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Idaho sets another record for ag export value

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – Idaho set a record for total value of agricultural exports in 2022, according to USDA data released in late October. It was the third straight year the state set a record in that category.

According to a separate set of data released by the U.S. Census Bureau in early November, the state was on pace through the first nine months of 2023 to set another record for total ag export value.  

According to the USDA data, $2.89 billion worth of agricultural products from Idaho were exported to other countries in 2022. That was up 12 percent from the 2021 record of $2.57 billion and 28 percent more than the $2.26 billion total in 2020, which was also a record at the time.

“The monetary value of Idaho’s 2022 agricultural exports increased by 12.3 percent, outpacing the overall U.S. increase of 10.4 percent,” said Doug Robison, the Idaho president of AgWest Farm Credit. “Idaho’s export gains also outpaced the other Northwest states by a considerable margin.”

The Census Bureau data is released monthly and is based on what state a commodity is exported from, so it doesn’t capture all of Idaho’s farm product exports.

For example, it doesn’t capture the wheat from Idaho that is exported out of Portland. But it does show trends and from a percentage standpoint, matches closely with USDA data that is released annually in the fall.

The USDA data captures more of the state’s farm exports but it is not as timely as the Census Bureau data. However, both sets of data match closely when it comes to percentage increased and decreases.

Both sets of data show that Idaho’s agricultural exports are on the rise and in record territory.

According to the recently released Census Bureau data, Idaho ag export value through the third quarter of 2023 totaled $893 million, which was 5 percent more than the 2022 total of $849 million during the same period.

The Idaho record for ag export value, according to the Census Bureau data, is $1.13 billion, set in 2022.

Much of Idaho’s gain in total ag export value in 2022 was achieved due to higher commodity prices. In 2023, prices for many of Idaho’s top agricultural commodities are down significantly compared with 2022, which means the 2023 gains are due more to volume increases.

Farm-level dairy prices hit record levels last year and led Idaho’s ag export value gains in 2022. In 2023, dairy prices are much lower and it’s other ag categories that are leading the gains.

According to the USDA data, a record $714 million worth of dairy products from Idaho were exported to other nations in 2022.

In 2023, according to the Census Bureau data, Idaho dairy export value is down significantly. But other categories are up substantially.

That includes the processed vegetable category, which includes frozen potato products such as French fries.

The fresh vegetable category, which is largely potatoes, is also up and a lot of that increase is related to the entire Mexico market being open for the first time to fresh U.S. potatoes.

The U.S. Census Bureau data shows Idaho exports to Mexico in the prepared vegetables category, which largely consists of frozen potato products, totaled $55 million through the first nine months of 2023. That is up 259 percent compared with the same period last year.

Referring to the recent opening of the entire Mexico market to U.S. fresh potatoes, National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles recently told Idaho potato growers: “The news has been increasingly positive for a market that you just couldn’t imagine five years ago would be open to us. It’s a great thing for the industry.”

“It is a huge market,” Idaho Potato Commission CEO Jamey Higham told Idaho potato farmers Nov. 15 in Idaho Falls during the IPC’s annual Big Idaho Potato Harvest Meeting. “Mexico, I think, is our best opportunity for growth this year.”

Dairy, at $714 million, was the state’s top ag export in terms of value in 2022, according to the USDA data.

Idaho also exported a record $307 million worth of beef and veal products in 2022, and $385 million worth of wheat.

A record $187 million worth of fresh vegetables from Idaho were exported in 2022, as well as a record $321 million worth of processed vegetables. Both those categories include potatoes.

Idaho exported a record $161 million worth of feeds and other feed grains last year, as well as $73 million worth of processed grain products.

The USDA data shows Idaho exported a record $1.75 billion worth of plant products in 2022 and a record $1.15 billion worth of animal products.

The Census Bureau data show that through the first nine months of 2023, Canada is the top market for Idaho ag exports. Idaho exported $288 million worth of ag products to Canada through the third quarter, up 6 percent compared with the same period in 2022.

Mexico through the third quarter of 2023 is the state’s No. 2 ag export market ($186 million, up 54 percent), followed by China ($83 million, down 14 percent) and Japan ($51 million, up 15 percent).