U.S. Agriculture Exports

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Even though the relative importance of agriculture and agriculture-related industries in the overall U.S. economy has diminished in recent years, the sector continues to be a critical component of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). In 2012, the latest year available, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that the sector contributed $775.8 billion toward GDP, a 4.8 percent share; the output of the nation’s farms alone totaled $166.9 billion in 2012.* It should be noted that the contribution of agriculture to GDP is actually much more sizable because a number of sub-sectors related to agriculture, such as forestry, fishing, food, beverages, textiles and leather products, all rely on agriculture inputs to generate added value to the economy.

An important sub-category of U.S. agriculture involves agriculture exports, a sector that amounted to $141.3 billion in 2012. While this was less than 1 percent of total U.S. exports in 2012 (total U.S. exports in 2012 were $1.5 trillion), it still is a significant number. Furthermore, researchers at the USDA calculated that in 2012, each dollar of agriculture exports generated $1.27 in business activity; in addition, every $1 billion of agriculture exports created 6,577 American jobs with the 2012 exports resulting  in 929,000 full-time jobs, including 622,000 full-time jobs in the non-farm sector. Finally, USDA estimated that the $141.3 billion in exports produced an additional $179.5 billion in economic activity for a significant total economic output of $320.8 billion. Table 1 provides a 50-state breakdown of U.S. agriculture exports between 2002 and 2012, and Figure 1 provides a graphical representation of the top 10 exporting states in 2012.

As demonstrated in Table 1, during a 10-year period (2002 to 2012), U.S. agriculture exports have been thriving and expanding from $53.1 billion in 2002, to $90 billion in 2007, to $141.3 billion in 2012; between 2002 and 2012, U.S. agriculture exports grew by an impressive 165.8 percent. Confirming the growing magnitude of the agriculture sector in the states during this decade, 45 of the 50 states experienced triple-digit percentage increases between 2002 and 2012, with only a single state (Alaska) seeing negative growth. Louisiana saw the sharpest rise in exports during the decade (255 percent), and eight states experienced percentage increases that exceeded 200 percent.

As indicated in Figure 1, in 2012, the top U.S. state for agriculture exports was California with nearly $19 billion, followed by Iowa with $11.3 billion. Nearly three dozen states (33 to be precise) had agriculture exports that exceeded $1.1 billion in 2012, a number that demonstrates the importance of this sector to the overall economies of these states.

Additional analysis of U.S. agriculture exports relates to the type of commodity that is being exported, including details on commodities that have surged between 2002 and 2012, and those that have gained in relative importance over the decade. Table 2 provides a breakdown of these developments for the 2002 to 2012 period.

As documented in Table 2, for the decade under review, agriculture exports grew by 166 percent. Of the 23 export commodity categories, 17 commodities experienced triple-digit increases between 2002 and 2012, with a single commodity (unmanufactured tobacco) experiencing a single-digit increase (5 percent), and the remaining six commodities seeing double-digit increases. The three commodities with the largest increase between 2002 and 2012 were dairy products, tree nuts (such as almonds, hazelnut, macadamia, pecans, pistachio and walnuts) and corn. Impressively, the relative importance of soybeans as an American export commodity skyrocketed in the review period: in 2002, soybeans only constituted 11 percent of total agriculture exports; in 2012, soybeans rose to 17 percent of total agriculture exports, which was the most significant increase among all commodities.

In closing, notwithstanding the decline in the contributions made to the U.S. economy by the agriculture sector in recent years, the sector continues to play a pivotal role in the national economy. The agriculture sector remains one that added $775.8 billion toward GDP in 2012 while generating 929,000 full-time civilian jobs. Within the agriculture sector, exports remain a vital component, confirming that demand for a number of the nation’s agriculture commodities remains vibrant across the globe.

In closing, notwithstanding the decline in the contributions made to the U.S. economy by the agriculture sector in recent years, the sector continues to play a pivotal role in the national economy. The agriculture sector remains one that added $775.8 billion toward GDP in 2012 while generating 929,000 full-time civilian jobs. Within the agriculture sector, exports remain a vital component, confirming that demand for a number of the nation’s agriculture commodities remains vibrant across the globe.

* Statistical information related to this SLC Issue Alert is extracted from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. 2012 is the most recent year for which information is available; the 2012 data was released in October 2013. Data for 2013 will be released in October 2014.


In May 2014, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that the state's poultry exports to China would resume for the first time since July 2007. In June 2007, a ban on Virginia poultry was triggered after a case of low pathogenic avian influenza was reported in a poultry house.  Governor McAuliffe noted that "[P]oultry is the largest individual sector of Virginia's agriculture industry and increased exports will help support farm, processing, and transportation-related jobs in the commonwealth.  This will also bring enormous business benefits to the Port of Virginia at a critical time for that entity." The Chinese market is very lucrative for certain Virginia poultry items (such as chicken feet and wings) that are not of high value in the domestic market.  Virginia officials estimate that the state could see $20 million or more in export sales each year based on China's poultry purchases.  China was the top market for Virginia's other agriculture exports in 2013 with more than $580 million in purchases.

Source: "Virginia poultry experts to China resume for first time since 2007," The Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 5, 2014.


 

 

  

 

                                                                                                           

 

 

 

 

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