USDA expects lower U.S. farm exports

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 28, 2015 - USDA reduced its fiscal 2015 forecast for agricultural exports to $140.5 billion and cut its estimate of imports to $117 billion, which would still be the highest ever.

The new export number is down $1 billion from the February forecast and down $12 billion from fiscal 2014. If realized, this would be the lowest level of exports since fiscal 2012.

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The forecast for agricultural imports is down $2 billion from February, but still $7.8 billion higher than in fiscal 2014. The U.S. agricultural trade surplus is forecast at $23.5 billion, down from $43.3 billion in fiscal 2014.

The agency said most of the decline in exports can be attributed to horticultural products, which are down $1 billion from the February forecast with slower-than-expected shipments of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables among other products.

The forecast for livestock, poultry and dairy exports was lowered $500 million on smaller shipments of dairy due to strong global competition and reduced poultry sales due to greater trade restrictions.

Estimated exports of oilseed and oilseed products were raised $100 million as higher soybean meal values more than offset lower soybean prices. “Strong early season sales and current commitments support record soybean and soybean meal export volume,” the report notes.

The grain and feed export forecast was raised $600 million, with record shipments of sorghum and stronger-than-expected exports of feed and fodder, including distiller's dried grains with solubles (DDGS).

Fiscal 2015 wheat exports were forecast at $6.1 billion, a decrease of $300 million, mainly due to lower volumes. The cotton forecast was unchanged.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack touted the strong pace of American agricultural exports, as well as the importance of trade.

“Fiscal year 2015 exports are now forecast to be the third-highest on record, led by a strong performance in bulk commodities such as grains, animal feeds and oilseeds,” Vilsack said in a statement. “U.S. agricultural exports now support more than 1 million jobs here at home, a substantial part of the 11.7 million jobs supported by exports all across our country. Expanded U.S. trade overall has added roughly $13,000, on average, to every American family's income.

Vilsack said exports to countries where the United States lacks trade agreements have declined this year, “highlighting why it is so important for Congress to act and pass strong trade promotion authority legislation.

"Every day without trade promotion authority, American agriculture suffers as competitors negotiate their own agreements and lower global standards when it comes to environmental impact, consumer safety, and working conditions. USDA will continue to fight to get the best deal for farmers and ranchers, but our ability to open new markets and create new customers is limited without congressional action."

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