The fourth-quarter Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade, prepared by USDA, expects fiscal year 2016 ag exports to be $138.5 billion, down $1 billion from the revised FY 2015 forecast.
Oilseeds and products lead the decline, down by $4.4 billion. Grain and feed, however, are expected to be $1.1 billion higher from FY 2015, mostly due to higher expected wheat shipments.
Livestock, poultry and dairy exports also are up – by $600 million – due to higher export volumes for several livestock products. Fruits, veggies and tree nuts are expected to be up by $2 billion.
"The strong pace of American agricultural exports continues," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said of the report. "Fiscal years 2009 to 2015 represent the strongest seven years in history for U.S. agricultural trade, with U.S. agricultural product exports totaling more than $911 billion."
For fiscal years 2015 and 2016, exports are forecast to be the third- and fourth-highest on record, respectively. Bulk export volumes are expected to rise in fiscal year 2016 and reach near record levels, and horticultural and livestock product exports are also expected to be higher.
Vilsack said new trade agreements "made possible thanks to Trade Promotion Authority" will help farmers and ranchers expand exports.
"USDA will continue to fight to get the best trade deals for farmers and ranchers that open new markets and new customers to them," he said. "Expanded trade strengthens the agricultural economy, supports more than one million good paying American jobs, and helps to preserve the rural way of life."
As for imports in 2016, USDA said they may hit a record at $122.5 billion, $7 billion higher than FY 2015.
Increases in import values are expected for most products, with the largest gains in horticultural products, sugar and tropical products.
USDA also notes the U.S. agricultural trade surplus is expected to fall by $8.0 billion in fiscal 2016 to $16.0 billion. This would be the smallest surplus since 2007.
The report also provides an economic outlook, which indicates that world economic growth is expected to rise 2.9% in 2015, improving to 3.3% growth in 2016.
U.S. shows 2015 growth of 2.3%, down slightly from 2.4% in 2014. Strong labor market indicators point to more jobs and rising wages through 2015, lifting consumer spending.
This is reflected in a strong growth forecast of 3.0% in 2016. However, weak foreign demand and a strong dollar will continue to place pressure on exports, although continued low energy prices will somewhat offset these negative pressures, USDA said.
See the full update, Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade, on the USDA website.