Nebraska Farm Bureau report: Corn replaces soybeans as top commodity in agricultural trade

Nebraska Farm Bureau report: Corn replaces soybeans as top commodity in agricultural trade
The report, issued annually since 2017, acts as a barometer demonstrating the importance of trade to farmers, ranchers, and Nebraska’s economy. (Courtesy Photo)
March 21st, 2023 | Nebraska Farm Bureau

LINCOLN, Neb. – Corn is king when it comes to agricultural exports from Nebraska with international sales of corn bringing home the greatest value to Nebraska agriculture. That’s according to a report released by the Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB), Thurs. March 16. The report, “Nebraska Agriculture and International Trade”, is the latest in a series of analysis highlighting the importance of agricultural trade to Nebraska farmers, ranchers, rural communities, as well as the state’s broader economy.

“At a time when the Biden administration has done little to expand agricultural markets around the globe, our analysis shows that trade is vitally important to the economic future of Nebraska’s farm and ranch families and work must be done to expand trade opportunities in the months to come,” said Mark McHargue, NEFB president.

The report, issued annually since 2017, acts as a barometer demonstrating the importance of trade to farmers, ranchers, and Nebraska’s economy. The estimates are calculated using the 2021 USDA trade numbers released in October 2022.

The success of international trade has led to agricultural exports consistently accounting for roughly 30 percent of each dollar going into the pockets of Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers. The Nebraska Agriculture and International Trade” report provides a comprehensive look at Nebraska agricultural trade, the dollar impact on individual agricultural commodities, and how that translates to farmers, ranchers, and Nebraska counties.

“Nebraska was once again the fifth-largest agricultural exporting state in 2021 with exported agricultural commodities worth $9.2 billion, the first time Nebraska exports of commodities exceeded $9 billion and only the fourth time Nebraska exports have exceeded $7 billion,” said Austin Harthoorn, NEFB economist.

According to the report, corn exports almost doubled last year, up 98 percent, hurdling soybeans and beef to become Nebraska’s top agricultural export. Corn accounted for $2.3 billion of the total agricultural exports, with Mexico as the largest buyer of Nebraska corn.

“Of all the corn exported from Nebraska, 89 percent went to Mexico. The country’s recent decree to ban bioengineered corn is a clear violation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA). Nebraska’s corn producers have the biggest stake in ongoing trade negotiations with Mexico. Anything that would limit Nebraska’s corn exports is of great concern,” said McHargue.

The report shows Nebraska topped the nation in exports of beef, totaling more than $1.6 billion with China and Southeast Asia being top buyers of beef.

“Nebraska beef exports rose 40 percent in 2021 with the growth driven by increased purchases of U.S. beef by South Korea and Japan, up 39 and 22 percent respectively,” said Harthoorn.

And while corn and beef exports grew in 2021, soybeans remained steady with values largely unchanged. Soybeans slipped from the top exported Nebraska commodity to the second largest exported Nebraska commodity. Beef was the third largest exported Nebraska commodity.

To help bring the value of agriculture trade closer to home for farmers and ranchers, the report outlines the per-farm/ranch, and per county implications of international trade, as well as examining the value of trade on a commodity-by-commodity basis for each Nebraska county.

“We found that the value of international trade translates to a per-unit value of $7.26 per bushel of soybeans, $1.70 per bushel of corn, $3.80 per bushel of wheat, $260 per head of beef, and $85 per head of pork. When you look at the price of individual commodities, you get a strong sense of the importance of trade,” said Harthoorn.

According to Nebraska Farm Bureau, much of Nebraska’s agricultural trade success can be tied to free trade agreements such as USMCA.

“Farmers and ranchers are without a doubt one of the largest winners in most free trade agreements as the eventual elimination of tariffs creates new markets for U.S. grown agricultural products. Those expanded international markets help Nebraska’s farm and ranch families economically, while also helping them provide food, fiber, and fuel to families around the globe,” said McHargue.

Nebraska Farm Bureau’s “Nebraska Agriculture and International Trade 2021” report is available online at

The Nebraska Farm Bureau is a grassroots, state-wide organization dedicated to supporting farm and ranch families and working for the benefit of all Nebraskans through a wide variety of educational, service, and advocacy efforts. More than 55,000 families across Nebraska are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve rural and urban prosperity as agriculture is a key fuel to Nebraska’s economy. For more information about Nebraska Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit


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