Agricultural exports are projected to reach a record high by the end of fiscal year 2013,  USDA reported May 31. In its “Outlook for U.S. Agriculture Trade,” USDA projects $139.5 billion in agricultural exports in fiscal year 2013, which, if realized, would be a record. Since 2009, U.S. agricultural exports have climbed from $96.3 billion in 2009 to the most-recent forecast of $139.5 billion.

In earlier reports, the outlook was slightly rosier, as the export total is down $2.5 billion from USDA’s February forecast but $3.7 billion above fiscal 2012 exports. The forecast for livestock, poultry, and dairy is unchanged from last quarter, at a record $30.1 billion. The forecast for grain and feed exports is down $2.8 billion from February, primarily reflecting lower export volumes and unit values for wheat and corn.

U.S. agricultural imports are forecast at a record $111 billion, $1.5 billion lower than the February forecast, but $7.6 billion higher than in fiscal 2012. The forecast trade balance for fiscal 2013 is lowered $1 billion to $28.5 billion, down $3.9 billion from fiscal 2012.

Lower U.S. energy prices and more available credit make the outlook for agricultural trade promising in 2013. Because of high transport costs for U.S. energy exports, expanding energy supplies from natural gas and oil fields will be available at a discount on domestic markets.

The fiscal 2013 export forecast for oilseeds and products is raised $200 million to $32.6 billion. Larger soybean meal volume is partially offset by across-the-board declines in unit values for all products. Soybeans are fractionally lower at $22.1 billion on reduced unit value. Soybean oil is lower due to tight supplies and growing biodiesel demand. A rebound in South American exports and tight U.S. supplies will limit U.S. exports of most oilseed products through the remainder of the year.

The fiscal 2013 export forecast for livestock, dairy, and poultry is unchanged at a record $30.1 billion. Declines in pork, broiler meat, and animal fats offset gains for dairy, beef, and hides and skins. Pork exports are lowered $300 million to $5 billion on smaller volumes and lower prices mostly due to weaker Asian and Mexican demand and sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions in Russia. Beef is raised marginally to $5.1 billion. Improved market access for U.S. beef in Japan and Hong Kong combined with strong demand in other key markets are expected to offset restrictions by Russia. Hides and skins are raised $200 million to $3 billion.