Scope/Coverage of Data
The Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States (FATUS) dataset selects and groups U.S. trade data into useful commodity aggregations relevant to agriculture. These groupings encompass food and agricultural products—both raw and processed goods—but not tangential products such as agricultural machinery, fertilizers, seafood, and forest products. FATUS, along with the rest of USDA, follows the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) internationally recognized definition of "agricultural products".
FATUS aggregations are applied to trade data provided by U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. The FATUS database maintains trade data beginning in 1989 covering U.S. agricultural trade with nations from where U.S. imports are sourced as well as export destinations.
Summary tables are provided that include U.S. agricultural trade, value of high-value and bulk commodities, and top country export destinations and import sources for total U.S. agricultural trade. The U.S. Agricultural Trade Data Update provides current year-to-date monthly data with commodity-level detail and total agricultural trade. Annual data tables are provided for both the fiscal (Oct.-Sept.) and calendar (Jan.–Dec.) years.
The FATUS database maintains a set of agricultural commodity groupings, which are applied to trade data collected by U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census (U.S. Census Bureau) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The export data originate from the Electronic Export Information (EEI) filed by the exporter (or more accurately the U.S. Principal Party in Interest) or their agents through the Automated Export System (AES). Each EEI represents a shipment of one or more kinds of merchandise from one exporter to one foreign importer on a single carrier. Filing the EEI directly to the U.S. Census Bureau is mandatory under Chapter 9, Title 13, United States Code.
Data on U.S. imports of merchandise is compiled primarily from automated data submitted through the U.S. Customs’ Automated Commercial System. Data are also compiled from import entry summary forms, warehouse withdrawal forms, and Foreign Trade Zone documents as required by law to be filed with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The aggregated data are made publicly available by the U.S. Census Bureau via the U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services Report and associated databases and are released monthly by the U.S. Census Bureau. Specifically, the FATUS data product uses the U.S. Exports of Domestic and Foreign Merchandise and U.S. Imports for Consumption and General Imports datasets.
Key aspects of the data used in FATUS include commodity codes at the 10-digit level, country code identifying trading partner countries, year of shipment, month of shipment, customs value, and quantity. Other datasets’ variables, such as customs district of exportation/entry are not used in the FATUS database except for aggregation purposes.
Except where explicitly noted, FATUS reports import values as “imports for consumption,” which measures the total value of merchandise that enters consumption channels. Merchandise being held in bonded warehouses or U.S. Foreign Trade Zones is not included. Furthermore, the reported values are “customs values,” which are the import values of goods as appraised by the U.S. Customs Service in accordance with the legal requirements of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended. This value is generally defined as the price actually paid or payable for merchandise when sold for exportation to the United States, excluding U.S. import duties, freight, insurance, and other charges incurred in bringing the merchandise to the United States.
Exports are of domestic merchandise and include commodities that are produced or manufactured in the United States, and commodities of foreign origin that have been changed in the United States from the form in which they were imported. Foreign merchandise that is re-exported is not included in the data. Export data report the free alongside ship value at the U.S. seaport, airport, or border port of export based on the transaction price, including inland freight, insurance, and other charges incurred in placing the merchandise alongside the carrier at the U.S. port of exportation. The value, as defined, excludes the cost of loading the merchandise aboard the exporting carrier and excludes freight, insurance, and any charges or transportation costs beyond the port of exportation.
The U.S. Census Bureau updates the U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services data to the public every month according to its release schedule. These data updates provide data from two months prior. For example, January 2023 trade data were released in March 2023. The FATUS U.S. Agricultural Trade Data Update is released promptly following the monthly data releases.
The trade data from The U.S. Census Bureau identifies commodities by 10-digit commodity codes. These codes follow the convention of the International Harmonized Commodity Coding and Classification System (HS) that was established by the World Customs Organization. HS is an international standard for world trade, consisting of a 6-digit level of detail (for example, 10=cereals, 1005=corn, 1005.90=other corn). The United States further extends HS codes to 10-digits at the most detailed level (for example: 1005.90.2020=U.S. number 1 yellow dent corn). This set of 10-digit trade codes is known as the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) of the United States.
Concordances between these other commodity classifications can be found on the U.S. Census Bureau website. The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) also maintains a number of commodity classification tools on its DataWeb page.
Definition of Agriculture
The FATUS database includes selected food and agricultural HTS codes. Agricultural products include raw goods from the farm as well as those that have undergone processing, but they do not include tangential codes such as agricultural machinery, fertilizers, seafood, and forest products. As of the release of January 2021 data, USDA's definition of "agricultural products" follows the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) internationally recognized definition of agricultural products for the purpose of reporting international trade.
