Nicknamed the “Hawkeye State” located in America’s midwestern region, Iowa shipped US$13.2 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a -8.3% decrease from 2018 to 2019 but a 7% increase since 2016.
Iowa ranks among America’s 30 biggest exporters by state behind front-runners including Texas, California, New York and Washington states. The value of Iowa’s exports equals 0.8% of United States’ overall exported products for 2018.
Based on statistics from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Iowa’s exported products represent 7% of the state’s total economic output or real Gross Domestic Product in 2019 ($188.5 billion in current dollars based on BEA statistics).
Given Iowa’s population of 3.155 million people, its total $13.2 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $4,200 for every resident in the Hawkeye State.
Iowa’s unemployment rate was 2.8% at February 2020 up from 2.4% at April 2019, per YCharts.
Iowa’s Top 10 Exports
The following export products represent the highest dollar value in Iowa global shipments during 2019. 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.
- Tractors (large): US$758 million (5.7% of Iowa’s total exports)
- Corn: $749 million (5.7%)
- Pork cuts (frozen): $465 million (3.5%)
- Solid residues including soya bean oil-cake: $432 million (3.3%)
- Pork cuts (fresh/chilled): $383 million (2.9%)
- Herbicides: $368 million (2.8%)
- Combine harvester-threshers: $334 million (2.5%)
- Aircraft including engines, parts: $317 million (2.4%)
- Brewing/distilling dregs, waste: $291 million (2.2%)
- Molybdenum ores, concentrates: $257 million (2%)
Iowa’s top 10 exports accounted for roughly a third (33%) of the overall value of the state’s global shipments.
Combine harvester-threshers were the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 95.3% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales were molybdenum ores and concentrates via a 50.3% increase. Iowa’s shipments of solid residues including soya bean oil-cake posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 29.3%.
The sole decliner among Iowa’s top 10 export products was corn thanks to a -48% decrease year over year.
More Key Facts
Overall, Iowa generated a $3.1 billion surplus exporting and importing products during 2019. That dollar amount reflects a -14.5% year-over-year decrease from $3.6 billion in black ink for 2018.
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 2019.
- Semi-trailer truck tractors $654 million (6.5% of Iowa’s total imports)
- Piston engines: $260 million (2.6%)
- Parts, accessories for cranes and derricks: $255 million (2.5%)
- Natural gas (gaseous state): $181 million (1.8%)
- Mechanical shovels, excavators: $176 million (1.7%)
- Miscellaneous parts for engines/motors: $159 million (1.6%)
- Potassium chloride: $156 million (1.6%)
- Electrical boards and panels: $147 million (1.5%)
- Motor vehicle body parts, accessories: $142 million (1.4%)
- Medium-size diesel-powered trucks: $133 million (1.3%)
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 roughly three-quarters (75.8%) worth of the total value of products exported from Iowa during 2019.
- Canada: $3.8 billion (28.9% of Iowa’s total exports)
- Mexico: $2.1 billion (15.7%)
- Japan: $957 million (7.3%)
- China: $759 million (5.8%)
- Brazil: $539 million (4.1%)
- Germany: $513 million (3.9%)
- Australia: $364 million (2.8%)
- South Korea: $338 million (2.6%)
- United Kingdom: $315 million (2.4%)
- Netherlands: $302 million (2.3%)
Iowa’s top trade partners in North America (Canada and Mexico) bought approaching half (44.6%) 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
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