Five Facts You Need to Know About the US Farming Industry

The U.S. agriculture market keeps our country, and the rest of the world, fed. It remains the world’s largest agricultural exporter and produces more food than the entire European Union combined. However, many farmers today are having trouble keeping their businesses profitable, especially in light of President Trump’s newly imposed tariffs and the retaliation that has ensued.

Last week, the White House revealed its plan for a $12 billion bailout for farmers impacted by the ongoing trade war. Here are five facts you need to know about the state of agriculture in the U.S. today, and the impact of this aid package: 

1. Today, the country’s biggest crop is corn. Most of the nation’s corn is grown in the “corn belt,” which includes Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas. According to the U.S. Grains Council, the U.S. grew over 15 billion bushels of corn in the 2016–2017 crop marketing year. Fifteen percent of this yield was then exported to 70 countries around the world. The U.S. is also known for its production of soybeans and wheat. 

2. California produces the most food (by value) of any state; the USDA reports it has been the top export earnings state since 2000. For the 2016 crop year, the state’s farms and ranches exported over $20 billion. Almonds, wine, dairy, walnuts, and pistachios were top commodities for exports, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Iowa is the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the country.

3. There are a number of tariffs levied by foreign countries on U.S. agricultural exports, including Mexico’s tariffs on apples and cranberries and China’s tariffs on soybeans, corn, wheat, and rice. The New York Times highlighted that corn, wheat, and soybean farmers have lost approximately $13 billion as a result of these and other tariffs levied by foreign governments. These tariffs also have a ripple effect throughout agricultural states’ economies. For example, 33 percent of Iowa’s economy is associated with farming.

4. While there are more than two million farms across the country, farmers and ranchers make up just 2 percent of the U.S. population. This is a stark contrast to the mid-19th century, when almost 70 percent of U.S. workers were employed in agriculture. And the country continues to lose farms. From 2007 to 2012, the U.S. lost 90,000 farms. In 2015, agriculture, food, and related industries contributed more than $990 billion to the country’s GDP, which accounts for roughly 5.5 percent of its total. 

5. The White House’s $12 billion aid package for farmers will be used to make direct payments to farmers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, and other high-yield commodities, as well as to purchase foods to distribute to food banks and nutrition programs. However, many farmers believe this bailout isn’t enough to correct for the tariffs, and that a longer-term strategy to help struggling businesses are needed.

No Labels is an organization of Democrats, Republicans, and independents working to bring American leaders together to solve problems.

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