agri u ral
THE CROP REPORTERS MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 1979
ECONOMICS, STATISTICS, AND COOPERATIVES SERVICE
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
WHO OWNS THE LAND?
WHO OWNS THE LAND?
Draw a line from the western
border of Minnesota south to the
southern edge of Missouri and then
east below Kentucky and Virginia.
Take the combined land area of
the 22 States to the north and east of
that line, add in North Carolina, and
the total is about equivalent to the
493 million acres of U.S. land owned
by farmers and ranchers.
Although farmers account for
only 8 percent of all landowners,
they hold the deed to nearly 40
percent of all privately owned land
in the Nation (excluding Alaska).
Looking specifically at farm and
ranch land-which represents about
871 million acres of the 1.25 billion
acres of all private U.S. land-
farmers own about half. Around 431
million of their 493 million acres are
in farms and ranches.
Other groups owning farm and
ranch land include the retired (in
many cases, retired farmers), white
and blue collar workers, and big
Corporations and large
partnerships own about 106 million
acres of farm and ranch land, only
about 12 percent of the total.
However, for all private land
(farm and nonfarm), their share is
16 percent, even though they com-
prise only 5 percent of all lan-
downers. At 203 million acres, their
total holdings are about equal to the
combined land area of California,
Oregon, and Washington.
These figures are among the
results of a recent USDA survey on
the ownership of privately held
land. More than 37,000 individuals,
partnerships, and corporations were
surveyed in 1978 by the Economics,
Statistics, and Cooperatives Service
in an effort to find out more about
some 28.8 million owners of 1.25
billion acres of private U.S. land-
urban, rural, timber, ranch, and
Of course, privately held land
excludes national forests and all
other public lands which, including
Alaska, account for about 4 out of
every 10 acres of U.S. land. Of this,
there are 762 million acres owned by
the Federal Government and 136
million acres owned by State and
local governments. In addition,
some 51 million acres are held by, or
in trust for, American Indians.
One important use of survey
information will be to help
policymakers design programs
which affect land use, such as
conservation, farm production,
supply management, credit, and
technical assistance programs.
When combined with soils and
land use data, the information can
also help provide a check on how
prime agricultural land is being
used and whether it's still in the
hands of farmers and ranchers.
Although the survey shows, as
indicated, that farmers and cor-
porations own a much larger share
of the land than their numbers
might indicate, the reverse is true for
other major groups of owners.
For example, 25 percent of all U.S.
landowners are professionals or
other white collar workers, but this
group of owners holds the deed to
only 13 percent of all private U.S.
land. Similarly, blue collar workers
own just 8 percent of the land,
although they account for 26 percent
of all owners.
For both groups, the majority
probably own residential properties
which are typically much smaller
than farm or corporate land
holdings. However, both groups
together do own about a fifth of U.S.
farm and ranch land acreage.
Farmers' share of all private land
varies from place to place. By region,
they own the largest proportion in
the Mountain States which stretch
from Montana south to Nevada,
Arizona, and New Mexico. They also
hold over half of the private land in
the Northern Plains, which includes
the two Dakotas, Nebraska, and
Farmers own the smallest propor-
tion of land in the Northeast
(Maryland and Pennsylvania north
to Maine). There the white and blue
collar groups dominate in overall
landownership, but farmers still
own about 45 percent of the land in
In its profile of landownership, the
survey also provides important
information on other characteristics
of those who own private land.
Residence: More than 9 out of 10
owners of land (farm and nonfarm)
reside in the same county as the land
that they own. These landowners
hold 80 percent of all privately
owned land. Another 5.6 percent of
landowners, with 14.5 percent of the
land, reside outside the county but
within the same State.
Only 5.5 percent of the land is
owned by the 2 percent of the owners
who live in another State. And,
perhaps more important still, only
one-tenth of 1 percent of those
owning U.S. land-and a mere
400,000 acres of land (or less than
one-tenth of 1 percent of U.S. land)-
is owned by those residing outside
RESIDENCE OF OWNERS'
Percent Percent of
Residence2 of owners land owned
Same county 92.3 80.0
same State 5.6 14.5
Other State 2.0 5.5
Outside U.S. 0.1 (3)
'Excludes corporations and large partnerships.
