January 06, 2014

Idaho Farmers And Ranchers Help Feed The World

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

The U.S. Trade Representative reported that, in 2012 alone, the U.S. sold $235 million worth of potatoes, $42 million worth of beans, $1.1 billion worth of apples and $53.3 billion worth of corn products to consumers around the world.  These are just a few examples of how American farmers and ranchers are helping to meet the challenge of feeding a growing world population.

According to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, Idahoans produce more than 185 different agricultural commodities.  Idahoans are selling these agricultural commodities here in the U.S. and are helping Idaho rank among leading states in providing agricultural goods to people around the world.  For example, U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (ERS) data ranks Idaho fourth in the nation for the value of dairy products sold worldwide.  Dairy exports have grown from just over $36 million in 2000 to more than $335 million in 2012.  ERS also reports that Idaho ranks fourth among states in the value of fresh and processed vegetables sold in foreign markets and fifth for the value of wheat sales.     

Agricultural sales abroad support jobs and are an enormous benefit to Idaho's economy.  According to data from Global Trade Information Services, Inc. (GTI), in the first nine months of 2013 alone, more than $736 million of Idaho agriculture products were sold internationally.  This includes more than $230 million worth of Idaho dairy, $98 million worth of grain and seeds, $96 million worth of vegetables and $50 million worth of preserved food.  International sales of these products increased in the first nine months of 2013 over sales in the first nine months of 2012.  Overall, Idaho agriculture brings in more than $7 billion in cash receipts that help support local employment and communities.   

The sales abroad are made possible because Idaho's farms and ranches produce more high-quality agricultural products than can be consumed by Idahoans.  They are able to share this bounty with families around the world through entrepreneurship and hard work, especially considering the mounting pressures on farm and ranch land.  These pressures include excess regulations and paperwork requirements, tax uncertainty, high input costs, limited water, and emerging pest and plant and animal diseases.

Taking into account the expansive reach of Idaho agricultural products around the world, today's producers and small businesses are meeting the challenges of navigating in varied and complex marketplaces.  GTI reports that Canada, Mexico, China, South Korea and Japan are the top export markets for Idaho agriculture products.  However, Idaho agricultural products reach far beyond these markets and are sold in nearly 100 countries.  For example, the Idaho Department of Commerce reports that Peru bought $6.4 million worth of vegetables from Idaho, and Indonesia bought more than $34 million worth of dairy products from Idaho in 2012.

As we ponder our state and nation's economic future, we should applaud the immense advancements of Idaho agricultural products into world markets, resulting from the hard work of Idaho farmers and ranchers and serving as an example of Idaho agriculture's important and growing role.  To ensure that more of Idaho's high-quality food is able to reach those who need it, we must create a supporting environment for growth and eliminate unnecessary obstacles.  I will continue to press for needed policy changes to best enable American farmers and ranchers to continue to meet local and world food needs.

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