‘Made in Michigan’: A Record Year for Food and Forest Exports Is Good News Amid Disruptions

By Isaac Constans

April 20, 2022

The value of exports for Michigan agricultural, food, and forest products was way up in 2021, despite challenges.

Need to Know

  • Michigan supplied a record value of agriculture-related products to other countries in 2021.
  • The figure represents a 20% increase over the previous year.
  • Agricultural and food exports were diverse, including processed food, dairy, and wood. 

LANSING, Mich.—You don’t have to go to the Michigan state fair to witness never-before-accomplished feats of agriculture, wood, and food production—not with the record number of Michigan-made products that were cranked out last year.

In 2021, the state exported $2.5 billion in food, forest, and farming products—its highest total ever, according to US Census data.

The increase comes amid a year of challenges with supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic. Yet, it marks two years Michigan’s agricultural export industry has boomed by close to 20% each year, though the last year’s figure accounts for significant inflation.

“Michigan’s agriculture industry is critical to expanding economic opportunities and creating more good-paying jobs for Michiganders,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “We will stay focused on investing in rural economic development, empowering farmers and agriculture businesses, and ensuring that the words ‘Made in Michigan’ are seen around the world.” 

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Michigan ranks among the most agriculturally diverse states in the US, and the state’s exports show a balanced cross-section of the state’s food, agriculture, and forestry sectors.

Processed food led the way, making up about one-sixth of the total export number. But not far behind were soybean, sugar beet, and wheat byproducts; dairy products; wood products; and edible meat products.

“Michigan’s incredibly diverse agricultural production, coupled with a significant value-added processing segment of the value chain, helped contribute to another strong year of exports,” said Chelsea Lewis, deputy public information officer for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), in a statement.

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Globalization has made Michigan goods more accessible to many, as the figures represent purchases from online retailers and supercenters.

Almost half of the exports were delivered to Canada, while hundreds of millions of dollars worth of exports also made it to China, South Korea, Mexico, and Japan, respectively.

State officials were especially pleased with the figures given pandemic-caused supply chain disruptions and demand fluctuations that hampered nearly every industry in countries across the world. 

“These annual export figures are a direct reflection of the hard work and dedication Michigan food and agriculture business put into their export efforts on a daily basis,” said Jamie Zmitko-Somers, agriculture development division director for MDARD, in a statement. “These businesses have been faced with supply chain disruptions, weather challenges, labor shortages, and more over the last year, yet they came through it all in tremendous fashion.”

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