2Residence of owner relative to land owned.
3Less than .05 percent.
Concentration: Although an
estimated 28.8 million owners have
title to some U.S. land, land-
ownership by size of holding is
highly concentrated. Overall, 1
percent of the landowners (in-
cluding individuals, partnerships,
and corporations) hold about half of
all the private land.
At the same time, about 75 percent
of the owners hold only about 3
percent of the land, with title to less
than 10 acres each. Of course, the
majority of landholders own
residential or commercial properties
on small lots, and these may still
have considerable value.
Among owners of farm, ranch,
and forest land-with their exten-
sive uses-land holdings are more
evenly distributed. The largest 1
percent of owners have less than 30
percent of the land in farms and
ranches, a substantial proportion
but sharply less than the share held
by the top 1 percent when it comes to
all private land. Concentration is
also less pronounced in areas where
crop farming dominates than in
those where ranch or forestry use is
Acquiring the Land: In coun-
tries with a "landed aristocracy,"
ownership of the land remains in the
hands of the same families, passed
on from generation to generation.
That isn't the case here.
According to the landownership
survey, only 18 percent of the private
land was inherited. About 80 percent
of the land was purchased, and
three-fourths of that from non-
Acquisition from relatives is most
common in the Northern Plains
where more than 40 percent of the
land was either inherited or bought
from relatives. The proportion is
only 23 percent of the land in the
Pacific States of Washington,
Oregon, and California.
Purchase from nonrelatives
ranges from a low of 51 percent in
the Northern Plains up to 69 percent
in the Pacific States.
Farmland values have risen far
faster than the rate of inflation in
recent years, and farmland
purchases should remain a good
hedge against inflation over the
While inflation may be up around
10 percent in 1979, farmland values
are expected to rise even faster-
about 14 percent.
This is only slightly below the
average annual gain since 1972
when a sharp surge in exports set
the stage for new trade levels and, in
1973, sent farm income to a record
high. Since 1970, the average value
per acre of farmland and buildings
has about tripled for the 48 States,
excluding Alaska and Hawaii.
Capital gains on farm real estate
provide no cash flow to help meet
loan payments, as farmers well
know. However, higher values do
increase the net worth of the owners
and provide a rising source of
collateral that can be borrowed
against to meet production expenses
or for farm expansion.
Last year, farm real estate values
climbed as much as they're
predicted to rise this year: 14 percent
for the reporting year ending on
February 1, 1979.
Ohio, Nebraska, Arkansas,
Colorado, and California all
reported gains of more than 20
percent. On the other hand, an acre
of farmland in Utah, Arizona, New
Mexico, and Nevada brought an
average of only 7 percent more.
Historically, strong export sales
and sharp increases in farm income
have spurred activity in U.S.
farmland markets. This year,
however, there may not be enough
land on the market to generate more
sales. If higher farm incomes
stimulate buyer interest as in the
past, a shortage of listings would
add further upward pressure on
FARM REAL ESTATE VALUES
Average Value Per Acre of Land and Buildings
March March Feb. Feb. Feb. March 1970
1970 1975 1977 1978 19791 -Feb.19791
- - dollars --
'Preliminary. 2Average rate of change for the six New England States was used to project the
dollar values for 1976 to 1979. 3Values are based upon an index estimated from the average of the
percentage change in Georgia and Alabama index values.
INTO THE 1980's
Behind a continuous flow of sur-
veys and reports, the scene is always
changing for USDA's Crop Report-
ing Board. Better methods, im-
proved techniques, expanded
coverage.. .and, though not very
often, a new chairman.
Change came recently as John W.
Kirkbride succeeded Bruce M.
