Which Farm Products Are Considered the Major US Agricultural Products This Year?


We may live in the digital age where technology is king, but we are still people who need to eat in order to survive. This means that age-old farm production and farm products are still vitally important to our society.

The landscape of agricultural products has shifted over the years. What once were the main sources of agriculture crop production may fade in favor of others as demand shifts. The livestock and crops that the typical American farmer is producing in a given year all depend on the current tastes, trends, value, and cost of farm products.

Exports also play a large role in agricultural products that are produced in the United States. For example, tree nuts are not in the top 10 ag products by receipts overall, but when looking at American agriculture exports (10/2019 to 3/2020), they’re number five.

With trade wars and the coronavirus pandemic, it’s been disruptive several months for agriculture in the US. But with all the changes the agriculture industry has seen, the need for the food American farmers produce remains strong.farm products

Agriculture Industry Guide | Top US Agricultural Crops

For this year, we have created a list of agricultural products that can easily be considered the major agricultural products here in the United States. All of the examples of agricultural products on our list produce not only high yields but also high value.

We will start this guide by explaining what agricultural products and agricultural production are and answering the question, “What are agricultural products that are most popular?”

We will give you a glance at farm production within the United States, the state of the American farmer, and take a deeper dive into agricultural product examples.

If you’ve been interested in learning which major agricultural products are produced and bring in the most money for agriculture in the US, this definitive guide of the American agriculture sector will provide you with that information and more.



What Are Agricultural Products?

Agriculture items include a wide variety of food products consumed by both humans and animals.  Agriculture produce can mean raw or processed commodities.

According to the legal definition in 7 USCS § 6502 (Title7, Agriculture; Chapter 94, Organic Certification), “agriculture product” is defined as:

“any agricultural commodity or product, whether raw or processed, including any commodity or product derived from livestock that is marketed in the United States for human or livestock consumption.”

What Are the Agricultural Products Categories?

There are some common categories used when discussing agricultural practices. Items on this top list of agricultural products in the US fall into these categories, including:

  • Livestock (cattle, poultry, hogs, etc.)
  • Crops (corn, soybeans, hay, etc.)
  • Edible forestry products (almonds, walnuts, etc.)
  • Dairy (milk products)
  • Fish farming
  • Miscellaneous ag products (i.e., honey)

Certain categories of agriculture items contain several subcategories. Agriculture products examples in the crops category include everything from wheat to oranges to herbs.

The term “agricultural products” is used for all sorts of agricultural crop production used for consumption. So, you’ll find multiple categories and subcategories used, depending upon the agriculture sector.

An agriculture product list could include:

  • Animals or livestock
  • Plants or fungi
  • Medicinal plants
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Food for livestock

Examples of agricultural products in a specialty area, like organic agriculture, may look like this:

  • Eggs/dairy
  • Vegetables
  • Meat (hogs, cattle, etc.)
  • Fruit
  • Nuts & seeds

No matter how it’s categorized, agricultural production is just the science and practice of planting, growing, or raising agri products to nourish humans or animals.

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How is This List of Agricultural Products Sourced?

Before we discuss the major agricultural products, it is important to understand how these agricultural products have been chosen.

Agriculture produce can be listed by the volume in metric tons or by value, meaning the amount of money that specific agriculture products bring in. Either method can be a legitimate way to look at American agriculture.

This list of agricultural products was compiled from data sourced from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (USDA ERS). Including, but not limited to the current report of agriculture sector/commodity ranking by cash receipts.

We chose to use the “cash receipts” method to reflect the major ag products in the US because they often dictate where agricultural practices and trends will be going in the future.

Farm Products in the United States

Throughout this list of agricultural products, we will be focusing on U.S. farm products. So, we’ll take a look at some statistics for agriculture in the US in this section of our agri products and crop production guide.

list of agricultural products

Agriculture in the US & the American Farmer

We were interested in answering a common concern, about whether the American farmer is being pushed out by larger corporate agriculture industry players. According to the USDA ERS, the family farm is still very much a part of the US agriculture industry.

