KFB News Exclusive: USDA Under Secretary Ted McKinney Discusses International Trade

Posted on Nov 6, 2020

KFB News Exclusive: USDA Under Secretary Ted McKinney Discusses International Trade

In an exclusive question-and-answer interview, Under Secretary McKinney sheds light on the current international trade situation and some positive numbers related to trade so far this year.

KFB News: With international trade being so important to the U.S. agriculture industry, how significant do you think the current buying spree of agriculture commodities by China is to the industry?

Under Secretary McKinney: The current sales to China are extremely significant. For both corn and soybean, export sales commitments (sales pending export plus shipments already made) for China are about 40 percent of our total export sales commitments for those two commodities. Pork sales to China are at record levels. China is now our seventh largest beef market, with January through August exports more than doubling from the same period in 2019. Many other products, including poultry products are steadily gaining market share as well.

KFB News: Do you feel this increased buying will continue into the near future?

Under Secretary McKinney: We certainly hope so, particularly for the near future.  Many major U.S. commodities such as soybeans, corn, sorghum, pork, and tree nuts remain competitive on international markets, and we fully expect China to honor its Phase One trade commitments and continue to purchase its import needs from the United States.

KFB News: Are there other countries that are also increasing their purchases of U.S. agricultural goods at this time?

Under Secretary McKinney: Through the first eight months of the year, U.S. exports to China are up 13 percent ($1.1 billion) from the same time period in 2019.  There are bright spots elsewhere in the world as well -- including increased exports to emerging economies such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Colombia, Egypt, Taiwan, and Pakistan.

KFB News: What is your feeling about international trade, especially as it relates to agricultural commodities in the coming year?

Under Secretary McKinney: As you know, 2020 has been an abnormal year with the global pandemic.  Some supply chains were disrupted, and global consumers moved from eating meals at restaurants to eating many more meals at home.  U.S. exporters were agile and responded to changing consumer demand, leaving them in a good position to expand exports in 2021.  Additionally, new trade agreements with Canada, Mexico, and Japan will be fully in effect, which we expect to generate increased opportunities for U.S. exports.

USDA’s current export forecast for FY2021 is $140.5 billion, a four percent increase from the FY2020 forecast.  Much of next year’s increased exports are expected from soybeans, coarse grains, and tree nuts.  Our FY2021 forecast has Canada, Mexico, and China remaining our top three markets, with China providing a $4.5 billion increase from the FY2020 estimate.

And importantly, our theme of “leave no stone unturned” has been readily adopted by the Foreign Agricultural Service, which is aggressively pursuing all export opportunities, large and small.