Tuesday Trends sample: Exports rising, agriculture mixed and property values falling
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Exports: Wisconsin's exports grew by nearly 8 percent in the first six months of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation reports last week. State exports totaled $11.7 billion through the second quarter of the year, highlighted by increases in exports of industrial machinery, agricultural products, vehicles, and medical and scientific instruments. Industrial machinery, the top state export product, increased 13 percent, driven heavily by exports of parts for ship derricks, mobile lifting cranes and trucks with cranes. Transportation equipment exports also continued to show significant increases, up 36 percent through the first half of the year, with increases in exports of firefighting equipment, concrete mixers and trailers and semi-trailers. The state's top three export markets each saw increased trade from Wisconsin in the second quarter, with exports increasing 11 percent to Canada, 7 percent to Mexico and 3 percent to China. Meanwhile, the state also reports $1.5 billion of agricultural product exports to over 132 countries in the first half of the year, an increase of five percent compared to the first six months of 2011.
Agriculture: It's been a rough year for the state's farmers, beginning with an unusual combination of spring warmth and subsequent freezes and culminating in a drought that continues to wreak havoc on much of the country. A report from the state's National Agricultural Statistics Service office underscores the problems for Wisconsin's apple season, in particular, projecting a 61 percent drop in the apple harvest this year compared to 2011 levels. But two state crops -- including the official state fruit -- have stayed particularly healthy throughout the odd weather. The USDA forecasts a slight increase in the harvest of cranberries, projecting a 4.5 million-barrel harvest that would be 2 percent higher than last year's total. And although it's not a particularly big part of Wisconsin's ag picture, the state's wheat crop just produced a record harvest. Experts say the drought that hammered the state's corn crop actually helped stave off diseases that could have harmed wheat. Meanwhile, a report touting an increase in state exports noted ag exports increased 5 percent during the first six months of the year compared to the same period in 2011, even as national ag exports dropped during that span. Exports of Wisconsin dairy products, in particular, rose 27 percent during that period.
Property values: The state Department of Revenue reports the equalized value of Wisconsin real estate dropped 3 percent this year to $471.1 billion. That's almost $15.8 billion less than the overall value in 2011 for residential, commercial, manufacturing, ag and other land, and the single-biggest decline in 50 years. An analysis from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, furthermore, says it's the fourth consecutive year of declining property values in Wisconsin. Residential, commercial and agriculture property were among the categories with falling value this year; manufacturing was the only category to report an increase, owing to new manufacturing construction, according to DOR. The Taxpayers Alliance report says just seven of the state's 72 counties -- largely in western Wisconsin -- reported increasing property values, while southeastern Wisconsin saw many of the hardest hit counties. Kenosha County values dropped 7.7 percent, while values dipped 6.4 percent in Walworth County and 6.1 percent in Racine County.