Record high U.S. agricultural exports of $137 billion this year are helping create good job prospects for students graduating from institutions such as the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas, the nation's chief agricultural negotiator told students during an Oct. 8 campus visit.

Ambassador Islam A. Siddiqui of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative spoke to more than 100 students during a stop on his first day of a three-day visit to Arkansas that includes meetings with university officials, industry executives and agricultural producers.

Next year's level of agricultural exports is expected to be $143 billion, Siddiqui said, noting that in the 1990s the level was at $60 billion. He credited the approval of free trade agreements for much of the growth in the export of agricultural products. The U.S. is hoping to expand such pacts and "is currently in high-level dialogue" with the European Union to secure an agreement.

Agricultural exports have been a success story in international trade for the U.S. While the nation has an overall trade deficit with manufactured goods, agricultural products have fared better. "We export more (agricultural products) than we import," Siddiqui said, citing a $42 billion surplus.

Siddiqui noted that increased estimate for next year's agricultural products export level is about a month old and takes into account the effects of this year's drought. Even though drought conditions this year led to corn yield dropping from 145 to 125 bushels an acre, the rise in prices helped compensate for yield losses.

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