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June U.S. exports of $150.5 billion and imports of $200.3 billion resulted in a trade deficit of $49.9 billion, the highest in nearly two years. June exports were down $2 billion from May, suggesting difficulty in reaching the Obama administration’s goal of doubling U.S. exports in the next five years.

June U.S. exports of $150.5 billion and imports of $200.3 billion resulted in a trade deficit of $49.9 billion, the highest in nearly two years. June exports were down $2 billion from May, suggesting difficulty in reaching the Obama administration’s goal of doubling U.S. exports in the next five years.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said this week that goal is an economy-wide standard that will vary from one sector of the economy to another. Ag exports, he said, would not necessarily double although demand for U.S. ag products will continue to be strong. The current year will probably be the second-best ever for U.S. ag products, he said.

But not all will be smooth sailing.

Canton, Miss., producer Danny Murphy, representing the American Soybean Association this week before a Senate committee, said, “Efforts to achieve this goal in the agriculture sector will require congressional approval of the pending Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama, negotiation of new FTAs with key importing countries, and progress on the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation regional agreement.”

Delay in approving the Colombia FTA has caused U.S. soybean producers to lose over 50 percent of their market share, he said.

“Action is needed on legislation to normalize financial relations with Cuba. Normalizing financial relations would improve the competitiveness of U.S. soy and livestock product exports to the Cuban market,” he said.

U.S. rice producers have been a strong voice in opening up the Cuban market.

U.S. ag exporters also will need help in knocking down barriers to their products imposed by foreign governments.

This week Sens. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., both members of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, criticized the Russian government for its failure to resume U.S. poultry imports.

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