Graham, who retired in July as
chairman of the Crop Reporting
Board and assistant deputy ad-
ministrator for Statistics of the
Board's parent agency, the
Economics, Statistics, and
In the midst of the transition, both
men took the opportunity to reflect
on their careers, some of the changes
they've been a part of, and what may
be ahead for the crop reporting
Graham, like the two chairmen
before him, served about a decade in
that role, retiring from Federal
service after over 30 years of work in
agricultural statistics for USDA and
its State offices. A few days later, as
planned, he was on his way to the
Philippines to work with that
government on improving its
agricultural estimating program.
Kirkbride, who will lead the Board
into the 1980's, was raised on a farm
in Medicine Lodge, Kansas. Begin-
ning in summers and part-time
during his college years at Kansas
State University-where he earned
a degree in agronomy-and at Iowa
State, he has been involved in
USDA survey and statistics work
ever since. There was time out only
for World War II in which he saw
action as an Army officer in the
John W. Kirkbride pauses a moment from his new duties as acting chairman of
USDA's Crop Reporting Board.
In addition to tours in
Washington, D.C., Kirkbride has
worked in State offices in Kansas,
Kentucky, and Ohio. Since 1972, he
has been the director of Statistics'
Estimates Division, the unit respon-
sible for analyzing and interpreting
the survey data which the Crop
Reporting Board uses in making its
estimates and forecasts.
In his new role, he presides over all
meetings of the Board; issues in-
structions for gathering, compiling,
and summarizing data for crop and
livestock reports; and approves the
statistical techniques and
procedures used in preparing the
Board's estimates. In these and
related duties, he-more than
anyone else-must bear the respon-
sibility for the integrity and direc-
tion of the crop reporting effort.
Although the chairman's name
rarely makes the newspapers, he
manages a program that's become
one of the most quoted sources on
U.S. agriculture. But that wasn't
always the case.
Not too long ago, news about crop
and livestock reports could general-
ly be found only in specialized
In fact, according to Graham, one
of the biggest challenges he and the
Board had to face during his years
as chairman was "the explosion of
outside interest in the Crop Report-
ing Board and its reports."
This started during the early
1970's when suddenly low carryover
stocks clashed with unexpectedly
high domestic and foreign
demand-conditions that lit a fire
under commodity markets.
Before that time, the problem, if
any, was one of constant surplus
which kept prices more or less at
loan rates. Changes in the supply
outlook caused only relatively small
changes in prices.
When the new market conditions
ushered in the greater volatility in
prices, farmers, industry groups,
policymakers, and others needed
timely and regular information on
current and prospective supplies.
"The increased interest and need-
to-know as soon as possible was one
of the reasons that the January 1
Planting Intentions report was
started in the early 1970's," recalled
Kirkbride, who at that time was
director of the Estimates Division.
Since then, the demands on the
Board for more information have
continued to accelerate, not only in
terms of covering additional com-
modities but, particularly, in terms
of providing greater detail.
"One of the surest
methods is to provide.
for farmers... to be
part of the
At the same time, the increased
attention "made the Board even
more sensitive to the impact that
estimates can have on the market,"
Kirkbride added. Although the
Board considers farmers and
ranchers to be its primary audience,
the reports, by law, are public
information, and markets can be
influenced by many groups in the
For this reason, the Board has
been very concerned with helping
crop and livestock producers learn to
use and benefit from its estimating
program. According to Kirkbride,
there are ways the Board can help.
"One of the surest methods is to
provide greater opportunities for
farmers, farm groups, and
agricultural interests to be part of
the decisionmaking process that
determines the kind of data that are
published and the timing of such
data. There also needs to be in-
creased emphasis on informing
producers on how reliable statistics
can benefit them," Kirkbride said.
The Board already works with
many groups; for example, the
American Seed Trade Association,
National Potato Council, United
Egg Producers, International
Association of Refrigerated
Warehouses, American Farm
Bureau Federation, and the Society
of American Florists. Nevertheless,
he noted that such cooperation can
The new chairman said that what
is needed from producers is an
organized structure with recognized
spokesmen who have a mandate
from large groups of producers to
"The National Cattlemen's
Association is now in the process of
forming such a committee, and we
look forward to working with them,"
Over the last three decades, both
men agree that the most important
improvement in the estimating
program that they've contributed to
is what Graham calls "the gradual
adoption of modem statistical
The two major components of this
modern statistical technology are
probability sampling and objective
measurements of crop yields.
