Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced a record $79 billion forecast in FY 2007 agricultural exports. For fiscal year 2008, USDA forecasts exports to reach $83.5 billion with growth and new sales across all major agricultural product groups.

The forecasts eclipse the old record of $68.6 billion set last year.

"These export numbers, once again, demonstrate that U.S. agricultural products are in high demand around the world," said Johanns. "They also reflect tight world markets for grains and oilseeds. U.S. farmers are hard at work to supply these markets, both at home and abroad. In short, the world wants what we produce and at USDA we will continue to work aggressively to maintain and open markets for our farmers and ranchers."

Building on momentum from 2007, export gains in 2008 will be broad based with record sales for bulk grains, oilseeds, cotton, and high-value horticultural and livestock products.

According to USDA's first forecast for fiscal year 2008, an expected record U.S. corn crop, strong foreign demand and reduced competition will boost U.S. corn exports $600 million. China's demand for soybeans and cotton remains strong. Developments in the bio-diesel market will raise Europe's demand for soybeans as well. Horticultural exports are anticipated to rise by $800 million, supported by strong foreign demand and a competitive dollar. Beef exports are expected to increase $400 million due to larger volume.

"Trade agreements are having a huge impact," said Johanns. "If Congress ratifies the recently signed free trade agreements with Colombia, Korea, Panama and Peru, our producers will have increased access in some extremely important markets."

Imports for fiscal year 2008 are forecast at $75 billion, up $4.5 billion from the 2007 estimate, making for an $8.5 billion trade surplus in 2008. The largest import gains are forecast for fresh and processed fruits, coffee beans and other tropical products, bulk grains, and wines and beer.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, the Foreign Agricultural Service and the World Agricultural Outlook Board release agricultural trade forecasts quarterly. The summary and full report of USDA's Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Exports may be accessed from the ERS Web site at http://www.ers.usda.gov or the FAS Web site at http://www.fas.usda.gov. The next quarterly report will be issued in November 2007.