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Questions & Answers

Background Information for U.S. Agricultural Trade Data

What is the Harmonized System (HS) of trade codes?
How does the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) of the United States differ from the international HS code?
What is FATUS and USDA's role in U.S. trade data?
Where can I access U.S. agricultural trade data?
Where are release dates for U.S. trade data?

Codes, Abbreviations, and Summary Categories for High-Value Products

How do I know if a FATUS group includes a particular HTS code?
How do I find the 10-digit U.S. HTS code for my commodity?
Where are the data for my HTS code?
Which abbreviations are most commonly used in U.S. trade data?
What is the difference between "high-value" (HVP) and "consumer-oriented" trade and where do I find these breakouts of U.S. agricultural trade?

Definitions, Country Codes, Ports, Tariffs, Commodity Classifications, and Lists of Traders

Where is a detailed description of what is included in U.S. trade data?
Where are country codes listed?
Where are U.S. and foreign ports?
How do I find tariffs for a commodity?
How do I properly classify my commodity?
I wish to trade with the United States or I need a list of U.S. traders of a particular commodity; where do I obtain this information?

Background Information for U.S. Agricultural Trade Data

Q. What is the Harmonized System (HS) of trade codes?

A.The International Harmonized Commodity Coding and Classification System (HS) was established by the World Customs Organization. HS is an international standard for world trade at a 6-digit level of detail. For example, 10=cereals, 1005=corn, 1005.90=other corn. Each country has the option of further breaking down these international HS codes into more digits and greater detail to meet their own needs.

Other international or multilateral trade coding systems exist. These include: 1) the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) codes used by the United Nations, and 2) the old Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) used in the United States and the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) used by North American Free Trade Agreement member countries (Canada, Mexico, and the United States) to classify industrial goods. These codes all are standardized at six digits, but also can be made more detailed by individual countries.

Concordances between these other systems and the HS system or the HTS system used in the United States can be found on the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. International Trade Commission websites.

Q. How does the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) of the United States differ from the international HS code?

A.For describing trade, the United States chose to use 10-digit codes at the most detailed level. This set of 10-digit trade codes is known as the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS). It is based on the International HS standard and was introduced in U.S. trade on January 1, 1989. It further refines the 6-digit international HS standard. For example: 10=cereals, 1005=corn, 1005.90=other corn, 1005.90.2020=U.S. no. 1 yellow dent corn.

Q. What is FATUS and USDA's role in U.S. trade data?

A.USDA has been mandated by Congress to define those U.S. HTS codes constituting agriculture and to provide the public with statistics on U.S. agricultural trade. USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and ERS are jointly responsible for defining and maintaining U.S. agricultural trade data. Since about 1926, USDA has maintained the Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States (FATUS) database to fulfill this responsibility to Congress.

FATUS is a system of 213 trade codes created by USDA for the purpose of summarizing U.S. agricultural trade in a form most usable by the public. FATUS combines the several thousand (>4,000 import and >2,000 export) 10-digit U.S. HTS codes from the U.S. Census Bureau, which USDA defines as "agricultural," into these usable groupings. FAS' Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS) contains information on the country composition of FATUS regions and the HTS content of FATUS commodity groups for exports and imports.

Q. Where can I access U.S. agricultural trade data?

A. Monthly U.S. agricultural trade data from 1989 forward, including both FATUS and HTS codes, are available online from FAS's Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS). Choose FATUS imports or FATUS exports.

Monthly historical trade data back to 1967 are available electronically from GATS using both the FAS and BICO-10 product groups.

Q. Where are release dates for U.S. trade data?

A.The U.S. Census Bureau is the official source of the monthly release schedule. ERS compilations of trade data are released monthly. For ERS' release dates, see 2012   PDF icon (16x16) calendar.

Codes, Abbreviations, and Summary Categories for High-Value Products

Q. How do I know if a FATUS group includes a particular HTS code?

A.FAS' Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS) contains information on the HTS content of FATUS commodity groups for exports and imports. Click on a commodity group to see the codes within the group.