Probability sampling was in-
itiated on a pilot basis in 1954 and
has been progressively integrated
into the statistics program. That's a
more difficult process than it may
appear. Probability sampling didn't
replace random sampling in
measuring cattle and hog inven-
tories until this decade, and work is
still going on in converting-
commodity by commodity-prices
received and paid data to a
Probability sampling provides a
procedure for selecting survey
samples so that the chance, or
probability, of each farm or farmer
being in the sample is known.
This means that the sample can be
constructed in such a way that it
represents a true cross section of
U.S. farms or whatever is being
measured. It also permits the com-
putation of the sampling error so
that the precision of the results can
The second major component of
the modem statistical methodology,
objective measurements of crop
yields, also added significantly to
the reliability of Board estimates.
Now, trained enumerators use ac-
tual plant counts and measurements
from thousands of small plots in
fields scattered across the country.
According to Kirkbride, this
procedure allows "an orderly,
systematic evaluation of the
development of the crop during the
What does the future hold for crop
reporting? Graham cited two Board
research efforts with potentially big
payoffs: making better use of
weather data, and increasing the
role of remote sensing by satellite.
Remote sensing information is
already being used by the Board to
supplement the more traditional
enumerative surveys. The chief
contribution of satellite technology
to the crop reporting program will
probably be in helping to identify
land uses acreagess to selected
crops) over wide areas.
Looking ahead to the not-too-
distant future, Kirkbride also
speculates that many farmers may
come to depend extensively on
computers to monitor their
operations. This suggests that
farmers might then be able to
respond to surveys directly from
their computer terminals.
In fact, Kirkbride said that "it's
not beyond the realm of possibility"
that surveys could someday become
instantaneous, with Crop Reporting
Board computers accessing infor-
mation directly from on-farm
computers-with the farmer's per-
mission, of course.
China is a good bet to eventually
become a $1 billion market for U.S.
In fact, U.S. farmers are scoring
big gains in agricultural sales to the
world's most populous nation,
despite news of increased caution on
the part of Chinese leaders over
matters of trade and foreign debt.
U.S. farm product sales this year
have already passed $600 million
and may reach a record $700 million
by Christmas. Last year, after
virtually no sales between 1975 and
1977, U.S. agricultural exports
soared to $614 million, the highest
level since 1974.
The sharp increase in sales
resulted from improved U.S.-China
relations and, more importantly,
from the substantial increase in
total Chinese farm imports. Chini's
agricultural purchases from all
sources last year jumped dramati-
cally, nearly matching the $2.4
billion record of 1974. And imports
will be still higher in 1979.
Despite this rapid expansion in
imports, China has remained a cash
buyer-except for grain bought from
Australia and Canada on 12- to 18-
month credit terms. China is eligi-
ble for credit on some farm products
under USDA's Commodity Credit
Corporation (CCC) Export Credit
Sales Program, but no request for
CCC assistance has yet been made.
Australia and Canada are not the
only rivals for the China market.
Other U.S. competitors, or potential
competitors, include Argentina-
and possibly the European
Community-in grains, Central
America and Mexico in cotton, and
Brazil in soybeans and soybean oil.
One of the pressures contributing
to more reliance on imports comes,
of course, from a large and growing
population. China must feed
between 900 million and 1 billion
people, and that number is expan-
ding by an estimated 15 million a
year. Higher incomes have also
contributed to increased demand for
On the supply side, however, poor
agricultural performance has made
it impossible to upgrade living stan-
dards without relaxing import
limits. China is well aware that
agriculture is one of the keys to its
goal of self-sufficiency.
The expansion in China's farm
sector requires some infusion of
modern agricultural technology.
