Forecast for this year still below 2008's record-setting figure

By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

The USDA has forecast a dramatic uptick in agricultural exports.

The May 27 Economic Research Service forecast shows exports up nearly 5 percent from the February forecast and well above 2009 levels.

"Today's strong economic report is good news for communities across the country," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release. "Efforts to increase trade are an important part of the administration's efforts to strengthen our economy here at home."

The forecast put fiscal 2010 exports at $104.5 billion, up $4.5 billion from the February forecast and up $7.9 billion from 2009 exports.

The forecast still is well below the record $115.3 billion of agricultural goods U.S. farmers exported in 2008.

Key contributors to the higher forecast include increases in soybean exports triggered by increased production estimates and an uptick in early-season soybean sales to China. Also, grain exports are up due to higher demand for feeds and fodders and high-quality wheat. Surging tree nut shipments to China and Hong Kong also contributed to the higher forecast.

U.S. agricultural exports to China grew by nearly $3 billion during the first half of the fiscal year to $10.6 billion, making China the U.S.'s top market.

The ERS report shows growth in domestic product in Europe, Asia and the United States, as well as growth in trade volume, providing a strong indication for an economic turnaround.

The fiscal crisis in Greece, however, could slow economic recovery in Europe, the report notes.

"Emerging Asia will lead the world economic turnaround, as intra-Asia trade growth accelerates," the report states.

Fiscal 2010 agricultural imports are forecast at $76.5 billion, putting the trade surplus at $28 billion.

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