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In Brief

Concise overviews of key issues, research findings, and analysis. These are available in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.


Topics

Agricultural Policy
Diet and Health
Farm and National Economy
Food Assistance and Food Security
Food Industry and Markets

Food Safety
Natural Resources and Environment
Research, Technology, and Productivity
Rural and Community Development
Trade and International Markets


Agricultural Policy Adobe pdf icon

The Future of Environmental Compliance Incentives in U.S. Agriculture
If direct payment programs, which are now subject to environmental compliance, are reduced or eliminated, what would be some impacts of applying environmental compliance provisions to crop insurance? March 2012  HTML

Changing Farm Structure and the Distribution of Farm Payments and Federal Crop Insurance
A long-term shift in production toward larger farms has affected the distribution of commodity-related Federal program payments and Federal crop insurance, with the share of payments going to larger farms increasing. February 2012 HTML

Identifying Overlap in the Farm Safety Net ERS offers a conceptual framework for identifying overlap in farm safety net programs, including how to define and measure overlap. The study also suggests a direction for further analysis. November 2011 HTML

An Analysis of the Limited Base Acre Provision of the 2008 Farm Act
ERS examines the effect of the 2008 Farm Act provision eliminating direct and countercyclical payments and average crop revenue election payments to farms with 10 or fewer base acres. October 2011 HTML 

Alternatives to a State-Based ACRE Program: Expected Payments Under a National, Crop District, or County Base
The Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program bases commodity support on aggregate State-level and individual farm-level revenue variability. ERS examines expected effects if the trigger were changed to a national, Crop Reporting District, or county level. September 2011  HTML

Grassland to Cropland Conversion in the Northern Plains: The Role of Crop Insurance, Commodity, and Disaster Programs
ERS examined how quickly landowners were converting grasslands to cropland in the Northern Plains and the role of crop insurance and other farm programs in their decisions. June 2011

Policy Reform in the tobacco Industry: Producers Adapt to a Changing Market
ERS analyzes tobacco producers’ adjustments in production, investment, labor requirements, and contracting practices following elimination of tobacco quotas and tobacco price supports. May 2011

ACRE Program Payments and Risk Reduction: An Analysis Based on Simulations of Crop Revenue Variability
ERS analyzes the distribution, by crop and region, of potential farm payments and risk reduction in the revenue-based Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program. The report focuses on corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton. September 2010  HTML

Factors Influencing ACRE Program Enrollment
ERS applied requirements of the new Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program to eligible crops from 1996 to 2008 and analyzed whether farmers would have benefited more from ACRE than from the programs available during that time. December 2009HTML

The Post-Buyout Experience: Peanut and Tobacco Sectors Adapt to Policy Reform
ERS identifies market forces that have affected the peanut and tobacco industries following the end of longstanding system protections – in 2002 for peanuts and 2004 for tobacco. November 2009 HTML

Federal Tax Policies and Farm Households
Significant changes in Federal individual income and estate tax policies over the last 10 years have reduced average tax rates for farm households. May 2009  HTML

Economic Aspects of Revenue-Based Commodity Support
ERS examines the economic effects of two theoretical scenarios in which commodity support is determined by shortfalls in farm revenue, unlike current price-based programs or yield-based assistance. April 2009 HTML

Effects of Marketing Loans on U.S. Dry Peas and Lentils: Supply Response and World Trade
Acreage for dry peas and lentils has increased since passage of the 2002 Farm Act. ERS examines the role of the Act’s marketing loans in the increase, and the trade impacts.
May 2008

Commodity Payments, Farm Business Survival, and Farm Size Growth
ERS compared consumption of refined and whole grains with recommendations of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, considering the consumers’ social, economic, and demographic characteristics. November 2007

Integrating Commodity and Conservation Programs: Design Options and Outcomes
Could a single program support farm income and encourage environmentally sound farm practices? ERS looks at some hypothetical program scenarios. October 2007

Effects of Reducing the Income Cap on Eligibility for Farm Program Payments
ERS estimates the number of farm operators likely to be affected by reducing the income eligibility cap for receiving commodity payments, from $2.5 million to $200,000. September 2007

