News reports are filled with gloomy predictions about both the U.S. and world economies.
Some of the dire projections for 2012 may be the election-year rhetoric of politicians seeking to cast doubt on the record of incumbents they hope to unseat. Even so, there does seem to be general agreement that the months ahead will be something less than an economic boom period.
The good news for Iowa, however, is that the agricultural sector in this country continues to do much better than the economy as a whole.
Joseph W. Glauber, chief economist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, shared some of the encouraging numbers with attendees at the USDA's Agricultural Outlook Forum, held in Arlington, Va., earlier this year.
He said 2011 was a very good year for much of U.S. agriculture and this year could prove similarly upbeat.
U.S. agricultural exports are forecast to reach $131 billion for fiscal year 2012. That won't be a record, but if the projection holds it will take a respectable second place.
While in many trade categories we Americans import more than we sell abroad, agriculture presents a much more favorable picture. Glauber told those attending the forum that U.S. agricultural exports could exceed imports by nearly $25 billion in Fiscal Year 2012. That's not quite as impressive as 2011, when the positive number was $43 billion, but still quite good. The multiyear trend has been similarly encouraging for much of the last decade.
It is no exaggeration to claim that the prosperity of the Iowa farmer is closely tied to the economic well-being of consumers in a large number of faraway lands. That's been true for many years, but has never been more so than it is today. It promises to be an increasingly important economic story in the decades ahead.
It's no secret that many of the agricultural products contributing to a favorable trade balance have been - and will continue to be - produced right here in the Hawkeye State.
Too few of the goods this country produces are competitive in foreign marketplaces. That makes the impressive record American farmers are achieving in exports a bright spot in a trade story that contains less examples of success than would be desirable. It also is encouraging news at a time when sluggishness elsewhere in the U.S. economy remains a serious national concern.