U.S. agricultural trade fueled by demand, steady yields

Writer: Blair Fannin, 979-845-2259, b-fannin@tamu.edu

BRYAN – U.S. agricultural exports value totaled $135 billion in 2016 and experts anticipate future growth if production yields, trade agreements and borrowing power work in lockstep.

“Trade is very, very important,”  Dr. Luis Ribera, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist in College Station, told attendees at the Texas Plant Protection Association Conference Dec. 5 in Bryan. “That $135 billion is huge.”

Dr. Luis Ribera, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist, discussed agricultural trade at the Texas Plant Protection Association Conference in Bryan Dec. 5. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin)

Ribera said U.S. agricultural imports were valued at $115 billion in 2016.

“As you can see, both imports and exports generate positive economic impacts,” he said. “Overall, when you look at what we export, we are really good at producing corn and cotton as well as several other commodities. The winners are consumers. We have a year-round supply of everything you can think of, and we can get it from the around the world even if it’s not in season.”

Ribera said trade agreements play a pivotal role in being the driving force of both import and export activities. When comparing North American Free Trade Agreement from 1994 to 2016, there was a 192 percent increase in total U.S. agricultural exports. Mexico plays a large role in the U.S. export market.

Imports from Mexico are also prominent, Ribera said.

“Vegetables are the largest share of imports from Mexico due to seasonality,” Ribera said. “The good news? We can get year-round supplies of vegetables. What is good for us is good for Mexico as well. It helps their economy do well and helps our economy here in Texas.”

Ribera said more than 19,000 jobs have resulted from Texas’ export trade to Mexico. He noted in 2016 alone there were more than 464,000 trucks of produce coming in from Mexico to Texas.

“Imports have been a positive on our economy,” he said. “With regards to agricultural imports from Mexico, tomatoes have been the most popular item. Mexico has made a large investment in greenhouse facilities because we are willing to pay-up for nice, big red tomatoes.”

Storage infrastructure continues to be expanded in the Valley region of Texas as 80 percent of cold storage facilities are located there, he said.

“NAFTA has been good,” he said. “This trade is not the U.S. government buying from the Mexican government. You have to realize this is business to business. You have years and years of relationships that have been established.”

Dr. Mark Hussey, vice chancellor and dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station, opened the conference discussing the importance of trade agreements and how they will weigh heavily in producing enough food and fiber to meet a global population expected to reach more than 9 billion by 2050.

“It’s going to require that we have new partnerships not only public and private, but domestic and globally,” he said. “We also are going to need greater awareness of food and fiber production systems.”

The conference, which features presentations from representatives throughout the Texas agricultural industry, also had an awards luncheon Dec.  6. Winners were: 

• Graduate Student Award: Brady Author, Ralls, Texas, advised by Dr. Gaylon Morgan, Texas AgriLife Extension Service state cotton specialist, College Station.


• PhD Award: Dr. John Gordy, Fort Bend County Extension agent, who works with Dr. Michael Brewer, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Corpus Christi.


• Industry Award: Tony Driver, Syngenta.


• Ray Smith Leadership Award: Dr. Travis Miller, retired state operations director, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, and Dr. Ron Lacewell, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, assistant vice chancellor for federal relations.


• Industry Award: Tony Driver, TPPA secretary, Syngenta.


• Consultant Award: Ronnie Phillips, Phillips Ag Consulting and Research.


•Academic/Agency Award: Dr. Betsy Pierson, association past president and associate professor of horticultural sciences at Texas A&M.


•Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award: Ron Smith, Southwest Farm Press.


More than 40 posters were on display in the poster competition, 23 from doctoral students, and 13 in the master’s section. Six posters were from industry, staff, a county agent, and a visiting scholar from Brazil.


Winners in the Masters category were:


• Sadie Church, Texas A&M University, first place, Monitoring Nitrogen Status in grain Sorghum under Contrasting Fertilizer Management.


• Zane Jenkins, West Texas A&M University, second place, Effects of Planting Date and Hybrid on Infestation Level of Sugarcane Aphids and Drought Tolerance in Dryland Grain Sorghum.


• Aislinn Walton, West Texas A&M University, third place, Quantification of Water and Nutrient Use by Invasive Weed Species in Limited Irrigated Corn Production Systems to Optimize Water Use Efficiencies and Economic Returns.


Winners in the PhD category were:


• Pramod Pokhrel, Texas A&M University, first place, for Agronomic Performance of Newly Developed Lignocellulosic Bioenergy Crops in Texas.


• Seth Abugo, Texas A&M University, second place, for Assessing the Impact of Flooding on Germination and Growth of Rice Weeds.


• M. Bhandari, Texas A&M University, third place for Assessing Wheat Foliar Disease Severity Using Ground- and Aerial-based Remote Sensing Systems.

Ron Smith, Farm Press senior content director, received the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award at the Texas Plant Protection Association Conference. Also pictured Gary Schwarzlose, Texas Plant Protection Association immediate past president, and Ray Smith, chairman of the Texas Plant Protection Association. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin)

Dr. Ron Lacewell, assistant vice chancellor for federal relations with Texas A&M AgriLife, received the Ray Smith Leadership Award at the Texas Plant Protection Association recently. Also pictured is is Gary Schwarzlose, Texas Plant Protection Association immediate past president, and Ray Smith, chairman of the Texas Plant Protection Association. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin)

Dr. Betsy Pierson received the Academic Award at the Texas Plant Protection Association Conference. Also pictured Gary Schwarzlose, Texas Plant Protection Association immediate past president, and Ray Smith, chairman of the Texas Plant Protection Association. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin)

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Tony Driver of Syngenta received the Industry Award at the Texas Plant Protection Association Conference. Also pictured Gary Schwarzlose, Texas Plant Protection Association immediate past president, and Ray Smith, chairman of the Texas Plant Protection Association. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin)

Ronnie Phillips of Phillips Ag Consulting and Research received the Consultant Award at the Texas Plant Protection Association Conference. Also pictured Gary Schwarzlose, Texas Plant Protection Association immediate past president, and Ray Smith, chairman of the Texas Plant Protection Association. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin)

Brady Arthur received the Graduate Student Award at the Texas Plant Protection Association Conference. Brady is advised by advised by Dr. Gaylon Morgan, Texas AgriLife Extension Service state cotton specialist, College Station. Also pictured Gary Schwarzlose, Texas Plant Protection Association immediate past president, and Ray Smith, chairman of the Texas Plant Protection Association. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin)

John Gordy, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent in Fort Bend County, received the Phd Award. Also pictured Gary Schwarzlose, Texas Plant Protection Association immediate past president, and Ray Smith, chairman of the Texas Plant Protection Association. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin)

Stephen Janak, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension agent for Colorado County, won first place in the plant identification contest. Also pictured Gary Schwarzlose, Texas Plant Protection Association immediate past president, and Barron Rector, AgriLife Extension range specialist and coordinator of the plant identification contest.(Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin)

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