The nation's farm economy continues to remain strong, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told the House Agriculture Committee today.  Vilsack's prepared testimony stated that 2010/2011 U.S. rice prices are forecast to average $12.15-$12.65 per hundredweight (cwt), down from $14.40 per cwt last season.

Total rice use is forecast to increase by 5 percent, "reflecting improvements in both domestic use and export prospects," Vilsack testified.  Ending stocks are expected to increase sharply, he said.  In fiscal year 2011, U.S. agricultural exports are "expected to be record high," with the U.S. Department of Agriculture projecting them to reach $126.5 billion in value, Vilsack said.

Higher crop prices "will likely lead to [an] increased area seeded to major crops in the U.S. this spring and increased crop production this fall," Vilsack said.  Following his House appearance, Vilsack was scheduled to testify before the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee.