U.S. agricultural exports rose by 8 percent in September to $4.6 billion, while imports fell by 6 percent to $4.1 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

At just over $62 billion, fiscal year 2004 exports exceeded the previous record set in 1996, while imports were just under $53 billion.

A surge in the value of soybean exports in September and improvements in live animal trade offset losses in cotton exports. For the year as a whole, cotton exports were up nearly 60 percent over last year. Soybean, corn, and wheat export values each rose $1 billion or more during the fiscal year.

Imports of oilseeds, vegetable oils, and other tropical products all rose more than 40 percent during the fiscal year; although September oil imports were much lower than August.

Import values of red meat products and other tropical products each rose more than $1 billion during the fiscal year as well.