The U.S. exported $177 billion worth of agricultural commodities in 2021, firmly besting the record in 2014 by about 15% and overshadowing 2020 totals by 18%, according to new data released by the Commerce Department.

China, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, the Philippines and Colombia all imported more U.S. agricultural commodities than ever before, helping push U.S. exports of soybeans, corn, beef, pork, dairy, distillers grains and pet food to record levels in 2021, according to a USDA assessment of the new data.

“This is a major boost for the economy as a whole, and particularly for our rural communities, with agricultural exports stimulating local economic activity, helping maintain our competitive edge globally, supporting producers’ bottom lines, and supporting more than 1.3 million jobs on the farm and in related industries such as food processing and transportation,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement released Tuesday.

The massive trade flow occurred despite supply chain bottlenecks throughout last year, and the situation has become especially dire for shippers that need to get their commodities to Asia in containers. Compounding domestic labor issues, ocean carrier companies are refusing to load U.S. ag products and are instead sending empty containers back to China, where exporters are paying excessive rates to ship goods to the U.S.

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“We’re addressing transportation and infrastructure challenges through the work of the Administration’s Supply Chain Task Force and calling out ocean carriers that are putting profits above their responsibility to serve both importers and exporters,” Vilsack said.

Nevertheless, China imported a record amount of U.S. soybeans and other commodities last year.

China imported $33 billion worth of U.S. ag commodities in 2021, a 25% increase from 2020, according to the new data.

“These record-breaking trade numbers demonstrate that U.S. agriculture is incredibly resilient as it continues to provide high-quality, cost-competitive farm and food products to customers around the globe and that the Biden-Harris Administration’s agenda is working for American farmers and producers,” Vilsack said.

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