(MENAFN- Asia Times) Over the years, agriculture has been a bright spot in an often dark US trade picture. The US traditionally exports more agricultural products than it imports, partially offsetting big trade deficits in manufactured goods. That's been a point of pride among American farmers and ranchers.
Lately, though, ag imports have outpaced exports. In fiscal 2019 and 2020, the US ran ag-trade deficits of US$1.3 billion and $3.7 billion. Surpluses returned in 2021 ($8.5 billion) and 2022 ($1.9 billion). But now the US Department of Agriculture is predicting a $19 billion deficit for 2023 and $27.5 billion for 2024.
For many, the deficits raise troubling questions. Do they signal a sapping of the vigor of American agriculture? Do they threaten the nation's food security or farmers' survival? Are the barbarians at the gate?
For the most part, the answers are no, no and no. That said, it is possible to detect early warning signs:
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The US ran small agriculture trade deficits in fiscal years 2019 and 2020 and USDA is predicting bigger ones in fiscal 2023 and 2024. (USDA table)
On one side of the ledger, increases in imports of particular products that could pose competitive threats, among them beef and some fruits and vegetables. On the other side, indications are that ag exports have stopped growing.
During the next couple of years, the US Department of Agriculture is forecasting a big drop in exports, from last year's $196.1 billion to $177.5 billion this year and a further fall to $172 billion in fiscal 2024.
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