BOISE — The value of Idaho agricultural exports totaled $724 million in 2016, down 7.7 from 2015 and 28 percent from the record year of 2014.
The decline in value is tied to a decrease in commodity prices, and the strong U.S. dollar relative to other major currencies isn’t helping, said Laura Johnson, who manages the Idaho State Department of Agriculture’s marketing division, which tracks the numbers.
During a global export outlook event sponsored by ISDA March 8, keynote speaker Joseph Glauber said a strong U.S. dollar would continue to be an issue that weighs on exports for the next three or four years.
“A strong dollar ... presents a challenge for U.S. goods sold abroad because that means those goods are more expensive,” said Glauber, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute.
According to ISDA data, Mexico was the top destination for Idaho food product exports in 2016.
A total of $176 million worth of Idaho ag products were sold in Mexico last year, a 7 percent decline from 2015. Another $171 million worth of Idaho ag products were exported to Canada in 2016, a 10 percent increase.
China ranked third at $54 million, a 12 percent decline from 2015.
South Korea was fourth at $37 million (down 34 percent), followed by Netherlands ($30 million, up 15 percent), Japan ($30 million, down 21 percent) and Spain ($24 million, up 19 percent).
During the outlook event, Fabiola McClellan, Idaho’s trade office manager in Mexico, said that country remains a promising market for the type of innovative food products Idaho produces.
Consumer confidence and employment are both up and the initial uncertainty over what the new U.S. presidential administration might mean for trade between the two nations is subsiding, she said.
“Mexico is in a very healthy situation right now to continue bringing in Idaho products,” she said.
A total of $137 million worth of Idaho dairy products were exported last year, a 30 percent decline from 2015 and a 61 percent decrease compared with 2014, which was a record year for Idaho dairy exports.
However, Idaho exports under the “sugars” category, which is mostly dairy lactose, were up 18 percent to $24 million.
Idaho exports under the “miscellaneous grain and seed” category totaled $127 million in 2016, a 4 percent increase, and “vegetable” exports totaled $116 million, up 0.4 percent over 2015.
Exports under the “milling, malt and starch” category totaled $94 million, a 13 percent decrease from 2015, while “preserved food” exports were down 12 percent to $79 million.
Exports under the “miscellaneous food” category increased 16 percent to $31 million.
University of Idaho Agricultural Economist Garth Taylor said U.S. farm exports are facing several challenges, including the strong U.S. dollar, Russia’s embargo on some food products and record high crop production in many countries.
“I don’t see any bright spots in there,” he said. “We’re having some pretty strong headwinds for ag exports.”