(Adds details of forecasts, comment from agriculture secretary)
By Ros Krasny
WASHINGTON, May 29 (Reuters) - U.S. agricultural exports for fiscal 2014 will reach a record $149.5 billion, the Department of Agriculture said on Thursday, higher than its earlier forecast of $142.6 billion and up 6 percent on the year.
The forecast for the U.S. agricultural trade surplus in fiscal 2014 is up $6.3 billion from the February estimate to $39 billion, its second highest ever. The fiscal year started on Oct. 1 and will end on Sept. 30.
U.S. agricultural imports for the fiscal year are forecast at $110.5 billion, up slightly from the February estimate and 6.4 percent above fiscal 2013.
It would be a second straight of record U.S. agricultural exports, which last year totaled $140.9 billion.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack lauded the “increasing global appetite for high-quality, American-grown products,” and said the agency would continue to tap into new markets for goods grown and made in rural America.
The forecast for grain and feed exports was boosted by $4.5 billion from February to $35.8 billion because of higher wheat prices and greater volume and prices for corn, partly because of less competition from Argentina.
Oilseeds and products exports will jump to $33.8 billion, up $2.4 billion from the previous forecast, helped by record soybean sales to China, the USDA said.
The export forecast for livestock, poultry and dairy was raised by $600 million from February to a record $32.2 billion, with increases in dairy and beef more than offsetting declines in pork and poultry.
The USDA lowered its export forecast for horticultural products such as fruits, vegetables and nuts by $400 million to $34.1 billion, still a record high.
U.S. farm exports to China were forecast to be a record $28 billion, up $3 billion from earlier, chiefly on shipments of soybeans, sorghum and distillers dried grain. (Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Peter Cooney)