International Complications for U.S. Exports

Agricultural exports a heading down from a post-pandemic peak as experts deal with international complications that can stunt export growth or, sometimes, stop exports altogether. According to USDA, the value of U.S. agricultural exports peaked in fiscal year 2022 but declined in 2023. In 2023, the total export value was $178.7 billion, which was $17 billion less than in 2022. A panel of experts discussed rebuilding export markets and overseas demand for U.S. agricultural goods at the Ag and Food Policy Summit hosted by Agri-Pulse in Washington D.C.

Dan Halstrom, President and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), said that higher shipping rates and logistical challenges around the world are concerning for all industries, not just agriculture. He used the example of pirate activity by Houthi rebels causing shipping uncertainty in the Red Sea.

“These sorts of [events], they seem one off, but they’re really not. Those of us international world, we know that these vessels don’t just go to the Red Sea, they’re going around the world. So, what you’re doing is you’re adding more cost, more time, more inputs, higher across the board,” he said. “So, the more these conflicts happen or continue to happen, the higher the cost of logistics and freight will be.”

Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council, said the international issues are “tremendously complicated.”

Halstrom said the U.S. Meat Export Federation is “extremely optimistic” for export markets and overseas demand in the future.

“I have always looked at it this way: that the more success we have, the more issues that come up. So, all the more reason that we have to be aligned as industries. I’m not just talking beef and pork,” he said. “I’m talking agriculture. Agriculture is the backbone of the American economy. And I think with the folks in this room, on this panel, with FAS, USTR, USDA, we’re well equipped to handle the challenge.