Latest News

Collated List of Articles

May 14, 2021

I post Ag Data News articles every Wednesday. Here's a convenient list of past articles based on whether they include R code, use data from our apps, address the effects of events or policies, or were written in my ARE 231 class.

California Dreamin'

May 12, 2021

California just saw its population decline for the first time ever, its houses are unaffordable, and wildfires make its air toxic. Who would possibly want to emulate such a state?  Well, if you're asking about low carbon fuels policy, then the answer is lots of people.

A California Avocado Hass Taken Over the World

May 05, 2021

In 1926, a mail carrier and amateur botanist named Rudolph Hass planted three mystery avocado seeds in sawdust-filled apple boxes at his Los Angeles area home. One of the seeds grew into a tree that produced fruit with a thick bumpy skin. Spurred by his children who loved the taste of these avocados, Hass began to sell them to locals before eventually patenting the tree and selling seedlings from it.

Should I Feel Guilty for Eating Beef?

April 28, 2021

I enjoy a good steak. I also enjoy lamb chops and pork ribs and many other kinds of meat. However, animal agriculture has been vilified over its contribution to climate change. Am I destroying the planet by eating meat?

Making Hay While the Water Flows

April 21, 2021

California farmers make a lot of hay. Until 2013, they used more land to grow alfalfa for hay than any other crop. Now, alfalfa uses the second-most acres behind almonds. Most CA alfalfa hay is used to feed cattle, although up to a third of it is exported to Asia.


Assessing Fire Damage to the 2020 Wine Grape Crop

April 14, 2021

Lightning strikes during a heat wave in a bone dry state make for a lot of devastation. This is what happened in California in August 2020, taking lives and livelihoods, causing billions of dollars of damage, and filling the air with toxic smoke.

Seems Like Farmers Should Be Planting More Crops

April 07, 2021

Farmers across the midwestern US are gearing up for planting season. Economic logic says they should be planting substantially more acres this year because prices are high. However, last week's USDA prospective planting report appeared to indicate that this is not the case. 

Futures prices of corn, soybeans, and wheat increased by about 35% from August 2020 to February 2021.  This increase mostly reflects increasing demand, notably from China for corn and soybeans, as I discussed in a previous Ag Data News article

Was the Stuck Ship a Big Deal?

March 31, 2021

Last week, a massive cargo ship ran aground in the Suez Canal. The battle to free it captivated the world, although it's possible most people were in it for the memes.  Was it a big deal or merely an entertaining distraction? 

What is a Farm?

March 24, 2021

There are 2.1 million farms in the United States, and most of them lose money every year.  This is not because farming is unprofitable, but because most farmers treat farming as a hobby. 

USDA defines a farm as an operation with the potential to sell at least $1000 of agricultural products in a year. This definition has been in place since 1974.  If you have a couple of acres of corn, half an acre of almonds, or a cattle beast, then congratulations, you have a farm. Just don't expect to make any money.

One Bee for Every 20 Nuts

March 03, 2021

It's almond pollination season in the California Central Valley.  If you're driving in the valley, you'll see thousands of acres of beautiful white flowers, and if you're riding a bike, you hope not to be stung by a bee.

It Pays to be Big

February 24, 2021

Since 1950, the only years with higher real net farm income than 2020 were 1973-74 and 2011-14.  Last week, I published an article in ARE Update about how government payments to farmers under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Programs (CFAP) contributed to these high incomes, in large part by directing payments to producers of the big four commodities: corn, soybeans, cattle, and milk. 

A Crushing Crush Report

February 17, 2021

California wineries crushed fewer grapes in 2020 than any year since 2006, according to the preliminary crush report released by USDA last week. The value of wine grape production in the state declined by 29% from 2019, with especially large declines in the premium regions of Napa and Sonoma.

The quantity of grapes crushed in the state in 2020 was down 14% from 2019 and 21% from its high in 2018. Red wine varieties declined more than white (16% vs 10%). Crushing of table and raisin grape varieties continued a long decline that has coincided with increased specialization.

It Matters Whether We Use Carrots Or Sticks

February 04, 2021

Reducing pollution requires some combination of carrots and sticks: carrots to cajole good behavior and sticks to punish bad behavior. Everyone has an opinion about which approach is best, except for the economists who argue it doesn't matter.

Sign up to receive weekly Ag Data News emails