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USDA predicts 30% jump in 2017 US agri trade surplus

Despite the strength in exports, the separate 2016 Farm Sector Income Report shows continued weakness.

The latest outlook on agricultural trade from the US Department of Agriculture forecasts a nearly 30 percent jump in the US agricultural trade surplus from $16.6 billion in fiscal year 2016 to $21.5 billion in 2017.

That would occur as agricultural exports hit $134 billion, a $4.3 billion increase from 2016 and the sixth highest total on record.

The bulk of commodity exports are expected to surpass last year’s record levels: soybeans will hit a record 55.8 million metric tons, a modest 3 percent increase from 2016; corn will jump 11 percent to 56.5 million metric tons; and wheat will increase by 14 percent to 25.6 million metric tons, the USDA predicts. The volume of cotton exports is also expected to begin recovering, while most livestock and poultry products show moderate increases.

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The data show (see chart) that the greatest trade surplus in recent history occurred in 2014, when US agricultural exports hit a record $152.3 billion while imports stood at $109.3 billion, resulting in a positive balance of $43.1 billion.

The report shows that the coming boon for 2017 is backed by exports to Asia, which are expected to jump 37 percent to $58 billion; those to North America, up 35 percent to $39.6 billion; and Europe, up 31 percent to $13 billion.

Despite the strength there, the separate 2016 Farm Sector Income Report shows continued income weakness. Net cash farm income and net farm income have both declined in 2016 – an expected 14.6 percent to $90.1 billion and 17.2 percent to $66.9 billion, respectively – for the third consecutive year after reaching record highs in 2012 and 2013. The declines follow the 19.8 and 12.7 percent reductions that occurred in 2015.

Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack credited export growth to the “strategic, consistent work of the Obama Administration since 2009 to help rural America thrive”, work from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service to support trade missions and of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s work to break down trade barriers.

“We must continue promoting a favourable trade environment for American exports and making targeted investments that drive the rural economy forward to ensure this progress continues,” he said.