When USDA releases its longterm agricultural sector outlook for the next ten years later this month, the projections through 2026 covering commodities, trade and aggregate indicators of the farm sector will give retailers a glimpse of the next decade's expectations. Once the agency makes it available, you can access the entire report here (Adobe Acrobat format). Until then, here are some highlights of what the report will show:
Less Land in Crops; Conservation Continues. As prices for most crops have fallen from highs of recent years, U.S. farmers have responded by planting fewer and fewer acres to the major field crops. That decline is expected to continue, as the acres planted for corn, sorghum, barley, oats, wheat, rice, upland cotton and soybeans is projected to remain below 250 million acres. Wheat, corn, and cotton account for most of the decline between these years. Much of that idled land will remain in the government program that compensates farmers for removing the most environmentally sensitive land from cropping use.
Corn Ethanol Use Remains Level. Ethanol production in the United States is projected to fall over the next decade. But even with the U.S. ethanol production decline, demand for corn to produce ethanol continues to have a strong presence in the sector. While the share of U.S. corn expected to go to U.S. ethanol production falls, it accounts for over a third of total U.S. corn use throughout the projection period. Use in feed to produce farm animals that produce your meat, milk and eggs remains the No. 1 use of this farm staple.
U.S. Appetite for Meat will Stay Strong. Per-capita consumption of meat and poultry will continue, although more moderately than in the past, with chicken still leading the plate by almost double over beef and pork.
U.S. to Continue as Meat-Growing Power. In order to feed both those domestic consumers and a growing international meat market, U.S. farmers will continue the upward trend in production of the major meats.
Increasing Animal Productivity. A theme illustrated in USDA's projected data: U.S. agriculture will continue to produce more and more food using fewer and fewer resources. Here's an example: The amount of milk put out by the average U.S. dairy cow is almost three times what it was compared to 30 years ago. That means the size of the nation's dairy herd will continue dropping, even as milk supply continues to climb.