U.S. consumers ate 2 percent more vegetables, potatoes, sweet potatoes, dried beans, mushrooms and melons in 2007 than they did the previous year, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. That brings per-capita consumption up to 444 pounds per year.

Most of the increase was due to higher processing tomato, fresh potato and fresh onion use.

But given the sluggish economy, USDA officials say they don't anticipated an increase in consumption this year.

On a per person basis, net domestic use of fresh-market vegetables (excluding melons, potatoes, sweet potatoes, dried peas and beans, and mushrooms) rose 2 percent to 155 pounds. Fresh use rose for such crops as onions, sweet corn, celery, cabbage, carrots, pumpkins and tomatoes. It dropped for squash, bell peppers, broccoli and cucumbers.

In 2008, fresh vegetable use is expected to decline slightly from that of a year earlier.

Melons: Estimated use of all melons totaled a record high 8.5 billion pounds in 2007—the third consecutive annual gain. On a per-capita basis, domestic use of the top three melon varieties increased 2 percent from a year earlier to 28.1 pounds, driven by gains in cantaloup and watermelon use.

Processing vegetables:
Per-capita use of processing vegetables (excluding potatoes, sweet potatoes and mushrooms) increased 3 percent to 119 pounds in 2007, as use of vegetables for canning (up 3 percent) and freezing (up 4 percent) rose. The outlook for 2008 indicates another small gain, led by increased use of canning tomatoes and pickling cucumbers.

Potatoes: According to preliminary estimates, per-capita use of potatoes rose 2 percent in calendar 2007 to 126 pounds, with both fresh-market and processing potatoes registering gains. A slight decline in per-capita use is expected in 2008 due partly to expectations for a smaller crop this fall.

Read the full report at http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/VGS/VGS-04-17-2008.pdf.

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