Valuing Counter-Cyclical Payments: Implications for Producer Risk Management and Program Administration
Counter-cyclical payments supplement incomes of eligible producers enrolled in commodity programs. ERS developed a computer program that improved upon USDA’s method of estimating payment rates and that producers and forecasters can use. February 2007

Economic Analysis of Base Acre and Payment Yield Designations Under the 2002 U.S. Farm Act
The 2002 Farm Act allowed farmland owners to update commodity program base acres and payment yields for calculating program benefits. ERS examined owners’ decisions on designating base acreage and yield as they responded to economic incentives in choosing among the options. September 2005

A Consideration of the Devolution of Federal Agricultural Policy
Devolution is the transfer of local over Federal funds to States—is one way of tailoring national policies to diverse local preferences and program delivery costs. November 2004

See also “Natural resources and environment” and “Food programs and food security.”


Diet and Health Adobe pdf icon

Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive: It Depends on How You Measure the Price
How food items are priced (by calorie, by weight, or by average amount consumed) has a large effect on which foods are determined to be more expensive.  May 2012 HTML

New Food Choices Free of Trans Fats Better Align U.S. Diets With Health Recommendations ERS examined recent reductions in the trans fat content of new food products, the use and market success of “no trans fats” package claims, and whether manufacturers are substituting healthful ingredients for trans fats. April 2012 HTML

How Much Time Do Americans Spend
on Food?

ERS presents an overview of Americans' eating and other food-related time-use patterns, including grocery shopping, meal preparation, and teenagers' time-use patterns in relation to school meals. November 2011  HTML

How Americans Rate Their Diet Quality: An Increasingly Realistic Perspective
ERS finds that there is a heightened realism among Americans about their own diets, and examines how perceptions of diet quality vary with food expenditures, household food availability, and eating patterns. September 2011  HTML

The Effect of Food and Beverage Prices on Children’s Weights
ERS estimates the effect of prices of various foods on children’s Body Mass Index (BMI), using price variation across time and geographic areas.  June 2011

Geographic Differences in the Relative Price of Healthy Foods
Although healthy foods can be affordable, individuals may have an economic incentive to consume a less healthful diet if less healthy foods are relatively cheaper.  ERS examines whether healthy foods generally cost more than less healthy options and whether price differences vary across the country. June 2011

How Much Do Fruits and Vegetables Cost?
ERS used retail scanner data to estimate the average prices of 153 fresh and processed fruits and vegetables. The report includes estimates of the cost of meeting the recommendations of USDA’s recently released 2010 Dietary Guidelines. February 2011  HTML

How Food Away From Home Affects Children’s Diet Quality
Compared with meals and snacks prepared at home, food prepared away from home increases caloric intake of children, especially older children. Among older children, food away from home also lowers their daily diet quality. October 2010 

Taxing Caloric Sweetened Beverages: Potential Effects on Beverage Consumption, Calorie Intake, and Obesity
ERS analyzes the effects of a hypothetical tax on caloric sweetened sodas, fruit drinks, sports and energy drinks, and powdered mixes. What choices would consumers make, and what would it mean for their calorie intake? July 2010  HTML

Promoting Fruit and Vegetable Consumption: Are Coupons More Effective Than Pure Price Discounts?
ERS compares the potential effectiveness of coupons versus price discounts in encouraging fruit and vegetable consumption among participants in Federal food and nutrition assistance programs. June 2010  HTML

The Impact of Food Away From Home on Adult Diet Quality
Consumption data show that for the average adult, meals away from home have an impact on daily caloric intake and diet quality. February 2010 

Fruit and Vegetable Consumption by Low-Income Americans: Would a Price Reduction Make a Difference?
ERS study found that a 10-percent reduction in prices would encourage low-income Americans to raise consumption of fruit by 2.1-5.2 percent and vegetables by 2.1-4.9 percent. January 2009 HTML

Behavioral Economic Concepts To Encourage Healthy Eating in School Cafeterias: Experiments and Lessons From College Students
ERS describes an experiment in a college cafeteria to assess how various payment options and menu selection methods affect food choices. December 2008 HTML

The Decline in Consumer Use of Food Nutrition Labels, 1995-2006
ERS examines changes on consumers’ use of nutrition labels on food items between 1995-96 and 2005-06 and finds that use has declined for most components of labels. August 2008

