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U.S. agricultural exports support a growing number of jobs outside farming

Monday, February 5, 2018

U.S. agricultural exports support output, employment, income, and purchasing power in the farm and nonfarm sectors. ERS estimates that every $1 billion of U.S. agricultural exports in 2016 required approximately 8,100 American jobs throughout the economy. At $134.7 billion in 2016, agricultural exports required 1,097,000 full-time civilian jobs. This included 764,000 nonfarm sector jobs. Starting around 2004, a divergence appeared between the estimated numbers of farm and nonfarm jobs, with the latter accounting for a rising share of total employment supported by agricultural exports. This growing importance of nonfarm jobs is consistent with the upward trend in the job numbers supported by non-bulk exports, which rely on a broader range of businesses (e.g. food processing, services, and other manufacturing) than bulk goods like soybeans, corn, and other feed grains. Non-bulk commodities account for the majority of U.S. agricultural exports and continue to support the majority of jobs dependent on agricultural exports. This chart appears in the ERS data product, Agricultural Trade Multipliers, updated in January 2018.

U.S. agricultural exports and imports in the 2018 fiscal year are forecast to closely mirror 2017

Friday, December 15, 2017

According to the latest USDA trade forecast, the 2018 fiscal year will look similar to 2017, but with a slightly higher trade balance (exports–imports) because of lower imports. Total agricultural exports are expected to value $140 billion dollars along with $117 billion dollars in imports. Taken together, the trade balance would reach a surplus of $23 billion compared with 2017, when the balance was near $22 billion. Both years mark a slight improvement over 2016 when exports and imports both fell, leaving a surplus of just $17 billion. Prior to 2015, the United States had a consistently higher trade balance, driven by lower total imports. This is largely due to appreciation of the U.S. dollar as the country’s economy recovered from the Great Recession. The 2018 forecast is driven by expectations of high demand for U.S. exports of corn and soybeans and their products. This chart is drawn from the Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade report, released in November 2017.

California leads all States in agricultural export value

Thursday, November 9, 2017

In October, ERS released its annual update of the State Export Data product, which estimates a State’s agricultural export value for selected commodities and its total export value. Tracking agricultural export products back to their original source of production can be complicated, since U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not collect data on agricultural exports by State. To resolve this, ERS estimates State export values using each State’s share of farm cash receipts for a given commodity. In 2016, California remained the leading State for agricultural exports, totaling over 12 billion dollars in value. The majority of California’s exports come in the form of tree nuts (like almonds), fruits, and vegetables. California’s key commodities are in contrast to other leading States like Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota, where the majority of export value comes from grains and oilseeds, like corn and soybeans, along with animal products like pork. Total U.S. agricultural export value in 2016 was $134 billion with the selected States representing 58 percent. This chart is drawn from the ERS State Export Data product, updated in October 2017.

U.S. agricultural exports forecast up in 2017 and slightly down in 2018

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The value of U.S. agricultural exports is forecast at $139.8 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2017, up $10.2 billion from FY 2016, and following 2 consecutive years of declining export values. The increase reflects improvement in the global economy, a lower value for the U.S. dollar, and stronger markets for several individual commodities including grains, feed, and soybeans. The initial FY 2018 forecast shows that exports reach $139 billion, still above FY 2016 levels but slightly below current FY 2017 estimates. The value of FY 2017 agricultural imports is forecast at $116.2 billion, up $3.2 billion from last year and the highest level on record. However, the initial FY 2018 forecast reveals a $700 million decline for agricultural imports. The strong export increase and modest import increase for FY 2017 indicates that the agricultural trade surplus will rise to $23.6 billion, up $7 billion from FY 2016. Agricultural trade surplus is expected to remain virtually unchanged in FY 2018 due to the nearly identical declines in the value of exports and imports currently expected. This chart is from ERS’s Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade: August 2017.

