2nd highest year on record: 2020 agricultural exports thrive in pandemic year

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)– In 2020, the United States agricultural exports experienced the second highest year on record, with $145.7 billion in global sales of U.S. farm and food products, according to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) “2020 U.S. Agricultural Export Yearbook.”

This was a 7% increase from 2019. The highest year on record was 2014.

The top destinations for agricultural exports were China ($26.4 billion), Canada ($21.0 billion), Mexico ($18.1 billion), Japan ($11.5 billion), EU and UK ($11.2 billion), and South Korea ($7.5 billion).

The top commodities exported were soybeans ($25.7 billion), corn ($9.2 billion), tree nuts ($8.4 billion), pork ($7.7 billion), beef ($7.6 billion), prepared food ($6.7 billion), dairy products ($6.5 billion), wheat ($6.3 billion) and cotton ($6.0 billion).

South Dakota’s 2020 agricultural exports

As far as the state of South Dakota, 2020 agricultural exports were up over 2019.

“2020 was really a strong year for ag exports, largely based on increased exports to China, which were up almost 30% over 2019,” Public Affairs Director for the South Dakota Department of Agriculture Brian Walsh said.

Walsh said some of the state’s top exports included:

  • Grain products for livestock feed, valued at upwards of $110 million.
  • Soybean oil cake, around $81 million.
  • Soybeans, around $66 million.
  • Swine meat products, around $57 million.

“Overall, exports from South Dakota, for all commodities, were up about one and a half percent over 2019,” Walsh said. “Of course, there is quite a bit of variability depending on which commodity you are discussing.”

The top three countries that South Dakota exported to, Walsh said, were Canada, Mexico and China.

The outlook for 2021 is good, Walsh said. Exports remain up and a lot of the large increases are to China and are apart of the trade agreements there.

“I think 2021 looks good,” Walsh said. “We will keep our eye on things as we move forward, but we are optimistic.”

The outlooks that Walsh sees on the USDA’s website and the information they provide looks like exports could be up this year, he said.

“We hope that they’ll end up being higher, and that’s good for our producers,” Walsh said.

Some of the factors that play into a good export year include the availability of markets, the ability to transport the commodities out of the state and country, and how the ag production season goes, Walsh said.

South Dakota’s responsible approach to the pandemic was helpful in that it allowed our producers to continue to do their job and get their commodities out.

Brian Walsh, Public Affairs Director for the South Dakota Department of Agriculture

One area where they did see some impacts from the pandemic was in the meat processing side, specifically the smaller and local meat processors, Walsh said. Meat processors got overwhelmed due to some of the meat capacity problems that developed during the pandemic.

“In response to that, the Governor has directed the Department of Ag to implement a Meat Processing Grant with COVID relief funds,” Walsh said.

That grant application is opened now and ends May 1, Walsh said.

“The goal of that is to really strengthen and increase that meat processing compacity across the state,” Walsh said.

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