ERS Charts of Note

Subscribe to get highlights from our current and past research, Monday through Friday, or see our privacy policy.
See also: Editor’s Pick 2017: Best of Charts of Note gallery.


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.

U.S. agricultural exports contain a diverse variety of products

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The value of U.S. agricultural exports declined in 2015, reversing 5 consecutive years of export growth. Since 2000, developing countries—led by China—had been the main drivers of U.S. export gains. Horticultural exports were the only product group to grow in 2015, up about $266 million, increasing its share of total U.S. agricultural exports to about 25 percent. In fact, horticultural products had the largest share of any group—surpassing livestock products, grains/feeds, and oilseed/products, which had combined losses in 2015 that accounted for nearly all of the decrease in export values. The drop in export value in 2015 can be attributed, in part, to a stronger U.S. dollar relative to competitors, which made U.S. exports appear more expensive. Additionally, poultry exports were severely limited due to trade restrictions applied following the outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in several U.S. states in 2015. This chart is from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated October 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.

Horticultural products lead growth in U.S. agricultural imports

Thursday, September 1, 2016

U.S. agricultural imports are forecast at a record $109.5 billion in fiscal year 2014 (October/September), up $5.7 billion from fiscal 2013, with horticultural products continuing to be the primary driver of import growth. The outlook is for relatively stable prices for major imports in fiscal 2014, while stronger U.S. income growth is expected to boost import volumes. Imports of horticultural products are projected to increase by $4 billion in fiscal 2014 as U.S. demand for fresh fruits and vegetables, processed fruit, wine, essential oils, and most other horticultural product categories continues to expand. Horticultural products have accounted for more than 40 percent of U.S. import growth since 2010. Imports from most supplying countries are expected to be higher in fiscal 2014 with Canada, Mexico, and the European Union?which together account for more than 59 percent of U.S. imports?contributing most of the gains. This chart is based on data provided in the Outlook for U.S Agricultural Trade.

U.S. agricultural exports rose as U.S. dollar depreciated

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The depreciation of the U.S. dollar against the currencies of U.S. agricultural trade partners contributed to the growth in U.S. agricultural exports since the early 2000s.? When the dollar depreciates, U.S. agricultural exports tend to rise as they become cheaper in foreign currency terms, while periods of appreciation?such as 2009?tend to make U.S. goods more expensive and constrain exports. Between 2002 and 2011, the U.S. dollar depreciated 22 percent against the currencies of U.S. agricultural trade partners, while U.S. agricultural exports expanded by 156 percent. Since 2011, although the dollar has appreciated 7 percent, its value remains low relative to historical levels and U.S. agricultural exports have remained competitive.? The U.S. dollar exchange rate index shown in the chart is based on the average exchange rate across countries, weighted by each country?s share of U.S. agricultural exports. This chart is based on data found in the ERS Agricultural Exchange Rate Data Set and Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States.

Asia and Western Hemisphere propel growth in U.S. agricultural exports

Thursday, September 1, 2016

U.S. agricultural exports are forecast at a record $149.5 billion in fiscal 2014 (year ending September 30), $8.6 billion above 2013, with exports to Asian and Western Hemisphere countries accounting for most of the growth. China is forecast to remain the largest U.S. market, with U.S. sales expected to rise from $23.5 billion in fiscal 2013 to $28 billion in fiscal 2014. Other Asian markets forecast to show significant growth include Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand. In the Western Hemisphere, exports to Canada (the second largest U.S. market) are expected to rise marginally to $21.6 billion, while exports to Mexico (the third largest) are forecast to rise to $18.6 billion. U.S. export growth is also forecast for South America, including Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. Higher income growth and a lower U.S. exchange rate are expected to support continued growth in U.S. exports, especially within the Western Hemisphere. Although slower income growth is anticipated for China in 2014, demand for agricultural goods is expected to remain robust. This chart is based on data found in the Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade.

U.S. fiscal 2015 agricultural exports forecast down from fiscal 2014 record

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Fiscal 2015 U.S. agricultural exports are projected at $144.5 billion, down $8 billion from the record $152.5 billion forecast for fiscal 2014, primarily because of the outlook for lower commodity prices. Lower prices are projected to reduce fiscal 2015 exports of oilseeds and products by $5.1 billion and cotton by $600 million, while lower prices and volumes reduce grain and feed exports by $4.9 billion, compared with fiscal 2014. Horticultural exports are, however, projected to rise $2.9 billion to a record $37.0 billion in fiscal 2015, eclipsing exports of grains and feeds for the first time. Agricultural exports to China are forecast down $3.0 billion from fiscal 2014, but China is expected to remain the top U.S. agricultural market. Exports to Russia are projected to decline by $800 million to $400 million in fiscal 2015 as a result of trade restrictions against the United States. U.S. agricultural imports are forecast at a record $117 billion in fiscal 2015, $7.5 billion higher than in fiscal 2014, with the largest gains in horticultural products, sugar and tropical products, and livestock products. Find these data and additional analysis in the Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade: August 2014.

