A Quick Primer on U.S. Agricultural Trade

Katherine Baylis

Katherine Baylis

University of Illinois

After lying largely dormant for the last few years, U.S. trade policy is now back in the spotlight.

In particular, concerns have been raised about our trade relations with Mexico and China, who together are the market for almost one-third of total U.S. agricultural exports. Given this recent scrutiny, I thought it would be useful to review the current state of trade in US agriculture.

For all the talk about the US trade deficit, agriculture is one industry where the U.S. has a trade surplus – in FY2016, we exported $129.7 billion while importing $113.1 billion of agricultural goods. And despite a global slowdown in overall trade, US agricultural exports are increasing. In this coming year, this growth is expected to be led by increases in wheat and corn exports and an increase in raw soybean exports.

Potential trade disputes with China and Mexico are of particular concern in agriculture, given that they involve or largest (China) and third largest (Mexico) export markets. Canada comes in as a close second. These are also the markets where we’ve seen the most growth: the largest expansion in exports over the past 25 years have been to China, followed by North America. And this growth is expected to continue. Our exports to both China and Mexico are predicted to increase in FY 2017, with exports to China expected grow to $21.8 billion from $21.5 billion and exports to Mexico expected to increase to $18.3 from $18 billion.