"U.S. agricultural exports have exceeded agricultural imports in every year since 1970, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The most recent forecast for FY2013 is that U.S. agricultural exports will reach $139.5 billion, an all-time high. If this forecast holds, the FY2013 forecast will have exceeded the record high of $137.4 billion in FY2011. U.S. agricultural imports are forecast to reach $111 billion in FY2013, resulting in a $28.5 billion export surplus for U.S. agricultural trade. The United States operates a number of programs that aim to develop overseas markets for U.S. agricultural products. The 2008 farm bill, which authorized these trade programs, expired in 2012. 'Fiscal cliff' legislation (P.L. [Public Law] 112-240) extended provisions of the 2008 farm bill, including those for export programs, until September 30, 2013. Congress is currently considering a 2013 farm bill (the Senate-passed S. 954 and the House Agriculture Committee-reported H.R. [House Resolution] 1947) that would reauthorize export programs through 2018. Funding for agricultural export programs is mandatory, and thus not subject to annual appropriations. Annual appropriations acts, however, have sometimes imposed spending conditions on these mandatory programs."
CRS Report for Congress, R41202