Share

Production team measures regional self-reliance for more than 100 foods

Tags:

Posted: March 23, 2014

If we want to know how much food the Northeast could produce for its consumers, then figuring out how much it already produces is a good place to start. That's no small task, given that the Northeast has nearly 24.7 million acres of land in yearly agricultural production, and millions of consumers. Yet, it is a task the Production Team completed recently, estimating the region's "self-reliance" for more than 100 foods.
"Not all farmland is devoted to food production," said Tim Griffin. "We started by assessing how much of the Northeast’s farmland is actually contributing to the food supply." Photo by Scott Bauer, USDA.

"Not all farmland is devoted to food production," said Tim Griffin. "We started by assessing how much of the Northeast’s farmland is actually contributing to the food supply." Photo by Scott Bauer, USDA.

"The capacity of the Northeast to meet its consumers' food needs depends on how much agricultural land is being used, and what it’s being used for," explained Tim Griffin, co-leader of the Production Team and lead author of the study. "Not all farmland is devoted to food production, so we started by assessing how much of the Northeast's farmland is actually contributing to the food supply."

Using data from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service and from State Departments of Agriculture, the team developed a dataset that categorizes all the different ways that farmland was used in the region from 2001 to 2010. From apple orchards to Christmas tree farms, 120 types of land use were identified in all.

"We learned that roughly 60% of the region’s farmland contributed directly to the food supply during the last decade," said Griffin. "Half of that land was devoted to the production of livestock feed, and about one-tenth of it was devoted to human food crops, like grains, oils, fruits, and vegetables."

Next, to estimate how much food was produced on that land, the team coupled these land-use categories with yield and output data from various sources. Similarly, they estimated how much food was consumed in the region using USDA's measure of food availability per capita. Comparing their production estimates with their consumption estimates, the team was able to calculate the regional self reliance for more than 100 foods.

"Our findings demonstrate that the Northeast is far more self-reliant for animal-based foods, like dairy and eggs, than for plant-based foods," Griffin explained. "Of course, this is just a snapshot in time. Changes in land use, crop productivity, population, or people’s food preferences could cause changes in regional self-reliance. But establishing this baseline will help us in our efforts to estimate the region's potential to meet the food needs of Northeast consumers."

For more information about this study:

Find more information about the Production Team’s research activities here.