2013 should be a record year for U.S. agricultural exports, including significant growth in beef exports, according to USDA projections. Last week’s trade outlook report from USDA indicates U.S. 2012 ag exports, while strong, will fall somewhat short of those during 2011. Next year though, strengthening global economies will help fuel export growth for most U.S. agricultural products.

In its August 30 report, USDA increased its projection for fiscal 2012 exports by $2 billion from its last forecast in May. The August forecast of $136.5 billion would fall about $1billion short of 2011’s record total.

The agency reduced its estimate of 2012 U.S. imports of agricultural products by $1 billion to $106.6 billion from the $107.5 billion projected in May. This leaves a positive trade balance for fiscal 2012 of $30 billion, well short of the 2011 record trade surplus of $42.9 billion.

Next year, USDA projects record highs for ag exports and imports, with exports reaching $143.5 billion, imports climbing to $117 billion and a trade surplus of $26.5 billion.

The August report lowers projected beef and veal exports for fiscal 2012 to $4.8 billion, from $4.9 billion forecast in May. That’s still well ahead of the 2011 total of $4.5 billion. For fiscal 2013, the agency projects beef and veal exports at $5 billion on higher volumes and unit values. The report projects export value for beef and pork variety meats at $1.5 billion this year and $1.4 billion in 2013, compared with $1.2 billion in 2011.

U.S. pork exports, estimated at $5.7 billion this year, will drop to $5.6 billion in 2013, according to the report, with both years well ahead of the $4.9 billion total for 2011.

Globally, the report projects 2012 trade growth at 2.2 percent, modest compared with 6.6 percent last year. Global GDP growth, and U.S. GDP growth for 2012 also are at 2.2 percent.  Next year, the report projects global GDP to grow at a faster rate of 2.7 percent and U.S. GDP growth to improve to 2.4 percent.

While the value of the dollar has strengthened relative to other currencies, and likely will appreciate more in 2013, the dollar remains relatively weak. Favorable exchange rates, coupled with low interest rates, lower energy prices and faster economic growth will boost trade next year, and the report projects world trade growth for fiscal 2013 at 4 to 5 percent.

"Today's export forecast marks indication of an historic achievement for America's farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Even with tough odds due to extreme weather, U.S. agriculture is now poised for three consecutive years of record exports, smashing all previous records and putting America's agricultural sector on pace to achieve President Obama's goal under the National Export Initiative of doubling exports by the end of 2014. These exports will support more than 1 million jobs in communities across the country.”

Read the full report from USDA.