U.S. trade surplus expected to increase in 2017

Thursday, December 15, 2016

USDA forecasts U.S. agricultural exports in fiscal year 2017 to reach $134 billion, up 1 percent from the previous forecast in August—largely due to expected increases in dairy and livestock byproduct exports. U.S. agricultural imports in fiscal year 2017 are projected at $113 billion, down 1 percent from the August forecast. Reduced imports of horticultural, sugar, and tropical products are leading this decline. As a result, the U.S. agricultural trade surplus is expected to increase to $22 billion in fiscal 2017. The forecasted surplus is an increase compared with the expected $17 billion surplus in fiscal 2016, but nearly half of the 2011 surplus of $43 billion. The U.S. agricultural sector consistently runs a trade surplus, benefiting the overall U.S. trade balance—which has run a deficit every year since 1976. The data in this chart is drawn from ERS’s quarterly Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade report released on November 30th, 2016.

California has the highest value among U.S. States for agricultural exports

Friday, November 25, 2016

All U.S. States export some agricultural products to markets overseas. While the value of agricultural exports is relatively modest for States like Alaska, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire (less than $100 million in 2015), many States rely on agricultural exports for a large share of their market revenue. The largest beneficiary of overseas markets is California, which contributes 17 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports by value. The $23 billion worth of agricultural goods exported by California in 2015 is more than double the next largest State total, Iowa. Iowa and Illinois exported agricultural goods valued at $10 and $8 billion, respectively, in 2015. To put these numbers in perspective, the 2012 Agricultural Census calculated the total value of agricultural sales in California to be 44 billion dollars, while Iowa and Illinois were valued at 31 and 17 billion, respectively. In California, tree nuts account for the largest share of exports. Soybeans are the most valuable export in five of the top ten exporting States, including Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska. Other leading export products for States in the top ten exporters include cotton, wheat, and fruits. The data in this chart is drawn from the ERS State Export Data product updated in October 2016.

U.S. agricultural exports weaken as dollar strengthens

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Macroeconomic factors, including the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar, played a key role in the strong growth of U.S. agricultural exports that began in the early 2000s, with exports peaking in U.S. fiscal year (FY) 2014/15 (October/September). While other variables, particularly robust income gains in developing countries, supported market growth, an extended period of dollar depreciation during FY2003-14 increased the competitiveness of U.S. exports. Since FY2014, however, U.S. agricultural exports have declined in real terms as global income growth has slowed and the dollar has strengthened against the currencies of many U.S. agricultural export markets and competitors. A stronger dollar tends to have the greatest impact on U.S. exports of bulk and intermediate goods that are more readily substituted for by exports from other suppliers. Exports of consumer-oriented products that are more differentiated from those of competitors tend to be less affected by a stronger dollar. The real trade-weighted dollar exchange rate is an indicator that accounts for both the change in each country’s exchange rate with the U.S. dollar and its share of U.S. agricultural exports. This is an updated version of a chart found in Global Macroeconomic Developments Drive Downturn in U.S. Agricultural Exports released on July 12, 2016.

U.S. corn production and use expected to reach a new record in 2016

Thursday, July 28, 2016

U.S. corn area in 2016/17 is estimated at 94.1 million acres, of which 86.6 million is expected to be harvested for grain, up 5.9 million from last year. With a national average yield forecast of 168 bushels, corn production this year would reach 14.5 billion bushels, 939 million bushels above last year’s harvest and 324 million more than was harvested from the record-large 2014/15 crop. The larger supply is expected to have a dampening effect on prices, making U.S. corn more competitive in the global market and boosting exports to 2.1 billion bushels in 2016/17, up from 1.9 million from the 2015/16 crop and the highest since 2007/08 when they reached 2.4 billion. Use for ethanol as well as other food, seed and industrial uses is expected to increase only modestly (less than 1 percent) to 6.7 million bushels, reflecting the maturity of those markets. Feed and residual use (a category that mainly includes livestock feed as well as other uses unaccounted for) is expected to consume 5.5 billion bushels, up 300 million from the 2015/16 crop. With projected supply expected to exceed total use of the 2016/17 crop, ending stocks are forecast to grow to 2.1 billion bushels, up from the 1.7 billion bushels expected to be on hand at the end of the 2015/16 crop year. This chart is from the ERS report Feed Outlook, July 2016.

