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Idaho ag export value dips slightly in first quarter

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – The total value of Idaho’s agricultural exports dipped slightly during the first quarter of the year compared with the same period in 2021.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data that became available in early May and was crunched by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, Idaho exported $258 million worth of agricultural products to other countries during the January to March timeframe.

That is 0.8 percent less than the $260 million total registered during the first quarter of 2021.  

Considering Idaho set a record for total ag export value last year, the state’s ag exports are still strong.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau data, Idaho set a record for total agricultural export value in 2021 with $1.02 billion.

A stronger U.S. dollar and continuing supply chain disruptions were some of the major factors affecting Idaho farm product exports during the first quarter, according to industry experts.

Container issues at West Coast ports have had a negative affect on Idaho ag exports, said Laura Johnson, who manages the ISDA’s market development division.

“Not being able to get containers in a timely manner and then delivered to customers in a timely way is having an impact on exports,” she said.

Higher commodity prices supported the overall value of Idaho’s ag exports during the first quarter of 2022 but the strong U.S. dollar was a significant headwind for Idaho agricultural exports, said Doug Robison, the Idaho president for Northwest Farm Credit Services.

A stronger dollar generally makes U.S. products less competitive in the global marketplace.

“On average, the U.S. dollar increased during the first quarter of 2022 by 4.8 percent over the first quarter of 2021,” Robison said.

The severe drought conditions in Idaho last year have also impacted Idaho ag exports, Robison said. Yields and total production for most of the state’s major crops was down significantly in 2021 due to the drought conditions.

For example, total Idaho wheat and barley production were down 32 percent and 21 percent, respectively, last year. That meant less crop to export for a state that typically ranks No. 1 in the nation in barley production and fifth or sixth in wheat production.

“Grain exports decreased as a result of drought and reduced yields in non-irrigated crop areas during 2021, including the key export area of North Idaho,” Robison said. “This resulted in less grain available for export during the quarter.”

Dairy was Idaho’s top ag export category during the first quarter and the state exported $56 million worth of products included under the “dairy” category during the first three months of 2022, according to the Census Bureau data. That was an increase of 24 percent compared with the first quarter of 2021.

The dairy export category was supported by strong production and higher prices on a year-over-year basis, Robison said.

“Gains in dairy exports were offset by decreases in small grains,” he said.

Canada remained the top destination for Idaho ag exports and Idaho businesses sold $92 million worth of ag products to that nation during the first quarter of 2022, up 15 percent compared with the first quarter of 2021.

Mexico ranked as the No. 2 destination for Idaho ag exports with $35 million during the first quarter, a decline of 35 percent compared with the same period last year. A decrease in the total value of small grains from Idaho was a major factor in that decline.

China was No. 3 at $21 million, an increase of 31 percent compared with last year, and the Netherlands was No. 4 with $13.9 million, a half-a-percent decrease from last year.

Idaho ag export value to Japan ($13 million) and South Korea ($10.6 million) was down 9 percent and 23 percent, respectively.