Tennessee Agricultural Exports Increased During a Challenging Year

Jan 10, 2023


Despite a year wrought with market volatility brought about by supply chain issues and global events, researchers and Extension specialists from the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) say Tennessee’s agricultural and related exports continue to bolster the state’s economy. Exports reached $2.7 billion in 2022, up $412 million or 18% over 2021. This increase follows a 17% increase in 2021 as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic began to recede.

The state’s economic report to the governor is prepared by the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at UT’s Haslam College of Business, which was released on December 15. Data for agricultural and forestry contributions to the state’s economy are provided by faculty from the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics: Andrew Muhammad, Andrew Griffith, David Hughes, Jamey Menard, Aaron Smith, Sreedhar Upendram, and Edward Yu.

Carrie Castille, senior vice chancellor and senior vice president of UTIA, says the information will help policymakers and industry representatives as they enter the new year.

“Despite world events, challenging weather, and supply chain issues, the data show that Tennessee’s farmers and agricultural and forestry industries are strong, resilient, and vital to our state’s economy,” says Castille.

The report says farming operations in Tennessee occupy 10.7 million acres, approximately 40% of the state. Cash receipts in Tennessee totaled $4.4 billion, with approximately 64% of this value coming from crops and 36% from animals and animal products. In terms of harvested acreage, the state’s four largest row crops include soybeans (1.62 million acres, up 7% from 2021), corn (810,000 acres, down 15%), wheat (335,000 acres, up 2%), and cotton (325,000 acres, up 20%). Crop production accounts for nearly 49% of Tennessee’s farmland.

“Dramatic price increases received by Tennessee producers in the first half of the year were influenced by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, drought in the Southern Plains, lower-than-expected soybean production in South America, and strong global demand,” says crop marketing specialist Aaron Smith, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. “However, concerns regarding the global economy and inflation reduced prices in the second half of the year.”

Tennessee cash receipts for animals and animal products totaled $1.56 billion, broiler receipts totaled $603 million, and cattle and calves totaled $583 million. Calf and feeder cattle prices in Tennessee through the first eight months of 2022 both increased 14% compared to the same eight months in 2021. While prices for Tennessee meat and poultry production remained strong, high input costs limited profits, as it did for all facets of agricultural production. Livestock prices are expected to increase in 2023 if drought conditions improve.

High commodity and food prices, as well as strong production, increased agricultural and related exports for the country overall and at the state level. Key exports for Tennessee in fiscal year 2022 included cotton at $883 million and distilled spirits at $678 million, an increase of $158 million and $101 million, respectively. Tennessee was also a leading exporter of forest products with totals reaching $191 million, up $14 million when compared to the previous fiscal year. As national agricultural exports are projected to remain unchanged or to slightly decrease if commodity prices soften, Tennessee exports will likely not increase in 2023.

The state’s 2,301 food and fiber processing and manufacturing facilities employed more than 79,000 workers with a payroll of $3.9 billion and shipments valued at $43.4 billion in 2020. Food- and fiber-related manufacturing in Tennessee employed one in four manufacturing workers.

Agriculture and supporting industries are heavily reliant on rural infrastructure such as roads, waterways, and broadband. As many communities were negatively affected during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tennessee received funds through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the American Rescue Plan Act to help improve infrastructure and strengthen the economic recovery across the state.

The complete economic report to the governor is available at the UT Haslam College of Business.

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