U.S. cotton production and share of global supply are expected to be up in 2016

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The 2016 U.S. cotton crop is expected to reach 15.8 million bales (1 bale = 480 pounds), 23 percent larger than the 2015 crop, reflecting a 17-percent increase in acreage, lower abandonment and higher yields compared to last year. Globally, cotton production is projected to reach 102.5 million bales in 2016, up 5 percent from last year. Global cotton production is concentrated among a small number of countries, with India and China accounting for nearly half of world production and the top five producers expected to supply 77 percent of the world’s cotton this year. Production in most countries is expected to increase at least modestly this year, with the exception of China, where production is expected to fall 4.5 percent to 21.4 million bales as acreage there falls to historically low levels. Given the large increase in U.S. production, the U.S. share of global supply is expected to increase from 13.2 percent in 2015 to 15.4 percent in 2016, compared to a 27-percent share supplied by India and 21 percent by China. This chart is from the ERS report Cotton and Wool Outlook report, July 2016.

August to January is becoming the most active period for Brazil's corn exports

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Corn is Brazil’s second largest crop (after soybeans), accounting for 20 percent of planted area, and Brazil is the world’s second largest corn exporter, behind the United States. Due to a favorable climate and long growing season, double-cropping is possible in much of the country, and the majority of corn in Brazil is harvested as a second crop planted after soybeans. Brazil tends to use most of its first-crop corn (harvested primarily during February-April) domestically because it is grown near the poultry and pork enterprises in the South, and the transportation system is focused on moving soybeans into global markets. But second-crop corn is harvested during June-August just as Brazil’s peak soybean export period ends, freeing up port capacity and transportation resources to move corn into export markets. Second-crop corn production in Brazil has expanded rapidly over the past 5 years, and over the same period the seasonal pattern of Brazil’s corn exports has shifted such that a much larger portion now enters export markets from August to January, months when harvesting begins and supplies peak in the United States. This chart is from the ERS report, Brazil’s Corn Industry and the Effect on the Seasonal Pattern of U.S. Corn Exports, released June 15, 2016.

Emerging markets account for most of the growth in U.S. agricultural exports

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Growth in demand for food, and by extension for agricultural imports, is particularly sensitive to growth in per capita incomes in developing countries, where relatively large shares of rising incomes are typically spent on increasing both the amount and diversity of foods consumed. In contrast, consumers in more developed countries, where per capita incomes and food intake are already relatively high, are less likely to spend as much of new income on increasing the amount of food they eat. Emerging markets averaged higher rates of real per capita gross domestic product growth and accounted for all of the volume growth in U.S. exports of bulk and intermediate agricultural prod­ucts and most of the growth in U.S. exports of consumer-oriented products during 2000-15. The volume of U.S. exports of bulk and intermediate agricultural goods to developed countries actually declined during the period, and U.S. exports of consumer-oriented goods to developed markets grew only about a third as fast as to emerging markets. This chart is from the ERS report, Global Macroeconomic Developments Drive Downturn in U.S. Agricultural Exports, released July 12.

