November 26, 2006 - Another reason to thank America’s food producers

Because America’s farmers and ranchers do what they do so well, there aren’t too many Americans off the farm who give much thought to agriculture or its contributions beyond the dinner table.

Farmers and ranchers provide food, fiber and fuel; but they also provide something else that is very positive for the American economy. I am talking about our nation’s “trade balance.” Of course, those monthly reports show that for years we have had a negative trade balance. But those same reports also show there is one segment of trade that has a positive trade balance, and the latest report shows it is growing. I am talking about agriculture, the products from our farms and ranches that move into overseas markets.

In it’s quarterly trade report this month, the Department of Agriculture stated, “Fiscal 2007 farm exports will surge to a record $77-billion as higher sales of corn, soybeans, wheat and livestock push the country’s agricultural surplus to its highest level in three years.”

To give you an idea of how that compares, USDA boosted its export total by $5-billion dollars in that quarter alone, from the $72-billion estimated in its August report. And in the 2006 fiscal year that ended September 30th, we posted $68.7 billion in exports. So the new projection is an increase of nearly $9-billion over 2006.

Now, imports are also moving higher, because we have expanded our taste for foreign food products. Imports of cheese, wine, fresh produce and other products will hit a record $69-billion in 2007, but that still gives us an $8-billion trade surplus in agricultural products.

Which countries are the biggest buyers of our agricultural products? Our two NAFTA trading partners top the list; Canada is the #1 importer with shipments expected at $13.2-billion in 2007 followed by Mexico at $11.9-billion. Japan, our No. 1 agricultural buyer for decades, now ranks #3 with $9.1 billion; and China ranks 4th, importing $8.5 billion
of American agricultural products.

So...it’s another reason to salute America’s farmers and ranchers for their positive contribution to our balance of trade; not able to make it an overall positive balance, yet certainly maintaining and increasing the agricultural trade balance because of increased sales and higher prices.

As I write this the day after Thanksgiving, it’s one more reason to say thanks to America’s food producers and not take them for granted. And it’s why I ended my Thanksgiving Day table prayer with...bless the hands that prepared this food and bless the hands that produced it.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.