Ag Policy Blog

GOP Senators Demand Biden Officials Respond to Waning Ag Exports and Trade Deficit

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Agricultural exports have slowed down in the past year and major markets such as China have dialed back their shipments. Republican senators are calling on the Biden administration to more aggressively increase trade deals. (DTN file photo)

Republican senators are complaining to the Biden administration about the "continued erosion of critical markets for U.S. agricultural exports."

The letter from 22 GOP senators comes as agricultural exports are falling, but also coming off the three best years in history as well.

The senators pointed to the spread in the U.S. agricultural trade deficit that is projected to reach $30.5 billion for FY 2024. "This decline is unsustainable, and we urge the Biden administration to immediately take action to improve the competitiveness of U.S. agricultural products abroad and reverse this trend."

While pointing to expected fluctuations due to macroeconomics and market conditions, the senators said the current sharp decline in U.S. exports "is directly attributable to and exacerbated by an unambitious U.S. trade strategy that is failing to meaningfully expand market access or reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade."

The senators demanded the Biden administration detail "new or improved trade agreements" in 2024 and detail efforts to expand U.S. market access."

To help boost export sales, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the Regional Agricultural Promotion Program (RAPP) last November with $1.2 billion in funding -- including $300 million for FY 2024. The program will release funds starting in June to checkoff groups and others to promote U.S. commodities to emerging export markets. Groups that receive the funds would look to promote their commodities or products to markets that are not already among their largest markets. The RAPP program was started after leaders on the Senate Agriculture Committee wrote Vilsack to find a way to boost funding for export programs.

The senators' letter comes just as China has canceled two of the largest wheat sales in history. China has drawn increasing ire from Congress and states, which are increasingly clamping down on Chinese investments and restricting any attempts by Chinese companies to buy land. The House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday also announced a hearing on March 20, "The Dangers China Poses to American Agriculture."

China bought $29 billion in U.S. agricultural goods in 2023, after buying a record $38.1 billion in 2022. Sales to China continue to fall. In January, sales to China were $3.1 billion, down 31% from a year earlier.


The export numbers are a little different here because the senators used the fiscal year instead of calendar year that USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FSA) uses.

Agricultural exports for calendar year 2023 were nearly $174.9 billion, third-highest in history, behind only $195.9 billion in 2022 and $176.6 billion in 2021, according to the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)

In the six previous years before 2021, U.S. agricultural exports averaged around $142.6 billion a year.

At the same time, agricultural imports also have hit record levels as well. Imports in 2023 were valued at just under $196 billion, putting the agricultural trade balance at a record $21 billion. Agricultural imports peaked at $199.3 billion in 2022 -- the same year as record export values -- ending the year with a $3.4 billion negative agricultural trade balance.

For January, FAS shows exports were nearly $14.9 billion, but imports were $17.4 billion, reflecting a negative trade balance of $2.5 billion for the month.

Senators' letter to Biden administration officials:…

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