I'm Alex Villarreal with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com | http://facebook.com/voalearningenglish Two thousand ten was a good year for American farmers. They earned an estimated eighty-two billion dollars. That is almost one-third more than they earned in two thousand nine. And it is twenty-six percent higher than the ten-year average.The numbers are from the Economic Research Service at the Department of Agriculture. They represent net farm income, a measure of profitability of farm operations. Values for grain and oilseed crops are up about three percent from two thousand nine. The value of animal production is up by almost seven percent.Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack points out that agriculture is one of the few major areas of the economy with a trade surplus. A surplus of forty-one billion dollars is predicted in two thousand eleven. That would be an increase of almost eighteen billion dollars from two thousand ten. At the same time, farm exports are expected to break the all-time high set in two thousand eight. The Agriculture Department says exports in two thousand eleven could top one hundred twenty-six billion dollars.The largest buyer of agricultural products is expected to be Canada. But farm exports to China are predicted to come within five hundred million dollars of Canadian purchases.Secretary Vilsack says countries in Southeast Asia and the Middle East are also buying more from American farmers.Poor growing conditions overseas played an important part in higher prices for American crops in two thousand ten. Charlotte Hebebrand is chief executive of the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council in Washington. She says drought conditions had a big effect over the summer. Wheat prices rose after Russia halted wheat exports, although Russia later eased the ban.Wheat used to be America's top crop, says economist Charlotte Hebebrand. She says: "Wheat production has actually declined over the past few years because corn has become the most popular crop."Corn, or maize, is mostly fed to animals or made into ethanol fuel and high-fructose corn syrup. But Ms. Hebebrand says with the recent increase in wheat prices, American farmers might plant more wheat again. Corn and wheat are the two largest crops supported by the government through subsidy payments. For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 07Dec2010)
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