State Export Data

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Estimating State Exports

Data on the value of U.S. agricultural exports by State of origin are not part of the U.S. export information collected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. U.S. agricultural commodity exports are often produced in inland States and pass through several marketing or processing points before arriving at a port. As the commodity passes through other States prior to export, the State of origin is often lost or the product is comingled with a similar product from other States. Frequently, the State from which the commodity began its export journey (not necessarily the State in which the commodity was produced) is the State of origin reported by the exporter.

ERS has historically provided estimates of State agricultural exports by allocating export values of major agricultural products to States based on each State’s estimated share of U.S. production for those products. ERS has now introduced a new series of State export estimates in which State export values are allocated based on the share of U.S. farm cash receipts for those products. This new approach preserves the origin of production function of the production-based allocations, but it also accounts for differences in product prices and onfarm use across States, and uses consistent calendar year data for both U.S. agricultural exports and U.S. farm cash receipts.

Methodology Based on Farm Cash Receipts

Tracking agricultural export products back to their original source of production is complicated since data on agricultural exports by State are not collected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Recording the State of production for exported farm products is also difficult because of the lack of documentation or specific source information for processed products or mixed shipments. A large portion of U.S. agricultural commodities, such as grains and soybeans, are produced in inland States such as Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas. Bulk commodities are typically sold first to a local elevator, which may then sell them to a larger elevator where they are mixed with similar commodities from other States and transported to a seaport or border crossing. Tracking the source State is even more complicated for processed agricultural products. Processors and manufacturers may use raw materials from a number of States, and final processed products may undergo multiple processing steps in different States before reaching the port for foreign shipment. Instead of tracing commodities or products back to their original State of production, it is more feasible to allocate exports by production shares (whether based on volume or value).

Using farm production value, or cash receipts, to compute State export shares provides data consistency because both the estimated export values and the farm receipts data are expressed in dollar terms. ERS uses data on farm cash receipts to estimate the sales revenue received by U.S. farmers for their commodities. These receipts are calculated from production quantities and prices received by farmers, or from production values, in each U.S. State during the calendar year. The production volume, prices, and value of agricultural commodities in each State are estimated from farm survey data collected by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Farm cash receipts provide the base value for agricultural production sold, whether in the domestic market or to the international market. The national sales amount for each farm commodity equals the sum of each State’s farmgate sales receipts from that commodity.

To estimate the value of a State’s agricultural commodity sales to the international market, the share of a commodity’s farm receipts by each State must be determined. These shares are then applied to the U.S. agricultural export value for that commodity—i.e., a State’s estimated export value for a commodity is determined by that State’s share of the total U.S. farm receipts from sales of that commodity. To match U.S. agricultural exports with farm receipts, exports are grouped according to the ERS farm sales commodity groupings (livestock products, vegetables, fruits, grains, etc.). Closely matching these groups is important because a State’s export estimate for a commodity, and the products processed from it, depends on the State’s share of total U.S. farm sales for that commodity.

A State’s farm receipts for agricultural commodities produced and harvested within its geographic boundaries are organized by ERS as either livestock and products or crops and products. The livestock sector is further subdivided into meat animals, dairy products, poultry and eggs, and miscellaneous livestock products. The crop sector consists of food grains, feed crops, cotton, tobacco, oil crops, vegetables, fruits and nuts, and other crops. ERS provides annual farm-receipts estimates for 21 commodity groups and individual commodities, including total animal products, total crops, and for all agricultural commodities. The total U.S. farm receipts for each commodity group are the sum of the farm receipts from all 50 States. U.S. agricultural exports, including processed products, are summed into the same commodity groups as farm receipts.  Estimates of State export values for a commodity or commodity group are calculated by multiplying each State’s share of total U.S. farm receipts for that commodity or group by the U.S. export value corresponding to the same commodity or group. For example, using California’s 32.3-percent share of U.S. farm receipts for rice in 2014 and U.S rice exports of $2 billion for the same year, the estimate of rice exports from California in 2014 is $644 million.

For commodity groups that include processed products, value added from processing can inflate the estimated export value for that commodity group since corresponding farm receipts do not account for processing costs. As such, the sum of estimated exports for a group of commodities may exceed the estimated export value of that commodity group. To ensure consistency with actual U.S. agricultural export values, the sum of all States’ export estimates is calibrated to equal the actual U.S. export values for each commodity and commodity group.

Methodology Based on Agricultural Production

Historically, ERS State export estimates were computed by fiscal year and were allocated to individual States using the State-level agricultural production data supplied by NASS, which were usually recorded by crop or marketing year. The underlying crop and livestock production and slaughter data by State are publicly available from NASS on its “Quick Stats” page. The State's share of production quantity or volume (physical weight) for a commodity is applied to the U.S. export value for that commodity to derive its export estimate from that State. NASS does not provide production statistics for processed agricultural products such as pasta—for these products, supplemental data came from the 2007 Census of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce's 2002 Economic Census, Subject Series, Manufacturing Product Summary to refine State export estimates.

