Top 10 Ag Stories of 2023: No. 5

King Corn Gives Up Its Crown as US Export Share Remains in Decline

Todd Hultman
By  Todd Hultman , DTN Lead Analyst
Connect with Todd:
The chart above shows declining export market share for the big three U.S. crops during the past few decades, a trend that is not likely to change anytime soon. (DTN ProphetX chart)

Editor's Note: Each year DTN publishes our choices for the Top 10 ag news stories of the year as selected by DTN analysts, editors and reporters. This year, we're counting them down from Dec. 18 to Dec. 29. On Dec. 31, we will look at some of the runners-up for this year. Today, we continue the countdown with No. 5: U.S. corn exports came in second place to Brazil for the first time in 2022-23, another sign of declining export market share in a world that is becoming increasingly competitive for the big three crops. As we look at the importance of this story, we also look at how this happened.


Less than a decade after the end of World War II, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the United States Congress passed the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954 in an attempt expand U.S. trade with "friendly nations," meaning noncommunist countries and definitely not the Soviet Union. The act, Public Law 480, later become known as Food for Peace and successfully relieved the U.S. of surplus ag commodities, while also expanding mutually beneficial markets abroad. When needed, the president was also authorized to use the ag surplus to help in times of overseas famine.

The expansion of U.S. ag markets to the far corners of the world was so successful that American farmers were applauded for helping feed the world. Just a few decades ago, U.S. farmers supplied roughly 60% to 70% of the world's corn and soybean exports and over 30% of the world's wheat exports.

However, in 2023-24, the world share of U.S. corn and soybean exports are under 30% and wheat exports account for less than 10%.

The world is changing. We received painful reminders in 2023. For the first time ever, Brazil exported 2.24 billion bushels (bb) of corn, surpassing the U.S., and is holding a slight lead in 2023-24. The U.S. and Brazil were neck and neck in soybean exports in 2014-15, but Brazil has pulled far ahead since and is expected to produce 43% more soybeans than the U.S. in 2023-24.

The last time the the U.S. was the world's top wheat exporter was 2016-17. Russia has dominated wheat exports in six of the past seven years and in 2023-24, the U.S. is expected to export 725 million bushels (mb) of wheat, the lowest total in more than 50 years.

A year ago at this time, we were still highly concerned about Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the difficulty Ukraine's farmers would have operating in wartime conditions. In 2023, those conditions became even worse after Russia pulled out of the Black Sea grain deal in July and commenced attacking Ukraine's ports and grain facilities. Ukraine's exports of corn and wheat are moving at a slower pace since July and farming has become more difficult in the second year of war.

Sad to say, Russia's 2012 plan to aggressively expand wheat production has worked so well that Russia was able to increase its dominance of world exports in 2023 while keeping wheat prices cheap. The wheat market is now in unprecedented territory with Russia using cheap wheat to extend its strategic influence around the world, while simultaneously taking market share from the rest of the world's traditional wheat producers, including Ukraine and the U.S.

Heading into 2024, the outlook for U.S. exports of the big three crops remains under attack with no end in sight for Brazil's ability to keep converting pasture into cropland at a consistent pace. Russia also has made it a national priority to keep increasing wheat production and will likely continue to do so, as long as weather cooperates. Unlike the opportunity President Eisenhower had to expand U.S. markets abroad in the 1950s, future presidents will have to find new uses for U.S. production as the world is showing more ability to feed itself.

Heading into 2024, the brave new world for agriculture is looking at the promise of new biofuels as the most practical way of restoring lost market share in the world. Who knows? The next generation may find other uses, as well.

To see more about our DTN countdown, see the Editors' Notebook blog at….

To see the other top stories of the year:

No. 10: "Livestock Producers Lean Into USDA's Livestock Risk Protection Coverage (LRP),"…

No. 9: "Supreme Court Rules on Two Major Ag Cases,"…

No. 8: "EPA's Plan to Protect Endangered Species From Herbicides Draws Criticism,"….

No. 7: "The High Cost of Some Inputs Fall, But So Does Farm Income,"….

No. 6: "Ongoing Drought Slows Cow Herd Expansion During Year,"…

You can find No. 4 in DTN's Top 10 list on Dec. 26.

Todd Hultman can be reached at

Todd Hultman