US agriculture trade deficit could reach record highs

The United States has imported $20 billion more in agricultural products than it exported — putting the sector on pace to run a record deficit. A look at what’s behind the numbers.

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December 27, 2023 - 2:03 PM

Jason Imel, a deck hand with Cargill, Inc., blows excess soybeans off the top of a river barge and closes the barge’s loading lids on Friday, at Cargill, Inc.’s facility in East St. Louis, Ill. Photo by Tristen Rouse/St. Louis Public Radio/Harvest Public Media

For the third time in five years, agricultural trade in the United States will be at a deficit — when a country imports more than it exports.

As of November, the U.S. imported $20 billion more in agricultural products than it exported in 2023, which would set a record for biggest deficit in a calendar year in nearly a century if the trend continues through the last month of the year.

For some farmers, this year’s big deficit is a sign that trade has taken a hit and other countries may be out trading the U.S. However, some economists argue there are logical explanations behind what has created such an eye-popping deficit — including rising imports, a strong American dollar and basic supply and demand.

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