WASHINGTON, Sept. 1- The 2012 forecast for agricultural exports remain at $137 billion, while imports rise to $105 billion, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade report released yesterday. The trade balance for 2012 is a surplus of $32 billion, which would be the third highest ever.
However, the fiscal 2011 estimate for grain and feed exports is down $400 million to $38.4 billion.
"Corn exports are cut due to lower volume reflecting weaker-than-expected demand for feed grains in recent months, although unit values are higher, reflecting tight old-crop supplies and an uncertain outlook for the new crop," according to the report. "Wheat exports are nearly unchanged. Rice exports are down to $2.2 billion, in part due to quality issues impacting rough rice demand."
The 2011 trade surplus, at $42.5 billion, is the highest on record. The report stated that Fiscal 2012 agricultural exports are projected at $137 billion, the same as the 2011 forecast.
“Horticultural products are projected to increase sharply in fiscal 2012, due to strong demand from Canada, Europe, and Japan,” according to the report. “Grain and feed exports are expected up as greater corn, feeds, and fodders outweigh a drop in wheat exports. Exports of livestock, poultry, and dairy products are up on strong pork, poultry, and animal by- products exports. Oilseeds are forecast down based on lower volumes. Cotton exports are forecast down on tighter U.S. exportable supplies and greater competition from foreign exporters.”
Grain and feed exports are forecast at a record $39 billion in fiscal 2012, up $600 million from the 2011 estimate.  However, wheat exports in fiscal 2012 are forecast at $10.4 billion, a decrease of $1.3 billion due to lower volume. Large exportable supplies in Russia and Ukraine limit U.S. competitiveness, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East, according to the report.
The forecast for 2012 imports is $105 billion, which is 11 percent higher than 2011.
“Although prices of some key imported commodities such as tropical oils, sugar, rubber, coffee, bananas, and beef have declined or flattened in recent months, they have been generally rising since 2009, and are expected to remain near current levels through fiscal 2012.”
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack released comments yesterday about the record reports on net farm income and cash income this week, as well as the positive trade surplus from yesterday’s ERS report. 
“‘Grown in America’ products remain in high regard and high demand in the rest of the world,” Vilsack said. “The current U.S. export forecast for fiscal year 2011 is $137 billion, $22 billion higher than the previous record set in 2008 and $28 billion above 2010. And exports for 2012 will remain equally strong and help to support over one million American jobs.”
The U.S. is experiencing its best three years in agricultural exports, he added, while total farm debt decreased by nearly two percent.
For the entire Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade report, go here
This story was update at 8:07 a.m. on 9/2/2011


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