Ag exports forecasted to continue climbing

U.S. farm exports continue to rally and remain on the record-setting pace of the past eight years.

Fiscal year 2017 agricultural exports are projected at $134.0 billion, up $1.0 billion from the August forecast, largely due to expected increases in dairy and livestock byproduct exports, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service’s latest agricultural trade outlook.

“At a projected $134 billion in 2017, U.S. farm exports continue to rally and remain on the record-setting pace of the past eight years,” said secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack. “Since 2009, the United States has exported more than $1 trillion in agricultural products, far more than any other period in our history, thanks to the productivity and ingenuity of American farmers and ranchers, aided in part by the work of USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service to arrange and support trade missions and of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to break down trade barriers.”

The $134-billion forecast represents an increase of $4.3 billion from 2016 and would be the sixth-highest total on record. U.S. agriculture is once again expected to post a trade surplus, totaling $21.5 billion, up nearly 30% from the $16.6 billion surplus in 2016.

"The expected volume of 2017 exports is noteworthy, with bulk commodity exports expected to surpass last year's record levels - led by soybeans at a record 55.8 million metric tons, and corn, up 11% from last year, to 56.5 million metric tons. The volume of cotton exports is expected to begin recovering and most livestock and poultry products should see moderate increases in export volume as well,” Vilsack said.

While beef and pork forecasts remain unchanged, dairy is forecast $500 million higher at $5.3 billion. Grain and feed exports are forecast up $300 million to $29.6 billion, driven primarily by stronger wheat volumes and unit values as well as by corn volumes, helping to offset expected declines in rice exports. Cotton exports are forecast at $4.4 billion, a $200 million increase, due to a poor harvest in Brazil and production uncertainty in India. Soybean export volumes continue to set records, raising the soybean forecast $500 million, which is countered by expected declines in soybean meal, soybean oil and other oilseed products. Overall, the oilseed and product forecast remains unchanged at $31.0 billion.

Forecasts to China and Mexico received the largest upward adjustments, each increasing $300 million. China continues to be forecast as the top market for fiscal year 2017 at $21.8 billion, followed by Canada ($21.3 billion) and Mexico ($18.3 billion).

The report noted that the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President “has introduced an element of uncertainty as the emphasis of the next administration’s economic policy agenda is unknown.” ERS noted “a change in the U.S. trade relationship with China and Mexico is of particular concern for agricultural competitiveness.” Together these two countries were the destination for an average of almost one-third of total U.S. agricultural exports from 2013-2015. China alone was the destination for roughly 60%of U.S. soybean exports, on average, during this period.

U.S. agricultural imports in fiscal year 2017 are forecast at $112.5 billion, down $1.0 billion from the August forecast. Reduced imports of horticultural, sugar, and tropical products are leading the forecast decline. As a result, the U.S. agricultural trade surplus is expected to increase to $21.5 billion in fiscal 2017.

Exports are responsible for 20% of U.S. farm income, also driving rural economic activity and supporting more than one million American jobs both on and off the farm, Vilsack noted.

Read the full forecast.

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