Economic Tidbits

Nebraska Counties Benefit from Exports

Record-setting exports of corn and beef pushed Nebraska agricultural exports to a record $9.2 billion in 2021, up 27 percent, or nearly $2 billion from 2020 (Figure 3). Nebraska topped the nation in exports of beef at $1.64 billion, was the second-largest exporter of hides and skins ($144 million), the third-largest exporter of corn ($2.34 billion), feed ($1.3 billion), and processed grain products ($390 million), and the fifth-largest exporter of soybeans ($2.16 billion), soybean meal ($390 million), and vegetable oil ($252 million). Pork and wheat exports last year were $308 million and $156 million, respectively.

Figure 3. Nebraska Agricultural Exports ($)

Source: Nebraska Agriculture and International Trade, Nebraska Farm Bureau

A report by Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Agriculture and International Trade, estimates how the value of exports breaks down for Nebraska counties (Figure 4). Platte County saw the greatest benefit among counties in terms of the value received from trade in 2021 with an estimated export value of $230 million. The county’s stout production sectors in both crops and livestock come through strong when considering the value of trade. Custer and Cuming Counties followed with estimated values of roughly $220 million each. Never before has a single county exceeded $200 million in export value, but 2021 saw three counties blast through the mark. Antelope and Dawson Counties both had estimated export values exceeding $175 million. In all, eleven counties saw export values exceeding $150 million. Counties least affected by trade included Hooker, Thomas, and Grant Counties with between $6-9 million in export value.

Figure 4. Estimated Total Export Value by County, 2021

Source: Nebraska Agriculture and International Trade, Nebraska Farm Bureau

The report also estimates the top export commodity for each county (Figure 5). As Figure 5 shows, the map of top export commodities looks markedly different compared to 2020. Not surprisingly, given the explosion in corn exports in 2021, corn was the top export commodity for 41 counties, an increase of 31 counties from 2020. These counties are primarily located in central Nebraska stretching from the borders with South Dakota and Kansas. In contrast, soybeans were the top export commodity for most counties in 2020 with 49. That number fell to 23 counties in 2021. The number of counties with beef as the top export commodity also slipped from 30 counties in 2020 to 27 in 2021. Wheat was the top export county in 2 counties. 

The geographic distribution of the top export commodities highlights the regional differences in agricultural production as well as changing export markets from year-to-year. Counties with soybeans as the top export commodity are located in the eastern third of the state where soybean production is most prevalent. As noted above, counties with corn as the top export commodity are found in central and southwestern parts of the state. Beef continues to dominate as the top export in the Sandhills, northern Panhandle, and Cuming County, regions where beef production is significant. And wheat dominates in counties in the southern Panhandle.

Figure 5. Estimated Top Export Commodity by County

Source: Nebraska Agriculture and International Trade, Nebraska Farm Bureau, 2020 & 2021

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