On Our Plate: An Uncertain Season for U.S. Agricultural Trade

Posted by on May 1st, 2017 | 2 Comments »

Surplus corn being off loaded and piled on the ground. Bumper grain harvests have depressed global commodity prices, making it difficult for farmers to make ends meet.

This is an uncertain season for farmers, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet due to low prices for their products and an abundance of supply. Most of the food and agricultural goods produced in the U.S. are exported, so farmers rely on access to global markets for their livelihoods. But trade has become a political “hot-button” issue and its benefits, particularly in agriculture, are not well understood.

In recent weeks, the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S., Mexico and Canada has been thrown into doubt. Conversations about NAFTA tend to focus on the loss of jobs in the manufacturing or industrial materials sectors, while overlooking the phenomenal success of U.S. agricultural trade with Mexico and Canada and the benefits to U.S. farmers and rural economies.

In 2014, U.S. food and agricultural exports reached a record $150 billion, supporting more than 1 million American jobs. Exports grew by an average of 8 percent annually from 2000 to 2014, while imports increased by 7.8 percent. As a result, the U.S. agricultural trade surplus widened to $38.8 billion in 2014.

Agricultural trade is critical to the economic viability of America’s rural communities, particularly at a time when farmers are struggling due to low prices for their products and high commodity stocks. American consumers also benefit from trade, in the form of lower prices and year-round access to products such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

One of GHI’s five policy priorities is to Expand Regional and Global Agricultural Trade and Harmonize Standards. In addition to the advantages for U.S. farmers and consumers, trade agreements generate environmental benefits by moving products from where they can be produced most efficiently and sustainably to markets around the world.

GHI’s 2015 Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®) discussed the importance of agricultural trade to the U.S. economy and the need to invest in infrastructure to improve efficiency (pages 48-49).

The 2016 GAP Report® examines the importance of trade facilitation agreements (pages 60-65) which help countries improve the efficiency of their trading systems and increase opportunities for exporting and importing products.


For more on U.S. agricultural trade and the future of NAFTA, see the articles below.

Protectionist, nationalist rhetoric not beneficial for global countries, Deere CEO says

CNBC-Video, March 30, 2017

Trade Complexities Ahead for [USDA Secretary] Perdue

DTN Washington Insider, The Progressive Farmer, April 27, 2017

Report shows Illinois pork numbers up; producers look to exports to pick up supply

Illinois News Network, April 9, 2017

The American farmers who helped elect Trump say they “will never recover” if he trashes NAFTA

Quartz.com, April 26, 2017

Trump’s NAFTA renegotiation could actually give Mexico’s economy a boost

TheConversation.com, April 26, 2017

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  1. Steve Mercer says:


    Thank you for expanding the base of knowledge about the crucial nature of exports for U.S. agriculture. Another important resource for those with an interest is a new website, AgExportsCount.org, shared by the Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports and the Agribusiness Coalition for Foreign Market Development. The site includes a map linking organizations with successful efforts to promote farm and small-to-medium enterprise foods across the world. It also tells the story of two successful public-private programs supporting export market development, the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program.

    Steve Mercer
    Vice President of Communications
    U.S. Wheat Associates

  2. admin says:

    Thanks for sharing this great resource, Steve.