The value of U.S. agricultural exports during the first half of 2022 sailed past last year’s record pace, up 14 percent over the first half of 2021 (Figure 4). Total U.S. agricultural exports were over $100 billion through June compared to roughly $87 billion last year. Sales of beef and soybeans led the way, up 33 percent and 25 percent, respectively. Sales of other Nebraska commodities grew too, up 7-13 percent this year. In fact, export sales of all major commodities produced in Nebraska were higher through the first half of the year.
Higher prices this year are fueling the trade growth as many commodities are experiencing lower volumes shipped this year. The volume of corn exports is off 9 percent, pork is down 11 percent, and wheat fell 23 percent. Soybeans and beef exports are the exception. Soybean tonnage is up 2 percent year-over-year while the volume of beef exports is up 7.4 percent. The Daily Livestock Report says the first-half beef tonnage, 1.79 billion pounds, is the largest ever based on data since the 1980s. The surge has been driven largely by purchases by South Korea, China/Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan.
U.S. agricultural imports are higher this year too totaling $100.6 billion. In fact, the U.S. ran a trade deficit in agricultural goods during the first half of the year of $514 million. Last year saw a trade surplus of $3.5 billion over the same period. The largest U.S. imports are fruits, vegetables, wine, liquor, grain products, vegetable oils, and beef. Typically, the U.S. will run a trade surplus in agricultural goods. Last year the U.S finished the year with a trade surplus of $6.5 billion, marking the 62nd year it recorded a trade surplus in agricultural goods.
The picture for U.S. agricultural trade for the remainder of the year is blurry. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rising interest rates, inflation, and the rising value of the dollar are causing much uncertainty. The July USDA World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) projects lower export volumes for corn, soybeans, beef, and pork over the next year. Wheat and sorghum exports are projected to remain steady. Higher commodity prices need to continue to maintain the growth in export values.
Figure 4. Percentage Change in Agricultural Export Values: 2019-2021, YTD 2022