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Sunday, March 28, 2010

U.S. Agricultural Trade: Trends, Composition, Direction, and Policy

Charles E. Hanrahan
Senior Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Carol Canada
Information Research Specialist

Beverly A. Banks
Acquisitions Assistant

U.S. agricultural exports for FY2010 are forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reach $100 billion, while agricultural imports are expected to reach $77.5 billion. The agricultural trade surplus is projected to be $22.5 billion. Exports of high-value products (e.g., fruits, vegetables, meats, wine and beer) have increased since the early 1990s and now account for 60% of total U.S. agricultural exports. Exports of bulk commodities (e.g., soybeans, wheat, and feed grains) remain significant. 

Leading markets for U.S. agricultural exports are Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, the European Union (EU), South Korea, and Taiwan. The United States in 2010 is forecast to be the world's leading exporter of corn, wheat, soybeans, and cotton. The U.S. share of world beef exports, which declined after the 2003 discovery of a case of "mad cow disease" in the United States, is recovering as more countries have re-opened their markets to U.S. product. The United States, European Union, Australia, and New Zealand are dominant suppliers of dairy products in global agricultural trade. New Zealand and the United States are the main suppliers of nonfat dry milk to world markets, while the EU is the leading supplier of cheeses. 

Among the fastest-growing markets for U.S. agricultural exports are Canada and Mexico, both partners with the United States in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). U.S. agricultural exports to China, a member of the World Trade Organization since 2001, have grown at an annual rate of 15.7% since 1992. 

Most U.S. agricultural imports are high-value products, including fruits, nuts, vegetables, wine, and beer. The biggest import suppliers are the EU and NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico, which together provide 42% of total U.S. agricultural imports. Brazil, Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Colombia are also important suppliers of agricultural imports to the United States. 

According to estimates by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States provides the third-lowest amount of government policy-generated support to its agricultural sector among OECD countries. The United States' average applied tariff for agricultural products is estimated by the World Trade Organization to be 8.9%, a little more than twice the average applied tariff for non-agricultural products. Export subsidies, export credit guarantees, and market development programs are among the programs available to the United States to promote U.S. agricultural exports.

Date of Report: March 15, 2010
Number of Pages: 49
Order Number: 98-253
Price: $29.95

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