Additional land available for
cultivation is becoming scarce, and
yields are not likely to be substan-
tially improved without increased
use of inputs. The Chinese have
already come up with an extensive
list of agribusiness products and
equipment they want to import.
China's grain production did take
a turn for the better last year, but
gains were minimal between 1974
and 1977. Grains provide close to 80
percent of the average caloric intake
of the Chinese, in part because meat,
fish, and poultry are in chronic short
This makes China one of the
world's top wheat importers.
Purchases reached a record 8.1
million tons during 1978 and are
expected to climb still higher this
Corn imports totaled 1.3 million
tons last year, and they are also up
in 1979. In the past, China has
bought corn as a substitute for
wheat when grain imports have
been large, prices favorable, and
world wheat supplies tight. There is
also some evidence that corn is
being used for feed, possibly to
support an expansion in hogs and
China has import agreements
with Argentina, Canada, and
Australia which guarantee
purchases totaling 6 to 7 million
tons of grain, mainly wheat, each
year through 1981. However, the
Chinese have also indicated plans to
buy 5 to 6 million tons of U.S. grain a
This suggests that the Chinese
may expect to import as much as 11
to 13 million tons annually for the
next few years. On the other hand, a
shift in trade policies or improved
agricultural production could affect
their import plans. Crop prospects
so far this year are better than they
were at this time in 1978, with
generally favorable weather for
Although the trade outlook for
grains generally gets the most atten-
tion, grains are not the only major
crops where production has been
disappointing to Chinese leaders.
Cotton output, which rose last
year for the first time since 1973, is
still 15 percent below the peak
reached 6 years ago. It has been one
of China's three largest agricultural
import commodities in recent years,
together with grains and sugar.
Imports during the 1978/79
marketing year may reach a record
2.3 million bales, one-fourth of
which is expected to come from the
The situation is similar for soy-
beans. Soybean output is still below
the record levels of the 1950's. Once
the No. 2 exporter of soybeans
behind the United States, China
became an importer in 1977.
Soybeans, a multiple-use crop in
China, are widely used for food, feed,
and industrial purposes. Over the
longer run, China seems to be
planning to rebuild its exports, at
least to traditional markets.
Production of other oilseed crops,
although up in 1978, has not grown
enough to permit any significant
increase in per capital supplies of edi-
ble oil, now among the lowest in the
Edible oils appear to have con-
siderable potential for future growth
in trade because of limited supplies
in China and lack of crushing and
processing facilities there.
During 1977 and 1978, China
imported a record average of 135,000
tons of soybean oil a year-enough
to fill the needs of about 50 million
people. About 40 percent of these
imports came from the United
Although China's agricultural
imports have increased sharply in
the last 2 years and will rise again in
1979, the future trend for imports is
by no means certain.
Prime emphasis is to be given to
importing nonagricultural capital
goods and technology, a critical part
of the program to modernize China's
economy. At the same time, China
has taken a hard new look at its
ability to pay for future imports. As
a result, planned purchases of some
industrial goods have been cur-
So far, however, there is no indica-
tion of major cutbacks in agricul-
tural imports. As long as China's
population continues to grow, de-
mand for food and agricultural pro-
ducts will increase. If incomes start
advancing from their still-low
levels, there could even be a virtual
explosion for higher quality
products such as meat and eggs.
Nevertheless, the new and more
cautious approach to trade and
international debt, together with
prospects for rising debt obligations
in the 1980's, indicate that there are
obvious limits on future increases in
Amid speculation over whether
China will become a billion-dollar
market for U.S. farm products, it's
worth remembering that there's
nothing unique about that
Not only are several other nations
also in line, but eight are already
members of that "club."
Japan, the first to edge past the
billion-dollar mark back in 1970,
remains the leading single-country
market for U.S. agricultural exports.
Last year, these exports were valued
at $4.5 billion, up from $3.9 billion in
1977. (All figures are adjusted for
transshipments through Canada
and Western Europe.)
As it's been doing for at least a
decade, Japan bought more U.S.
feed grains last year than any other
country-including the Soviet Un-
ion which is often in the spotlight.
