China Pear Buying Helps U.S. in Push for New Farm Export Record

U.S. farm exports may top the record $142 billion forecast in February as agreements with China and Russia reduce trade barriers and buyers replenish supplies at lower prices, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

Shipments valued at $55 billion through January, a third of the way through the fiscal year, show the U.S. on a path to sell the most exports ever, Vilsack said yesterday in an interview in Washington.

The department today is announcing that Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have agreed to accept shipments of day-old chicks and hatching eggs, as well as agreements allowing live dairy-cattle exports to Iraq and the first sales of pears to China, Vilsack said. The Asian nation is forecast to be the biggest buyer of U.S. farm products for a second straight year.

“We’re looking at a very, very strong trade year,” Vilsack said.

China, with projected $22 billion in purchases of mostly soybeans and cotton this year, has emerged as a key source of U.S. growth even as it continues to ban U.S. beef, a prohibition noted as a “serious problem” by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office earlier this week. Selling pears, while unrelated to the meat impasse stemming from the first U.S. case of mad-cow disease in 2003, will help build ties leading to resolution of other disputes, Vilsack said.

Farmer net income will be a record $128.2 billion in 2013 as growers rebuild drought-depleted inventories, the USDA said in February. Corn, the biggest U.S. crop, entered a bear market on April 1, having fallen more than 20 percent from its peak in August. The lower price may increase U.S. sale volumes, compensating for lost revenues, Vilsack said.

Exports for the 2012 fiscal year totaled $135.8 billion, according to the department, which will update its agricultural trade estimates in May.

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