Is Dietary Knowledge Enough? Hunger, Stress, and Other Roadblocks to Healthy Eating
Using a consumer demand model, ERS illustrates how both long-term health objectives and immediate visceral influences (e.g., time pressure) influence food choices. August 2008

Dietary Assessment of Major Trends in U.S. Food Consumption, 1970-2005
ERS investigates trends in U.S. food consumption from 1970 to 2005. Results suggest many Americans still fall short of Federal dietary recommendations for whole grains, lower fat dairy products, and fruits and vegetables. March 2008

Food Stamps and Obesity: What Do We Know?
Results from reviewed studies indicate that for most Food Stamp Program participants, use of food stamp benefits does not result in an increase in Body Mass Index or the likelihood of being overweight or obese. March 2008

Price Trends Are Similar for Fruits, Vegetables, and Snack Foods
Evidence suggest that a wide class of unprepared fresh fruits and vegetables—those that have not been combined with labor-saving attributes—display declining prices along with prices of commonly consumed dessert and snack foods. March 2008

The U.S. Grain Consumption Landscape: Who Eats Grain, in What Form, Where, and How Much?
ERS compared consumption of refined and whole grains with recommendations of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, considering the consumers’ social, economic, and demographic characteristics. November 2007

Can Food Stamps Do More To Improve Food Choices? An Economic Perspective
Eight economic information bulletins compile evidence to address the question of whether the Food Stamp Program could do more to encourage healthful food choices. September 2007

Food and Nutrition Assistance Programs and Obesity: 1976-2002
ERS investigated the extent to which overweight and obesity have increased over time among food food and nutrition assistance recipients compared with nonrecipient groups. September 2007

Could Behavioral Economics Help Improve Diet Quality for Nutrition Assistance Program Participants?
The increasing presence of nontraditional grocery retailers such as supercenters is generating new cost-cutting and differentiation strategies among traditional food retailers. June 2007

Who Has Time To Cook? How Family Resources Influence Food Preparation
The relationship of household characteristics and time resources to the amount of time spent preparing food is relevant for the design of food assistance programs. May 2007

Possible Implications for U.S. Agriculture From Adoption of Select Dietary Guidelines
ERS used its Food Availability data and Food Guide Pyramid Servings data to calculate possible changes in U.S. farm production needed if consumers followed some of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. November 2006

Let’s Eat Out—Americans Weigh Taste, Convenience, and Nutrition
Analysis of a survey of U.S. consumers indicates that respondents want convenience and an enjoyable dining experience, but the desire for health also plays a role as does diet-health knowledge. October 2006

Nutrition Labeling in the Food-Away-From-Home Sector: An Economic Assessment
Current nutrition labeling law exempts much of the food-away-from-home sector from mandatory labeling regulations. What would be the economic costs if the sector were included in the regulations, and how might producers and consumers respond? April 2005

Understanding Fruit and Vegetable Choices Economic and Behavioral Influences
Promotional advice that is flexible in accommodating a range of preferences and lifestyles maybe more effective than nutrition information alone in influencing consumers’ food choices. November 2004

U.S. Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Who, What, Where, and How Much
The variety of produce available to Americans has blossomed in recent years, and ERS has analyzed data from national USDA surveys to investigate how consumers are responding.
November 2004

What Determines the Variety of a Household’s Vegetable Purchases?
ERS has investigated factors that influence the purchase of vegetables, and identified the obstacles to selecting a variety. November 2004

How Much Do Americans Pay for Fruits and Vegetables?
Contrary to assumptions that fruits and vegetables are expensive, especially when purchased fresh, a consumer can meet daily recommendation of three servings of fruits and four servings of vegetables for 64 cents. November 2004

Low-Income Households’ Expenditures on Fruits and Vegetables
Americans generally eat less fruits and vegetables than is recommended in USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid, and low-income households eat even less than higher income households. November 2004

Fruit and Vegetable Consumption: Looking Ahead to 2020
Factors shaping food consumption are rising income, higher educational attainment, improved diet and health knowledge, more frequent eating out, and a growing population that will become older and more racially and ethnically diverse. November 2004

The Demand for Food Away from Home: Full-Service or Fast Food?
Population trends and rising incomes are expected to sustain growth in spending for food at full-service and fast food restaurants.
January 2004

See also “Food programs and food security.”


