By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

 WASHINGTON, May 11–U.S. farm exports reached an all-time high of $75 billion during the first half of fiscal year 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Last year, U.S. agricultural exports hit $59 billion during the same time period.

 "Today’s trade data demonstrate that, once again, America’s farmers and ranchers are helping lead the way to recovery from the worst economic recession in decades. The gains in U.S. agricultural exports are particularly encouraging news for those who live in rural America or earn a living in farming, ranching and agriculture-related industries, because exports are creating jobs here at home,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement.

 "At $75 billion, U.S. agricultural exports for FY 2011 are 27% higher than the same period in last year. This puts us on track to reach the current USDA export forecast of $135.5 billion by the end of the year.”

 With $15.1 billion in farm exports, China is the top export market, accounting for nearly 20% of all U.S. agricultural exports. Canada is the second-largest market.

 "March was the highest-grossing month for U.S. agricultural exports ever,” Vilsack said. “During that month alone, U.S. farmers and ranchers exported $13.3 billion worth of U.S. agricultural goods. That’s $407 million more than the previous record set in November 2010.”

 The U.S. agricultural trade balance also widened to about $30 billion, as agricultural imports rose to $45 billion for this fiscal year to date. That puts agricultural imports on track to also exceed 2008 fiscal year record of $79.3 billion.

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