Production-based estimates are provided for 20 commodity groups, including "Other," which consists of the many disparate products not included elsewhere (e.g., wine, essential oils, sugar and tropical products, nursery and greenhouse products, beverages (except juice), coffee, tea, cocoa, oilseed meals and their oils (mostly rapeseed and safflower seed), vegetable waxes, protein substances, chocolate, spices, rubber, fibers other than cotton, and miscellaneous horticultural products (starches, soy sauce, condiments, soups, gelatins, yeast, baking powder, hops, vinegar, and food preparations)). In many cases, the sum of State production volumes is less than the reported U.S. total. This difference is then added to an "Other States" category for each commodity group.

ERS will no longer update the production-based State agricultural export estimates. Future updates will include only new calendar year U.S. farm-receipts-based exports.

Advantages and Limitations of the Cash-Receipts-Based Method 

The new agricultural cash-receipts-based method for estimating State export shares offers several advantages over the production-based system that it replaces:

  • Farm cash receipts account for differences in the quality and price of commodities produced in each State. Information on price per unit in each State is used to compute cash receipts.
  • Farm cash receipts also account for changing farm and export prices of commodities over time.
  • Farm cash receipts provide information on the amount of commodities actually sold by farms, excluding those retained for farm use. Farm use, farm-owned stocks, and USDA Commodity Credit Corporation purchases are not accounted for in the calculation.
  • The production-based method requires a mix of marketing-year production volumes with fiscal-year export values. For farm receipts, calendar-year estimates are combined with consistent calendar-year export values.

The cash-receipts-based method, however, shares several limitations with the production-based method for allocating exports to States. Neither of these methods is able to:

  • Track actual movement of farm products from States to ports or to border crossings. Export estimates based on either cash receipts or production share may differ substantially from actual commodity movement from States to export locations.
  • Account for the role of States in processing or other value added to exported products between the farm and export locations. The export value of processed foods and agricultural products is apportioned to States based on where the raw commodity is produced, not where the product was processed. Data on value added by commodity are not available by State (only value added by manufacturing industry is available). Export values (f.a.s., or free alongside ship) also include costs for inland freight, insurance, and other charges incurred delivering the commodity to the U.S. port of exportation that are not attributable to the farm production value of the commodity.
  • Account for U.S. export values that include re-exports (international trans-shipments) passing through U.S. ports. The value of re-exports is shared between States even though the product was not produced in the United States.
  • Provide information on the countries of destination for each State’s exports.

Comparing Production-Based and Receipts-Based Exports

Export estimates based on value show similar States in the top rankings as are shown in export estimates based on volume. ERS has ranked, by export earnings in 2014, the top eight States: California, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, Indiana, and Kansas (fig. 1). These States exported from $23.6 to $4.7 billion in agricultural commodities and processed products in calendar 2014. The largest exporters of animal products were Iowa, California, Texas, Nebraska, and Minnesota, with earnings ranging from $1.7 billion to $3.6 billion in 2014 (fig. 2). The top exporters of plant products include California, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska, who earned between $5.4 and $21.3 billion in 2014 (fig. 3). Overall, the United States exports about 3.5 times more plant (crop) products than animal products, giving an economic advantage to large grain- and oilseed-producing States. 

Figure 1: Top 10 exporters of agricultural products, 2014

Chart data
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Source: USDA, Economic Research Service

Figure 2: Top 10 exporters of animal products, 2014

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Source: USDA, Economic Research Service

Figure 3: Top 10 exporters of plant products, 2014

Chart data
Download larger size chart (486 pixels by 293 pixels, 96 dpi)

Source: USDA, Economic Research Service

Many of these top producing States’ exports exceed what their share of farm receipts indicate— i.e., about 20 States produce highly exportable commodities, resulting in production-based total export estimates that are larger than the value obtained from multiplying the corresponding ratio of farm receipts by U.S. agricultural exports. This discrepancy may result when value added through processing is attributed not to the States that processed those exported products but to those that originally produced the primary raw materials of those exports. Thus, States that produce most of the exported commodities (measured as shares of farm receipts) are credited with proportionally higher export values. On this point, the production-based and receipts-based methods are compatible.

Farm cash receipts are computed by multiplying farm production by unit price. As such, farm-receipts-based export estimates use information from commodity prices that production-based exports do not. For example, while Arkansas produced and exported more than twice as much rice as California did in 2010 (table 1), California’s higher unit prices for rice raised its export value relative to those for Arkansas. The farm-receipts-based export estimate for Arkansas rice was $982 million in 2010, or only 1.5 times that of California’s rice export estimate. Thus, different prices between States for the same commodity will result in different export estimates when based on farm receipts. When two States produce equal quantities of a commodity, their production-based export estimates will be the same, but will differ if their farm receipts reflect any price difference. 