Japan is also our best customer for
wheat and soybeans and number 1
or 2 for many other farm products.
Exports to our second largest
market, West Germany, totaled
$1.91 billion last year. Oilseeds and
meals made up over $1 billion of the
total, and other major items includ-
ed feed grains, nuts, and tobacco.
The Soviet Union, in third place,
took a record $1.77 billion in 1978.
U.S. grain was the major sales
Canada was right behind with
$1.66 billion in purchases, despite
economic and transportation
problems. While the U.S. bought 16
percent of Canada's farm exports,
Canada got 58 percent of its
agricultural imports from the U.S.
Canada is our largest market for
both fruits and vegetables.
Soybeans, feed grains, and other
animal feeds comprised over half of
U.S. exports to the Netherlands-
our fifth largest market. Total ex-
ports were valued at $1.53 billion in
The United Kingdom was in sixth
place, buying $1.26 billion in U.S.
farm commodities last year.
Soybeans, tobacco, feed grains, and
animal products were the major
Two other nations became billion-
dollar markets for the first time last
year. South Korea bought $1.15
billion in U.S. farm products and
was the number 1 market for U.S.
cotton. Italy became our eighth
largest market, reaching $1.03
billion last year, largely from im-
ports of U.S. oilseeds and meals,
grains, tobacco, and hides and
Of course, as each nation's needs
fluctuate, the ranking may change
in 1979 and nations may join or
leave the billion-dollar club.
However, the strength of U.S.
agricultural exports is not measured
by a few importers but rather the
scores of nations that buy U.S. farm
Gathering production statistics
was one of the first functions of
USDA when it was formed in 1862.
By the end of the last century, a
steady stream of facts and figures
was flowing out of the Department.
But during the severe agricultural
depression following World War I, it
became apparent that farmers need-
ed more than just numbers to un-
derstand and adjust to changing
conditions. They also needed those
numbers interpreted and
analyzed-they needed the
statistical relationships unraveled.
Hence, the creation of USDA's
outlook program in the early 1920's.
The original design of the outlook
program-which was to provide
economic intelligence to those in the
farm community-has remained
much the same over the intervening
years. But its scope has broadened
greatly, reflecting the very different
circumstances of today's farmers
compared with their counterparts 50
Today's farmers not only depend
on far more sophisticated produc-
tion technologies, they also face far
more complex marketing choices.
They need to know not only about
the domestic forces acting upon
markets at home, but they also have
to be aware of world production and
import requirements since so much
of what they produce is sold abroad.
To meet these broader needs of
U.S. farmers and other involved in
agricultural marketing, USDA
recently began publishing a World
Crop Production report. The world
report is released every month
simultaneously with the U.S. Crop
The report is the first phase in the
development of a reporting system
which, in future months, will include
a world agricultural supply and
demand estimate report for key
The new report will provide a
consistent set of estimates for major
crops in important regions and
countries of the world. Copies may
be obtained from Information Ser-
vices, Foreign Agricultural Service,
Room 5918 South, USDA,
Washington, D.C. 20250.
The farm finance picture took a
definite turn for the better last year,
according to a balance sheet report
A glance at the ledger shows that
farm debts and assets increased at
comparable rates in 1978. Just a
year earlier, debts rose at twice the
rate of assets.
Farm income also improved
sharply in 1978. Net income after
inventory adjustment rose $8.1
billion from 1977, compared with a
mere $1.1-billion increase in 1977
over the previous year.
Still another financial indicator-
the rate of return on equity in farm
production assets-showed healthy
signs, reversing a downward trend
begun in 1974. The rate of return in
1978 was 3.6 percent, compared with
a record low of 2.3 percent the year
Farm assets-including both
financial assets and physical assets
such as real estate, livestock,
machinery, and crops-were valued
at $820 billion in 1978.
Assets rose by a record $107
billion in 1978, increasing more in a
single year than during the entire
At the same time, 1978 debt passed
the $137-billion mark, inflated by a
record rise of $18 billion from 1977.
