February 26, 2024

Balancing ag trade deficit with higher-value food crops

Alison Grantham

WASHINGTON — Farm Action released new research revealing the United States could balance its agricultural trade deficit by converting less than just 0.5% of current farm acreage to the production of higher-value food crops such as fruits, vegetables and legumes instead of feed grains.

The briefing paper’s findings come roughly a week after researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture released data forecasting a 45% increase in the U.S. agricultural trade deficit for the upcoming year.

This will mark the fourth time the United States has run an agricultural trade deficit since 2019, leaving the U.S. food system increasingly reliant on other nations.

Alongside this research, Farm Action’s political affiliate Farm Action Fund issued a set of policy recommendations it is urging Congress to include in the upcoming 2023 farm bill to support this shift in agricultural production.

“To me, what is so important about this work is that in taking a step back to reassess the scale of food crop production relative to farmland footprint, the data reveals a critical and widening disconnect between what we produce and what we need,” said paper author Alison Grantham, principal and founder of Grow Well Consulting.

“For example, in 2022, the U.S. harvested the fewest wheat acres since 1888, and the combined footprint of all harvested rice, pulse, fruit, nut, peanut, vegetable and melon acreage amounted to just 1% of our total national farmland acreage. This and other disconnects will require reckoning in the next farm bill.”

Farm Action Fund’s policy recommendations for the 2023 farm bill highlight how expanding access to markets and making improvements to crop insurance and risk management programs would incentivize farmers in the production of higher-value food crops to balance the trade deficit.

“Today’s agriculture policy is failing the United States and its citizens,” said Missouri farmer Joe Maxwell, Farm Action Fund president.

“The escalating ag trade deficit is an alarm bell to our nation’s farmers, ranchers and consumers, and it should be a wake up call for every politician in Washington. Today’s report and our policy recommendations provide a clear path forward to mitigate this national security crisis, and Congress must act on this issue in this year’s farm bill.”