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January 2008, Volume 14, Number 1

US Agriculture, Fruits and Vegetables

USDA projected record US crop sales in 2007, some $148 billion or up $30 billion from 2006 because of sharply higher prices for corn, whose sales are projected to top $33 billion and soybeans, $21 billion. One result is higher net farm income of $88 billion, up from $59 billion in 2006.

USDA's Economic Research Service has "briefing rooms" devoted to major commodities, including floriculture and nursery crops, fruits and nuts, and vegetables and melons

Fruits and Nuts. Americans consumed an average 276 pounds of fruits and nuts in 2006, including 94 pounds of citrus. These fruits and nuts were grown on 3.9 million acres, including 878,000 acres of citrus, 1.8 million acres of noncitrus fruits, and 954,000 acres of tree nuts (there were also 311,000 acres of strawberries and other fruits).

Fruit and nut production totaled 30 million tons, including 12 million tons of citrus; 17 million tons of noncitrus fruits; and 1.6 million tons of tree nuts. The value of fruits and nuts was almost $17 billion, including $2.7 billion for citrus; $10.4 billion for noncitrus fruits; and $3.4 billion for tree nuts, that is, the average value of citrus was $233 a ton, of noncitrus fruits $620 a ton, and of tree nuts $2,200 a ton.

For farmers, the leading fruits and nuts by value were grapes $3.3 billion in 2006; apples, $2.1 billion; almonds $2 billion; oranges, $1.8 billion; and strawberries, $1.5 billion. These five billion-dollar crops accounted for almost two-thirds of total fruit and nut receipts.

The total acreage of fruits and nuts has been stable at almost three million acres, but bearing acreage trends vary by commodity. Apple, peach and pear acreage has been declining, and was 373,000 acres for apples, 135,000 acres for peaches, and 60,000 for pears in 2006. Grape, sweet cherry, and strawberry acreage has been increasing, and was 934,000, 81,000, and 53,000, respectively, in 2006.

To put fruit and nut acreage in perspective, the US has about 340 million acres of crop land, and harvests crops from about 310 million acres. The big four crops by acreage are corn, 75 million acres; soybeans, 75 million acres; hay, 65 million acres; and wheat, 55 million acres- these four account for 85 percent of harvested crop land.

USDA (Table A-7) estimates average retail prices for selected fresh fruits. They included $1.07 a pound for red delicious apples; $2.25 a pound for Thompson seedless grapes; and $1.09 a pound for navel oranges in 2006. The grower share of these retail prices varied: it was 30 percent for fresh apples in 2006; 23 percent for fresh peaches; 21 percent for fresh pears; 29 percent for fresh grapes; and 34 percent for fresh strawberries. Tables A-9 through A-16 show that the grower share of the retail price has been rising for fresh apples and pears, is stable for fresh peaches, is declining for strawberries and fresh oranges, and varies for grapes--the grower share was only 17 percent in 2005 and 29 percent in 2006.

Vegetables and Melons. Americans consumed an average 228 pounds of vegetables and melons in 2006, including 130 pounds of potatoes. Average consumption of the major fresh vegetables included 30 pounds of all types of lettuce, 27 pounds of melons and 20 pounds of tomatoes- these three accounted for 44 percent of the 174 pounds of fresh vegetables consumed in 2007.

Cash receipts from vegetable and melon production totaled $19 billion in 2006, and included $3.1 billion from potatoes; $2.3 billion from tomatoes; and $2 billion from lettuce- these three accounted for 40 percent of vegetable receipts.

Some 1.2 million acres of fresh vegetables were harvested in 2006, including 306,000 acres of all types of lettuce; 231,000 acres of sweet corn; 165,000 acres of all types of onions; 143,000 acres of watermelons; 139,000 acres of broccoli; and 123,000 acres of tomatoes- these six accounted for over a million acres of vegetables. There are less than 50,000 acres of many commodities, from asparagus (45,000 acres) and celery (26,000) to spinach (46,000).

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