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Run the numbers — we need pork exports

Top five pork exporting states are Iowa ($2.31 billion), Minnesota ($763 million), North Carolina ($646.1 million), Illinois ($367 million) and Indiana ($364 million).

America is the land of plenty, and in many cases, the land of surplus. U.S. pork producers are very good at what they do, producing a wholesome, delicious and often with their efficiencies, a surplus pork product.

In a time of pork surplus, the industry needs to find ways to get more pork on people’s plates, and, to turn a phrase from the 1920s Republican party campaign ad, “we need to get a pork roast in every pot.”

While we attempt to get more pork on domestic plates, the real growth can be realized in satisfying the global desire for American pork. Some figures have put close to 27% of U.S. pork production in the export markets, but that is wavering with the export markets taking a hit with the tariff du jour muddying the trade waters.

We all know how important exports are to our country as a whole, but what stake does each state have in the pork export game?

USDA’s Economic Research Service just issued stats for ag exports, broken down by ag commodity and by each state to further stress the dependence that our country, and even local areas have on exports. The latest figures available are for 2018, and as one would expect the top hog production states benefit the most from the export markets.

Iowa sits atop the leaderboard, reaping $2.31 billion in pork exports, followed by Minnesota ($763 million), North Carolina ($646.1 million), Illinois ($367 million) and Indiana ($364 million) to round out the top five.

As we have witnessed the trade turmoil over the last couple years, much has been said about the importance of developing and maintaining business relationships, adding that once a relationship is soured, it may take great effort to rebuild those relationships.

Looking back at the USDA ERS numbers that go back to 2000, the growth of those relationships is clear. That $2.31 billion in Iowa pork exports in 2018 grew from $352 million almost two decades ago. That growth occurred for multiple reasons including the great effort that goes into building those relationships and, of course, the quality U.S. product.

It will be interesting to see what the 2019 and 2020 pork export numbers will look like as we continue in this kind of trade limbo.

Those that gain the most from exports, also stand to lose, or miss out, the most if trade deals do not get worked out. Progress is being made on some of these deals, such as the close-to-home U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. This deal, as well as others, needs to get done, and the sooner the better.

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