Farm and National Economy Adobe pdf icon

The Changing Organization of U.S. Farming
Using survey and census data, ERS examines how changes in farm input use, business arrangements, structure, and production practices since the 1980s combined to expand output without increasing the total use of inputs. December 2011  HTML

The Ethanol Decade: An Expansion of U.S. Corn Production, 2000-09
ERS examines how the farm sector reacted to increased demand for corn needed to fuel a 9-billion-gallon rise in ethanol production in the past decade. In the United States, corn is the primary ethanol feedstock. August 2011  HTML

Impacts of Higher Energy Prices on Agriculture and Rural Economies
ERS looks at direct and indirect impacts of higher energy prices on the agricultural and rural sectors, with scenarios developed for specific energy price changes. August 2011  HTML

Policy Reform in the tobacco Industry: Producers Adapt to a Changing Market
ERS analyzes tobacco producers’ adjustments in production, investment, labor requirements, and contracting practices following elimination of tobacco quotas and tobacco price supports. May 2011

Federal Tax Policies and Low-Income Rural Households
ERS examines the effects of current Federal tax provisions regarding low- and moderate-income households in rural America, focusing on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). May 2011  HTML

The Diverse Structure and Organization of U.S. Beef Cow-Calf Farms
The beef cow-calf industry is characterized by large numbers of small farms, although large farms account for most of the production. Operators of beef cow-calf farms have varying goals for their cattle enterprises. March 2011  HTML

Agricultural Contracting Update: Contracts in 2008
ERS explores the use of agricultural contracts, which account for 40 percent of the value of U.S. agricultural output. The report provides detailed analysis of contract use in production of hogs and poultry, major field crops, and peanuts and tobacco. February 2011  HTML

The Role of Contracts in the Organic Supply Chain: 2004 and 2007
Contracting is widespread in the organic sector. ERS summarizes survey data on contracting in that sector, addressing the extent of contracting, the rationale for using contracts, and contract design for select commodities. December 2010  HTML

The U.S. Produce Industry and Labor: Facing the Future in a Global Economy
Over a third of U.S. nonmetropolitan counties lost at least 10 percent of their population through net outmigration during the past two decades. ERS compares characteristics of such counties with other nonmetro counties. November 2010

“No-Till” Farming Is a Growing Practice
ERS summarizes U.S. trends in the use of reduced-tillage practices on cropland planted to eight major crops--barley, corn, cotton, oats, rice, sorghum, soybeans, and wheat -- from 2000 to 2007, and provides estimates of acreage under no-till in 2009.
November 2010
 HTML

Effects of Increased Biofuels on the U.S. Economy in 2022
ERS examines economic effects of increased biofuels in transportation fuels, called for in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Effects are measured by gross domestic product, household income, price of energy fuels, and agricultural output and trade. October 2010 HTML

Structure and Finances of U.S. Farms: Family Farm Report, 2010 Edition
ERS provides comprehensive information including number and size of U.S. farms, characteristics of operators, finances of farm businesses and households, and geographic distribution of farms. July 2010 HTML
Also see brochure

Comparing the Structure, Size, and Performance of Local and Mainstream Food Supply Chains
A series of coordinated case studies compares the structure, size, and performance of local food supply chains with those of mainstream supply chains in delivering locally produced food to consumers. June 2010 HTML

Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues
A comprehensive overview of local food systems explores alternative definitions, estimates market size and reach, describes characteristics of local consumers and producers, and examines early indications of economic and health impacts. May 2010  HTML

Small Farms in the United States: Persistence Under Pressure
ERS documents the changing distribution and character of small farms as ag production becomes more concentrated. Commercially oriented small farms, those accounting for most small-farm production, continue to decline in number in the face of large-farm competition. February 2010 

Farm Household Well-Being: Comparing Consumption- and Income-Based Measures
ERS presents, for the first time, estimates of farm households’ consumption expenditures and compares them to consumption estimates for all U.S. households. Consumption can complement indicators of household income in assessing economic well-being. February 2010

Factors Influencing ACRE Program Enrollment
ERS applied requirements of the new Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program to eligible crops from 1996 to 2008 and analyzed whether farmers would have benefited more from ACRE than from the programs available during that time. December 2009HTML