Eighty-eight percent (88%) of farm production comes directly from American farmers. Additionally, ninety percent (90%) of the more than 61,000 million-dollar agriculture crop production operations in the country are family farms.

Let’s take a look at what farm production is like in the United States.

  • The United States has a total surface area of 2.43 billion acres. Of that acreage, approximately 897.4 million acres are used for farming.
  • Agricultural production contributes approximately $1.053 trillion to the United States economy.
  • The agriculture sector accounts for 11% of total US employment.

Note that as you review American agriculture statistics on the list of agricultural products, you may see many references to 2017. That is because a large farm census was done in the United States that year.

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Sustainable Agricultural Practices

One of the evolutions in agriculture products has been the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices.

This means farming in a way that ensures the ability to produce ag products for multiple generations by not stripping away the factors that contribute to healthy crops. It also means farming in a way that respects the environment.

Sustainable agricultural practices contribute to the health of agriculture in the US as a whole and include:

  • Rotating crops and diversifying agricultural crops
  • Planting cover crops to protect the soil during the off-season
  • Reducing or eliminating tillage
  • Use of integrated pest management
  • Integrating different agriculture items, such as livestock and crops
  • Using agroforestry to provide shade and shelter
  • Managing whole landscapes, including areas not used for agriculture produce (e.g., supporting pollinators)

Related: What is CSA? | Everything You Need to Know



Top 10 Major Agricultural Products in the US

Following is the list of agricultural products in the United States as ranked by cash receipts.

One note: One of the items on the top agriculture product list was labeled as “miscellaneous crops.” It was not specified which agricultural items were included, so for the number 10 spot on the list, we’ve added another top agri product, cotton.

Here is an overview of the 10 agriculture products that are considered major ag products in the US. They are listed in the order of how they are ranked on the USDA ERS cash receipts commodity ranking:

  • Cattle
  • Corn
  • Soybeans
  • Dairy products, milk
  • Broilers (poultry)
  • Hogs
  • Chicken Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Hay
  • Cotton

Now, let’s take a look at these agricultural products examples and what makes them all so important to American agriculture.

Cattle

First up on our list of agricultural products is cattle. As of January 1, 2020, it was reported that the United States had an inventory of beef cows of 31,316,700.

The fact that cattle come in first in cash receipts, shows just how much steak, hamburger, and other beef products are very much in demand.

In addition to providing food as agri products, cattle can also help farmers reduce the risk of range fires because they graze on grasses and can keep them from getting too high.

agricultural practices

USDA Chart for Agriculture Sector

Cattle as farm products are often broken up into three different distinctions:

  • Dairy cattle (Dairy comes later in the list of agricultural products)
  • Beef cattle
  • Calves

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Corn

Without a doubt, one of the major agricultural products on our list is corn.

Corn is the most widely produced of all feed grain agricultural products in the United States. There are many reasons why this is one of the most grown farm products:

  • Eating corn and corn products (cornmeal, corn chips, popcorn, etc.) is a large part of the American diet.
  • Corn syrup is extremely popular; in fact, it is estimated that around 37.6 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup are consumed by the average American each year.
  • Corn is the main energy ingredient used in feed for other agricultural products, like livestock.

In 2019, the United States produced 13.7 billion bushels of corn, specifically for grain. Around 10 to 20% of the United States’ corn production is exported to other countries.

agriculture industry

US Major Crops & Agriculture Guide

Interestingly, as improvements in the technology used for agriculture crop production have happened, the yield per acre for corn has increased, a benefit to many an American farmer.

Soybeans

The average person with no crop production experience may not automatically guess that soybeans would top the list of agricultural products. Agri products like corn or wheat may make more sense.

