WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated ag exports for fiscal year 2011 to be record-setting at a total $126.5 billion, up $17.8 billion from 2010 numbers, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) said on Dec. 3. This includes a sizable increase in the value of exported corn, from just over $9 billion in 2010 to a forecast of $12.3 billion, based on higher grain costs.

“Export markets are an important part of U.S. corn consumption as American corn farmers continue to grow more corn per acre than anyone else,” said NCGA Trade Policy and Biotechnology Chairman Chad Blindauer, a grower from Mitchell, South Dakota, U.S. “We are always working on building new markets, here and abroad, for U.S. corn and support efforts to open overseas markets for conventional corn.”

USDA increased its export estimate for 2011 by $13.5 billion from its August forecast as export demand for a range of crops increased, including corn, soybeans and wheat. The 2011 figure, if reached, would surpass the prior export record set in fiscal year 2008 of $114.9 billion by $11.6 billion.

Notably the U.S. will maintain its favorable agricultural trade balance. In 2011, the U.S. will import $85.5 billion in ag products resulting in a positive trade balance of $41 billion.

Both grain and feed exports are on the rise and are now projected to total $35.4 billion, with corn exports, forecast at 1.96 billion bushels, accounting for $12.3 billion of that figure. Corn farmers will also benefit from increased meat and livestock product exports. Currently, beef, pork, dairy and poultry should see $17.3 billion in exports in the 2011 fiscal year.

With projected Chinese imports at $2.5 billion, Asia accounted for more than half of the increase in demand. Chinese demand continues to rise and, now, the country will be the second largest importer of U.S. farm goods, importing only $500 million less than the largest market, Canada. Other major export markets include Mexico, Japan, the E.U. and South Korea.