June 2018
Ag Insight

Ag Insight


Textile, Apparel Imports Hit Record Levels

U.S. net textile and apparel imports increased to record levels in 2017, as demand for clothing increased along with the expanding economy.

Net imports in 2017 approached 16.2 billion raw-fiber-equivalent pounds, 2 percent above 2016. Textile and apparel imports surpassed 19.7 billion pounds in 2017, compared with 19.3 billion pounds in 2016.

Meanwhile, textile and apparel exports in 2017 were 3.5 billion pounds, similar to a year earlier. With net imports of synthetic fiber products rising for eight consecutive years, cotton’s share has declined considerably as growth in athletic-leisure wear has increased demand for synthetic fibers.

During each of the last four years, synthetic fiber products accounted for the largest share of net imports. In 2017, synthetic textile and apparel products contributed 50 percent, while cotton products accounted for 43 percent. Linen, wool and silk products, combined, added an additional 7 percent.

Although these percentages equaled those of 2016, suggesting at least a pause in cotton’s declining share, the percentages for cotton and synthetic products were nearly reversed just five years ago.


Population in Rural Counties Up Slightly

Between July 2016 and July 2017, rural (nonmetro) counties increased in population for the first time this decade, according to the most recent estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The shift in rural population change was quite small, from a loss of 15,000 people in 2015-16 to a gain of 33,000 in 2016-17. However, it continues an upward trend in all but one year since 2011-12, when rural counties declined by 61,000 people.

Population growth rates for rural areas have been significantly lower than in urban (metro) areas since the mid1990s. The gap widened considerably after the housing-market crisis in 2007 and the Great Recession that followed.

The gap between rural- and urban-growth rates has narrowed slightly in recent years, but remains significant. Urban areas grew by 0.82 percent in 2016-17, compared with 0.07 percent growth in rural areas.

The recovery in population growth for rural America during this decade has been much more gradual compared to previous rural population downturns.



Meat, Dairy Imports to Remain Low

Consistent with past years, import data for all of 2017 show the United States is a relatively small meat and dairy products importer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s import forecasts for 2018 show an extension of this tendency.

In 2017, U.S. beef imports were 11.3 percent of total domestic disappearance. In 2018, forecasts for U.S. beef imports leave the ratio almost unchanged (10.9 percent).

The United States imports mostly lean beef from Australia, mainly for final use as hamburger and in processed and prepared food products.

On the pork side, imports accounted for just over 5 percent of disappearance last year. Based on forecasts, that ratio is expected to be somewhat smaller this year – 4.6 percent – due largely to increased domestic production.

Most imported pork comes from Canada and the EU.

Compared with beef, pork and dairy products, lamb imports typically account for over half of domestic disappearance. Most U.S. lamb imports originate from Oceania. In 2017, imports made up about 64 percent of disappearance. This year, the ratio is expected to be roughly the same.

For imported dairy products, most of which come from the EU and New Zealand, imports comprised about 3 percent of U.S. disappearance last year and is expected to be similar in 2018.



Changes Differ in Farmland, Cropland Values

Farm real estate (including farmland and the structures on the land) accounts for over 80 percent of farm sector assets and represents a significant investment for many farms. Two major uses of farmland are cropland and pastureland.

From 2003 to 2014, U.S. cropland values appreciated faster than pastureland, with cropland values doubling in real terms.

However, cropland appreciation varied over time and by region. From 2003 to 2008, cropland values appreciated almost uniformly across regions.

From 2009 to 2014, cropland appreciation was highest for the Northern Plains, Lake States, Corn Belt and Delta States. This reflected the relatively steep rise in commodity prices for the grain and oilseed often grown in those regions that made the cropland more valuable.

Conversely, from 2015 to 2017, the Northern Plains and Corn Belt experienced negative cropland appreciation, reflecting falling commodity prices and farm income.

Regional differences in land values may also be due to varying demands for farmland for nonagricultural purposes such as demand for oil and gas development in shale areas.

The leveling or decline of cropland values observed in the Northeast, Southeast and Pacific regions from 2009 to 2014 likely stemmed from the Great Recession that negatively influenced the value of cropland close to urban areas.


U.S. Pork Sales to Argentina to Resume

U.S. officials have announced the government of Argentina has finalized technical requirements allowing U.S. pork to be imported into Argentina for the first time since 1992.

Since the White House announced an agreement with Argentina last August, technical staff from USDA and the office of the U.S. trade representative have been working with Argentina’s Ministry of Agro-Industry on new terms for market access that are practical, science-based and consistent with relevant international animal health standards. The finalization of these technical requirements means U.S. exports of pork and natural swine casings can now resume.

The United States is the world’s top pork exporter, with global sales of $6.5 billion last year. Argentina is a potential $10-million-per-year market for America’s pork producers, with significant growth opportunities possible in subsequent years.


Signup Scheduled for 2017 Farm Disaster Aid

USDA will make disaster payments of up to $2.36 billion, as provided by Congress, to help America’s farmers and ranchers recover from hurricanes and wildfires.

The funds are available as part of the new 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program. Signup for the new program, authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, will begin no later than July 16.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency will make these disaster payments to agricultural producers to offset losses from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and devastating wildfires.

The 2017 calendar year was a historic year for natural disasters and this investment is part of a broader suite of programs USDA is providing to rural America to aid recovery. The Act provided over $3 billion in disaster relief by creating new programs and expediting or enhancing payments for producers.



Farm Value of Fruit, Nuts, Vegetables
Forecast to Rise

The farm value of fruit, tree nut and vegetable production is projected to grow by roughly 2.7 percent annually over the next decade, reaching just over $65.8 billion by 2027, up from almost $52 billion forecast for 2018.

Some 40 percent of the value for 2027 comes from fruit, while tree nuts and vegetables account for 18 and 42 percent, respectively.

In addition to rising farm prices driven by general inflation expectations, production is expected to grow in all three categories, driving up value.

Production of fruit and vegetables, in the aggregate, is expected to increase by just less than 1 percent per year through 2027, while tree nut production is projected to expand by just over 2 percent annually.

Vegetable production projections are primarily influenced by expected growth in the pulse (e.g. beans, lentils) sector. Nut production projections reflect growing domestic and export demand for almonds, walnuts and pecans.

Projections for a 0.7-percent increase in fruit and tree nut value of production in 2018 reflect losses for Florida’s citrus crops related to Hurricane Irma. A quick recovery is expected, and production value for fruit and tree nuts is projected to grow at a faster rate beginning in 2019.