Texas tops all U.S. states in exports for 19th consecutive year

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For nearly two decades, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, BEA, has ranked Texas as the No. 1 exporter among U.S. states.

”Texas shipped $279.3 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2020,” said Luis Ribera, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist, Bryan-College Station. “The state outperformed all other states, with the value of its exports accounting for 19.5% of overall U.S. exported products for 2020.”

Mexico and Canada received the largest portion of Texas’ exports, with Mexico accounting for almost 32% of the total and Canada for just over 8.3%. However, goods from the Lone Star State are exported all over the world.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic had a detrimental effect on 2020 exports nationwide, but this impact was less on Texas due to the state’s diverse and resilient economy,” Ribera said.

He also noted while the economic impact of Winter Storm Uri had a negative impact on first-quarter 2021 exports, the state is poised for a quick recovery and to provide not only sufficient commodities and consumables for its own residents but to also export to others. 

“Texans saw some supply chain disruptions and temporary shortages of food and other needed supplies during the winter storm and in its aftermath,” he said. “But once issues affecting fuel availability, transportation, workforce availability, stymied agricultural production and other challenges normalize once again, the state more than likely will remain ranked as the top exporting state in the country.”   

A resource-full state

“Natural resources, whether renewable or nonrenewable, are found throughout the world and have been extracted for human use for tens of thousands of years,” said Roel Lopez, Ph.D., director of the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute, San Antonio. “They are valuable not only in the development of commodities for providing income and revenue, but also for sustaining life and improving the quality of life.”

Texas is a large state with an abundance of natural resources, Ribera said. And from an energy perspective, primary fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas are among the state’s most exportable natural resources.

“Crude petroleum oils account for about 22.2% of total Texas exports,” he said. “Crude oil, along with miscellaneous petroleum-based products and liquified propane, are among the state’s top exports, contributing greatly to our total economic output or real gross domestic product, or GDP.”

“Our energy resources and agricultural production are of great importance — not only to the state, but also to the nation and to people throughout the world. Texas leads the nation in number of farms and ranches. And the fact that it has so much agricultural production, yet agricultural exports are no longer near the top for contributing to the state’s GDP, shows just how diverse and exceptional the Texas economy has become.” – Luis Ribera, Ph.D.

Agriculture exports smaller but still vital sector

Ribera also noted that while other items that come out of the ground, specifically agricultural products “don’t crack the top 10” in export sectors contributing the most to the state’s overall economic output, Texas still ranks fifth overall among U.S. states for those exports.

“Our energy resources and agricultural production are of great importance — not only to the state, but also to the nation and to people throughout the world,” he said. “Texas leads the nation in number of farms and ranches. And the fact that it has so much agricultural production, yet agricultural exports are no longer near the top for contributing to the state’s GDP, shows just how diverse and exceptional the Texas economy has become.”  

Ribera said while over time agriculture has become a smaller portion of the state’s exports as the Texas economy has evolved and become more diverse, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Service estimated its agricultural exports in 2020 at an impressive $6.5 billion-plus.  

Among U.S. states, Texas is second in total animal product exports and sixth in total plant product exports. In terms of revenue generated, Texas’s top five agricultural products are cotton, beef cattle and veal, feed grain products, dairy products and sorghum.

“We are the No. 1 cotton exporter in the U.S. and rank second in both beef and wheat exports,” Ribera said. “We are also first in sheep and goat production, second in overall animal exports and among the top five U.S. states in exportation of pecans, sorghum, rice and dairy products.”

The leading fruits produced in Texas are watermelon, cantaloupe and grapefruit, which is also the official state fruit. Texas is also a top producer of onions, potatoes and spinach, and is the nation’s No. 1 producer of cabbages.

Ribera said the state also ranks among the top 15 exporters in the nation for animal feed as well as broilers, fruits, corn, pork and vegetables.

“About 37% of our agricultural exports go to Mexico, making it our largest international trading partner for agricultural products,” Ribera said.

Ribera also noted that the state’s food processing sector is the third largest manufacturing sector in the state, producing beverages, baked goods, preserved fruits and vegetables and meat as well as other consumables for export.

Beyond oil and cattle: [Micro]chips with your salsa?

When most people think high-tech, they typically think California and, in particular, Silicon Valley.

“But Texas has also been the No. 1 exporting state for technology products for several years in a row,” Ribera said. “In 2020, we had $44.8 billion in technology-related exports, while California was in second place with $37.5 billion in those exports.”

He said other top 10 exports include aircraft and computer parts, integrated circuits, modems and other reception and transmission devices, and semi-conductor manufacturing equipment.  

“Texas has been growing steadily as an exporter of high-tech-related products and equipment,” Ribera said. “Technology is one sector people don’t often associate with Texas because they tend to associate us primarily with oil and cattle. And while those are important to the state and a source of great pride, we manufacture, produce and export of a wide variety of other products and goods needed and desired by consumers worldwide.”

Ribera also noted other reasons for Texas being the leading exporter among U.S. states.

“The size of the state, its business-friendly environment and solid infrastructure, the fact it has no state income tax and boasts the nation’s second largest workforce, as well as the can-do attitude of Texans, all help keep Texas in this enviable position,” he said. 

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