Links with California dominate Nebraska food flows according to research performed by researchers with the University of Illinois and Kansas State University. The analysis examined food flows between counties and Freight Analysis Framework (FAF) zones in the United States.

The results provide a fascinating look at food flow patterns, both inflows and outflows, across the country. Food categories included in the study were live animals and fish; cereal grains; animal feed, eggs, honey, and other animal products; meat, poultry, and seafood; mill grain and bakery products; and other prepared foodstuffs. Using federal government transportation and production data, the researchers constructed models to estimate food flows.

Figure 1 shows two maps of food flow estimates from the study. Map (A) shows flows between FAF zones. Nebraska has two FAF zones, one centered around the Omaha metropolitan area and one comprising of the remainder of the state. The research estimated that the FAF comprising of the remainder of Nebraska ranked second in the nation in terms of total food flows. Only the state of Iowa, which encompassed a single FAF, exceeded the remainder of Nebraska in food flows. The dominant links from the remainder of Nebraska are with central California, presumably outflows of meat, food products, and other commodities for consumption or export. Lesser links are with Kansas, the Omaha FAF, Southern California, and South Dakota. Faint flow lines also extend to the Northwest ports. Food flows to and from the Omaha FAF are linked primarily east with Iowa and with the remainder of Nebraska.

Map (B) shows links for the largest 5 percent of counties in terms of overall food flows. This map shows the links between Nebraska and Southern California are more concentrated in a few counties, while links with Central California, greater overall, are more dispersed among Nebraska counties.

The two maps show distinct links regarding food flow patterns among the states. Nebraska dominates with its links with California. Links for other plains states to California are minimal. Links for states east of Nebraska clearly flow towards the Mississippi River and towards the New Orleans ports. And, links from southern plains states flow south with Texas and the gulf ports. Nebraska clearly has an advantage for food trade with California, no doubt due to location and freight costs, but also due to Nebraska’s production and processing capabilities. Knowing Nebraska’s strong food ties to California can help in terms of promoting food exports from the state.

Figure 1. Food flows between (A) FAF zones and (B) counties in the United States

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Source: Food flows between counties in the United States, Xiaowen Lin et al 2019 Environ. Res. Lett. 14 084011