The Post-Buyout Experience: Peanut and Tobacco Sectors Adapt to Policy Reform
ERS identifies market forces that have affected the peanut and tobacco industries following the end of longstanding system protections – in 2002 for peanuts and 2004 for tobacco. November 2009 HTML

Characteristics, Costs, and Issues for Organic Dairy Farming
ERS addresses size, regional differences, and pasture use in organic milk production. Economic forces have pressured organic dairies to operate more like their conventional counterparts and take advantage of economies of size. November 2009  HTML

 

Beginning Farmers and Ranchers
Beginning farmers and ranchers accounted for 10 percent of the sector’s total value of production in 2007. ERS provides an overview of their characteristics and the farm businesses they operate. May 2009  HTML

Exploring Alternative Farm Definitions: Implications for Agricultural Statistics and Program Eligibility
ERS evaluates several criteria for targeting Federal aid to farms more precisely and examines how these criteria would affect statistical coverage of the farm sector as well as program eligibility. March 2009  HTML

The Transformation of the Livestock Sector
ERS details the nature, causes, and effects of structural changes in U.S. livestock production as it shifts to larger, more specialized, and more tightly integrated enterprises.
January 2009 HTML

Million-Dollar Farms in the New Century
ERS documents the growing importance of very large farms in agricultural production.  While a large majority of U.S. farms are small, those with annual sales above $1 million account for roughly half of agricultural sales. December 2008 HTML

Profile of Hired Farmworkers, A 2008 Update
ERS examines the size, importance, and composition of the hired farmworker force, updating information published in 2000. These workers make up a third of the farm labor force. July 2008

Economic Organization of U.S. Broiler Production
ERS describes the boiler industry’s organization, use of production contracts, animal housing features, enterprise cost structures, and farm household finances.
June 2008

Agricultural Contracting Update, 2005
Over half of all transactions for U.S. farm products involved commodities bought and sold in open markets. But formal contractual arrangements cover a growing share of production. April 2008

The Changing Economics of Hog Production
ERS examines the economic factors that underlie the dramatic decline in number of hog operations over the past 15 years and the increasing concentration of production on large, specialized hog farms. December 2007

Characteristics and Production Costs of U.S. Hog Farms, 2004
Once dominated by small, owner-operated crop-hog farms, hog ownership is increasingly concentrated. Traditional farrow-to-finish operations are being replaced by operations specializing in a single production phase. December 2007

Profits, Costs, and the Changing Structure of Dairy Farming
ERS examines economic factors in the dramatic decline in the number of dairy farms over the past 15 years and the increasing concentration in the industry. September 2007

Cost Pass-Through in the U.S. Coffee Industry
ERS uses data from the coffee industry to examine to what extent changes in commodity costs affect manufacturer and retail prices. March 2007

Off-Farm Income, Technology Adoption, and Farm Economic Performance
ERS examines the relationship between off-farm work, farmers’ technology choices, and the economic performance of farms and farm households. February 2007

Did BSE Announcements Reduce Beef Purchases?
ERS examines retail purchases of beef and beef products for evidence of response to the 2003 government announcements of finding cows infected with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). December 2006

U.S. Dairy at a Global Crossroads
Current dynamics in world dairy markets and the potential for trade policy reform are bringing the U.S. dairy sector to a crossroads as it faces global competitive forces. November 2006

Possible Implications for U.S. Agriculture From Adoption of Select Dietary Guidelines
ERS used its Food Availability data and Food Guide Pyramid Servings data to calculate possible changes in U.S. farm production needed if consumers followed some of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. November 2006

How Low has the Farm Share of Retail Food Prices Really Fallen?
ERS estimates the share of retail food prices farmers earn on two commodity groups—fruits and vegetables. While the farm share has been shrinking, the decrease is less than previously believed. August 2006

Understanding U.S. Farm Exits
The rate of entry into farming is nearly as high as the exit rate, keeping the U.S. farm count stable. ERS examines the numbers as well as the forces driving farm exits. June 2006

The First Decade of Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States
ERS summarizes the impact of developments in agricultural biotechnology on seed suppliers and other biotech firms, farmers, and consumers, as well as environmental impacts. April 2006