However, the 1978 rate of increase in
debt, at 15 percent, was down from
the previous year.
Farmers' equity (assets minus
debts) reached $683 billion in 1978.
Equity rose by a record $89 billion,
double the gain of the year before.
The farm debt-to-asset ratio for
1978 increased only slightly from
1977's 16.7 percent but was the same
as in 1970. That is, for each dollar of
farm debt, there were roughly $6 in
The average farm owner in 1978
had more than a quarter million
dollars invested in farm production
assets. Four-fifths of that invest-
ment lay in farm real estate.
Farmers' financial assets in-
creased by $2.3 billion in 1978,
compared with $1.6 billion a year
ago. The financial asset estimate
incorporates bank deposits, curren-
cy, U.S. saving bonds, and in-
vestments in farm cooperatives. The
6-percent rise in financial assets
largely reflected a gain in co-op
Under the liabilities column, farm
real estate debt rose $8.6 billion.
To request the report, which in-
cludes balance sheets for each of the
50 States, write to ESCS
Publications, Room 0054 South
Bldg., USDA, Washington, D.C.
20250. Ask for Balance Sheet of the
Farming Sector, 1979, AIB-430.
RECENT REPORTS BY USDA OF ECONOMIC, MARKETING, AND RESEARCH
DEVELOPMENTS AFFECTING FARMERS
THOSE EXPANDING EXPORTS. .U.S. agricultural exports continue
to climb. The expected record of $32 billion for the 1978/79 year ending
this month may be topped in 1979/80 when export value is projected to
range from $35 billion to $40 billion. U.S. exports reached $27.3 billion
in 1977/78 after climbing from just over $8 billion since 1971/72.
Although it's too early to forecast 1979/80 exports precisely, continued
strength is suggested by many factors, including an anticipated sharp
increase in grain purchases by the USSR to cover the shortfall in its grain
production this year. Feed grain shipments to all destinations in
1979/80 may rise by about 10 million tons and wheat shipments by
nearly 6 million tons.
RAISING THE LIMIT ON WHEAT. .The U.S. has authorized the Soviet
Union to buy up to 10 million metric tons of U.S. wheat betweenAugust
1979 and September 1980. The authorization, announced in early
August, granted permission for up to 2 million tons to be contracted and
shipped during August and September 1979, the last 2 months of the
third year of the U.S.-USSR grain trade agreement. The Soviets had
already purchased the 15 million tons of corn and wheat that had earlier
been authorized for the 1978/79 year. The 5-year agreement allows the
USSR to buy a total of 8 million tons of U.S. corn and wheat each year
without consulting the U.S. Government and requires them to buy at
least 3 million tons of each.
BEEFING UP FARM PRICES .Meat prices may have hogged the
consumer food news most of this year, but cattle and hogs certainly
haven't called all the shots on the farm price scene. When the index of
prices received by farmers first reached its all-time high of 246 in March,
it did so despite lower hog prices that month, although higher prices for
cattle and calves did contribute. When the index again hit 246 in May,
after falling in April, both cattle and hog prices were down. The index
was beefed up largely by higher prices for hay, wheat, citrus, corn,
potatoes, and broilers. The record was reached for the third time in
July-and again cattle and hog prices were off from the previous month.
The index climbed on the strength of higher prices for corn, wheat,
lemons, potatoes, and grain sorghum.
PRICE PROSPECTS FOR GRAINS.. .With a sharp boost from the
export side, U.S. farm prices for 1979 grains are likely to average well
above prices for last year's crop, even with the expected record harvest.
USDA's mid-August forecast pegged average farm prices for corn at
between $2.40 and $2.75 per bushel for the 1979/80 season. That's
well above the $2.20-a-bushel average estimated for the 1978 crop.
