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The US food system

March 17, 2020

The US food system provides food and fiber to 330 million Americans and millions more abroad. The food system encompasses the farm input sector such as farm equipment makers and seed companies, farming, and the processing, transportation, and service involved in getting farm commodities to consumers.

The value of all US goods and services or GDP is about $20 trillion; the US food system accounts for $1 trillion or five percent of GDP. Farming is a relatively small share of the food system; its value added is about $200 billion, half of the $400 billion in annual farm sales (value added subtracts what farmers buy to produce crops and livestock).

The food system accounts for 11 percent of US jobs, many of which are seasonal or part time. As with value added, most food system jobs are in sectors that process, sell, and serve consumers, including 60 percent in what the census calls food service and eating and drinking places.

Americans spend about 13 percent of their after-tax income on food. More money has been spent on food eaten away from home than on food eaten at home for the past decade, and the gap is growing.

Farmers receive about $400 billion a year for their farm commodities, half from the sale of crops and half from the sale of animal products. The US exports more than half of the cotton, almonds, rice, and soybeans produced.

The $1 trillion US food system is about 5% of GDP. Most value added occurs after commodities leave the farm

Americans spend 13 percent of their after-tax income on food

Farmers receive about $400 billion a year for their farm commodities, half from the sale of crops and half from the sale of animal products

The US has an agricultural trade surplus

60% of US food system employment is in restaurants and bars