November 2016
Ag Insight

Ag Insight

USDA announces Gulf-area agricultural lands program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a new three-year, $328 million restoration strategy to improve water quality and help coastal ecosystems heal after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The strategy will guide how USDA will steer conservation efforts on private lands in priority areas of the Gulf of Mexico region.

USDA will work in partnership with Alabama and four other Gulf States, federal agencies and landowners to explore opportunities for how the funding can complement funds from the settlement of the oil spill.

With most of the land in the region privately owned, working lands on the Gulf Coast are pivotal to the region’s recovery, USDA said.

Assistance is provided through a number of Farm Bill programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.

Through an array of voluntary conservation programs, USDA said the Gulf of Mexico strategy will provide financial and technical assistance to producers, helping them adopt a number of conservation practices to clean and conserve water such as managing for nutrients, using no-till, planting cover crops, installing grade-stabilization structures and water-control structures.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service plans to continue these efforts, especially in priority watersheds such as Alabama’s Fish River and Indian Bayou in Louisiana.

For more information, contact your local USDA service center or visit


Beef, pork production, consumption projected to rise


USDA baseline projections show production of beef and pork will expand steadily between 2016 and 2025, driven by lower feed costs and strong meat demand domestically and abroad. As a result of this greater production, beef and pork prices are projected to drop 10.6 percent and 11.6 percent, respectively, over the same period.

Cheaper prices will help reverse a multiyear decline in meat consumption in the United States. Per capita consumption of beef is also forecast to increase 2.7 percent by 2025, outpacing growth in consumption of broilers (2.3 percent) and pork (1.7 percent).

USDA expects the trend will increase the total amount of meat consumed per person in the United States from 211 pounds in 2015 to nearly 219 pounds by 2025.


Tuskegee receives 2501 Program grant

Some $8.4 million in grants will be used by organizations in 24 states to provide training, outreach and technical assistance for socially disadvantaged, tribal and veteran farmers and ranchers.

The grants include $200,000 to Tuskegee University and will be leveraged to help bring traditionally underserved people into farming, as well as veterans who want to return home to rural areas.

The grants are provided through USDA’s Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the 2501 Program and administered by USDA’s Office of Advocacy and Outreach.


Food insecurity a difficult measurement


Measuring food security at the individual household level isn’t easy and statistics on the number of persons residing in food-insecure households should be interpreted carefully. Among other things, within a food-insecure household, individual household members may have been affected differently.

Some members, particularly young children, may have experienced only mild effects of food insecurity or none at all, while adults were more severely affected.

Food-insecure households were, at times, unable to acquire adequate food for one or more household members due to insufficient money and other resources. In 2015, 42.2 million people lived in food-insecure households. Of these individuals, 14.6 million lived in households in the severe range of food insecurity, described as very low food security.

Households with very low food security were food insecure to the extent that eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced at some point during the year.


Fast food purchases – who and how often

Data from USDA’s Economic Research Service provides a snapshot of which household types are purchasing fast food and how often. The conclusion is that eating out accounts for a significant share of Americans’ food budgets and diets.

Fast food in the analysis includes prepared food from a deli, carry-out and delivery food, and food from a fast-food restaurant. Over an average week in 2014, the latest period for which complete data are available, 58.2 percent of American adults purchased fast food and those who purchased fast food did so an average of 2.7 times.

Couples with children were the most likely to purchase fast food (64.5 percent). However, single-person households had the highest average number of weekly fast food purchases. Men who purchased fast food did so an average of three times weekly, while women who purchased fast food averaged 2.5 times.


Principal farm operators older than people in non-farm businesses


A notable characteristic of principal farm operators - the person most responsible for running the farm - is their relatively advanced age.

In 2014, 33 percent of principal farm operators were at least 65 years old. This is nearly three times the U.S. average (12 percent) for older self-employed workers in nonagricultural businesses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Most older principal farm operators run small family farms. Retirement farms had the highest percentage of older operators (67 percent), followed by low-sales farms (41 percent) and moderate sales farms (28 percent).

Older operators made up about one-fifth of each of the remaining groups.

The advanced age of farm operators is understandable. The farm is also home for most farmers and they can gradually phase out of farming. Improved health and advances in farm equipment also allow operators to farm later in life than in past generations.


U.S. ag output shows strong growth

U.S. agricultural output has more than doubled since 1948, growing on average at 1.52 percent annually.

Total input use (i.e., land, labor and materials such as seed and feed) grew at only 0.05 percent per year on average. Improvements in how efficiently inputs are transformed into outputs, known as total factor productivity, fueled almost all of the output growth.

Advancements in technology such as improvements to machinery, seeds and farm structures enabled agricultural TFP to grow an average of 1.47 percent annually. This rate exceeded the productivity growth of most U.S. industries, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In recent years (since 2007), TFP growth has kept up with its historic rate. This strong productivity growth has offset the decline in the use of agricultural inputs, allowing agricultural output to continue to grow by 0.91 percent annually.


ERS estimates climate change impact on U.S. agriculture


Climate models predict U.S. agriculture will face changes in local patterns of precipitation and temperature over the next century. These climate changes will affect crop yields, crop-water demand, water-supply availability, farmer livelihoods and consumer welfare, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service.

Using projections of temperature and precipitation under nine different scenarios, ERS projects climate change will result in a decline in national field crop acreage in 2080 when measured relative to a scenario assuming continuation of reference climate conditions (precipitation and temperature patterns averaged over 2001-08).

Acreage trends show substantial variability across climate change scenarios and regions. When averaged over all climate scenarios, total acreage in the Mountain States, Pacific and Southern Plains is projected to expand, while acreage in other regions – most notably the Corn Belt and Northern Plains – declines.

Over half of all field crop acreage in the United States is found in the Corn Belt and Northern Plains, and projected declines in these regions represent 2.1 percent of their combined acreage. Irrigated acreage for all regions is projected to decline, but in some regions increases in dryland acreage offset irrigated acreage losses.

The acreage response reflects projected changes in regional irrigation supply as well as differential yield impacts and shifts in relative profitability across crops and production practices under the climate change scenarios.