U.S. ag producers poised for near-record profit amid export boom

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U.S. farmers and livestock producers are poised to reap near-record profits this year thanks to soaring grain and meat prices and booming exports, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

Net cash farm income will reach an estimated $99 billion in 2011, up 7.6 percent from 2010 and among the highest inflation-adjusted figures on record, the USDA’s chief economist Joe Glauber said during a Feb. 24 address at the USDA’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Farm incomes are recovering after the recession and high feed costs led to deep losses for beef, pork and dairy producers in 2009. Additionally, continued robust growth in China is expected to help lift U.S. farm exports to a record $135.5 billion this year, the USDA said.

“The balance sheet of U.S. agriculture is expected to strengthen again in 2011,” Glauber said at the forum in Arlington, Va. “What is astonishing is that in two years, the farm economy has essentially rebuilt the equity lost in 2009,” meaning the farm sector’s debt-to-asset ratio will decline further, Glauber said.

Projected U.S. agricultural exports for 2011, at $135.5 billion, would be up 25 percent from 2010 and top the previous record, set in 2008, by $20 billion, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at the forum.

“Agricultural exports continue to be a bright spot in these trying economic times,” Vilsack said Feb. 24. “Today’s numbers are more good news not just for farmers and ranchers and the businesses and communities that support them, but for our nation’s economy as a whole.”

President Obama last year announced a goal to double U.S. agriculture exports by the end of 2014 as part of efforts to boost the domestic economy and close the country’s trade deficit. This year, the U.S. agricultural trade surplus will hit a record $47.5 billion, Vilsack said.

“Our export success is a testament to the productivity of our farmers and ranchers and underscores the quality and value of U.S. farm and food products,” Vilsack said.

Every $1 billion in agricultural exports generates an additional $1.4 billion in economic activity and supports 8,000 jobs, Vilsack said.



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