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Despite challenges, Michigan food and agriculture exports boomed in 2020

Total exports grew by $340 million, or 18.7%

For immediate release: May 19, 2021
Media contact: Jessy Sielski, 517-331-1151
Program contact: Jamie Zmitko-Somers, 517-284-5738

LANSING, MI - Despite all the challenges and uncertainties the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it, Michigan's agricultural exports saw considerable growth in 2020. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Michigan's agricultural exports totaled $2.16 billion in 2020, an increase of 18.7 percent from the previous year's total of $1.82 billion.

"Through a once-in-a-century pandemic, Michigan's resilient farmers and dynamic agricultural industry stepped up to continue feeding the U.S. and the world," said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. "Our agricultural exports topped $2.1 billion in 2020, a massive increase from 2019, despite the hardships and constantly changing circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am grateful for the sacrifices Michigan's extraordinary farmers made to keep the rest of us going. Their hard work and grit feeds millions of families worldwide and supports thousands of jobs in rural communities across Michigan."

Significant increases in exports were seen in dairy products, soybeans, sugar beet byproducts, and wheat byproducts. Canada and Mexico remained Michigan's top export markets, largely due to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which was recently renewed. Exports to South Korea and China saw renewed growth, moving up to the third and fifth positions, respectively. Michigan companies continue to seek opportunities to develop and grow export markets around the world.

"I think this really speaks to the strength, resilience, and global demand for Michigan's high-quality foods," said MDARD Director Gary McDowell. "Last year was a difficult time for people, communities, and businesses, so it's reassuring when we receive positive news like this, especially for an industry that supports so many families and rural areas."

Michigan's top exports include processed food products ($365 million); soybean, sugar beet, and wheat byproducts ($253 million); cereals, baked goods, and pasta ($208 million); soybeans and soybean meal ($193 million); and dairy products ($180 million).

"Michigan's food and agriculture export numbers haven't been this high since 2014," said Jamie Zmitko-Somers, director of MDARD's Agriculture Development Division. "As we approached the summer and fall seasons, there were legitimate concerns about Michigan's supply chain, but with almost no exceptions, it came through with remarkable growth. Across the state, foods were harvested, processed, and delivered right on time. This definitely played a role in the success of our exports."

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD)'s International Marketing Program assists Michigan food and agricultural businesses in expanding their marketing efforts both domestically and internationally. Working with various partners and services providers, the International Marketing Program offers Michigan businesses a variety of programs and services, including one-on-one consultations, export education, export assistance, and market entry activities and programs. For more information, visit or email


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