Q. How do I find the 10-digit U.S. HTS code for my commodity?

A.The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) is responsible for maintaining the 10-digit code list for U.S. imports. See the USITC's HTS schedule. The U.S. Census Bureau maintains the list of HTS 10-digit codes for exports called Schedule B.

Q. Where are the data for my HTS code?

A.FAS' Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS) has U.S. agricultural trade data by HTS code and by month from 1989 forward.

USITC also has U.S. trade data by 10-digit HTS code for both exports and imports in a searchable form back to January 1989 by country, Customs District, and month. Create your own free account and search USITC's trade dataweb.

Q. Which abbreviations are most commonly used in U.S. trade data?

A. Common abbreviations include:
DOZ - dozen (12)
HL - hectoliters (26.4 U.S. gallons)
MT - metric tons (2,204.6 pounds)
NA - not applicable
NO - number
PC - pieces
TH - thousands
US $ - U.S. dollars
FR - fresh
FZ - frozen
Prep - prepared or preparations
Pres - preserved
Ch - chilled
Ed - edible
Ex - excluding
In - including
Prods - products
W/nt - whether or not
NESOI - not elsewhere specified or included

See also FAS' Abbreviations for Units of Quantity. ERS also has Weight, Measures, and Conversion Factors for Agricultural Commodities and Their Products, which contains conversion factors from English to metric units.

Q. What is the difference between "high-value" (HVP) and "consumer-oriented" trade and where do I find these breakouts of U.S. agricultural trade?

A.These terms refer to two different breakouts of U.S. agricultural trade used by ERS and FAS. Neither USDA agency provides data on both. Two differing methods provide users a choice.

ERS breaks U.S. agricultural trade into two large categories-bulk and high-value products. ERS data on bulk and high-value products are available on a fiscal and calendar basis.

FAS breaks U.S. agricultural trade into three large categories- bulk, intermediate, and consumer-oriented (BICO) products. BICO data are one of the choices in FAS' Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS).

Definitions of bulk commodities are identical between the two USDA agencies, so FAS' intermediate plus its consumer-oriented series should equal ERS' high-value data.

Definitions, Countries, Ports, Tariffs, Commodity Classifications, and Lists of Traders

Q. Where is a detailed description of what is included in U.S. trade data?

A.For definitions and descriptions of official U.S. trade data, see the U.S. Census Bureau's Description of the Foreign Trade Statistics Program.

Q. Where are country codes listed?

A.The U.S. Census Bureau provides a list of country trade codes ( Schedule C). FAS' Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS) also contains a list of individual countries and FATUS country groups.

For more information about individual countries and lists of alternative country codes, see the U.S. State Department's Fact Sheet on Independent States in the World and the Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook.

Q. Where are U.S. and foreign ports?

A.The U.S. Census Bureau provides a list of U.S. trade ports ( Schedule D). The Army Corps of Engineers maintains a list of foreign ports ( Schedule K).

Q. How do I find tariffs for a commodity?

A.The global tariff information ERS has is presented in the WTO agricultural trade policy commitments database on tariff levels. Bound and annual applied tariff data for World Trade Organization (WTO) members are presented in a set of commodity aggregates. These aggregates allow comparison across countries of average levels of tariff protection. The data on tariff-rate quotas are presented at the level of aggregation specified by WTO members in their market access schedules. See the ERS WTO Topic and the Agricultural Market Access Database for additional information.

FAS also has world tariff data on its website. See import programs or trade policy.

For U.S. tariff information, see the U.S. International Trade Commission's Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States.

Q. How do I properly classify my commodity?

A.Duty and classification information is available from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). See the Contacts page on the CBP website for more information.

Q. I wish to trade with the United States or I need a list of U.S. traders of a particular commodity; where do I obtain this information?

A. ERS does not have this type of information. Specific U.S. trade information is reported to the Federal Government by individual U.S. companies with the understanding that it is proprietary and will be protected. FAS' U.S. Exporter Assistance contacts provide information to U.S. agricultural exporters and can be of some help to U.S. agricultural importers.

The United States also has numerous trade associations for individual commodities. Many U.S. companies trading a particular commodity are members of one of these associations. These associations usually will provide information. Search for them on the Internet.

Last updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012

For more information contact: Stephen MacDonald

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