What's Local?

Agricultural Production & Resource Expenses Near U.S. Urban Areas

What's Local? is an interactive visualization tool for exploring agricultural production and resource expenses near U.S. Urban Areas. It is best viewed with an up-to-date version of the Chrome browser on a desktop computer and can be accessed at the following link: http://www.landscapemetrics.com/whatslocal

SHORT PROJECT STATEMENT

What's Local? leverages data from the USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture to explore local food systems for the 100 most populous urban areas in the lower 48 states. “Local” is defined as all counties having land within a 50-mi radius of each urban area’s center point. Data are presented in two categories: 1) resource inputs, shown as dollars invested, and 2) agricultural outputs, shown as the mass of food, feed, and fiber produced in megagrams. Explore your city’s local agriculture in comparison to other locations around the nation. This tool can help us envision the potential for, desirability of, and major challenges to future food system localization.

FULL PROJECT DESCRIPTION

What's Local? starts with an introductory sequence that establishes the project narrative and educates the user on relevant landscape patterns across the nation. This intro can be skipped if desired.

The introduction leads to an interactive visualization tool. Leveraging data from the USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture, this visualization allows the user to explore local food systems for the 100 most populous urban areas in the lower 48 states. “Local” is defined as all counties having land within a 50-mi radius of each urban area’s center point. Data are presented in two categories: 1) resource inputs, shown as dollars invested, and 2) agricultural outputs, shown as the mass of food, feed, and fiber produced in megagrams. For the latter, raw data available from the census were transformed to a common unit of mass using conversion factors based on USDA reports. All methods and data sources are thoroughly documented in the “DataSourcesMethods.docx” file linked on the project website (also copied in below).

The user can explore an interactive map of the lower 48 states that allows nationwide visualization of: a) county-level aggregated data (grey shades), and b) data for 100 urban areas and their local agriculture (circle sizes). These data layers can be selected by the user at the bottom left of main visualization page.

The user can also select and zoom in to specific urban centers to explore their local agriculture. Hovering over inputs and outputs shows census items measured, and comparison of urban centers is facilitated by an option to switch between locations while staying in the zoomed-in format. Clicking on the background national map returns the user back to the national view.

With this tool, consumers can gain a deeper, data-based understanding of what’s happening in their local food systems, and policy-makers and researchers can easily explore the heterogeneity in agricultural inputs and outputs near urban centers across the diverse U.S. landscape.

DATA SOURCES & METHODS

Citations for data visualized in introductory sequence:

  • Soil Productivity Index, developed by the USDA Forest Service.
    • Data were obtained from: http://foresthealth.fs.usda.gov/soils/
    • More information is available here: Schaetzl, R.J., Krist, F.J., & Miller, B.A. 2012. A Taxonomically Based, Ordinal Estimate of Soil Productivity for Landscape-Scale Analyses. Soil Science 177:288-299.
  • Maps of 2012 Average Precipitation & Temperature:
  • 2011 NLCD Land Cover, Developed Land, Pasture/Hay, & Cultivated Crops Categories
    • Data were obtained from: http://www.mrlc.gov/nlcd2011.php
    • More information is available here: Homer, C.G., Dewitz, J.A., Yang, L., Jin, S., Danielson, P., Xian, G., Coulston, J., Herold, N.D., Wickham, J.D., and Megown, K., 2015, Completion of the 2011 National Land Cover Database for the conterminous United States-Representing a decade of land cover change information. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, v. 81, no. 5, p. 345-354.

North American Roads (2004), United States Geological Survey. Available online: https://catalog.data.gov/dataset/usgs-small-scale-dataset-north-american-atlas-roads-200406-shapefile

The 100 most populous urban areas were selected based on the “2010 Census Urban and Rural Classification and Urban Area Criteria”, part of the 2010 Census by the U.S. Census Bureau. Link to spatial data and description: https://www.census.gov/geo/reference/ua/urban-rural-2010.html

"Local agriculture" for each urban area includes all U.S. counties having land within a 50-mi radius of that urban area’s center point. Some counties are shared by multiple urban centers due to their close proximity. All data for these shared counties are visualized for every proximal urban center.

County-level agricultural input and output data were obtained from the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture. These data were accessed using NASS Quickstats. Link: http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2012/

The following Resource Inputs (in dollars) from the “Expenses” census data are included:

  • Ag Services, Customwork
  • Ag Services, Machinery Rental
  • Ag Services, Other
  • Ag Services, Utilities
  • Animal Totals, All Classes
  • Chemical Totals, All Classes
  • Feed, All Classes
  • Fertilizer Totals, Incl Lime & Soil Conditioners
  • Fuels, Incl Lubricants
  • Labor, Expense, Contract
  • Labor, Expense, Hired
  • Seeds & Plants Totals, All Classes
  • Supplies & Repairs, Excl Lubricants

The following expenses were not included: Depreciation, Interest, Rent, Taxes

For Agricultural Outputs, conversions were frequently needed to achieve a common unit of mass. The raw data downloaded and associated conversions applied were as follows:

