As Nebraska farmers are filling their grain bins as harvest proceeds, the U.S. Grains Council said the last export marketing year was a good one for farmers.
The council says U.S. exports of grain in all forms reached nearly 101 million metric tons, equivalent to 3.97 billion bushels, by the end of the 2019-20 marketing year.
While USGC said the export total declined 5% year-over-year, GIAF exports still represented the fifth highest year on record. USGC said tracking GIAF exports provides a more holistic view of the feed grains produced by U.S. farmers and consumed by overseas customers than sales of one grain product alone.
To do so, the council reviews exports across 10 product sectors, including raw grain exports of U.S. corn, barley and sorghum and value-added products including ethanol, distiller’s dried grains with solubles,and other co-products as well as the corn equivalent of exported meat products.
Corn crop difficulties
“There is no other way to frame it: The last marketing year was extremely difficult,” said Ryan LeGrand, USGC president and chief executive officer. “Our corn crop faced serious problems during planting, the growing season and harvest but the resiliency and forward-looking approach of the U.S. farmer remained ever-present.
LeGrand said feed grain exports started slowly but the last half of the year saw a rapid surge in sales and shipments, providing a strong finish to the 2019-2020 marketing year.
He said moving into 2020-21 marketing year, the council is “encouraged by the near-record sales happening already in the current marketing year.”
U.S. corn exports represented the largest percentage decline in 2019-20, down 14% year-over-year due to competitive South American supplies. Exports for the year totaled 45.1 million tons (1.78 billion bushels).
Mexico retained its position as the top market for U.S. corn at 14.5 million tons (571 million bushels), down 10% year-over-year.
Colombia increased imports slightly to 4.91 million tons (193 million bushels). China climbed into the top five U.S. corn buyers at 2.09 million tons (82.2 million bushels), USGC said that is a dramatic increase from 259,000 tons (11.6 million bushels) the year prior.
USGC said the outbreak of COVID-19 knocked back U.S. ethanol production and global demand for fuel ethanol.
“However, thanks to a surge in demand for industrial uses like sanitizer, ethanol exports ended the year at 1.36 billion gallons (482 million bushels in corn equivalent), down 12% year-over-year,” according to the USGC.
Exports to Brazil also saw a substantial decline of nearly 30% year-over-year to 263 million gallons (93.3 million bushels in corn equivalent). As a result, Canada claimed the top market slot at 321 million gallons (114 million bushels in corn equivalent).
USGC said reduced production from U.S. ethanol plants in spring and summer 2020 had a ripple effect on the availability and prices of U.S. DDGS. As a result, U.S. DDGS exports ended the year down 6.6% at 10.5 million tons. Mexico remained the top buyer, although total imports of 1.8 million tons represented nearly an 11% decline year-over-year.
By contrast, several top buyers of U.S. DDGS saw increases from the previous year, including South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Japan, the Philippines and New Zealand.
Barley exports declined, sorghum increased
U.S. exports of barley and barley products also declined 7.5% year-over-year to 493,000 tons (22.6 million bushels), according to the USGC. Mexico was the top buyer at 350,000 tons (16.1 million bushels), down year-over-year due to COVID-19 restrictions that limited beer production during summer 2020.
One sector seeing a bounce upward for the 2019-20 marketing year was U.S. sorghum exports, coming in at 5.15 million tons (203 million bushels),” USGC reported. China imported 3.67 million tons (144 million bushels). While this is a substantial increase from the previous year, USGC said exports remain well below previous highs. Exports to Mexico also increased 21.5% to 594,000 tons (23.4 million bushels), and smaller buyers like Mexico and Japan also saw significant increases.
The 2020-21 marketing year officially began Sept. 1, with the first month of USDA export data to be released in November.
Study: 1 in 5 jobs in Nebraska related to trade
In related news, a new study from Business Roundtable finds that international trade supported 270,700 jobs in Nebraska in 2018, having represented 1 out of every 5 jobs in the state before the pandemic.
The study found that since 1992, before the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the share of jobs tied to trade in Nebraska has increased by 80%. Additionally, the state’s trade-related employment grew four times faster than total state employment from 1992 to 2018, the study found.
The study said that although the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in significant economic disruption to U.S. workers and businesses, its findings show that opening markets to American goods and services around the world through rules-based trade is “critical to U.S. economic recovery and helping American workers and families get back on their feet.”
“Defeating the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerating economic recovery and expanding opportunities for all Americans depend on opening foreign markets to American goods and services, removing barriers to trade and investment and strengthening supply chain resilience,” said Lance Fritz, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Union Pacific and chair of the Business Roundtable Trade & International Committee.
Fritz said free and fair trade supports U.S. manufacturing, farmers and service providers by reaching more customers, strengthening U.S. innovation leadership and creating good-paying American jobs.
The study — prepared by Trade Partnership Worldwide — analyzes the latest-available employment and trade data from 2018 and examines the net impacts of both exports and imports of goods and services on American jobs.
— North America: Trade with Canada and Mexico supported 82,300 Nebraska jobs, underscoring the importance of fully implementing the newly enacted United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to strengthen North American competitiveness.
— China: Trade with China supported 54,500 Nebraska jobs in 2018, highlighting the importance of fully implementing the Phase One trade agreement, expeditiously negotiating additional structural reforms in China and removing additional tariffs and barriers to trade between the two largest economies in the world.
— Exports: Nebraska exported $10.1 billion in goods and $2.2 billion in services in 2018, including oilseeds and grains, meat products, agriculture and construction machinery and travel services.
— Small businesses: Of Nebraska’s 1,870 exporters, 80% are small- and medium-sized companies with fewer than 500 workers.
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