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Idaho tied record last year for ag exports

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – The total value of Idaho farm product exports jumped 9 percent last year and tied an all-time high, according to one of the two main sets of data that track Idaho agricultural exports.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data that became available in early February and was crunched by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, Idaho businesses exported $1.02 billion worth of agricultural products to other countries in 2021.

That tied the previous record set in 2014.

That data from the Census Bureau differs from a separate set of data released annually by USDA because although the Census Bureau export data is released quarterly and is more timely, it doesn’t capture all of Idaho’s farm product exports because it is based on what state a commodity is exported from.

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 the USDA data, which is released annually in the fall.

The latest USDA data, released in late October, showed Idaho exported a record $2.32 billion worth of agricultural products in 2020, narrowly eclipsing the previous record of $2.29 billion set in 2013.

The USDA Idaho ag export data for 2021 won’t be released until this fall.

Idaho’s growth in agricultural exports was even more impressive considering the relative strength of the U.S. dollar, which strengthened almost 4 percent in 2021 on a trade-weighted basis, 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.

Idaho’s higher ag export value also came despite considerable supply chain issues, said Laura Johnson, who manages the ISDA’s market development division.

“It’s great that we hit a record for ag exports last year but it could have been so much more if we didn’t have the supply chain issues,” she said.

Higher commodity prices contributed to the increase in the overall value of ag exports, Robison added.

Idaho’s ag export growth last year was led by Canada, the top destination by far for Idaho farm product exports.

According to the Census Bureau data, Idaho exported $322 million worth of farm products to Canada in 2021, which was an increase of 24 percent compared with 2020.

“The demand from Canada was in part due to drought conditions within the country and reduced production across a variety of crops,” Robison said.

He said the combined factors of drought and supply chain problems are causing Canada to source more supplies from the U.S. that are closer in proximity.

Idaho farm product exports to Mexico in 2021 increased 3 percent, to $209 million, and Idaho ag exports to China totaled $77 million, a 5 percent increase over 2020.

Idaho farm product exports to Netherlands jumped 60 percent, to $56 million.

Idaho ag export value to Japan in 2021 decreased 22 percent, to $49 million, and it also decreased 24 percent, to $45 million, to South Korea.

Dairy was the state’s top ag product export in 2021, according to the Census Bureau data, which showed Idaho businesses exported a total of $194 million worth of dairy products last year, a 9 percent increase over 2020.

Live animal exports from Idaho – cows – continued to increase rapidly last year. According to the Census Bureau data, Idaho exported $78 million worth of live animals in 2021, which was a 35 percent increase over 2020.

Idaho live animal exports also increased 20 percent from 2019 to 2020.

Most of Idaho’s live animal exports in 2021 – $65 million worth – went to Canada.