USDA Predicts Better 2020 for Ag, More Aid Possible

The USDA expects U.S. farmers to export more commodities in 2020, although it does not call for a boom year.

Robert Johansson, the USDA’s chief economist, spoke at the annual Agricultural Outlook Forum and predicted ag trade will “return to normal” this year, with farm exports to China rising from $10 billion in fiscal 2019 to $14 billion in 2020.

Those projections are lower than numbers discussed when the phase-one trade deal with China was announced.

Secretary Sonny Perdue spoke with reporters after Johansson’s presentation to say that China’s import commitments were “not included in those [estimates] in that way. We expect to exceed that, certainly.”

Johansson noted the potential impact of the coronavirus outbreak and said it is causing “many disruptions in shipping and supply chains.”

He also warned of “intense” competition from Brazil and other nations expanding their crop production.

Ultimately though, the economist said there are “more hopeful signs” for the farm economy in 2020 after a brutal stretch for producers bruised by trade troubles and historic flooding across the Midwest.

Perdue said farmers would need to navigate the market on their own in 2020, now that the U.S. and China have reached a deal on agricultural exports.

The following day, however, President Trump announced through Twitter that trade assistance is possible if farmers continue to suffer. Perhaps what farmer can know for certain is that their challenges have won the attention of leaders in D.C.

USDA expects corn and soybean acreage to rebound by 5 percent and 12 percent, respectively.