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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

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, imports, and the agricultural trade surplus are expected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reach record levels in FY2011. FY2011 U.S. farm exports are forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reach $137 billion, while agricultural imports are expected to reach $93 billion. The agricultural trade surplus is projected to be $44 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 China, Canada, Mexico, Japan, the European Union (EU), South Korea, and Taiwan. The United States in 2011 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.

China has been among the fastest-growing markets for U.S. agricultural exports. Agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico, both partners of the United States in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have also grown rapidly.

Most U.S. agricultural imports are high-value products, including fruits, nuts, vegetables, wine, and beer. The biggest import suppliers are NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico, and the EU. Together these three are forecast to provide more than 50% of total U.S. agricultural imports in FY2011. 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 used by the United States to promote U.S. agricultural exports. The United States also provides U.S. agricultural commodities to developing countries as food aid for emergency relief or use in nonemergency development activities.

Date of Report: July 29, 2011
Number of Pages: 56
Order Number: 98-253
Price: $29.95

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