The Economic Research Service (ERS) of USDA provides estimates of U.S. agricultural exports by state. They do not track actual shipments from the state of production to export markets; for most products export allocations are based on state production estimates. ERS also uses Customs district export data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau. The estimates provide a picture of the wide range of U.S. agricultural exports.
A few patterns are clear from the estimates. First, major exporting states fit into either a feed grains/soybeans/meat framework or a fruit/vegetable and other products framework. The two groups of states have different market concerns and trade policy challenges. Second, some states have a narrow base of exports that leave them vulnerable to demand changes in just a couple of markets. Third, about a third to half the states have a minor role in exports. Individual producers or commodity groups in those states may be extremely committed, but the broader political process is less interested.
U.S. agricultural exports as measured by USDA totaled $68.72 billion in fiscal year 2006, October 1, 2005 to September 30, 2006. California continued as the leading export state at $10.48 billion, 15.3 percent of total U.S. agricultural exports. California’s exports were 2.5 times the exports of the next largest state, Iowa at $4.21 billion. Texas was the third largest state at $3.81 billion, followed by Illinois at $3.79 billion, Nebraska $3.26 billion and Kansas $3.22 billion. The top ten states were rounded out by Minnesota at $2.98 billion, Washington $2.23 billion, North Carolina $2.05 billion and Indiana $2.04 billion. The top 10 states in 2006 accounted for 55 percent of agricultural exports, basically unchanged from 56 percent in 2005.
California is not only the biggest exporting state, it is also the most unique in its product mix. The largest export category is tree nuts at $2.73 billion, 93 percent of U.S. tree nut exports. Fruit and preparation exports totaled $2.35 billion, 52 percent of U.S. exports, while vegetables and preparations exports were $1.53 billion, 39 percent of U.S. exports. California is also a “commodity” exporter with $400 million of cotton and cottonseed, $390 million of dairy products and $380 million of rice. It also exports $1.8 billion of “other” products. An ERS analysis by Nora Brooks notes that “Nearly three-fourths of California’s other product exports are wine and nursery and greenhouse products.”
Commodity products dominate the exports of most of the other largest agricultural exporting states. For number two state Iowa, corn and soybeans accounted for 68 percent, $2.86 billion, of its $4.21 billion in exports. Live animals and meat exports were $970 million. Number four state Illinois had 70 percent of its exports in corn and soybeans, $2.63 billion, out of total exports of $3.78 billion. Illinois’ live animals and meat exports were estimated at $370 million.
Texas is the third largest exporting state at $3.81 billion and one of the most diversified states. Cotton and cottonseed lead in exports at $1.28 billion, 34 percent of total state exports. Other major export items included lives animals and meat at $420 million, hides and skins $310 million, feeds and fodders $300 million, wheat $280 million and feed grains $260 million. Texas is also in the top ten states in exports of fruit, poultry, tree nuts, dairy products, rice, peanuts and sunflower seed and oil.
The number five agricultural export state, Nebraska at $3.26 billion, looks a lot like its neighbor Iowa with feed grain and soybean exports of $1.62 billion, 50 percent of its exports. Live animal and meat exports were $670 million, hides and skins $380 million and feeds and fodder $220 million. Neighboring state Kansas was at number six with $3.22 billion in total agricultural exports and the number one wheat export state at $910 million, 28 percent of its exports. Other major export items included feed grains at $560 million, live animals and meat at $450 million, feeds and fodders $440 million and hides and skins $380 million. Minnesota, the number seven state with $3.0 billion of exports, is a corn and soybean state with exports of $1.66 billion, 55 percent of total exports. It is more diversified that some other Midwestern states with live animals and meat exports of $340 million, wheat $240 million, vegetables $140 million, and feeds and fodders $100 million.
Washington is the eighth largest state in agricultural exports at $2.23 billion. Fruits and preparations were the leading export category at $830 million, 37 percent of total agricultural exports. Two other categories are also important, vegetables and preparations at $410 million and wheat at $310 million. North Carolina at number nine in exports with $2.05 billion is also a diversified state. Unmanufactured tobacco led with $410 million in exports, 20 percent of total state exports, followed by live animals and meat at $350 million, poultry $280 million and cotton $270 million. The tenth state in agricultural exports was Indiana with exports of $2.04 billion. Corn and soybeans dominate with $1.40 billion, 68 percent of the state total. Live animals and meat exports were $230 million and poultry $120 million.
While talking about the value of U.S. agricultural exports is often politically popular, 28 of the 50 states had agricultural exports of less than $1 billion per year. Ten of those had exports of less than $100 million per year. Most of those ten are in the Northeast, but they also included Nevada at $44 million and Wyoming at $53 million. States with exports of less than $1 billion per year that are considered major agricultural states include Mississippi at $950 million, Tennessee $924 million, Idaho $911 million and Colorado at $852 million. Producers in all states gain when agricultural exports increase, but that can be a hard message to sell when a state is not a major exporter.