Underlying FATUS is a system of hierarchical trade code groupings created by USDA for the purpose of summarizing U.S. agricultural trade in a form most usable by the public. FATUS combines the several thousand (more than 4,000 import and 2,000 export) 10-digit HTS codes from the U.S. Census Bureau, which USDA defines as "agricultural", into these groupings. There are four hierarchical levels of aggregation. For imports, the least detailed agricultural grouping consists of 26 groups and the most detailed consists of 171. On the export side there are 21 broad groups and 162 detailed groups.
USDA, Foreign Agricultural Services’ (FAS) Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS) provides information on the HTS content of FATUS commodity groups for exports and imports. To navigate to the Product Groups – FATUS section of the page, using the top right menu bar select Reference Info > Definitions > Product Groups > FATUS. Once the list of groups is open, click on a commodity group to see the codes within the group.
USDA, FAS also maintains other unique agricultural commodity groupings, the details of which can be accessed following the above path. USDA, FAS’ primary groupings are Bulk, Intermediate, and Consumer-Oriented (BICO), Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), and other various other commonly used grouping schemes. These schemes are uniquely designed to facilitate specific end uses. BICO groups commodities into like groups and then further divides them by their level of processing. FAS and FATUS schemes group like commodities, with FATUS providing for more detailed groupings. The resulting commodity groups are unique and are not interchangeable across the grouping schemes.
The FATUS data system allows for the association of imports and exports with specific countries or country groupings. The U.S. Census Bureau provides a list of country codes (Schedule C). USDA, FAS' Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS) also contains information on the country composition of FATUS regions and the HTS content of FATUS commodity groups for exports and imports. To navigate to the Partner Groups – Geographical Regions section of the page, using the top right menu bar select Reference Info > Definitions > Partner Groups > Geographical regions. To navigate to the Product Groups – FATUS section of the page, using the top right menu bar select Reference Info > Definitions > Product Groups > FATUS.
Level of Processing
To facilitate usage of trade data by level of processing, FATUS aggregates data by level of processing. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) breaks out U.S. agricultural trade into two large categories, bulk and high-value products (HVP). Bulk commodities include wheat, rice, coarse grains, all oilseeds, tobacco, cotton and linters, and cotton waste. HVP include all other commodities that do not fit into the bulk category and are further sub-divided into three groups: raw, semi-processed, and processed. These groupings contain the following commodities.
- HVP raw: live animals, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and nursery products
- HVP semi-processed: fats, hides, feeds, fibers, flour, meals, oils, and sugar
- HVP processed: meat, milk, grain products, processed fruits and vegetables, juice, alcoholic beverages, nonalcoholic beverages, essential oils, and products of tropical commodities.
Units of Measure
Trade data released from the U.S. Census Bureau are reported in a range of units of measure. Although value is reported in U.S. dollars, units of volume are varied. The primary units of volume reported in FATUS summary tables include DOZ=Dozen, DS=Doses, KG=Kilogram, KL=Kiloliters, LITER=Liter, LITPF=Proof liter, MT=Metric tons, NO=number, PCS=Pieces, THNDS=Thousands. A more exhaustive list of units comprised in the underlying data can be viewed at Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS). To navigate to Units of Measure, using the top right menu bar select Reference Info > Definitions > Units of Measure.
It is important to note that the wide variation of units complicates the aggregation of volume data. Although aggregations of value include data from all commodities, aggregations of volume data only include those commodities with analogous units of measure (e.g., metric ton). As such, volume aggregations may not include all the commodities in a particular commodity grouping.
For more information on FATUS trade data, see the frequently asked questions found in the User's Guide below.
Strengths and Limitations
By using the U.S. Census Bureau’s U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services data, a comprehensive accounting of trade with the U.S. can be maintained with the most recent data. To maintain modern HTS codes that align with other trade code systems, HTS codes are regularly updated. Typically, the main HTS code change occurs with the release of January trade data, although additional changes can occur in a given year. Such changes include the addition of new codes, the retirement of outdated codes, and the reassignment of existing codes. To keep in alignment with these HTS code changes, the FATUS aggregations are updated in parallel. Although this ensures that commodity groupings are kept current, it is important to note that the commodity groupings change over time and may not contain the exact same bundle of HTS codes from one period to another. This is especially important when using the trade data as a long-term time series. To minimize any such discrepancies, code changes are applied to historical data retroactively. In other words, all historical data reported in FATUS are continually updated to the current set of HTS codes and FATUS aggregations (except where explicitly noted). Similarly, the U.S. Census Bureau annually publishes data revisions to correct the data from the past 3 years, which are incorporated into USDA, ERS trade data in July. Due to these ongoing data updates, historical data values are not static and may change over time.
