Iowa’s Top 10 Exports

Iowa state flag courtesy of

Iowa state flag

Nicknamed the “Hawkeye State” located in America’s midwestern region, Iowa shipped US$14.3 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 6.9% gain from 2017 to 2018 and an 8.2% increase since 2015.

Iowa is America’s 28th-biggest exporter by state behind front-runners including Texas, California, New York and Washington states. The value of Iowa’s exports equals 0.9% of United States’ overall exported products for 2017.

Based on statistics from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Iowa’s exported products represent 8.4% of the state’s total economic output or real Gross Domestic Product in 2018 ($192.6 billion in current dollars based on BEA statistics).

Given Iowa’s population of 3.156 million people, its total $14.3 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $4,500 for every resident in the Hawkeye State.

Iowa’s unemployment rate was 2.4% at April 2019 down from 2.8% as of March 2018, per YCharts.

Iowa’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export products represent the highest dollar value in Iowa global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Iowa.

Figures are shown at the more granular six-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, for more precise product identification.

  1. Corn: US$1.4 billion (10.1% of Iowa’s total exports)
  2. Tractors (large): $813 million (5.7%)
  3. Soya beans: $432 million (3%)
  4. Pork cuts (frozen): $401 million (2.8%)
  5. Herbicides: $397 million (2.8%)
  6. Pork cuts (fresh/chilled): $388 million (2.7%)
  7. Brewing/distilling dregs, waste: $384 million (2.7%)
  8. Solid residues including soya bean oil-cake: $347 million (2.4%)
  9. Aircraft including engines, parts: $303 million (2.1%)
  10. Front-end shovel loaders: $221 million (1.5%)

Iowa’s top 10 exports accounted for over a third (35.8%) of the overall value of the state’s global shipments.

Soya beans were the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 138.7% from 2017 to 2018.

In second place for improving export sales were solid residues including soya bean oil-cake via a 35.5% increase.

Iowa’s shipments of front-end shovel loaders posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 31.5%.

The sole decliner among Iowa’s top 10 export products were fresh/chilled pork cuts thanks to a -12.2% decrease year over year.

More Key Facts

Overall, Iowa incurred a $3.6 billion surplus exporting and importing products during 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -14.3% year-over-year decrease from $4.2 billion in black ink for 2017.

Another way of saying surplus or deficit is positive or negative net exports. In a nutshell, the term “net exports” quantifies the amount by which foreign spending on a state’s goods or services exceeds or lags that same state’s spending on foreign goods or services.

Below are Iowa’s top 10 import products highlighting the state’s highest spending on foreign-made goods in 2018.

  1. Semi-trailer truck tractors $427 million (4% of Iowa’s total imports)
  2. Heavy machinery parts, accessories: $278 million (2.6%)
  3. Carboxylic acids/anhydrides with oxygen functions: $258 million (2.4%)
  4. Alloyed aluminum (unwrought): $248 million (2.3%)
  5. Piston engines: $238 million (2.2%)
  6. Potassium chloride: $175 million (1.6%)
  7. Mechanical shovels, excavators: $167 million (1.6%)
  8. Motor vehicle body parts, accessories: $158 million (1.5%)
  9. Natural gas (gaseous state): $154 million (1.4%)
  10. Electrical boards and panels: $147 million (1.4%)

Iowa has highly positive net exports in the international trade of corn, large tractors and soya beans. In turn, these cashflows indicate Iowa’s competitive advantages under these product categories.


The following list shows the top 10 customers that purchased almost three-quarters (73.7%) worth of the total value of products exported from Iowa during 2018.

  1. Canada: $4.2 billion (29.6% of Iowa’s total exports)
  2. Mexico: $2.3 billion (16.3%)
  3. Japan: $964 million (6.7%)
  4. China: $626 million (4.4%)
  5. Germany: $456 million (3.2%)
  6. Australia: $412 million (2.9%)
  7. Brazil: $412 million (2.9%)
  8. South Korea: $389 million (2.7%)
  9. Egypt: $382 million (2.7%)
  10. United Kingdom: $335 million (2.3%)

Iowa’s top trade partners in North America (Canada and Mexico) bought approaching half (45.9%) of the overall value of exported goods from the Hawkeye State.


Iowa Export Companies

Four Iowa-based corporations rank among Fortune 1000 Companies, a list that showcases America’s largest businesses. Those examples are listed below.

  • HNI Corp (office furniture, fireplaces)
  • Rockwell Collins (avionics/technology systems, services)
  • Casey’s General Stores (convenience stores, fuel)
  • Principal Financial Group (investment management, insurance)

Shown within brackets for each company is a summary of the products or services which each business sells, some of which are international trade-related.


Iowa’s capital is Des Moines, a city originally named Fort Des Moines.

See also America’s Top 20 Export States, United States Top 10 Exports and Top United States Trade Balances

Research Sources:
Department of Numbers, Iowa GDP (dollars shown in real terms). Accessed on June 20, 2019, Flags of US States. Accessed on June 20, 2019

Forbes, 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 20, 2019

GeoLounge, Fortune 1000 Companies List for 2016 , Fortune 1000 by State and Place. Accessed on June 20, 2019

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 20, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 20, 2019

State Symbols USA, State Nicknames. Accessed on June 20, 2019

United States Census Bureau, Foreign Trade (State by 6-Digit HS Code). Accessed on June 20, 2019

United States Census Bureau, QuickFacts: Iowa. Accessed on June 20, 2019

Wikipedia, Category:Companies based in Iowa. Accessed on June 20, 2019

Wikipedia, Iowa. Accessed on June 20, 2019

Wikipedia, List of U.S. states and territories by GDP. Accessed on June 20, 2019

World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Des Moines, United States. Accessed on June 20, 2019

YCharts, Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Report. Accessed on June 20, 2019