Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Comments on context...

Farmers have long been fed a constant stream of data without reference points for making comparisons.

For example, a few farmers can remember the value of all US ag exports (Choose one)
  1. $38B
  2. $69B
  3. $147B
  4. $23B
The correct answer is #2 (2006). For bonus points: What was the ag trade balance in 2006? (answer below)

But I have never - in 15 years of asking this question - gotten any answer to this question:

What is the value of all US exports? (Choose one)
  1. $1.4T
  2. $8.7T
  3. $232B
  4. $678B
[Answer below]

The reason farmers focus on exports and not imports, and certainly not total exports, is because we are taught to believe America is all about farming. When the numbers don't support that conclusion, we just don't mention them. As a result, we have a lot of producers who believe agriculture is actually important in our trade picture, when it is actually just a small contributor.

Ag exports contribute about 5% of US exports. And with a trade balance of just +$4B really don't affect our overall trade balance significantly.

I have also noted when I mention these facts, some producers get upset. I'm not sure if they think they are secret, and I am spoiling the illusion or what. But these are the numbers - and they are not made up.

What is our problem with reality and with seeing ourselves as a small part of a larger economy?

Why does the spotlight have to be on farmers?

2006 Ag trade balance = $4B
2006 Total exports (goods and services) = $1.4T

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I do agree the perception of the ag exports is misleading, but why then do trade talks rely so much on them? I guess it is enough of a lynchpin to non-ag trade but it makes one think if WTO talks are really all that important or just makes for good news (insert laugh)