But consider these facts about agricultural soybean production:

  • The world’s greatest source of animal protein feed comes from soybeans
  • Processed soybeans are also the second-largest source of vegetable oil
  • The United States is the world’s leading producer of soybeans
  • Many of the soybean agricultural products are bioengineered. In fact, according to the USDA, soybeans “were one of the first bioengineered crops to achieve commercial success.”

Many of the soybean agricultural products are bioengineered. In fact, according to the USDA, soybeans “were one of the first bioengineered crops to achieve commercial success.”

While soybean production had been increasing over the last four years, 2019 saw a drop from the previous year of soybean farm production:

  • 2018 US soybean production: 4.43 billion bushels
  • 2019 US soybean production: 3.55 billion bushels

This reduction is estimated to be in part from lower yields per acre as well as the trade issues with China, which resulted in lower export demand.

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Dairy Products, Milk

As major agricultural products go, dairy production is separated from cattle. Since dairy products, including milk, are produced in a different way, they’re listed separately on listings of major agricultural products.

The United States produced nearly 220,000 million pounds of milk in 2019. Compare this to 2010’s dairy agri products at approximately 193,000 million pounds of milk.

ag products

USDA Agriculture Industry Chart

Over the last decade, the demand for this top agriculture sector product has increased by 13%.

An interesting American agriculture fact is that Dairy is one of the few farm products produced in all 50 states.

Related: What Is Organic Farming? | Everything You Need to Know




Boilers (Poultry)

Next up on our list of agricultural products is poultry. The agriculture products term for chickens that are bred and raised specially for meat is “broilers,” which is why you’ll often see it on an agriculture product list.

When it comes to major agricultural products, poultry in specific, the United States wins out for the top farm production in the world. It is also the second-largest exporter of poultry meat globally.

According to the USDA, livestock and poultry make up more than 50% of U.S. agri products cash receipts and often exceed $100 billion per year.

 Examples of agricultural products that may be in the “poultry” category:

  • Broilers: Chickens intended for meat, not eggs, are called broilers. These farm products account for most of the poultry’s value.
  • Eggs: Another aspect of poultry farm production is eggs. You’ll see these grouped with poultry in some agricultural products examples. However, on the USDA ERSA cash receipts ranking, eggs are a separate item (you’ll see them later in this list).
  • Turkeys: Turkeys are considerably lower value to the major agriculture product list by themselves, but they only make the poultry category even larger.

agriculture items

USDA Agriculture in the US – Broilers

The total US production of broilers in 2019 was approximately 58 billion pounds. You can see from the chart above that while production has steadily risen over the last 10 years, the value of this agricultural item has fluctuated, and was down in 2019 to just over $28 billion.

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Hogs

The United States is the world’s third-largest producer of pork and pork-related products. This is an area of agriculture crop production where the country has lost ground. They were previously the largest global pork producer, but China has now taken that spot.

Here are some interesting facts about this category on our list of agricultural products from the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC):

  • The pork industry is responsible for approximately 550,000 jobs
  • There are over 60,000 American farmers that are pork producers
  • Pork production is estimated to have $23.4 billion of gross output

Iowa is by far the largest US state when it comes to sales of pork, with approximately $5.6 billion in sales annually. Other states ranking top in pork production include:

  • North Carolina
  • Minnesota
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Nebraska
  • Missouri

Chicken Eggs

Chicken eggs is next up on our ranking and list of agricultural products in America. While some listings will group poultry with eggs, they each represent a different type of agricultural practice.

According to the USDA ERS, Broilers (chickens grown for meat) make up approximately 8.5% of the total US agricultural products cash receipts, and chicken eggs make up about 2.8%.

agriculture industry

United Egg Producers – Agriculture in the US

Reviewing the chart above from the United Egg Producers, we can see that the US laying rate for eggs has steadily increased over the last 30+ years.

In 2019, total table egg production in the US was 99.1 billion, which was a 3% increase over the previous year. Each laying hen can produce 294 eggs per year on average.

