The United States Department of Agriculture’s final export forecast for fiscal year 2004 indicates sales are expected to reach $62 billion — $5.8 billion more than last year.

If achieved, it will be the highest sales ever, eclipsing the old record of $59.8 billion set in fiscal year 1996. This forecast is up $500 million from May’s estimate largely due to stronger-than-expected cotton, beef and pork exports.

“The export performance for this year confirms that our efforts to expand economic opportunities for our nation’s ranchers and farmers are working," said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. "Moreover, U.S. agricultural trade supports close to a million American jobs, so this record benefits the entire American economy. Our goal in the months ahead will be to expand trade possibilities even more through the World Trade Organization and other negotiations."

Canada remains the No. 1 market for U.S. agricultural products with exports estimated at $9.6 billion, followed by Japan at $8.9 billion and Mexico at $8.6 billion.

In fiscal year 2004, Asia is projected to be the United States’ largest regional market, with sales there expected to reach $24.5 billion. This compares to $23.3 billion forecast to be shipped to markets in the Western Hemisphere. Exports to China are expected to reach $6 billion, up from $3.5 billion last year. China now is the leading importer of U.S. cotton and soybeans, and also imports large quantities of U.S. wheat, hides and skins.

USDA also released its initial forecast for fiscal year 2005, placing sales for next year at $57.5 billion. The decline in value from this year is mainly due to increased competition and lower expected prices for cotton, wheat and soybeans. The export volume of major bulk commodities actually is forecast to rise 2.1 million tons to 118.7 million tons, with increases for corn and soybeans more than offsetting decreases for wheat and cotton. Horticultural product sales are expected to reach a record $13.8 billion in 2005, with key markets being Canada, Mexico, several Asian countries and Europe.

For 2005, imports are forecast to increase 5 percent, reaching $55.0 billion – another new record and up $9.3 billion since 2003. The accelerated import growth that occurred between 2002 and 2004 is largely due to higher processed product prices that resulted in part from a weaker dollar. These price gains are expected to slow in 2005.

USDA’s Economic Research Service, Foreign Agricultural Service and 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 or the FAS Web site at The next quarterly report will be issued in November 2004.