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Total Idaho ag export value increased 2 percent in 2018

A field near Wilder is prepared to be planted with mint last month. Total Idaho agricultural export value increased 2 percent last year compared with 2017.

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – The total value of Idaho agricultural exports to other nations rose 2 percent last year, propelled by a 17 percent increase in dairy product exports.

Milk is Idaho’s top farm commodity in terms of total cash receipts and dairy accounted for 25 percent of the state’s total export value last year.

Last year marked the second straight year that Idaho’s total farm export value has increased. Idaho set ag export value records from 2011-2014 but experienced declines in 2015 and 2016.

The total value of Idaho ag exports was $829 million during 2017, an 11 percent increase over the 2016 total of $750 million.

During 2018, Idaho ag export value totaled $850 million, a 2 percent increase over 2017, according to data provided by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

Last year’s increase happened despite challenges posed by retaliatory tariffs posed on some U.S. farm products by some of the United States’ main trading partners.

Despite those tariffs, there are still a significant amount of market opportunities around the world for Idaho farm products, said Laura Johnson, who manages ISDA’s market development division.

However, she added, in addition to the retaliatory tariffs, U.S. agriculture faces several challenges on the global trade front.

“Our export value in 2018 could have been much higher if it weren’t for those trade headwinds,” Johnson said. “Those numbers should have been higher. Hopefully, those issues get resolved soon.”

U.S. and Idaho dairy operators have faced challenges on the global front due to the retaliatory tariffs, said Idaho Dairymen’s Association Executive Director Rick Naerebout.

“It was good to have that 17 percent increase in Idaho dairy product exports (in 2018),” he said. “But without the headwinds of tariffs, we could have done even better. We’ve missed opportunities because of those tariffs.”

Idaho sold $240 million worth of farm products to Canada in 2018, making that nation the top destination for Gem State agricultural products. That represented an 11 percent increase over the 2017 total.

Idaho ag product exports to Mexico totaled $178 million last year, a 5 percent increase.

Together, Canada and Mexico accounted for 49 percent of all Idaho ag export value during 2018.

Idaho ag exports to China decreased 4 percent to $59 million last year and Gem State ag exports also decreased to South Korea ($52 million, -9 percent), Netherlands ($41 million, -5 percent), Japan ($39 million, -15 percent) and Spain ($21 million, -26 percent).

Ag exports to Australia increased 50 percent, to $37 million, and they were up 43 percent ($12 million) to Thailand and 97 percent ($10 million) to New Zealand.

Total dairy exports from Idaho increased 17 percent to $212 million and oilseed exports were up 5 percent to $115 million.

Exports listed under the “edible vegetables” category declined by 15 percent, to $118 million, and exports listed under the “milling, malt and starch” category dropped 12 percent, to $87 million.

Exports of live animals jumped by 83 percent to $35 million. Almost all of those were dairy steers heading to feedlots in Canada.

All of these totals are based on Census Bureau data that is broken down on a quarterly basis for the ISDA by a private company.

A separate set of data based on U.S. Department of Agriculture information is released each October. That data, which is less timely than the Census Bureau data, shows that Idaho ag export value was up 6 percent during 2017. 

While the Census Bureau data is timelier because it’s released quarterly, it doesn’t capture all of the state’s farm product exports because it doesn’t capture products that moved to another state before being shipped overseas.

The USDA data does capture those products.

However, ISDA officials say the Census data is valuable because it shows current export trends and both the Census and USDA data show that Idaho ag exports are trending up.

From 2011 to 2014, total Idaho ag export value, according to the Census Bureau data, increased from $834 million to $922 million to $979 million to $1.02 billion. Each year was a new record.