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

Thursday, September 1, 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.

Global cotton stockpiles beginning to decline

Thursday, September 1, 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.

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

Thursday, September 1, 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.

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

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Government of Brazil has supported the production of ethanol as an automotive fuel for many years, beginning in 1975 with the Pro?lcool 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.

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

Thursday, September 1, 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.

Global economic growth outlook supports demand for U.S. agricultural exports

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Annual world real economic growth is expected to rise from 2.2 percent in 2013 to 2.9 percent in 2014, maintaining a strong global demand outlook for U.S. agricultural trade.? All global regions are forecast to show stronger real GDP growth in 2014. Growth in Asia, which includes China?the largest U.S. export market in 2013?as well as a number of large and emerging U.S. markets, is forecast to rise to 4.3 percent in 2014. Asian growth is expected to be sustained primarily by domestic consumer demand, housing growth due to easier credit, and higher infrastructure spending.? Growth in the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) region, which includes the second and third largest U.S. markets in 2013?Canada and Mexico?is expected to strengthen to 3 percent in 2014.? In the NAFTA region, continued U.S. recovery is expected to drive higher regional growth in 2014, with real GDP growth in Mexico expected to reach 4 percent. European economies are forecast to recover in 2014 and, along with faster U.S. growth, are expected to strengthen trade and growth prospects for economies in the Middle East and Africa. Key risks to the outlook include the potential for inflationary pressures leading to more restrictive monetary and fiscal policies and slower growth in several emerging markets, as well the potential for slower financial recovery, credit expansion, and growth in the Euro zone countries. This chart is based on data found in the Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade: August 2013.

Asian and Western Hemisphere countries lead growth in U.S. agricultural exports

Thursday, September 1, 2016

U.S. agricultural exports are forecast at a record $140 billion in U.S. fiscal year (FY) 2013 (October 1, 2012-September 30, 2013), up 3 percent from FY 2012 and up 39 percent since FY 2010. The Asia region, along with North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partner countries in the Western Hemisphere have been the leading sources of growing demand for U.S. agricultural products. In Asia, China?forecast as a $22.5-billion market for U.S. agricultural exports in FY 2013?has emerged as the leading global U.S. market based on expanding imports of U.S. soybeans, cotton, corn, wheat, tree nuts, and dairy products. Japan (with U.S. agricultural exports forecast at $12.6 billion in FY 2013), South Korea ($5.2 billion) and Taiwan ($3.3 billion) remain major East Asian markets, while Southeast Asia ($10.8 billion), including Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, are important growth markets. In the Western Hemisphere, NAFTA partners Canada ($21.5 billion) and Mexico ($17.7 billion) have become the second and third largest U.S. markets, respectively. In FY 2014, U.S. agricultural exports are projected to decline to $135 billion as lower prices reduce the value of U.S. oilseed and product exports to China and other markets, and cotton exports fall because of reduced U.S. supplies and weaker Chinese demand. In FY 2014, Canada is projected to replace China as the largest U.S. agricultural market overall. This chart is based on data provided in Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade, August 2013, AES-79.

U.S. agricultural exports nearly tripled from 2000 to 2013

Thursday, September 1, 2016

U.S. agricultural exports nearly tripled between 2000 and 2013, reaching a record $140.9 billion in U.S. fiscal year 2012/13 (October/September). Growth has, to a large extent, been driven by higher incomes and rising food and feed demand in developing countries. Sales to developing countries were up about 250 percent between 2000 and 2013, and they now account for two-thirds of U.S. agricultural exports. Rising prices have been the other key driver of growth in U.S. agricultural exports. Both rising demand from the growing middle classes of developing countries and the falling value of the dollar have been important factors in boosting the world market prices of grains, oilseeds, and cotton?the traditional bulk commodities. Between 2000 and 2013, the volume of bulk commodities shipped from the United States actually fell slightly, but their value rose almost 8 percent annually. High-value product (HVP) exports rose even more than bulk products in value terms, and the value of U.S. agricultural exports in 2013 was still more heavily concentrated in livestock, horticultural and other HVPs than in bulk products. For HVP exports, developing countries have also played a larger role than developed country markets. The share of U.S. HVP exports directed to developing countries rose from 54 percent in 2000 to 58 percent in 2013. This is an updated version of a chart found in Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials.

Corn production in Brazil is expanding

Thursday, September 1, 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.

Charts of Note header image for left nav