China, Indonesia, and even Mexico may be able to produce clothing, electronics, and even cars at lower costs than the United States, but when it comes to producing food, America gets a lot with a little. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), our farms and ranches are among the lowest cost food producers in the world for many agricultural products. Our country’s dedication to creating a stable, efficient process for growing, processing, and selling the products that come from our farms and ranches ensures these products are of a consistent high quality. It is the combination of the low cost, consistent availability, and high quality that makes food products from the United States in such high demand around the world.
It is this demand, paired with the hard-work and commitment of our farmers and ranchers that enables the U.S. to export more than a third of the food we produce. As the leading agricultural exporter in the world, the U.S. exports about 45% of the wheat, 34% of the soybeans, and 71% of the almonds grown here. Our ability to export this volume of food without endangering the food supply for our own citizens is due in large part to the fact that today’s farmers and ranchers are able to produce more with less than their predecessors.
The USDA reports that advances in farming over the past 50 years have enabled today’s farms to produce twice as much wheat and three times as much corn as would have previously been possible with the same acreage and resources. In fact, our farms and ranches have been able to increase their productivity so much over the past 50 years that our ability to produce food outpaces the domestic demand for food, making more food available for export.
Exports come from all areas of agriculture. According to the American Farm Bureau, we currently export 94 million tons of coarse grains, which includes grains sold as feed. In addition, we also export large amounts of high value products including more than 4 million tons of poultry/meats and 3 million tons of fresh fruit.
Local Arizona farms and ranches were responsible for more than $1.5 billion in exports in 2011. From a cash receipt perspective, cotton is Arizona’s most valuable export with $360M followed closely by fruits and vegetables, fresh and processed, which accounted for $353M that year. Our ranchers were responsible for more than $120M in exported meat and products derived from livestock while dairy farmers contributed $105M in dairy products. Wheat rounds out the top 5 with $50M in exports.
- 4 Reasons to Celebrate National Farmer’s Market Week (fillyourplate.org)
- Ag Industry: 8 reasons Why I Love What I Do! (juliesfreshair.com)
- USDA Releases New Maps Identifying Major Crop Producing Areas: Cotton (fillyourplate.org)