Demand for U.S.-made goods is surging. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is projecting a record $157 billion in farm exports during the fiscal year 2021.
“In 2020, beef exports equated to roughly $270 per head. In 2021, taken at USDA’s number, it equates to more like $280 to $300 per head,” said Billy Schmitz, who works as a risk manager at a feedlot in Colorado.
The lot where Schmitz works, Five Rivers Cattle Feed, cares for 80,000 cattle. Based on his projections, the increase in exports could mean anywhere from $800,000 to $2.4 million of extra in revenue this year.
“Things have very much improved [since COVID first began],” he said.
Experts say much of the bump comes from China’s involvement in the U.S. market. In 2018, China only committed to purchasing $9.1 billion in exports from the United States, but this year, they have committed $38 billion after former President Donald Trump signed a phase one trade deal with the country in January of 2020.
“We kind of had these adverse conditions [because of COVID] that led to government support,” said the USDA’s chief economist, Seth Meyer. “[We’re] exchanging those for market-based dollars.”
Exports affect multiple parts of the economy. Not only does it contribute to the Gross Domestic Product, but it increases spending among consumers: helpful to small businesses that endured hardships throughout the pandemic.
“It provides us with a bit of relief, not only as cattle producers, but as farm and ranch families, too,” said Schmitz.
2021’s projection marks a steep increase from years of fluctuating export numbers, as well as the highest surplus since 2017.
In 2015, the USDA reported $139.8 billion in exports, $129.6 billion in 2016, $140.2 billion in 2017, $143.4 billion in 2018, $135.5 billion in 2019, and $135.7 billion in 2020.