through their local veterinary services office.

Similarly, USDA has conducted extensive negotiations with Peru’s Servicio National De Sanidad Agraria since 2012 to expand access for U.S. fresh, chilled pork and pork products. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service export library is being updated to the new requirements for these pork and pork products exports.

Number of certified organic growers continues to climb

The organic industry continues to show remarkable growth domestically and globally with 19,474 certified organic operations in the United States and a total of 27,814 certified organic operations around the world, according to USDA data.

According to figures released by the Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program, the number of domestic certified organic operations increased by more than 5 percent over the last year. Since the count began in 2002, the number of domestic organic operations has increased by over 250 percent.

The certified operations list is available at apps.ams.usda.gov/nop.

"As demand for organic products continues to soar, more and more producers are entering the organic market," Vilsack said. "Growing demand for organic goods can be especially helpful to smaller family operations. The more diverse type of operations and the more growing market sectors we have in American agriculture, the better off our country’s rural economy will be."

Fruit consumptiononly half of recommended amount

Food intake surveys find Americans consuming about half the amount of recommended fruits per day, and one reason may be that some consumers incorrectly perceive fruit to be expensive.

USDA’s Economic Research Service has calculated average prices paid in 2013 for 63 fresh and processed fruits measured in cup equivalents. A cup equivalent is the edible portion that will generally fit in a 1-cup measuring cup; 1/2 cup for raisins and other dried fruits.

The amount of fruit a person should eat per day depends on age, gender and level of activity. For a 2,000-calorie diet, two cup equivalents of fruits per day are recommended.

Fresh watermelon at 21 cents per cup equivalent and apple juice (made from concentrate) at 27 cents were the lowest priced fruits, while fresh blackberries, fresh raspberries and canned cherries were the priciest.

Thirty-five fruits cost less than 80 cents per cup equivalent.

Global rice stock stightening in 2015

While global ending stocks of most agricultural commodities, including feed grains, oilseeds, wheat and cotton, are expected to reach multi-year highs in 2015, rice is an exception with global ending stocks projected to decline for the second year in a row to reach their lowest level since the 2009/10 marketing year (August/July).

Ample supplies of most commodities are reflected in prices well below the record levels of just a few years ago. At the same time, global use of rice continues to grow, led by consumption growth in China, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines and several other nations.

As a result, the global stocks-to-use ratio is projected at just over 20 percent, the lowest it has been since 2007/08, a time when international concern over high commodity and food prices led several of the world’s leading rice producing and consuming countries to restrict exports and increase government-owned rice reserves.

These actions resulted in a rapid rise in global rice prices and reduced trade. Today, even though global stocks are approaching levels that prompted substantial trade restrictions in early 2008, prices are lower and global rice trade remains at near-record levels.

Manmade fibers spur growth in textile, apparel imports

U.S. net textile and apparel fiber imports rose for a second consecutive calendar year in 2014 to their highest level in 4 years.

Net imports reached approximately 14.5 billion (raw-fiber-equivalent) pounds in 2014, compared with 13.9 billion pounds in 2013 and a record 15.1 billion pounds in 2007.

Total fiber product imports grew 3 percent last year to their highest since 2010, while exports rose 1 percent to their highest level since 2008. U.S. net imports consist largely of cotton and manmade fiber products, but cotton’s share has declined in recent years due to the steady growth in the use of manmade fibers, due in part to their relative price advantage.

In 2014, cotton textile and apparel products accounted for about 46 percent of the total, while manmade fibers contributed 47 percent. By comparison, just 5 years ago, cotton contributed nearly 56 percent of the total compared with manmade fibers’ share of 38 percent.

Alabama counties to receive Forest Service funding

Some $285 million will go to 41 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico this year in support of local schools and roads as part of the congressional 2-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. Alabama’s total share will be $1.787 million.

The payments from the Forest Service may be used to support public schools and public roads; for projects to help maintain and improve the health of forests; and for county projects including "Firewise Communities" programs, reimbursements for emergency services on national forests and development of community wildfire protection plans. The forest projects are reviewed and recommended by resource advisory committees made up of local residents working together to improve the environment and to help provide jobs in rural communities.

The disbursement includes $28 million in Title II funding to complete special conservation projects on Federal lands proposed by resource advisory committees. Funding is provided through the U.S. Forest Service.