The increase in productivity is attributed to several factors of modern agricultural practices, such as:

  • Better disease prevention
  • Improved nutrition
  • Genetics
  • Better flock management

Wheat

Another of the well-known major crops on our list of agricultural products is wheat. Wheat is a popular item used worldwide, and as a result, the U.S. has lost some of its share of the wheat market over the years.

At the beginning of this century, the US portion of worldwide wheat exports were 25%, but by 2016/2017, they had dropped to about 15%.

Examples of agricultural products in the “wheat” category include:

  • Hard red winter
  • Soft red winter
  • Hard red spring
  • White wheat
  • Durum wheat

The agricultural wheat products also create by-products, like bran or shorts, often used for livestock feed.

In 2019, the United States created 1.92 billion bushels of wheat, a slight increase in agricultural wheat production over the last two years.

In all the agricultural crops within the United States, wheat is the third most planted in terms of acreage and receipts.

Hay

One of the major crops that provides animal fodder is hay. While you may not think immediately of this item when asked, “What are agricultural products?”, it’s an important one for large grazing animals like cattle, goat, sheep, and horses.

Unfortunately, hay production in the US took a hit over the last few years due to unpredictable weather patterns. But the trend looks to be coming back up in 2019.

agricultural products

Hay Stock | Farm Products

As of the end of December 2019, hay stocks in the US were 84.5 million tons, which was an increase of 5.4 million tons over the year prior.

There are several different types of hay that are grown for animal feed. These include:

  • Alfalfa hay
  • Timothy hay
  • Bermuda hay
  • Oat hay
  • Forage hay

Cotton

Last on our list of agricultural products is cotton. Wondering how cotton is considered among agriculture produce that is meant to be consumed by humans or animals?

While the most common use of cotton is for textiles, cotton is also a food crop. When natural toxins are removed from cottonseeds, they can be used in food for both humans and animals.

This puts cotton in the list of farm products that are considered agricultural product examples. Some examples of where cotton seeds are used include:

  • Cottonseed oil
  • Flour
  • High-quality livestock feed
  • Chips
  • Salad dressing

The value of cotton farm production in the United States is estimated at 20.1 million bales in 2019/20, which is a 9% increase over the previous season. The overall acreage of cotton crop planted in 2019 was 13.7 million.

Interestingly, the USDA projects that in 2020/21, the consumption of cotton will exceed production and reduce the world stocks by 2.5 million bales.

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Conclusion | Major Agricultural Products Guide

American agriculture remains a vital part of the US economy and of each person’s life. The agriculture industry is the reason we can stop for food at the grocery store anytime we like and feel confident about having plenty to choose from.

Now that you have gone through this guide on agricultural products/farm products, you should have a better understanding of the following:

  • What farm production is
  • Examples of agricultural products
  • Agricultural production in the United States and trends
  • A list of agricultural products that play a significant role in U.S. farming

Outside of the agriculture product list of 10 top products, you’ll find many other important crops that are vital to our food supply, including various fruits, vegetables, crops like sugar cane, and much more.

This guide should help better inform you on the topic of agriculture and agricultural production and give you an idea of where farming may be focused in the coming years.


Image Sources:

  • https://unsplash.com/photos/JR8XZ-gdZrA
  • https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-a-man-in-a-wheat-field-2600332/
  • https://www.nass.usda.gov/Charts_and_Maps/Cattle/bcow.php
  • https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/corn-and-other-feedgrains/feedgrains-sector-at-a-glance/
  • https://www.nass.usda.gov/Charts_and_Maps/Milk_Production_and_Milk_Cows/milkprod.php
  • https://www.nass.usda.gov/Charts_and_Maps/Poultry/brprvl.php
  • https://unitedegg.com/facts-stats/
  • https://www.hayandforage.com/article-2826-USDA-Nearly-everything-is-up.html


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