U.S. Agricultural Trade as a Share of U.S. Production


As the Doha Round of WTO trade negotiations drag on, questions have been raised about the importance of exports for U.S. farmers and ranchers. Efforts to boil down trade numbers to one dollar figure or percent of production have left much information unstated. This analysis relates exports to the value of farm production.

The starting point is the USDA supply and use estimates released by the World Agricultural Outlook Board (WAOB) on July 12, 2006 for the 2005/06 marketing years for crops and the 2006 calendar year for livestock and poultry. When other sources are used in this analysis, they are given.

The major farm program crops are the easiest to analyze because the WAOB provides the most complete information for corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton, rice, grain sorghum, barley and oats. This analysis uses acres harvested, total use, export volumes and average farm prices. Total use for the marketing year is used rather than total production because it normally does not match with domestic and export use. The farm value of exports is calculated by multiplying export volume times the average farm price. Acres exported are calculated by multiplying the total acres harvested by exports as a percent of total use. The following table provides a summary.

These eight farm program crops have a total farm value of $54.36 billion for the 2005/06 marketing years and exports account for $19.41 billion, 35.7 percent of the total value. The 82.1 million acres of production exported are 36.6 percent of the total acres harvested for the eight crops.

The farm value of exports for meat, eggs and dairy is harder to calculate. These are sometimes sold as products that may have greater value in an importing country than in the U.S. and increase the value of the live animal by a larger amount than the export weight would imply. To keep the process simple, this analysis will use the farm level value of commodities even though it likely understates somewhat the actual value of exports. The WAOB provides estimates for 2006 for production and exports for beef, pork, broilers, turkeys and eggs. A dairy production estimate is provided, but not exports, so the average of the last six years is used. The average farm prices for live hogs and cattle are used as estimated by the WAOB. Prices for the other commodities are taken from estimates by the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Agricultural Statistics Service of USDA.

The WAOB does not provide estimates of fruit and vegetable production and exports. Information from the ERS farm income estimates for 2006 and the ERS “Fruit and Vegetable Backgrounder” released in April of 2006 is used for this analysis. Farm sector cash receipts for fruits and vegetables for calendar year 2006 are estimated by ERS at $32.9 billion. The fruit and vegetable backgrounder reports that U.S. fruit and vegetable production has averaged 98.5 million tons per year for the past five years. The backgrounder also states, “In 2002-04 the United States shipped 9.4 percent of its total fruit and vegetable supply to other countries, compared with 8.8 percent in 1992-94.” Applying the 9.4 percent shipped to other countries to the $32.9 billion of cash receipts for fruits and vegetables gives a farm value of exports of $3.1 billion. Since many exports of fruits and vegetables are higher valued products, this analysis assumes that 12 percent of the cash value is a better estimate. That puts the farm value of exports for 2006 at $3.9 billion.

Some consumer-oriented ready-to-eat items are exported and are not included in the categories listed above. According to data from the Foreign Agricultural Service of USDA these products totaled $8.12 billion in calendar year 2005. The assumption in this analysis is that exports for these items in 2006 will be about the same as 2005 and that the farm value of the products in the exported items is 20 percent of the total value, $1.6 billion.

The total farm value of agricultural exports is estimated at $31.1 billion per year. Total cash receipts for 2006 are estimated by USDA at $231.7 billion. The farm value of agricultural exports as estimated in this analysis is 13.4 percent of the cash receipts for U.S. p

Ross Korves

Ross Korves

Ross Korves served Truth about Trade & Technology, before it became Global Farmer Network, from 2004 – 2015 as the Economic and Trade Policy Analyst.

Researching and analyzing economic issues important to agricultural producers, Ross provided an intimate understanding regarding the interface of economic policy analysis and the political process.

Mr. Korves served the American Farm Bureau Federation as an Economist from 1980-2004. He served as Chief Economist from April 2001 through September 2003 and held the title of Senior Economist from September 2003 through August 2004.

Born and raised on a southern Illinois hog farm and educated at Southern Illinois University, Ross holds a Masters Degree in Agribusiness Economics. His studies and research expanded internationally through his work in Germany as a 1984 McCloy Agricultural Fellow and study travel to Japan in 1982, Zambia and Kenya in 1985 and Germany in 1987.

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