Table 1. U.S. rice exports, 2010
Farm Production Share Farm receipts share
  Million dollars   Million dollars
Arkansas 1,181 Arkansas 982
California 452 California 676
Difference 729 Difference 306
*Note: BSE was confirmed in the U.S. cattle herd in late December 2003.
Sources: Estimates are from or are compiled from data from World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Economic Research Service.

Additionally, when two States have equal farm-receipts ratios (as between Indiana and North Carolina in 2010), their export estimates will depend on the highly exportable commodities they produce. Even though Indiana and North Carolina have the same 3.1-percent share of total U.S. farm cash receipts, Indiana’s larger production of grain and oilseed products relative to North Carolina results in a larger difference in export estimates than what the production-based export estimates indicate—the difference between receipts-based export estimates ($928 million) is $250 million more than the difference between production-based estimates ($678 million) (table 2). In other words, exports based on production volume tend to underestimate export values. By contrast, exports based on farm receipts are more favorable for States from which high-value exports originate or for States whose farm production is disproportionately represented in U.S. exports (such as grains and oilseeds). 

Table 2. U.S. agricultural exports, 2010
StateFarm production ratioExportsFarm receipts ratioExports
  Percent Million dollars Percent Million dollars
Indiana 3.1 3,422 3.1 4,350
North Carolina 2.5 2,744 3.1 3,422
Difference   678   928
*Note: BSE was confirmed in the U.S. cattle herd in late December 2003.
Sources: Estimates are from or are compiled from data from World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Economic Research Service.

Comparing Census Bureau and USDA Farm-Production or Cash-Receipts Estimates

The U.S. Census Bureau also estimates State-level exports for farm products using a method based on the last recorded point or location before transport to the port of exportation. This origin of movement can include farms, silos, packers, factories, or warehouses. State export estimates using the Census Bureau’s Origin of Movement (OM) method differ from those generated by the ERS production-share (PS) or cash-receipts (CR) methods. OM estimates differ primarily because they reflect shipments from industries or manufacturers, whereas the PS and CR estimates are calculated from agricultural production. The PS or CR methods will lead to larger export values for States that produce agricultural commodities traditionally exported in less-processed form. The OM estimates will lead to larger exports for States that manufacture or ship commodities traditionally exported in a more processed form.

The estimation differences are especially large for soybeans and feed grains. In the OM series, Louisiana and Washington accounted for 77 percent of total soybean export value in 2010, despite the fact that neither State is in the top 10 States in the PS/CR series. For the PS series, the top six States (Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Indiana, and Ohio) accounted for 79 percent of soybean export value, but Iowa and Indiana were not in the top 10 States for the OM series. For feed grains, Louisiana accounted for 56 percent of the OM export value but does not appear in the list of top 10 PS States. In the top 10 CR rankings for soybeans, which excluded Louisiana and Washington, the top 7 states accounted for 68 percent of total soybean exports in 2010.

However, both the OM and PS/CR series list California, Washington, and Florida as the top States for fruit and nut exports, accounting for most of the estimated value of fruit and nut exports. Together, these three States in 2010 accounted for 81 percent of the estimated value of fruit and nut exports based on the OM method, and for 87 percent of the estimated value of fruit and nut exports based on the PS method. Using cash-receipts-based shares, these States shipped 82 percent of U.S. fruit exports, which is more in line with the OM method. Since more than half of fruit exports are shipped fresh, they are generally not routed through other States before reaching the port of exportation, which is the reason for the similar OM and CR shares.

The bias generated by origin of movement in overestimating exports of port or border States is eliminated when origin of production or cash receipts are used. Origin of movement has many limitations as a substitute for origin of production for many farm commodities and processed products, making it a less accurate basis for estimating State exports. Additionally, in accounting for commodity price differences between States, the cash-receipts export estimates are more accurate than the production-share estimates.


While a number of methods for estimating exports by State are available, none provides a direct measure of actual export value. Each method has its own weaknesses when allocating export earnings by State because tracing products back to their original farm of production is difficult, whether in raw or processed form. Because farm cash receipts are calculated from sales value by farms in each State, they provide the best method for measuring export shares that more closely estimate the production value and source of exported products.

Data Sources

ERS farm cash receipts by commodity and State are computed from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) production data and unit prices of farm products in each State:

U.S. agricultural export values by State are obtained from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS):

Farm production data by State are published by NASS, Quick Stats 2.0:

Last updated: Tuesday, October 27, 2015

For more information contact: Alberto Jerardo

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