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September 8, 2023

Third Quarter U.S. Agricultural Trade Outlook 

The U.S. agriculture trade deficit is growing.  

The United States has operated under a trade deficit for decades, but historically, agriculture was an exception. However, according to the third quarter release of the USDA’s agricultural trade outlook in 2023 report, that’s changing. In 2023, the ag export outlook was lowered by $3.5 billion to $177.5 billion. The ag import outlook was decreased by $1.5 billion to $196.5 billion. For 2024, the revised forecast for agricultural trade shows U.S. agriculture exports down by $5.5 billion to $172 billion, and imports up by $3 billion to $199.5 billion. 

Several factors are creating the perfect storm of a widening trade deficit for the U.S. ag sector, including greater domestic consumption, higher demand for imported commodities like coffee and wine, and a strong U.S. dollar making us less competitive in a global market.

Key Findings from the USDA Trade Report

U.S. Agriculture Trade
(billion dollars)
A graphic showcasing the Quarterly Trade Update, illustrating the growth of exports and imports.
Quarterly Trade Update featuring exports and imports.
Source: USDA, Economic Research Service and USDA, Foreign Agricultural Service analysis and forecasts using data from U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of the Census

Soybean and Dairy Exports Are Affecting Export Projections 

Soybeans, soybean meal, and dairy products are driving the $5.5 billion reduction in U.S. agriculture exports. A combination of low U.S. production, competition in South America, and a high domestic demand has reduced the amount available for export.  

Global Prices of Horticulture and Livestock Are Stabilizing 

U.S. agriculture imports are forecast to be $3 billion higher now that global prices have stabilized. Despite inflation concerns in the U.S., macroeconomic issues in China, and trading issues in the Black Sea due to the conflict in Ukraine, the global economy for 2023 and 2024 is looking positive. The world real GDP is expected to rise three percent in both 2023 and 2024.  

Commodity Overview 

Lower unit values, global competition, and other specific market dynamics are contributing to the overall trend of lower forecasts for U.S. agriculture exports. Additionally, U.S. exports are generally more expensive due to the strong state of the dollar, so commodity prices are not as competitive.  

  • Corn: Export forecast is down $1.7 billion to $12.8 billion. 
  • Wheat: Export forecast is down $600 million to $6.8 billion.  
  • Grain and Feed: Export forecast is down $2.3 billion to $38.2 billion.  
  • Beef: Export forecast is down $200 million to $9.1 billion.  
  • Poultry: Export forecast is down $200 million to $6.5 billion.  
  • Dairy: Export forecast is down $300 million to $8.6 billion.  
  • Oilseed: Export forecast is unchanged at $43.5 billion.   
  • Cotton: Export forecast is up $100 million to $6.1 billion.  
  • Ethanol: Export forecast is unchanged at $3.6 billion. 

Despite this downturn, certain commodities like corn, grain, and sorghum are expected to increase in 2024 due to higher volumes.  

Agricultural Trade Partners 

North America 

Data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that inflation is still on the rise, but that the rate of inflation has slowed from previous periods. Previously, some economists were concerned the U.S. GDP may fall due to government action to control inflation. Although inflation remains above the two percent target, North American GDP is expected to grow 1.8 percent, thanks to an increase in all three North American countries.  


Inflation in Europe is sticky, rising to 5.3 percent. Policymakers are struggling to find a way to control the inflation rate, but despite this, the economy is growing beyond the May forecast, now at one percent growth. In 2024, growth is expected to speed up to 1.7 percent.  

South America 

A new fiscal policy and improved short-term growth in Brazil have resulted in higher-than-projected growth for the country and South America as a whole. South American GDP is projected to grow by 1.1 percent in 2023, up from the previously projected one percent. 


In 2023, China’s GDP is unchanged from the previous forecast, but economists are expecting moderation in 2024. Most are expecting growth to slow to 4.5 percent due to inflows of foreign direct investment, lower export revenues, a declining property market, and a persistently high youth unemployment rate. 

Navigating Agricultural Trade with a Trusted Lender 

At AgAmerica, we’re dedicated to staying connected with the factors that affect the farming community, including agricultural trade. Our unwavering commitment to understanding the ups and downs of the industry enables us to predict your needs accurately and design tailor-made loans that mitigate risks and enhance the strengths of your individual farming operation. 

This deep industry insight empowers us to go beyond just financial services. We offer valuable resources and knowledge to support your success. Stay engaged with the agricultural sector by exploring our agricultural trade updates or by subscribing to our newsletter.    

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