U.S. exports of agricultural-related machinery totaled nearly $8 billion in 2009, a 23% drop compared to the previous year, with the largest declines in business to Europe and South America, according to the Assn. of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM). The AEM trade group consolidates U.S. Commerce Department data for off-road equipment with other sources into quarterly export trend reports.

"Our manufacturers operate in a global marketplace, and the farm equipment sector as well has been adversely affected by this worldwide recession after several years of strong export growth," stated AEM President Dennis Slater. "For example, prior to 2009, the export market for agricultural equipment had been expanding with double-digit increases since 2004. Current economic conditions, including limited access to credit, remain challenging in many countries and have led to a slowdown in business."

Slater provided additional commentary on the need for trade-friendly government policies:

"To help boost U.S. exports, it is essential that federal government policies make it easier for American companies to pursue international business, and for international buyers to more easily travel to the United States to examine and buy American products.

"AEM applauds President Obama's recent "National Export Initiative" to promote trade, which includes expanded Export-Import Bank funding for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from 20-50% of budget.

"Many of our smaller companies increasingly rely on exports to keep their businesses operating, and we have launched a pilot program with Ex-Im Bank to guide companies through the loan-application process and maximize their export opportunities.

"AEM also welcomes the Administration's renewed focus on revamping the U.S. visa-application process. International attendance at our trade shows would be much higher if qualified buyers were not subjected to an overly complicated and seemingly arbitrary process. These are established business people, and many just give up and vow to spend their money in other countries.

"We continue to hear numerous complaints of long waiting times and denial after a superficial review. We have experienced up to a 20-% refusal rate for our CONEXPO-CON/AGG construction show, and we estimate our recent AG CONNECT Expo agriculture show lost significant international attendance because of visa issues. For example, with one potential Indian delegation of about 80 business people, some 90% were denied visas."

Export Sales by Region & Top Countries

U.S. farm equipment exports to Europe totaled $2.3 billion, a 42-% drop for 2009. Exports to South America declined 31% in 2009, with purchases totaling $611 million. Central America took delivery of $646 million worth of American-made agricultural equipment in 2009, a 20-% decrease.

Asia bought $643 million worth of U.S. agricultural machinery, a 19-% decrease, while exports to Canada remained about even with a 1-% decrease to total $2.7 billion.

Exports to Australia/Oceania declined 2% and totaled $777 million, and Africa's farm equipment export purchases were $225 million, a drop of 25%.

The top buyers of U.S.-made farm machinery for 2009 were: (1) Canada - $2.7 billion, down 1%; (2) Australia - $731 million, up 6%; (3) Mexico - $531 million, down 15%; (4) Germany - $350 million, down 35%; (5) France - $340 million, down 14%; (6) United Kingdom - $250 million, down 36%; (7) China - $216 million, up 45%; (8) Belgium - $199 million, down 31%; (9) Brazil - $182 million, down 45%; (10) Netherlands - $138 million, down 37%; (11) South Africa - $134 million, down 14%; (12) Russia - $126 million, down 81%; (13) Japan - $118 million, down 15%; (14) Kazakhstan - $103 million, down 39%; (15) Italy - $97 million, down 12%.