Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


Commodity Exports of the Great Plains States and Provinces in 1996

State/Province Total exports U.S. dollars (millions) Exports per capita U.S. dollars (millions) Major products
Texas 53,662 2,805 machinery, oil
Colorado 10,749 2,812 machinery
Kansas 5,312 2,065 agriculture
Oklahoma 2,752 834 machinery
Nebraska 2,573 1,557 processed food
New Mexico 935 546 agriculture
North Dakota 632 981 agriculture
South Dakota 422 577 machinery
Montana 358 407 metals
Wyoming 130 270 chemicals, machinery
U.S. total 77,525
Alberta 22,634 7,950 oil, gas
Saskatchewan 9,197 9,290 grain, oil
Manitoba 4,571 4,031 vehicles, grain
Canadian total 36,402
Total 113,927

The international trade of the Great Plains is dominated by Texas, which exports more, by value, of almost every important Plains product than any other state or province in the region. One significant balance in the North is the large amount of Alberta's exports of oil and natural gas. In total, Texas exports almost as much, by value, as all the other Great Plains states and provinces combined.

Texas probably imports more than the other states as well, but there are no estimates of imports by state. This data void is unfortunate, because imports contribute to the standard of living by providing a greater variety of goods at lower costs than we would be able to produce ourselves, and it would be interesting to observe the differences in import patterns across the Plains. These commodity export data also ignore trade in services such as finance, transport, consulting, and tourism. Finally, it should be noted that the data are assembled by state and therefore reflect substantial exports originating outside of the Plains areas of several states. Primary metals and wood products from Alberta and Montana come mainly from their mountain regions, and much of Texas's oil and chemical exports originates in the Gulf Coast region. On a per capita basis, trade appears to be most important to Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba, in that order. Colorado and Texas are the only Plains states above the U.S. national average of $2,308 worth of exports per person.

Most of the international trade is between the United States and Canada, which are each other's largest international trade partners. The European Union and Japan are the next largest foreign trade partners for both the United States and Canada. These trade patterns have been maintained in the aftermath of the 1989 free-trade agreement between the United States and Canada and after the 1994 implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which included Mexico as well. However, trade with Mexico and the developing countries of Asia and Africa has been growing rapidly, especially in the categories of food and other agricultural products. For example, the largest export market for Kansas hard winter wheat in 2003 was Nigeria.

Despite the significance of international trade for the Great Plains, it pales in significance next to intranational trade. Oil, grain, and livestock products are major exports from the Plains to the East and West Coasts of the United States and Canada, while the Plains imports primarily manufactured products from the more populated areas of the two countries.

The composition of Plains exports partially reflects the resource endowment of this region. Raw and processed agricultural products are major exports from Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Nebraska, Manitoba, and Kansas, metals from Alberta and Montana, and petroleumrelated products from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Oklahoma, and Texas. Major metropolitan areas in Colorado, Manitoba, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, however, have taken advantage of economies of scale and technology to make machinery and equipment their major exports.

Craig R. MacPhee University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Hayward, David J., and Rodney E. Erickson. "The North American Trade of U.S. States: A Comparative Analysis of Industrial Shipments, 1983–91." International Regional Science Review 18 (1995): 1–31.

Massachusetts Institute for Social and Economic Research. National Trade Data Bank, Exports, State of Origin, Series II. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.

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