The Value of Plant Disease Early-Warming Systems: A Case Study of USDA's Soybean Rust Coordinated Framework
ERS examines and evaluates, as a case study, USDA's coordinated framework for soybean rust surveillance, reporting, prediction, and management. April 2006

Farm Structure and Economic Well-Being
Two ERS Economic Briefs examine the role of farm payments in economic well being, the impact of commodity payments on farms and farmers, and the distribution of payments. March 2006

Agricultural Contracting Update: Contracts in 2003
A growing share of farm product transactions are made through agreements between farmers and buyers prior to crop harvest or livestock production. Contracts covered 39 percent of the value of agricultural production in 2003, up from 36 percent in 2001, and contracting shows a strong upward trend. January 2006

Contracts, Markets, and Prices: Organizing the Production and Use of Agricultural Commodities
Demand for specific product attributes is making contracts the choice over traditional spot markets for many livestock commodities and some major crops—e.g., sugar beets, fruit, tomatoes. November 2004


Food Assistance and Food Security Adobe pdf icon

The Food Assistance Landscape: FY2011 Annual Report
ERS reports trends in USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs through fiscal 2011. Federal expenditures for these programs totaled $103.3 billion in fiscal 2011, 8 percent above the previous fiscal year.  March 2012

Household Food Security in the United States, 2009
The percentage of U.S. households that were food insecure in 2009 was 14.7 percent. Though that level is essentially unchanged from 2008, the levels in both years are the highest recorded since monitoring began in 1995. November 2010  HTML

Promoting Fruit and Vegetable Consumption: Are Coupons More Effective Than Pure Price Discounts?
ERS compares the potential effectiveness of coupons versus price discounts in encouraging fruit and vegetable consumption among participants in Federal food and nutrition assistance programs. June 2010  HTML

Does SNAP Decrease Food Insecurity? Untangling the Self-Selection Effect
ERS used month-by-month analysis to track the prevalence of food insecurity among sample households before and after entrance into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp Program. October 2009 HTML

Food Spending Declined and Food Insecurity Increased for Middle-Income and Low-Income Households from 2000 to 2007
From 2000 to 2007, food spending by middle- and low-income households grew more slowly than food prices, and national prevalence of very low food insecurity (food intakes reduced) rose from 3.1 percent in 2000 to 4.1 in 2007. October 2009  HTML

Food Insecurity in Households with Children: Prevalence, Severity, and Household Characteristics
New report describes the prevalence and severity of food insecurity in households with children as of 2007, the trends since 1999, and characteristics of households affected by food insecurity. September 2009  HTML

A Comparison of Household Food Security in Canada and the United States
Using nationally representative surveys from the United States and Canada, ERS compares rates of food insecurity in economic and demographic subgroups of the two countries. December 2008 HTML

Can Food Stamps Do More To Improve Food Choices? An Economic Perspective
Eight economic information bulletins compile evidence to address the question of whether the Food Stamp Program could do more to encourage healthful food choices. September 2007

Food and Nutrition Assistance Programs and Obesity: 1976-2002
ERS investigated the extent to which overweight and obesity have increased over time among food food and nutrition assistance recipients compared with nonrecipient groups. September 2007

Could Behavioral Economics Help Improve Diet Quality for Nutrition Assistance Program Participants?
The increasing presence of nontraditional grocery retailers such as supercenters is generating new cost-cutting and differentiation strategies among traditional food retailers. June 2007

Characteristics of Low-Income Households With Very Low Food Security: An Analysis of the USDA GPRA Food Security Indicator
ERS provides information on the composition, location, employment, education, and other characteristics of households that experienced very low food security. May 2007

Food Insecurity in Households With Children
Diets and eating patterns of American children are disrupted when their families cannot always afford enough food. July 2003

Reducing Food Insecurity in the United States: Assessing Progress Toward a National Objective
The Healthy People 2010 initiative (Health and Human Services Department) has a goal of reducing the prevalence rate of food insecurity in the U.S. by 2010 to 6 percent, half of the 1995 level of 12 percent. May 2002

ERS conducts a Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program (FANRP) that addresses the research needs of USDA’s food assistance and nutrition programs—through internal research and through partnerships with other agencies and organizations.

