U.S. agricultural exports totaled $140.5 billion in fiscal 2017, climbing nearly $10.9 billion from the previous year to the third-highest level on record. As it has done for well more than 50 years, the U.S. agriculture sector once again posted an annual trade surplus, which reached $21.3 billion, up almost 30% from last year’s $16.6 billion.
“U.S. agriculture depends on trade. It is great to see an increase in exports, and we hope to open additional markets to build on this success,” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. “I’m a grow-it-and-sell-it kind of guy. If American agricultural producers keep growing it, USDA will keep helping to sell it around the world.”
China finished the fiscal year as the U.S.’s largest export customer, with shipments valued at $22 billion, followed closely by Canada at $20.4 billion. U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico reached $18.6 billion, a 6% gain from last year, while exports to Japan grew 12% to $11.8 billion. Rounding out the top 10 markets were the European Union ($11.6 billion), South Korea ($6.9 billion), Hong Kong ($4 billion), Taiwan ($3.4 billion), Indonesia ($3 billion) and the Philippines ($2.6 billion).
U.S. bulk commodity exports set a volume record at 159 million metric tons, up 11% from fiscal 2016, while their value rose 16% to $51.4 billion. The surge was led by soybean exports, which reached a record 60 million metric tons valued at $24 billion. Exports of corn, wheat and cotton all grew as well, with the value of cotton exports climbing 70% to $5.9 billion, wheat exports up 21% to $6.2 billion and corn exports up 6% to $9.7 billion.
A number of other products saw significant export increases as well. U.S. dairy exports grew 17% to $5.3 billion, beef exports were up 16% to $7.1 billion and pork exports rose 14% to $6.4 billion. Overall, horticultural product exports increased 3% to nearly $33.9 billion, largely driven by an 8% increase in exports of tree nuts, which reached $8.1 billion, the second-highest total on record. Processed food and beverage exports rose 2% to $39.2 billion.
Exports are responsible for 20% of U.S. farm income, also driving rural economic activity and supporting more than 1 million American jobs both on and off the farm, USDA said.