Corn exports vital, even in corn-deficit Virginia

virginia newWhen it comes to raising corn, Virginia is not a major player on the national stage. But corn exports from the Old Dominion are still an important part of the farm economy, according to a new study by an international agricultural commodities market research firm.

The economic impact study by Informa Economics IEG estimated Virginia’s corn harvest and export sales have a total value of $495.1 million in the state. That’s $171.6 million more than it would be if the Port of Virginia wasn’t so close and Virginia corn wasn’t sold overseas.

The study highlights the value of robust trade agreements to Virginia’s and the nation’s farm economy. It was released in part to support efforts to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the U.S. Senate.

The economic impact of all U.S. corn exports is $74.7 billion. But while Virginia corn exports are small, Virginia growers understand that exports are vital to their bottom line.

“In addition to (Virginia) corn, a lot is being grown in the Midwest and coming through Virginia. That creates a flow of trade that benefits local farmers, because we have some good selling options and a good price basis,” said Bryan Taliaferro, co-owner of Montague Farms in Essex County. His farm has exported soybeans to Japan for decades, and he serves on the Virginia Farm Bureau Federationsoybean, feed grains & grain marketing advisory committee.

“Anytime you can add demand for grain, it has to help the grain market,” Taliaferro said. “So we applaud any export activity. It’s just good for us and good for the state’s economy.”

Virginia is a corn-deficit state, which means it consumes more corn that it produces. “So every truckload of grain we export has to be replaced by Midwest farmers,” explained Jonah Bowles, VFBF senior agriculture market analyst.

Virginia livestock producers are concentrated in the western half of the state and need corn for animal feed, Bowles said. “The port is a mixed blessing for our farmers. It gives our eastern corn growers a ready market to sell to. But our poultry and cattle industries have to bring in trainloads of corn to meet their feed needs. Plus we also have an ethanol plant in Hopewell that will require (out-of-state) grain.”

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