Agricultural IMPORTS also are predicted to increase, to a record $78.5 billion, yielding a positive U.S. agricultural trade surplus of $30 billion.
The favorable export picture is due, in part, to a weak U.S. dollar which makes American commodities cheaper overseas. The numbers also demonstrate the impact of sharp increases in grain and oilseed prices.
But that's not been a welcome development for livestock producers who are coping with sky-high feed costs. This week the government intervened on behalf of the livestock industry.
CRP began in 1985 as a method of encouraging landowners to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production. Landowners received an average $50 per acre last year, totaling nearly $2 billion in government payments.
In recent years, many farmers and ranchers have responded to high commodity prices by pulling land out of CRP and placing it back into production. In mid-April, 34.6 million acres of land were enrolled in CRP. According to USDA, current enrollment is down 2 million acres from last year.
Some agriculture groups have lobbied USDA to allow "penalty-free" releases of CRP land in the coming years – a decision Sec. Schafer has said could come as early as August.
Under fire from environmental interests and wildlife groups concerned with too much CRP usage, USDA officials emphasized that the "most vulnerable CRP land is not eligible for either haying or grazing."