Sugarcane production in Brazil has expanded, and about half is used for ethanol

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Government of Brazil has supported the production of ethanol as an automotive fuel for many years, beginning in 1975 with the Proálcool program, to encourage production of ethanol from sugarcane and including many programs that remain in effect today—including mandatory ethanol-blending requirements in gasoline and tax exemptions for ethanol-powered cars. Sugarcane is nearly the exclusive ethanol feedstock in Brazil, and Brazil is the world’s largest sugarcane producer, accounting for 39 percent of world production. Until the mid-1990s, the share of sugar production turned into ethanol was set by government policy, but since then market forces have determined the share that is converted to ethanol. In particular, the relationship among the prices of sugar, gasoline, and ethanol, as well as storage capacity at sugar mills, all play a role. Production of both sugar and ethanol in Brazil has expanded rapidly since the mid-1990s. Sugarcane production reached 640 million tons in 2014, up 188 percent since 1991, while over the same time, the share used for ethanol production declined from 72 percent in 1991 to a low of just over 49 percent in 2003 and a 2014 level of 55 percent. This chart is from the ERS report, Brazil’s Agricultural Land Use and Trade: Effects of Changes in Oil Prices and Ethanol Demand, released June 29, 2016.

The cost of producing corn and soybeans varies across the three leading exporters

Friday, June 24, 2016

The cost of producing agricultural commodities varies across countries and regions due to many factors, including the quality of resources, climatic conditions, and the cost and availability of necessary inputs. Differences in cost of production help to determine a country’s export competitiveness in global markets, with low-cost producers usually capturing a larger share of global exports. Corn and soybeans are among the most important agricultural commodities traded in global markets, and the United States, Brazil and Argentina are the leading exporters, accounting for a combined 88 percent of world soybean exports and 73 percent of world corn exports between 2008 and 2012. Based on data for 2010 and 5-year average yields, the cost of producing soybeans in Argentina average $8.81 per bushel, compared to $7.47 in Brazil and just over $8.00 in the United States. For corn, Brazil had the highest cost of production at $4.74 per bushel, compared to $3.93 for Argentina and $3.80 in the United States. This chart is from the ERS report, Corn and Soybean Production Costs and Export Competitiveness in Argentina, Brazil and the United States, released on June 22, 2016.

Corn production in Brazil is expanding

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Since 2000/01, corn production in Brazil has doubled, reaching a record 85 million metric tons in 2014/15, equivalent to 8.4 percent of global corn production. Corn is now Brazil’s second largest crop (after soybeans), accounting for 20 percent of planted area, and Brazil is the world’s second largest corn exporter, behind the United States. Due to a favorable climate and long growing season, double-cropping is possible in much of the country, and the majority of corn in Brazil is harvested as a second crop planted after soybeans. Technological advances in soil management and improvements in hybrid corn varieties have supported this expansion. The second-crop corn harvest largely serves the export market, putting it in direct competition with the timing of the U.S. corn harvest. This chart is from the ERS report, Brazil’s Corn Industry and the Effect on the Seasonal Pattern of U.S. Corn Exports, released on June 15, 2016.

U.S. agricultural exports down, imports up, in 2016

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The value of U.S. agricultural exports is forecast at $124.5 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2016 (ending September 30), down $15.2 billion from FY 2015 and the second consecutive decline since a record $152.3 billion in agricultural exports was achieved in FY 2014. The declining export values over the past few years reflect a combination of lower commodity prices, a relatively weak global economy, and a strong U.S. dollar—which makes U.S. products more expensive in foreign currency terms. The value of imports, on the other hand, continues to grow and is forecast to reach a record $114.8 billion this year, up $800 million from FY 2015. With lower exports and higher imports, the FY 2016 agricultural trade balance is forecast to fall to $9.7 billion, down $16.0 billion from last year and the lowest since FY 2006. This chart is from the ERS report Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade: May 2016.

Nearly all U.S. ethanol is produced and sold in domestic markets

Thursday, May 5, 2016

U.S. production of ethanol hit a record 14.8 billion gallons in 2015, and when combined with the carry-over stocks from the previous year and 2015 imports, the total ethanol supply reached an all-time high of 15.7 billion gallons. Nearly all ethanol blended into the U.S. gasoline supply is produced domestically, and, over the past five years, about 94 percent of domestic production was used in the United States. Ethanol imports peaked in 2006 at 731 million gallons (equal to 12 percent of the U.S. supply), but each year since 2010 exports have exceeded imports, making the United States a net exporter of ethanol. The domestic market for ethanol is at full capacity due to the technical and regulatory constraints that limit most of the U.S. gasoline supply to a 10 percent maximum ethanol blend, so the export market is now the primary opportunity for growth. Ethanol exports peaked in 2011 at nearly 1.2 billion gallons, but have remained below 850 million gallons for the past four years. This chart is based on the ERS U.S. Bioenergy Statistics data product.

