[Flickr: claudio.ar]

Over the past few weeks, food blogs have been doling out predictions of what trends were big this year, and what will be hitting our plates come 2011. Well, none of these trends could enter the zeitgeist without some solid agricultural production in the new year. So that's what I'm here to share: a drier, but arguably more important, look at upcoming food and agriculture trends.

In its special edition 2011 predictions issue, the Economist printed an excellent breakdown of how the agriculture industry will fare in the coming year. You may have heard that last summer a drought in Russia threatened the wheat crop and caused a severe spike in wheat prices. The Economist predicts that the repercussions from the wheat shortage will be felt in the new year, with producers like Sara Lee raising prices for meat, bread, and coffee products. American wheat will be valued almost 20% higher, given decreased global competition.

Sugar and coffee are expected to drop in value in the coming year, while staple crops like maize, wheat, and soybeans will increase. This means good news for coffee drinkers, but economic pressure on populations that rely on maize and wheat as primary foodstuffs. Fortunately for the United States, we are a major exporter of these staple crops. The USDA predicts that grain exports from the U.S. will reach $35 billion, and corn exports $12 billion, both near-record levels of export.

Demand for meat has been increasing globally for some time, and this year will be no different. The Economist points to emerging markets as the source of a 2% increase in demand for meat. U.S. exports in that sector are expected to increase steadily, with $23 billion in exports in 2011. This means a boost in agricultural income, but more pressure on land and resources that are already strained.

Overall, the USDA is expecting agricultural exports to top $125 billion, almost double the amount of five years ago. The States' farm industry plays a huge role in dictating global market trends, so tracking domestic crops is necessary (if a bit mind-numbing). For an even more in-depth look at our 2010/2011 agricultural outputs, check out this recently released report from the USDA.

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves consuming and learning about as much food as possible. Her work is also featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine. She blogs at Feasting on Providence.


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