USDA’s Economic Research Service is predicting total U.S. ag exports in the 2022 fiscal year will reach a record $177.5 billion, up $4 billion from the latest forecast for FY 2021 exports.

The record-breaking forecast, the Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade, is driven primarily by “higher export values for soybeans, cotton, and horticultural products,” but both of the latest predictions for 2021 and 2022 were also boosted by the ERS decision to change the way it calculates the forecasts.

ERS says it is now using the World Trade Organization’s definition of agricultural products, which means including commodities like ethanol, distilled spirits and tobacco products. It also means ERS is no longer including commodities like rubber.

The net effect, ERS said, is that “exports under the new definition averaged $4.7 billion higher per year during FY 2018–2020 from the previous definition, and U.S. agricultural imports averaged $9.9 billion higher annually during the same period.”

That does not change the fact that the new forecasts for FY 2021 and FY 2022 will both be record-setting, according to ERS economists.

The volume of soybeans and soybean oil will all drop in FY2022, which begins Oct. 1, but prices are expected to continue to climb.

“FY 2022 oilseed and product exports are forecast at $43.5 billion, a new record, up $3.5 billion from FY 2021 mostly on higher soybean unit values,” ERS economists concluded in the new analysis. “Soybean export values are projected to reach a new record of $32.3 billion although volumes are expected to fall below the previous year. U.S. soybean volume exports are expected to decline from last year due to a combination of factors, including higher soybean prices, tight U.S. supplies, slowing growth in China’s global demand, and increased competition from Brazil.”

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The volume of soybean oil exports is also expected to drop, but the value will skyrocket. ERS is predicting $1 billion worth of exports in FY 2022, an increase of about $200 million from FY 2021. Only soymeal is expected to drop in volume and value.

But the forecast for global cotton consumption is rosy for FY 2022, ERS notes. The U.S. is forecast to export $6.8 billion worth of cotton. That’s $500 million more than in FY 2021 and “the highest in over a decade,” according to the report.

“Global consumption is projected at a 14-year high, driven by (forecasts for economic growth), particularly in China and the United States,” said ERS. “China is the world’s largest consumer of cotton lint and the United States is the largest importer of cotton apparel and end products.”

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