See food assistance briefs


Food Industry and Markets Adobe pdf icon

The Relationship Between National Brand and Private Label Food Products: Prices, Promotions, Recessions, and Recoveries
ERS analyzes the relationship between private label (store brand) and national brand product prices and promotions for two major U.S. grocery store chains during the 2007-09 recession and the year following the recession. December 2011

Direct and Intermediated Marketing of Local Foods in the United States
ERS explores farmers’ use of both direct-to-consumer marketing (such as farmers markets) and intermediated channels (such as grocers and restaurants) to sell food to consumers in their local areas.  November 2011  HTML

A Revised and Expanded Food Dollar Series: A Better Understanding of Our Food Costs
A new and expanded ERS food dollar series provides a more detailed answer to the question of where our food dollars go (e.g., the farm share and the share among the various supply chain industry groups). February 2011  HTML

How Much Lower Are Prices at Discount Stores? An Examination of Retail Food Prices
ERS compares prices for a wide range of foods in traditional retail food stores and nontraditional discount stores.  Findings show nontraditional retailers offer lower prices than traditional stores, even controlling for brand and package size. October 2010  HTML

Comparing the Structure, Size, and Performance of Local and Mainstream Food Supply Chains
A series of coordinated case studies compares the structure, size, and performance of local food supply chains with those of mainstream supply chains in delivering locally produced food to consumers. June 2010 HTML

Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues
A comprehensive overview of local food systems explores alternative definitions, estimates market size and reach, describes characteristics of local consumers and producers, and examines early indications of economic and health impacts. May 2010  HTML

Supermarket Loss Estimates for Fresh Fruit, Vegetables, Meat, Poultry, and Seafood and Their Use in the ERS Loss-Adjusted Food Availability Data
Using new national estimates of supermarket food loss, ERS updates each fresh fruit, vegetable, meat, and poultry commodity in its Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series. March 2009  HTML

The U.S. Organic Handling Sector in 2004
ERS surveyed certified organic manufacturers, processors, and distributors in the United States to collect information on basic characteristics of the sector, as well as its marketing and procurement practices. May 2008

Price Trends Are Similar for Fruits, Vegetables, and Snack Foods
Evidence suggest that a wide class of unprepared fresh fruits and vegetables—those that have not been combined with labor-saving attributes—display declining prices along with prices of commonly consumed dessert and snack foods. March 2008

The U.S. Food Marketing System: Recent Developments, 1997-2005
The increasing presence of nontraditional grocery retailers such as supercenters is generating new cost-cutting and differentiation strategies among traditional food retailers.
May 2007

Food Spending in American Households,
2003-04

Using data from the most recent Consumer Expenditure Survey, ERS presents information on nationwide urban food expenditure patterns by select demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. March 2007

Cost Pass-Through in the U.S. Coffee Industry
ERS uses data from the coffee industry to examine to what extent changes in commodity costs affect manufacturer and retail prices. March 2007

The Changing Face of the U.S. Grain System
Specialty grains coming onto the market (e.g., fiber-enriched wheat) are requiring adjustments in the marketing system, including information documentation and management, in order to preserve their added value or prevent accidental commingling with standard grains. February 2007

The Impact of Big Box Stores on Retail Food Prices and the Consumer Price Index
Using ACNielsen Fresh Foods Homescan data, ERS investigates the impact of nontraditional retailers such as Wal-Mart and Costco on food prices for similar package sizes, focusing on dairy products and eggs. December 2006

Food Industry Mergers and Acquisitions Lead to Higher Labor Productivity
Analysis of eight major food processing industries suggests that mergers and acquisitions contributed to the general improvement in labor productivity over a 20-year period, echoing an earlier ERS study. October 2006

Effect of Food Industry Mergers and Acquisitions on Employment and Wages
Analysis of mergers and acquisitions in eight important food industries suggests that workers in acquired plants realized modest increases in employment and wages relative to other workers. Results also show that mergers and acquisitions reduced the likelihood of plant closures. The results are contrary to commonly held views on mergers. December 2005

Did the Mandatory Requirement Aid the Market? Impact of the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act
ERS focused on fed cattle markets in comparing the mandatory price reporting system developed by USDA in 2001 with the previous voluntary reporting system. The study evaluates whether the mandatory system has improved the amount and quality of information available to the market. September 2005

