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Data and Information Below Furnished from the U.S. Forage Export Council.

Economic Benefits of Hay & Straw Exports 

The United States exports over $7.6 billion of hay and straw, which benefits thousands of farms in the western United States and creates tens of thousands of jobs across the country. Considering all wages, transactions and economic activity, forage exports represent over $13 billion in economic benefit.


$2.7 Billion


in Total Wages

38,563 jobs



$13 Billion


In Economic Benefits

Forage is often purchased and processed in areas of high unemployment. This is the case in Kittitas County, Washington, where unemployment is 30% over the state average, and in nearby Grant County where the jobless rate is more than 80% higher. Hay and straw are also exported from California's Imperial Valley where the jobless rate is one of the highest in the country, and three times the California average.

Jobs matter everywhere. Forage exports create jobs where jobs matter most.

Port workers and truckers across the West Coast depend on forage exports. No other commodity is shipped in greater volume than export hay and straw which represents the largest container traffic at ports like Long Beach and Tacoma. If every truckload of export forage were laid end to end, the line would stretch along the U.S. from the Canadian to the Mexican border.

4x4 load DC Fescue.jpg

What People Don't Know About (Export) Hay

More than ever before, the world depends on American agriculture, and the United States strengthens ties a round the globe by supplying food and feed. This includes over 75 countries that buy U.S. straw and hay. Agriculture is needing to balance trade and build relationships, and hay and straw help do exactly that. 

Farmers Need Forage

Farmers need to rotate crops to 'rest' their fields. Deep-rooted alfalfa aerates soil and restores valuable nitrogen. Cuttings during the summer provide critical cash flow, and for grass seed growers, straw earns an income from a by-product that cannot be burned, 

Hay is America's #1 Crop

By acreage, alfalfa is America's third largest crop; adding all grass hays and straw makes forage the largest crop in the country. Unlike other crops, hay is virtually in every state. If you're reading this in America, there are acres of hay near you right now!

It Ain't 'Just' Hay

Exporters will tell you that forage is not your typical commodity. Dairy farmers and beef ranchers overseas require specific nutrient and fiber content. And exporters cater to cows, too! Cattle respond to small differences in color, stem, and leaf size, so exporters stock various hay and straw to satisfy demand. Science is applied, too, to develop forage that is nutritious and can be grown sustainably in different environments. These efforts combine to make the U.S. the clear leader in the global forage marketplace. 

Added Value Means More Jobs

From the farm to the ocean container, hay and straw is transformed by many people and industries. At each step in the process, export forage grows in value and creates needed jobs. 

Over 10,000 Farms Supply Forage for U.S. Exports

Job-Adding Inputs

Equipment Suppliers:

  • Plant Researchers

  • Field Managers

  • Pest Specialists

  • Inspectors

  • Hay Presses

  • Packaging

  • Other Machinery

  • Strapping

  • Wrapping

Service Providers:

  • Testing

  • Repairs

  • Inspection

  • Courier

  • Utilities

  • Logistics Teams

  • Freight Forwarders

  • Dockworkers

  • Port Inspectors


This study was conducted by John Dunham & Associates, one of the country's leading economic research firms. For over twenty years, JDA has performed economic impact studies for Fortune 500 companies and national trade organizations.

Study supported by USFEC members, the National Hay Association, and AgWest Farm Credit

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