|Worldwide Demand for American Ag Soars in 2011|
Innovation Important Ingredient
The United States exported a record amount of agricultural products in 2011 – an achievement Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said demonstrates "once again that American agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy."
And while Alabama’s farm export sales were nearly $1.124 billion in 2011, that total was the lowest in the last four years.
With U.S. export gains posted in almost all major farm commodities, overseas sales reached $136.3 billion last year, a $20.5 billion increase over the previous record set in 2010. In addition to the increase in value, the volume of international sales was up.
Grains were the biggest contributor to the overall record, reaching an all-time high of $37.7 billion, a $9.2 billion increase over 2010. Cotton recorded the biggest year-to-year increase, up 44 percent from 2010, reaching a record $8.5 billion. Dairy and pork exports also set records in 2011, reaching $4.8 billion and $6 billion, respectively.
"These figures indicate how demand for the American brand of agriculture continues to soar worldwide, supporting good jobs for Americans across a variety of industries like transportation, renewable energy, manufacturing, food services and on-farm employment," Vilsack said. "During the past three years, the U.S. farm sector has continued to support and create jobs on a consistent basis, strengthening an American economy that’s built to last."
According to USDA, every $1 billion in agricultural exports supports 8,400 American jobs, meaning U.S. farm exports helped support more than 1 million U.S. jobs in 2011.
Beef sales represented another success story, posting an all-time high of $5.4 billion in exports, $1.6 billion more than the previous record. The volume of shipments also topped the 2003 level, the last year before the detection of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Washington state disrupted U.S. trade.
The return to pre-2003 levels marks an important milestone in USDA’s efforts to open and expand international markets, Vilsack noted.
"Despite this progress, restrictions continue to constrain exports to many of our key markets and we remain fully committed to breaking down those trade barriers," he stated.
Beef producers received more good news with the announcement by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) early this year that it would liberalize imports of U.S. beef by eliminating age restrictions. The UAE is one of the largest markets for U.S. beef in the Middle East.
Canada remains the largest market for U.S. farm products, although China now ranks as a close second. Other key buyers, in order, are Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia and Egypt.
From a value standpoint, soybean exports ranked first in 2011, followed by coarse grains, wheat, red meats and cotton.
Vilsack pointed to the innovation of American farmers as an important ingredient in export sales gains.
"American agriculture continues to apply the latest in technology and achieve a nearly unparalleled level of productivity," he said, adding that U.S. agriculture ranks only behind information technology in output gains.
Poultry meat exports were Alabama’s largest in terms of value in 2011 with bulk agricultural products, primarily soybeans, ranking second. The value of bulk export shipments from the state in 2010 was more than double 2011’s total, due primarily to much higher soybean sales. Alabama’s soybean export sales in 2011 were less than half those in 2010.
Alabama’s biggest year in agricultural exports was 2009 when sales totaled more than $1.2 billion.
USDA noted that determining export sales by state is inexact for a number of reasons including the fact that a state like Louisiana is credited for the export of farm products produced elsewhere and barged down the Mississippi River to New Orleans for shipment overseas. Similarly, the value of exports from states where such products were grown tends to be understated.
Louisiana in 2011 did rank first among all states in total agricultural exports, followed in order by California, Washington, Texas and Illinois.