The value of U.S. agricultural exports through the first quarter of 2022 built on last year’s record pace, up 8 percent over the same period in 2021 (Figure 1). Sales of hides and skins have led the way this year, up 31 percent. Sales of most other commodities have grown too, up 6-24 percent this year compared to last. Soybeans are the only exception, off 9 percent due to slower sales to China. Higher prices this year relative to last year are the cause for the trade growth as the tonnage of red meats, wheat, corn, and soybeans sold are all lower. The volume of corn exports are off 2 percent, red meats are down 12 percent, and soybeans are off 24 percent.
The U.S. trade surplus in agricultural goods persists this year with a surplus of $1.2 billion in the first quarter. U.S agriculture trade notched a surplus of $6.5 billion last year on sales of $177 million. Last year’s surplus marked the 62nd year the U.S. has had a trade surplus in agricultural goods. The last trade deficit occurred in 1959. For context, the average cost of a new car in 1959 was $2,200 and gas cost $0.25 per gallon.
The picture for U.S. agricultural exports for the rest of the year is murky. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rising interest rates, inflation, the increased value of the dollar, and weather are creating much uncertainty. The USDA World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) released last week forecast lower volumes of exports for wheat, corn, and red meats over the next two years. Soybean exports are projected to remain steady. However, if prices stay firm, even if volume is lower, the value of U.S. agricultural exports could set another record this year.
Figure 1. Percentage Changes in Agricultural Export Values: 2019-2021, YTD 2022