U.S. Farm Exports Reach Record $137.4 Billion on China Buys

Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. farm-product exports surged 27 percent to a record $137.4 billion in the year ended Sept. 30 as agricultural prices rose and China boosted purchases of soybeans and cotton, according to the government.

China became the biggest purchaser for the first time at almost $20 billion, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today in a statement. U.S. exports in 2011 exceeded imports by $42.9 billion, the highest ever farm-trade surplus, data show. Shipments in the previous fiscal year were $108.6 billion.

“The American brand of agriculture is surging in popularity worldwide,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “Next year looks equally strong for the U.S. agricultural economy.”

The value of shipments in the 2012 fiscal year will be $137 billion as demand increases for grain, fruit, vegetables and meat, the government said in a quarterly forecast in August that will be updated on Nov. 30.

Rising trade is contributing to a projected 31 percent gain in net-farm income this calendar year to a record $103.6 billion, the USDA said in an August report to be updated Nov. 29. China and Canada will be the biggest U.S. agricultural trading partners in 2012, with purchases of $19 billion apiece, the department has said.

New trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia that President Barack Obama signed last month should generate $2.3 billion, Vilsack said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Bjerga in Washington at abjerga@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net