Greenhouse Tomatoes Change the Dynamics of the North American Fresh Tomato Industry
The North American greenhouse tomato industry has grown rapidly since the early 1990s and now plays a major role in the fresh tomato industry. ERS looked at consumption and price trends, competition from Mexico and Canada, and the rising industry’s effect on the entire fresh field tomato sector. April 2005

Structural Change in the Meat, Poultry, Dairy, and Grain Processing Industries
Consolidation and structural changes in the food industry have had profound impacts on firms, employees, and communities in many parts of the United States. In a 20-year period, eight major food industries saw the number of plants decline by about a third and their overall number of required employees drop by over 100,000 (20 percent). April 2005

Market Integration in the North American Hog Industries
A significant increase in U.S. hog imports from Canada over the last 15 years has resulted from structural changes in the U.S. hog industry and policy changes in Canada. November 2004

Supermarket Characteristics and Operating Costs in Low-Income Areas
Supermarkets serving low-income shoppers differ in several ways from other stores. But despite generally higher prices in low-income areas, the stores’ operating costs are not significantly different. December 2004

Pork Quality and the Role of Market Organization
Contract arrangements between pork producers and packers, which account for nearly 70 percent of hogs sold in 2004, can facilitate industry efforts to address quality issues. November 2004

Contracts, Markets, and Prices: Organizing the Production and Use of Agricultural Commodities
Demand for specific product attributes is making contracts the choice over traditional spot markets for many livestock commodities and some major crops--e.g., sugar beets, fruit, tomatoes. November 2004

How Much Do Americans Pay for Fruits and Vegetables?
Contrary to assumptions that fruits and vegetables are expensive, especially when purchased fresh, a consumer can meet daily recommendation of three servings of fruits and four servings of vegetables for 64 cents. November 2004

The Demand for Food Away from Home: Full-Service or Fast Food?
Population trends and rising incomes are expected to sustain growth in spending for food at full-service and fast food restaurants. January 2004

Food Manufacturing Productivity and Its Economic Implications
The food processing and beverage industry accounts for about one-sixth of U.S. manufacturing activity. Productivity growth in this materials-intensive sector has trailed manufacturing as a whole. November 2003

U.S. Fresh Produce Markets: Marketing Channels, Trade Practices, and Retail Pricing Behavior
Retail consolidation, technological change in production and marketing, and growing consumer demand have altered the traditional market relationships between producers, wholesalers, and retailers. September 2003


Food Safety Adobe pdf icon

Food Safety Audits, Plant Characteristics, and Food Safety Technology Use in Meat and Poultry Plants
ERS documents the extent of food safety audits in meat and poultry processing plants and examines the association between the use of audits and the plants’ size, business structure, and application of food safety technology.  October 2011 

The Interplay of Regulation and Marketing Incentives in Providing Food Safety
Both Government regulations and private-sector-determined actions have resulted in the current level of safety in meat and poultry products. Focusing on process control, ERS examines the relative contributions of regulations and management-determined initiatives. July 2009 HTML

Imports From China and Food Safety Issues
Food imports from China more than tripled in value from 2001 to 2008. ERS indicates the types of foods imported, analyzes FDA refusals of shipments, and describes China’s food safety regulation. July 2009 HTML

Did BSE Announcements Reduce Beef Purchases?
ERS examines retail purchases of beef and beef products for evidence of response to the 2003 government announcements of finding cows infected with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). December 2006

Meat and Poultry Plants' Food Safety Investments: Survey Findings
A national survey of meat slaughter and processing plants indicates that market forces, in conjunction with regulation, have worked to promote the use of more sophisticated food safety technologies. May 2004

Food Safety Innovation in the United States: Evidence from the Meat Industry
Recent industry innovations improving the safety of the Nation's meat supply include new pathogen tests, high-tech equipment, supply chain management systems, and surveillance networks. April 2004

Traceability in the U.S. Food Supply: Economic Theory and Industry Studies
Traceability systems generate information on the flow of food and food products and aid in tracking food to its source. ERS examined the amount, type, and adequacy of traceability systems, focusing on fresh produce, grains and oilseeds, and cattle/beef. The report’s highlights are in a four-page brochure. March 2004

See also “Trade and international markets.”

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For more information, contact: Mary Reardon

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Updated date: May 31, 2012