(Sept. 14) Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said U.S. agriculture exports in fiscal year 2007 are forecast to reach a record $79 billion, up from the previous record of $68.6 billion in fiscal year 2006.

Fiscal year 2008 agriculture exports are projected to climb even further, to $83.5 billion.

Johanns said in a statement that the numbers reflect strong demand for U.S. exports and favorable world markets for grains and oilseeds.

Strong 2007 performance among bulk grains, oilseeds, cotton, high value horticultural and livestock products should be followed with even better results for 2008, he said.

There are no complete trade figures available for 2007, but 2006 trade figures show that fruit and fruit product exports totaled $4.68 billion in 2006, up from $4.2 billion in 2005 and $3.8 billion in 2004.

Meanwhile, U.S. vegetable and vegetable exports in 2006 were $3.9 billion, up from $3.5 billion in 2005 and $3.2 billion in 2004. U.S. tree nut exports were $2.8 billion in 2006, up from $2.7 billion for 2005 and $2.02 billion in 2004.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that horticultural exports are expected to increase by $800 million in fiscal year 2008, while U.S. corn exports are predicted to surge by $600 million, and beef sales are forecast to climb $400 million.

In addition to record exports, the USDA also noted expanding U.S. imports of agricultural products. Imports for fiscal year 2008 are forecast at $75 billion, up $4.5 billion from the 2007 estimate.