GRAPHIC: Big commercial farms got 10x more government assistance than family farms

The federal government subsidized commercial farms much more than family farms in 2019, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture figures. 

In 2019, commercial farms, which means they gross more than $350,000 annually, received an average of about $85,000 from the government. On the other hand are residence farms that have less income; the owner is either retired or makes a living working another job besides farming. These farms received an average of about $8,000, according to the USDA. After the Trump administration started its trade wars, it paid billions to farmers. The payments propped up farmers’ income at a time when many were hurting financially, according to a report from the University of Illinois’ Farmdoc Daily.

GRAPHIC: Meat processing workers earn an average of $15.53 per hour, with state-level variation

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics shows meat processing workers were paid an average hourly wage of $15.53 in May 2020, its latest calculation. Workers experience higher illness and injury rates compared with other manufacturing jobs, but their average wage is lower than the average wage for all manufacturing employees, at $20.08 an hour. The 3,100 workers processing meat in Massachusetts earned the highest average hourly wage, $21.24, in the country. Louisiana, with just over 5,500 meat processing workers, had the lowest average hourly pay, at $11.89. California had nearly 40,000 such workers, the most in the country, and they received an average hourly rate of $16.76, the 14th largest in the nation. 

Data analysis: Data was pulled directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (selecting state data from https://www.bls.gov/oes/tables.htm).

GRAPHIC: Very few farmers are millennials, and, of those, the vast majority are white

Young producers, farmers and ranchers who are 35 and younger represented 9% of all American producers in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Nearly all, 96%, of the young producers were white. This left 14,111 young producers of color in the U.S. Socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, those who have experienced racial or ethnic prejudice, have additional funding opportunities through the USDA’s 2501 program. 

About 80% of the young producers started farming in the last 10 years and about 50% started in the last five years. Most young producers reported a primary occupation that was not farming in 2017. The USDA’s Farm Service Agency offers support to beginning farmers and ranchers through direct and guaranteed loan programs.

GRAPHIC: Americans spent less money on food during the pandemic

In a historic low, U.S. consumers spent 8.6% of their disposable income on food last year, a 10.1% decrease from 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Between 1960 and 2000, the percentage of disposable income — the amount of money consumers have left after paying taxes — spent on food dropped from 17% to 9.9%. But for the last 20 years, the percentage had been steady, remaining around 10%.  

Consumers in 2019 spent an average of 9.58% of their income on food, with 4.94% going towards food cooked at home and 4.65% towards dining out. In 2020, Americans spent 1.4% more of their incomes on food at home and spent 22.2% less on eating out. An analysis by the USDA’s Environmental Research Service attributes the changes in food spending, in part, to coronavirus-related closures and restrictions, and to the largest annual increase in disposable personal income in 20 years due to additional government financial aid during the pandemic.

GRAPHIC: Knee high by Fourth of July?

The old term , "Knee high by Fourth of July" was used as a marker to gauge the year's corn crops, meaning that the height of a corn stalk should be at or above an average person's knee cap.

GRAPHIC: The people who pick America’s fruits and vegetables are getting older

The average age of farmworkers born outside the U.S. steadily increased from 2008 to 2019, while the average age of U.S.-born workers has stayed about the same over the same period. 

Foreign-born farmworkers are on average 5 years older than their U.S.-born counterparts. 

An analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Research Service attributes the trend to a decline in younger immigrants entering the U.S. workforce. 

The age of the average immigrant farm worker was nearly 42 in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available. Three quarters of hired farm workers were foreign-born as of 2016, and about one quarter are women, according to the USDA. 

GRAPHIC: Acres in federal conservation program have decreased steadily in past decade

Since 2007, the number of acres the government has paid farmers and ranchers to conserve has declined. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program subsidizes the removal of environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production. But, between 2007 and 2016, the enrollment cap set by the farm bill shrank, allowing fewer farmers to participate, according to an agency report

GRAPHIC: Expect to pay more for food in 2021 – except for eggs

In 2020, the price of food rose more than 3% over the price the year before. This includes both food eaten out and food cooked at home, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Consumers saw the price of meat spike in 2020 as well with beef and veal prices increasing 9.6%, poultry prices increasing 5.6% and pork prices increasing 6.3%