Ag Policy Blog

U.S. Ag Exports Top a Record $177 Billion in 2021

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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A bulk cargo ship being loaded with soybeans. U.S. soybean exports topped $27.37 billion in 2021, according to final export data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Overall, U.S. agricultural exports reached a record $177 billion in 2021, a record amount. (DTN file photo)

Final trade data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Commerce shows agricultural exporters shipped $177 billion in goods in calendar 2021, a record volume and topping 2020 totals by 18%.

USDA noted in a news release the $177 billion eclipsed the previous export record of $151.2 billion set in 2014 by 14.6%.

China, Mexico and Canada bought a lot of those agricultural goods, collectively combining for nearly 49% of all export sales.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the record-breaking numbers for 2021 show U.S. agriculture "is incredibly resilient as it continues to provide high-quality, cost-competitive farm and food products around the globe" as the secretary then put in a plug for the administration's work.

Vilsack added, "This is a major boost for the economy as a whole, and particularly for our rural communities, with agricultural exports stimulating local economic activity, helping maintain our competitive edge globally, supporting producers' bottom lines, and supporting more than 1.3 million jobs on the farm and in related industries such as food processing and transportation."

The top 10 export markets for U.S. agricultural products all saw gains in 2021 with six countries -- China, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, the Philippines and Colombia – setting new records for shipments.

USDA put China's purchases at $33 billion, though the Foreign Agricultural Service using "agricultural products" coding put Chinese purchases closer to $35.9 billion. While either figure would be a record for a single country, China's Phase One target was $43.5 billion.

Breaking down individual sales to China, the U.S. shipped $14.1 billion in soybeans in 2021, up slightly from 2020, but corn purchases hit nearly $5.1 billion, compared to $1.22 billion in 2020. Cotton sales declined to $1.343 billion in 2021, compared to $1.822 billion in 2020. Wheat sales were $802.5 million, up from $569.8 million in 2020.

China's U.S. beef purchases reached $1.592 billion in 2021, compared to $310.5 million in 2020 -- a whopping 512% spike in sales.

Pork sales declined, coming in at $1.698 billion compared to $2.28 billion in 2020.


Mexico was the second-highest export market. Sales to Mexico reached $25.72 million in 2021, up 39% from 2020 -- after a nearly $1 billion drop in sales in 2020 compared to 2019. Corn sales to Mexico ended at $4.7 billion, a 76% spike compared to 2020 sales.

Coming in right be behind Mexico was Canada. Sales to Canada came in at $25.05 billion, up 25% for the year. Dairy products, always closely watched, saw a 16% increase compared to 2020, hitting $850.9 million.

Fresh fruits and vegetables combined for $3.716 billion in sales to Canada. Fruits saw a 10% bump in sales. Bakery goods, cereals and pasta also combined for $2.2 billion in sales, but down 3% from 2020.


Japan came in at $14.24 billion, a 22% increase over 2020 sales.

South Korea purchased $9.38 billion in products, also a 22% increase over 2020 purchases.


Soybeans: $27.37 billion, up 7% from 2020

Corn: $18.72 billion, up 103%

Beef: $10.58 billion, up 38%

Tree Nuts: $8.88 billion, up 6%

Pork: $8.11 billion, up 5%

Dairy products: $7.66 billion, up 19%

Wheat: $7.24 billion, up 15%

Fruits and Vegetables (fresh, processed and juices combined) $6.29 billion, up 5.7%

Cotton: $5.71 billion, down 4%

Poultry products: $5.25 billion, up 24%

Ethanol: $2.77 billion, up 21%

For a full look at agricultural exports, go to the Foreign Agricultural Service Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS)…

Chris Clayton can be reached at

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