US agriculture exports strong in 2017

 ( Photo: Shutterstock )
( Photo: Shutterstock )

America’s agricultural sector had a highly productive 2017 with the aid of export markets. Despite severe damage to some of the nation’s most productive growing regions, including two hurricanes, massive fires, and seemingly never-ending rains, the country recorded it’s third largest export total ever.

According to a statement released by the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), a branch of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the nation shipped over $140.5 billion dollars of agricultural goods abroad this past year.

“As we wrap up another banner year for U.S. agricultural exports, I’m proud of the role that Foreign Agricultural Service has played,” said FAS Acting Administrator Holly Higgins, “especially since those exports generate 20 percent of U.S. farm income, stimulate rural economic activity and support more than a million American jobs.

There have been several advances in trade policy that helped to create or expand markets for U.S. agricultural producers. This includes the renegotiation of some trade rules with China which has allowed U.S. growers and farmers to ship products, including beef and rice as well as new varieties of corn and soybeans, to the largest market in the world.

 “FAS staff around the globe have worked tirelessly with their counterparts across the U.S. Department of Agriculture, finding, opening and expanding markets for the high-quality food, fuel, feed, and fiber that our farmers and ranchers produce,” said Higgins. “We’ve done so by focusing on what we call our ‘three pillars’ – trade policy, trade promotion, and trade capacity building and food security.”


The strength of agricultural production certainly helped to spur the freight markets in 2017. Record production in some growing areas coupled with this opening of more lucrative international markets caused even tighter capacity constraints. Then add rail transport failures, calamitous storms, the ELD mandate, and an expanding domestic economy on top of the agricultural boom and 2017 presented a solid opportunity carriers.  

For ag producers who ship internationally, domestic transport is only one side of the equation. There are frequently barriers to trade to that transcend the borders of the US. Agricultural exporters credit FAS staff with helping to get detained loads out of detainment in foreign ports, the total value of which being assessed at over $27 million.

In addition, the FAS helped to organize international trade missions to Egypt, Brazil, and India, which helped to generate an estimated $30 million in sales for the year. And the agency coordinated the participation of over 1,000 US companies and non-profits in 20 USDA endorsed trade shows in multiple countries around the world. The FAS estimates that this exposure resulted in almost $2.5 billion in sales for U.S. agricultural producers.

Furthermore, the FAS provided over 275,000 tons of U.S. produced commodities to help in providing food and helping with agricultural development for around 5 million people worldwide.

“With 2018 on the horizon, FAS staff members in Washington and 93 worldwide offices are redoubling their commitment to opening and expanding export markets and breaking down trade barriers for U.S. farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses,” Higgins said. “We’re proud to be part of the USDA team that, in Secretary Perdue’s words, is working to ‘do right and feed everyone.’”

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Ben Thrower, Contributor

Ben contributes to the FreightWaves website as one of its Market Voices. Ben was a financial analyst at Dole Fresh Vegetables in Monterey, California focusing on the company’s extensive supply chain. He holds a Master of Science in Finance from the University of Utah and a Master of Science in Logistics Management from Georgia College and State University. In addition to contributing to FreightWaves, Ben is an instructor of business statistics and computer applications at the Wright School of Business at Dalton State College in Dalton, Georgia. In his spare time, Ben loves to travel and spend time with his dog, Bodhi.