9 Oct 2011 - Thanks for Asking...

It has become an annual event for me. Every year, not always at the same time of year, I receive a handwritten letter from a radio listener in Chicago who is very upset with the fact that we export so much of our agricultural production to other countries.

Her lead question always is “Mr. Samuelson, why do we export so much of our food overseas? If we didn’t export that food, we would have more here to feed hungry people and our food prices would be much lower.”

My response always includes the line “How much lower can some food prices go when you look at it from a percentage standpoint? We still spend less of our take-home pay for food than any other consumer in any other country in the world.” But it is a question people don’t fully understand, so let me add some additional reasons why agricultural exports are important.

If we were to stop exporting agricultural products, we would then have to decide which half of the nation’s farms and ranches we would shut down, since our ability to produce food far exceeds our ability to consume food and so we must export our surplus to maintain our efficient agricultural system. Ag exports provide a living for farmers, ranchers, truckers and dock workers as well as many other people and add a great deal to the economy of the United States.

Check the Monthly Balance of Trade Reports and you will find one area where we always have a positive trade balance. That category is agricultural exports, and the Department of Agriculture is projecting the value of those exports in the current marketing year to exceed 137-billion dollars. Every month that Balance of Trade Report shows a huge negative balance for total U.S. trade with that one exception, Agriculture.

Agriculture provides a lot of jobs, makes it possible for us to produce an abundant supply of food for U. S. and global consumers and it provides income for a lot of people. That is why we need agricultural exports. Thanks for asking.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.