In the week of December 19th, 36 million bushels of corn were shipped, pushing the total to 70% above year ago levels. New export sales included 58 million bushels for the old crop and 20 million for the new crop with China continuing to take shipments and place new orders for US corn. Export inspections for soybeans were 55 million bushels in the week of December 19th, the 10th successive week with more than 55 million bushels of shipments recorded. New export sales were 27 million bushels for the old crop and 29 million bushels for the new crop. 821 million bushels have been shipped out so far from the 2013 crop, dominating corn shipments at many ports and the river system. The current pace puts soybean exports at 180 million bushels above USDA’s target. China is taking two of every three bushels shipped, with Dalian Exchange prices back above the $20 mark. While global importers, and particularly China, have had a penchant for US grains and other commodities, the export trade volume and value will drop compared to fiscal 2013.

For fiscal 2014, US farm exports are now forecast at $137 billion, down $3.9 billion below the level of the prior year, due to lower values for wheat and some feed products. That is the analysis in USDA’s Outlook for U S Agricultural Trade. One of the main drivers is world economic growth which is expected to rise from 2.1% in 2013 to 2.8% in 2014. Trade growth itself which was 2.5% in 2013 is projected to double in the coming year. While Asian GDP growth has been higher than the global average, it is expected to stay level. That includes some softening of the economies in some smaller Asian nations. Globally, world growth expansion is helped by the end to Europe’s recession and a speed up of the economy in North and South America. While it is a low probability, economists say there is a potential for slower growth in Brazil, Russia, India, and China.

A result of the macro-economic dynamics is more demand for US agricultural commodities; however that will not be shared equally:

· Grain and feed exports will be down $700 million due to lower wheat and certain feed product values.

· Coarse grain exports will be $8.3 billion, down slight from lower unit values, but offset by sharply higher volume.

· Corn alone will see a 10% increase in volume exported.

· Wheat exports will be down $500 million, on lower volume and value, in part from Canadian competition.

· While oilseeds and their products will see a nearly 10% increase, improved soybean production will allow a $1.5 billion increase in soybeans and a $900 million rise in soybean meal exports.

· Overall livestock exports will be up $700 million to a record of $31.8 billion. Exports will be constrained by tight domestic supplies due to lower production.

· Pork exports will be up $400 million on higher prices.

· Dairy will be up $300 million on strong global demand.

· Beef exports will be up $100 million to $5 billion with higher prices and tight supplies of exporters.

Exports to China will be up $1 billion to $21.5 billion from the initial August forecast, with soybeans being a major contributor to that trend. However, that total is down from the $23.5 billion in 2013. Wheat shipments will fall due to less demand for imported wheat, and cotton exports to china will be down. USDA says China is the second largest buyer of US agricultural exports behind Canada. Canada will be buying $21.6 billion worth of farm commodities, a $100 million increase from 2013 based on higher pork prices.

The US will be importing $109.5 billion in food commodities, up $5.7 billion from 2013. While that is based on an improvement in the US economy, it means agriculture maintains its positive trade balance with a difference of $27.5 billion. However, that is the least since 2009, when it was $22.9 billion. The trade surplus hit a $42.9 billion high in 2011.

Summary:

Agricultural exports continue to be important to the overall value of commodities, as well as to the overall US trade picture. Most Cornbelt commodities will see higher volumes and values being shipped abroad in 2014, except for wheat which will be lower on both value and volume. Canada is the top customer for agricultural exports, but only by $100 million over second place China.