  • Aquaculture, Food Fish, Sales & Distribution, Catfish, Total (in dollars)
    • The mean national price of food size or market size catfish reported in the 2013 Aquaculture Census was $0.99 per LB. Using consumer price indices from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for meat, poultry, fish, and eggs (July 2013 and July 2012), it was estimated that the mean price of catfish in 2012 was $0.97 per LB. Therefore, it was estimated that 1.03 LBS of catfish were produced for every dollar in sales in 2012.
  • Aquaculture, Food Fish, Sales & Distribution, Excl Catfish & Trout, Total (in dollars)
    • The weighted average national price in 2013 ($3.10 per LB) was estimated based on food size or market size prices and total values reported for bass, carp, tilapia, and other food fish in the 2013 Aquaculture Census. Using consumer price indices from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for meat, poultry, fish, and eggs (July 2013 and July 2012), it was estimated that the mean price in 2012 was $3.04 per LB. Therefore, it was estimated that 0.33 LB of fish in this category were produced for every dollar in sales in 2012.
  • Dairy, Milk, Sales, All Classes (in dollars)
    • The price of milk per LB in 2012 was estimated using total gross value of production data from the USDA ERS Commodity Costs and Returns database.
    • Link: http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/commodity-costs-and-returns.aspx
    • These data were available by ERS Farm Resource Region. Therefore, values of milk produced (LBS) per dollar in sales (range = 4.32-5.23) were assigned to counties based on what ERS Farm Resource Region they are part of. When data were not available for a Farm Resource Region, the U.S. national average (4.72 LBS milk per dollar in sales) was used.
  • Livestock, Cattle, Inventory, Cows (Beef), Total (in head)
  • Livestock, Hogs, Sales, All Classes, Total (in head)
    • It was estimated that each hog yields 188.7 LBS (dressed weight). This number was based on a reported average hog weight at slaughter of 255 LBS, and a live-to-carcass yield of 74%. These numbers come from two USDA sources, respectively:
  • Poultry, Chickens, Sales, Broilers, Total (in head)
    • State-level mean weights of broilers (LBS per head) (range = 4.0-7.1) were estimated based on data for the number of broilers produced and the pounds of broilers produced provided by:
      • NASS, Agricultural Statistics Board, USDA. Poultry – Production and Value 2012 Summary. Released April 29, 2013.
    • State-level mean weights were applied to all counties within a given state. When no data existed for a state, the value for “other states” (5.809 LBS per head) was applied.
    • Note that only 3.5% of chicken LBS nationally do not come from broilers (“chickens lost, sold for slaughter”). Therefore, only broilers were considered in the visualization.
  • Poultry, Eggs, Production, Eggs (Production Contract) – Production, Measured in Dozen
  • Poultry, Turkeys, Sales, All Classes, Total (in head)
    • State-level mean weights of turkeys (LBS per head) (range = 19.9-42.2) were estimated based on data for the number of turkeys produced and the pounds of turkeys produced provided by:
      • NASS, Agricultural Statistics Board, USDA. Poultry – Production and Value 2012 Summary. Released April 29, 2013.
    • State-level mean weights were applied to all counties within a given state. When no data existed for a state, the value for “other states” (32.689 LBS per head) was applied.
  • Crops, Field Crops
    • Data (in units of mass) were downloaded for all field crops. In cases where agricultural units (e.g., bushels) were used, standard weight conversions were applied. See:
      • USDA ERS. 1992. Weights, measures, and conversion factors for agricultural commodities and their products. Agricultural Handbook Number 697.
  • Crops, Fruit & Tree Nuts, Fruit & Tree Nut Totals, Sales, All Classes, Total (in dollars)
    • Fruit & Tree Nuts were treated as a single aggregate class. State-level conversion factors (LBS per dollar in sales) were estimated using 2012 data for total fruit & tree nuts production in tons and total fruit & tree nuts value in dollars, provided in the USDA ERS Fruit & Tree Nut Yearbook Tables, which can be accessed online: http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/fruit-tree-nuts/data.aspx
    • State-level conversion factors were applied to all counties within a given state. When no data existed for a state, a conversion factor was estimated based on those existing for neighboring states. The conversion factors ranged from 6.581 LBS fruit & tree nuts per dollar in sales (Florida) to 0.588 LBS fruit & tree nuts per dollar in sales (New Mexico).
  • Crops, Vegetables, Vegetable Totals, Sales, Incl Seeds & Transplants, Total (in dollars)
    • Vegetables were treated as a single aggregate class. State-level conversion factors (LBS per dollar in sales) were estimated using 2012 data for total vegetable production in cwt and total vegetables value in dollars, provided in the USDA NASS Vegetables 2014 Summary, released January 29, 2015.
    • State-level conversion factors were applied to all counties within a given state. When no data existed for a state, a conversion factor was estimated based on those existing for neighboring states. The conversion factors ranged from 12.07 LBS vegetables per dollar in sales (Illinois) to 1.6129 LBS vegetables per dollar in sales (New Hampshire).
Further reading on local agriculture:

Ackerman-Leist P. 2013. Rebuilding the foodshed: how to create local, sustainable, and secure food systems. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Balogh S, Hall CAS, Guzman AM, et al. 2012. The potential of Onondaga County to feed its own population and that of Syracuse New York: past, present, and future. In: Pimentel D (Ed). Global economic and environmental aspects of biofuels. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Cleveland, DA. How does food localization contribute to food system sustainability? Front Ecol Environ 13: 410-411.

Desrochers P, and Lusk JL. 2015. The inability and undesirability of local croplands to meet food demand. Front Ecol Environ 13: 409-410.

Edwards-Jones G, Canals LM, Hounsome N, et al. 2008. Testing the assertion that ‘local food is best’: the challenges of an evidence-based approach. Trends Food Sci Tech 19: 265-274.

Peters CJ, Wilkins JL, and Fick GW. 2007. Testing a complete-diet model for estimating the land resource requirements of food consumption and agricultural carrying capacity: The New York State example. Renew Agr Food Syst 22: 145-153.

Peters CJ, Bills NL, Lembo AJ, et al. 2009. Mapping potential foodsheds in New York State: a spatial model for evaluating the capacity to localize food production. Renew Agr Food Syst 24: 72-84.

Zumkehr A, and Campbell JE. 2015. The potential for local croplands to meet US food demand. Front Ecol Environ 13: 244-248.

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