July 2018
Ag Insight

Ag Insight

E-connectivity Grant Received by Alabama Co-op

The Tombigbee Electric Cooperative has received a $2.9 million grant to bring e-connectivity to rural Marion County.

The cooperative will use a U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Connect Grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network in the community of Brilliant and in surrounding areas of Marion County. The project will connect nearly 500 households, as well as businesses and essential community services, to high-speed broadband.

In addition, the co-op will establish a community center within the service area where residents can access the internet free of charge.

USDA’s Community Connect Grant program provides grants to bring high-speed e-connectivity to rural communities where there is not yet a business case for private providers to deliver service.

In 1938, former President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of rural electrification as being a necessity of life, not a luxury. Broadband-internet access today is in the same category, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue noted.


Imports’ Share of U.S. Food Use Increasing


Imports’ share of the U.S. food and beverage dollar has almost doubled over the last two decades, due in part to growing demand by U.S. consumers for year-round fresh produce options and increasing global trade in food and beverages.

In 2016, the most recent year for which the data are available, 87.3 percent of food and beverage purchases by U.S. consumers, including both grocery-store and eating-out purchases, were from domestic production.

Imported food and beverages such as produce from Chile or wines from France accounted for the remaining 12.7 percent. In 1993, imports were 6.9 percent.

In addition, imported inputs are used in U.S. food and beverage production, and their share of the U.S. food and beverage dollar has risen as well. Imported inputs used by U.S. food companies and restaurants include both food inputs such as avocadoes from Mexico and cranberries from Canada and nonfood inputs such as natural gas and foreign-made restaurant equipment.

In 2016, imported inputs used in domestically produced food and beverages accounted for 4.7 percent of the U.S. food and beverage dollar, up from 3.7 percent in 1993.


United States Issues First-Ever WTO Counter Notification Against India

The United States has submitted a counter notification to the World Trade Organization Committee on Agriculture on India’s market price support for wheat and rice. It is the first-ever COA notification by the United States under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture regarding another country’s measures.

Based on U.S. calculations, it appears India has substantially under-reported its market price support for wheat and rice. When calculated according to the WTO Agreement on Agriculture methodology, India’s support has far exceeded its allowable levels of trade-distorting domestic support.



Blueberry Use on the Rise

Per capita U.S. fresh blueberry use has increased to record-breaking levels each year since 2006, reaching 1.79 pounds in 2017.

Rising U.S. demand over the last two decades has been supported by increased availability from domestic production and imports. Imports, however, have risen more rapidly than domestic production, climbing to a record 328.3 million pounds in 2016 – exceeding domestic production for the first time over the period 1980-2017.

Imports’ share of domestic use rose from about 25 percent in the 1980s to over 50 percent in recent years.

Over half the total import volume comes from Chile; other key suppliers include Canada, Mexico, Peru and Argentina.

Being sourced mainly from the Southern Hemisphere, a majority of the imports occur during the offseason for domestic production. The U.S. production season begins in April and runs through the summer into early fall.


Roundtable Held on Food Waste

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently hosted a food-waste roundtable with congressional representatives, food industry leaders and nonprofit groups to raise awareness of the issue while discussing solutions with leaders throughout the entire food-supply chain.

The roundtable was the first of what likely will be many USDA public events on food waste.

While food loss and waste eats up nearly 40 percent of the food supply in the United States, millions of Americans also need access to safe, wholesome, affordable foods, USDA officials said.

Consumers are responsible for most of the food loss and waste, accounting for almost 90 billion pounds annually, or 20 percent of the U.S. food supply. The retail sector is responsible for about 10 percent, totaling 43 billion pounds.

USDA wants to address the problem by working with farmers, industry and consumers to raise food loss and waste awareness, and share best practices.


Conservation Spending Focuses on Working Land Programs


From 2012 to 2017, combined funding for working land programs accounted for over 50 percent of spending in USDA’s conservation efforts.

USDA agricultural conservation programs provide technical and financial assistance to farmers who adopt and maintain practices conserving resources or enhancing environmental quality.

Although USDA implements over a dozen individual conservation programs, nearly all assistance is channeled through six: the Conservation Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, Conservation Technical Assistance, Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and the Resource Conservation Partnership Program.

EQIP, CSP and CTA are often referred to as "working land programs" because they focus primarily on supporting conservation on land in agricultural production (crops or grazing).

Begun under the 2002 Farm Act, this emphasis reflects a long-term trend increasing annual spending in working land programs. The 2014 Farm Act continued to focus on working land conservation.

In 2017 dollars (to adjust for inflation), this spending increased from roughly $1 billion under the 1996 Farm Act to over $3 billion under the 2014 Act.


Project Aims at Boosting Sweet Potato Market

USDA has announced funding to support 11 projects in six states to develop solutions to challenges affecting the specialty crop industries crossing state boundaries. The awards are managed through the Specialty Crop Multi-State Program administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service.

Among the projects is one in which the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will partner with the U.S. Sweet Potato Council Inc., collaborating with sweet potato commissions and councils in Alabama, California, Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina on a project to increase the market for sweet potatoes. The program received $250,000.



Farm Numbers, Output Offer Contrasts

Small family farms – those with less than $350,000 in annual gross cash farm income – account for about 90 percent of U.S. farms, half all farmland and a quarter of the value of production.

In 2016, 99 percent of U.S. farms were family farms, where the principal operator and his or her relatives owned the majority of the business.

By comparison, large-scale family farms – those with $1 million or more in GCFI – made up only 3 percent of U.S. farms and 18 percent of farmland, but contributed 45 percent of production.

Nonfamily farms such as partnerships of unrelated partners and corporations accounted for just 1 percent of U.S. farms and 10 percent of production.

The 19 percent of nonfamily farms with GCFI of $1 million or more accounted for 88 percent of all nonfamily farms’ production.