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USDA: 2021 agricultural exports shattered records


Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that American agricultural industry posted its highest annual export levels ever recorded in 2021.

The final 2021 trade data published by the Department of Commerce this morning shows that exports of U.S. farm and food products to the world totaled $177 billion, topping the 2020 total by 18 percent and eclipsing the previous record, set in 2014, by 14.6 percent.

The United States’ top 10 export markets all saw gains in 2021, with six of the 10 — China, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, the Philippines and Colombia — setting new records. Worldwide exports of many U.S. products, including soybeans, corn, beef, pork, dairy, distillers grains and pet food, also reached all-time highs. China remained the top export destination, with a record $33 billion in purchases, up 25 percent from 2020, while Mexico inched ahead of Canada to capture the number two position with a record $25.5 billion, up 39 percent from last year.

“These record-breaking trade numbers demonstrate that U.S. agriculture is incredibly resilient as it continues to provide high-quality, cost-competitive farm and food products to customers around the globe and that the Biden-Harris Administration’s agenda is working for American farmers and producers,” Vilsack said. “This is a major boost for the economy as a whole, and particularly for our rural communities, with agricultural exports stimulating local economic activity, helping maintain our competitive edge globally, supporting producers’ bottom lines, and supporting more than 1.3 million jobs on the farm and in related industries such as food processing and transportation.”

For example, U.S. dairy exports also had record sales of $7.75 billion in 2021, accounting for over 17% of U.S. milk production. 

milk pricing
Image by USDA

“The record demand for U.S. milk overseas in 2021 is a testament to the hard work and dedication of U.S. dairy farmers and the entire industry to making sure our high-quality, nutritious products feed the world as well as Americans,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “As we’ve said many times, exports represent the next frontier for U.S. dairy — it’s gratifying to see decades of effort bear fruit and only makes us more excited about the future successes ahead.”

However, they also pointed out that exports may have reached even higher levels had U.S. exporters not been battered by supply chain challenges that drove up costs and complexity of delivering dairy products to foreign customers. NMPF said the dairy industry will need proactive trade policies that remove barriers to trade and ensure that U.S. dairy farmers and manufacturers are equipped to compete on a level playing field.

Vilsack commented, “We’re addressing transportation and infrastructure challenges through the work of the Administration’s Supply Chain Task Force and calling out ocean carriers that are putting profits above their responsibility to serve both importers and exporters. And we’re expanding opportunities for agricultural exports by knocking down trade barriers and partnering with industry on marketing and promotion efforts worldwide.”

Check out the the detailed summary of 2021 U.S. agricultural exports by market here or by product here.

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