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Idaho farm product exports on the rise

POCATELLO – Two separate sets of federal data both show that the total value of Idaho agricultural exports is on the rise.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data released in late October, the value of Idaho farm product exports totaled $2.076 billion in 2018, a 4 percent increase over the 2017 total.

A separate report based on U.S. Census Bureau data that became available the first week of November shows that total Idaho agricultural export value increased 7 percent through the first three quarters of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018.

The data show that despite the so-called retaliatory tariffs that some nations have placed on U.S. farm products, “Idaho companies are still finding new customers and new opportunities in global markets,” said Laura Johnson, who manages the Idaho State Department of Agriculture’s market development division.

However, she added, “The trade headwinds are strong enough that those numbers should be even better.”

The USDA farm export data for states is released annually, almost 10 months into the next year and is more comprehensive than the Census Bureau farm export data, which is released quarterly and is more timely but doesn’t capture all of the state’s agricultural exports.

For example, the Census Bureau data doesn’t capture Idaho farm products that moved to another state before being shipped overseas. That data, however, does track which nations Idaho’s ag exports are going to, which the USDA data does not.

However, both sets of data are generally close in terms of percentage increases or decreases and both show Idaho ag exports are on the uptick.

Idaho’s 2018 ag export value total of $2.076 billion is a four-year high and the USDA data shows that Idaho ag export value has now increased four straight years, although last year’s total is still below the record total of $2.29 billion set in 2013.

The USDA data shows that total U.S. agricultural export value increased half a percent last year, to $138.9 billion. That is 7 percent below the U.S. record of $150 billion set in 2014.

The Census Bureau data shows that the total value of Idaho ag exports through the first nine months of 2019 was $675 million, a 7 percent increase over the same period in 2018.

Dairy is leading the way when it comes to Idaho ag exports.

The USDA data shows that Idaho dairy product exports increased 4 percent last year to $370 million, making it the state’s top agricultural export.

The Census Bureau data shows Idaho dairy product exports totaled $146 million through the first three quarters of 2019. Although that total was down 10 percent compared with 2018, dairy was still easily the state’s top ag export through the first nine months of this year.

According to the Census Bureau data, Canada is the top destination for Idaho ag product exports this year, as $197 million worth of Idaho farm products were sold there through the end of September, a 6 percent increase over the same period in 2018.

Mexico ranked No. 2 with $152 million worth of Idaho ag exports, a 24 percent increase, and South Korea was No. 3 at $49 million, a 28 percent increase.

China ranked fourth at $38 million, an 8 percent decrease, and Japan was fifth at $35 million, an 18 percent increase.

According to the USDA data, wheat ranked No. 2 in Idaho in 2018 in terms of exported commodities. Idaho exported $294 million worth of wheat last year, up slightly from $292 million in 2017 but well below the record of $563 million set in 2011.

Idaho companies exported $263 million worth of processed vegetables in 2018, unchanged from the previous year. This category includes French fries. A record $157 million worth of fresh vegetables from Idaho were exported last year. This category includes potatoes.

A record $215 million worth of Idaho beef and veal were exported in 2018 and $58 million worth of “other livestock products” and $29 million worth of hides and skins were also exported from the state last year.  

Idaho exported a total of $120 million worth of feeds and other grains last year, up 8 percent compared with 2017.

A total of $77 million worth of processed grain products were exported from the state in 2018, a 9 percent increase.

According to USDA, a total of $1.38 billion worth of plant products and $689 million worth of animal products were exported from Idaho last year. Both totals were up from 2017.