Sorghum prices were forecast at $2.30-$2.60 a bushel ($2.00 in
1978/79); barley at $2.20-$2.40($1.90 in 1978/79); and oats at $1.25-
$1.45 ($1.18 in1978/79). Wheat prices were projected at $3.50 to
$4.25 a bushel for 1979/80, up sharply from $2.94 estimated for
PUTTING A "STOP" TO ILLEGAL RESIDUES.. .USDA meat
inspectors will be testing a new screening device that can tell, in a
matter of hours rather than days, whether animal tissue contains illegal
antibiotic residues. The device, called "STOP" for Swab Test on
Premises, will first be used on a pilot basis in 19 States to test cull dairy
cows at federally inspected slaughterhouses.
NO DRYING REQUIRED. .Farmers who grow corn and sorghum no
longer have to dry the grain to be eligible for Government farm-stored
loans. Loans on high-moisture corn and sorghum will be issued at the
loan rate in effect for the county where the crop is stored. However, for
every 1 percent that the moisture level exceeds USDA's "dry grain
factor," loans will be reduced 1.2 percent. The dry grain factor for corn is
15.5 percent; for sorghum it is 14.0 percent. Drying grain with
conventional fuels uses large amounts of energy. Since much of the
corn and sorghum stored on farms is fed to livestock, drying of these
grains is not essential.
COMMENTS SOUGHT. .The public has been asked to comment on
the methods USDA uses in making U.S. crop and livestock estimates.
The comments will be considered in an evaluation of the estimating
methods and procedures to be conducted by a group of statisticians
independent of USDA. This is in line with a recommendation of USDA's
Inspector General and the General Accounting Office which reviewed
USDA statistical operations in 1977 and 1978. Written comments and
suggestions on current data collection and estimating methods or other
information relevant to the evaluation may be sent to the Statistical
Review Group, P.O. Box 23271, Washington, D.C. 20024. Comments
will be accepted through October 12.
MARK THIS DATE. .Top government and industry advisors will offer
a preview of next year, along with up-to-the-minute information on
commodities, international trade, and economic developments, at
USDA's Food and Agricultural Outlook Conference, November 5-8, in
Washington, D.C. The annual conference is open to the public and
there's no charge to attend.
Item 1977 1978 1979-latest
Agricultural exports ($bil.)
Agricultural imports ($bil.)
Trade surplus (Sbil.)
Farm employment and wage rates:3
Total employment (1967 = 100)
Family labor (1967 = 100)
Hired labor (1967= 100)
Wage rates (1967= 100)
Farmer's share of retail costs (%):
Market basket of farm foods4
Cereal and bakery products
Processed fruits and vegetables
Fats and oils
Prices received by farmers for all
products (1967 = 100)
Prices paid by farmers for commodities
and services, interest, taxes,
and wages (1967 = 100)
24.0 27.3 232.0 August
13.4 13.9 216.3 August
10.6 13.4 215.7 August
85 80 76 July
78 73 69 July
103 100 87 July
225 240 266 July
183 210 234 August
202 219 251 August
'Data based on Oct.-Sept. fiscal years ending with years indicated.
2Forecast for fiscal 1979 (Oct. 1978-Sept. 1979).
3Annual averages for 1977 and 1978; data for 1979 obtained during survey week of July 8-14.
4Average annual quantities per household bought by all urban consumers, based on Bureau of Labor
SEPTEMBER 1979 VOL. 63 NO. 8
ERIC VAN CHANTFORT, EDITOR
Contributors: J. Banks, D. Decker, G. Schumacher
Design: J. Bazemore
Art: M. Eddins
The Agricultural Situation, published 11 times a year by USDA's Economics, Statistics, and
Cooperatives Service, is distributed free to crop and livestock reporters in connection with their
work. Contents of the magazine may be reprinted without permission. The Secretary of
Agriculture has determined that the publication of this periodical is necessary in the transaction
of the public business required by law of this Department. Use of funds for printing this periodical
has been approved by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget through January 31,
1980. Subscription price $7.75 a year ($9.70 foreign). Order from the Superintendent of Documents,
U.S. Government Printing Office Washington D.C. 20402. Single copies available from the ESCS
Information Division, Rm. 505 GHI Bldg., USDA, Washington, D.C. 20250.