The U.S. Census Bureau is the official source of trade data used by FATUS and maintains a broad set of resources to facilitate the understanding of trade data. For a comprehensive description of official U.S. trade data, see the U.S. Census Bureau's Guide to the International Trade Statistical Program. Their online trade database USA Trade Online provides detailed U.S. trade data that can be queried by HTS code.
In addition to the monthly U.S. Agricultural Trade Data Update, Fiscal year, and Calendar year agricultural trade data maintained on this site, monthly U.S. agricultural trade data—including both FATUS and corresponding HTS codes—are available online from USDA, FAS' Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS). From the GATS homepage, select Standard Query on the left of the page, then choose FATUS imports or FATUS exports in the Product Groups section. Monthly historical trade data back to 1967 are available in GATS, using both the FAS and BICO-10 product groups. GATS maintains detailed resources on the various dimensions, aggregations, and calculations used to produce the trade data.
USDA, ERS’ State Agricultural Trade Data disaggregates U.S. trade data to the State level. The quarterly updated State Trade by Country of Origin and Destination dataset provides the top five U.S. agricultural import and export commodities and the top countries buying or selling those commodities, by State. The origin (or destination) State is recorded as where the product is packaged for export (or import). As such, coastal States with ports represent a large share of total trade, especially for bulk commodities including corn and soybeans. Conversely, State Exports, Cash Receipts Estimates calendar-year dataset weights the export data by the State’s production (i.e. cash receipts) to estimate the value of exports by origin of production.
A list of ERS resources and data products relevant to agricultural trade can be found on the U.S. Agricultural Trade topics page.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States (FATUS).
The following users guide provides answers to commonly asked questions about FATUS and trade data generally.
A. USDA has been mandated by Congress to define the U.S. HTS codes constituting agriculture and to provide the public with statistics on U.S. agricultural trade. USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) are jointly responsible for defining and maintaining U.S. agricultural trade data. Since about 1926, USDA has maintained the Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States (FATUS) database to fulfill this responsibility to Congress.
A. The International Harmonized Commodity Coding and Classification System (HS) was established by the World Customs Organization. HS is an international standard for world trade, consisting of a 6-digit level of detail (for example, 10=cereals, 1005=corn, 1005.90=other corn). Each country has the option of further breaking down these international HS codes into more digits and greater detail to meet their own needs.
Other international or multilateral trade coding systems exist. These include: (1) the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) codes used by the United Nations; and (2) the old Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) used in the United States and the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) used by North American Free Trade Agreement member countries (Canada, Mexico, and the United States) to classify industrial goods. These codes all are standardized at six digits, but also can be made more detailed by individual countries.
A. For describing trade, the United States chose to use 10-digit codes at the most detailed level. This set of 10-digit trade codes is known as the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS). The set is based on the International HS standard and was instituted to organize U.S. trade on January 1, 1989. The set further refines the 6-digit international HS standard (for example: 10=cereals, 1005=corn, 1005.90=other corn, 1005.90.2020=U.S. number 1 yellow dent corn).
A. The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) is responsible for maintaining the 10-digit code list for U.S. imports. See the U.S. International trade Commission's HTS schedule. The U.S. Census Bureau maintains the list of HTS 10-digit codes for exports called Schedule B.
A. USDA, FAS' Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS) database has U.S. agricultural trade data by HTS code and by month from 1989 forward. The U.S. Census Bureau also maintains USA Trade Online database, which includes U.S. trade data by HTS code for both exports and imports back to January 1992 by country, port, month, and other dimensions.
See also GATS. To navigate to Units of Measure, using the top right menu bar select Reference Info > Definitions > Units of Measure. ERS also has Weights, Measures, and Conversion Factors for Agricultural Commodities and Their Products, which contains conversion factors from English to metric units.
A. For definitions and descriptions of official U.S. trade data, see the U.S. Census Bureau's Description of the Foreign Trade Statistics Program.
A. USITC provides a number of resources on U.S. tariff rates via DataWeb as well as the current Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States. USDA, FAS publishes world tariff data available at Agricultural Tariff Tracker.
A. USDA, ERS does not have this type of information. Specific U.S. trade information is reported to the Federal Government by individual U.S. companies with the understanding that the information is proprietary and will be protected. USDA, FAS' U.S. Exporter Assistance contacts provide information to U.S. agricultural exporters and can be of some help to U.S. agricultural importers. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection also provide a number of resources and tips for new importers and exporters.
The United States also has numerous trade associations for individual commodities. Many U.S. companies that trade a particular commodity are members of one of these associations. These associations usually will provide information. Search for them on the internet.