Global cotton stockpiles beginning to decline

Friday, April 29, 2016

Global ending stocks of cotton are forecast to decline in the 2015/16 marketing year (August-July), down about 9 percent from last year’s record of nearly 112 million bales. Cotton stocks rose dramatically between 2010/11 and 2014/15 as relatively high prices encouraged world production and discouraged consumption. Despite this season’s anticipated decrease, ending stocks remain double the 2010/11 level. The recent global stocks buildup resulted from policies in China that insulated Chinese cotton producers from declining world prices and, at the same time, also encouraged imports. More recent policy shifts in China have discouraged production and imports in that country, beginning the process of reducing the surplus of Government-held stocks. In 2015/16, China’s stocks are expected to decrease for the first time since 2010/11. However, with stock reductions also expected in the rest of the world, China’s share of global stocks remains above 60 percent. This chart is from the April 2016 Cotton and Wool Outlook report.

Manmade fibers account for a growing share of textile imports

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

U.S. net imports of textile and apparel fiber products increased for a third consecutive calendar year in 2015 to the highest on record, reaching 15.7 billion pounds (raw fiber equivalent), compared with 14.5 billion pounds in 2014. U.S. net imports consist mostly of cotton and manmade fiber products, as demand for linen, wool, and silk products remains relatively small. With manmade fiber imports expanding steadily in recent years, cotton’s share has declined consistently. In 2015, cotton textile and apparel products accounted for 44 percent of the total imports, while manmade fibers contributed nearly 49 percent. By comparison, in 2007, cotton accounted for 56 percent of all textile and apparel imports, while the share of manmade fibers was 37 percent. This chart is from the Cotton and Wool Outlook, March 2016.

U.S. jobs supported by agricultural exports grew in 2014

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Agricultural exports support job growth in the United States, and the number of jobs depends on the type of products exported. In calendar year 2014, $150 billion in U.S. agricultural exports supported an estimated 1,132,000 full-time civilian jobs, up from the 1,095,000 agricultural export-related jobs the previous year. Products that are largely unprocessed and sold in bulk tend to generate fewer jobs than higher value, more highly processed, nonbulk agricultural products. However, when prices for bulk commodities are low and export volume is high, the number of jobs supported by each billion dollars of export value can rise. This was the case in 2014, as the number of jobs supported by exports of bulk commodities rose by 23 percent from the previous year, while jobs supported by exports of nonbulk commodities declined by nearly 5 percent. Consequently, the growth in jobs associated with U.S. agricultural exports was driven purely by bulk commodities in 2014. Nevertheless, nonbulk commodities still account for the majority of U.S. agricultural exports, and continue to support the majority of jobs generated by agricultural exports. This chart is based on the Agricultural Trade Multipliers data product.

Canada, Mexico, and the EU supply more than half of U.S. agricultural imports

Friday, February 12, 2016

The value of U.S. agricultural imports has more than doubled since 2004, exceeding $114 billion in fiscal year 2015 and up 4 percent from the previous year. Canada and Mexico are the two largest sources of U.S. agricultural imports and account for about one-third of the total value, while the combined value of imports from the countries that comprise the European Union roughly equal the value of imports from Canada. Together, Canada, Mexico, and the European Union account for just over half of the value of agricultural products that the United States imports, and this share has held relatively constant over the past decade although the import shares for Canada and the EU have declined, while Mexico’s has grown. The $4.3 billion in agricultural imports from China in 2015 still accounts for less than 4 percent of the U.S. total, but has grown by nearly 170 percent since 2004. This data in this chart is from the ERS Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States data set.

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