It's Been a Year

A year ago, on May 27, 2020, I posted my first Ag Data News article about how almonds have overtaken grapes as California's number one crop. My plan was to write an article every week on topics related to agriculture, with a focus on data: new data, old data and interesting data. 

I particularly wanted to showcase the data apps that my amazing graduate students have put together so people can easily view and download agricultural data. We currently have 10 apps:   (i) US County Weather,  (ii) Cropland Data Layer,  (iii) California Crops,  (iv)  US Crops,  (v) Low Carbon Fuel Standard,  (vi) US Crop Insurance, (vii) Futures Convergence,  (viii) World Trends for US Crops,  (ix) US Export Sales Reports,  (x) Ag Data Using R.  We have more coming soon.  There is so much cool stuff in there. Check them out. 

For this week, I am listing my most-read articles. I have two ways to measure traffic. First, Google Analytics tells me how many people visit each page on my website.  Second, I post each article on Twitter almost in its entirety, and Twitter Analytics tells me how many "engagements" each thread gets.

I decided to be very scientific and rank articles by the sum of the two scores: Google Analytics pageviews plus Twitter engagements.

Here are the 7 most read Ag Data News articles from the last year.

Windows Bliss
Windows XP Wallpaper. Photograph by Charles O'Rear.

7. Bill Gates Doesn't Own That Much Farmland. (1/27/21)  He owns 242,000 acres, which is a lot, and more than anyone else, but it's only 0.03% of American farmland. Many investors without a family connection to agriculture own farmland. However, most absentee-owned farmland appears to be held by the family of farmers or ex-farmers. (This article has jumped up the leaderboard in the past few weeks. I wonder why.)


CA Crops

6. California: We Grow That. And That. And That. (7/22/20)  California grows a lot of different crops, but very little of major US crops such as corn and soybeans.  The top five California crops make up only 50% of acreage.  In every other state, the top five make up at least 75%. Is this an efficient way to organize American agriculture? If you could allocate crops to farmland around the nation would you assign most of the country to grow the major crops and California to grow the specialty crops?  (The article features a fun panoramic.)



5. Should I Feel Guilty for Eating Beef? (4/28/21)  Animal agriculture has been vilified over its contribution to climate change. Am I destroying the planet by eating meat?  My answer:  I should feel about $0.42 of guilt per 8oz steak that I eat, or about the same as driving 21 miles. That's not enough to stop me enjoying it. Even so, we should invest in research and development for methane mitigation as well as alternate and lab meat technologies.



4. Governments Like to Support Farmers (10/21/20)  The US Government sent $37.2 billion in aid to farmers in 2020, which exceeds inflation-adjusted payments in any previous year and is almost triple the average from 2009-2018.  Other countries also send a lot of money to farmers, especially rich countries. But, it doesn't have to be this way. In a subsequent article I wrote about my home country of New Zealand, which eliminated direct payments to farmers in the 1980s. Their agricultural sector is better for it. 


Dairy Digester

3. What's Worth More: A Cow's Milk or its Poop?  (2/3/21)   Anaerobic digesters turn cow manure into biogas. Like natural gas, biogas is mostly methane, so it can substitute for natural gas in electricity generation and powering vehicles. California has recently seen a big jump in the use of biogas from dairy farms to power vehicles, fueled by subsidies from the state's Low Carbon Fuel Standard program.  I run the numbers and find that these subsidies make a dairy cow's poop worth half as much as its milk. That's a lot.


2. Should You Buy Burger King's New Low-Fart Burger?  (7/15/20)   Burger King released an entertaining video to promote their new reduced-methane-emissions beef.  In selected restaurants in selected cities, customers would be able to buy hamburgers from cattle that were fed a lemongrass supplement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their burps and farts. I thought the video was entertaining. Many in the beef industry found it offensive and misleading, partly because methane emissions mostly come from burps rather than farts.  A pressure campaign led Burger King to pull the video.  I ran the numbers and estimate that the value of reduced methane emissions is 0.68 cents per burger. At 2000 burgers per cattle beast, it's worth feeding the lemongrass supplement if it costs less than $13.60 per steer. 


Chicken Sandwiches

1. Which Chicken Sandwich is the Best?   (3/17/21)    Americans are eating more chicken than ever before, so it comes as no surprise that fast food chains now compete over chicken rather than burgers. My daughter and I embarked on a mission to discover which chain makes the best chicken sandwich. We evaluated Popeyes, Wendy's, Chick-fil-A, McDonald's, and KFC.  We did not agree on the best sandwich, but we did agree on the worst. We're currently planning our next tasteoff. Stay tuned.


My favorite articles were the ones written by my ARE 231 students and the chicken sandwich tasteoff.

It's been fun and I've learned a lot. On to year 2.