The United States has exported more agricultural products than they’ve imported for over 40 years, but that may change.

Phil Paarlberg and Phil Abbott, both Purdue agricultural economists predict that imports could overtake exports by 2007, if current trends continue.

U.S. agriculture exports are projected to climb by $500 million in the coming fiscal year, to $56.5 billion. Imports are estimated to jump as much as $3.5 billion in 2003-04.

“What we’ve seen in the last several years is that agricultural exports have been relatively flat in real dollars while imports have been rising quite rapidly, even through our so-called recession,” says Paarlberg. “A couple of years back imports were $41 billion or $48 billion.”

The rise in imports is closely tied to diet and lifestyle changes, Paarlberg says. Americans are consuming more foods either that aren’t produced in the United States or produced in insufficient volumes to meet consumer needs, says Paarlberg.

The last time the United States was a net ag importer was fiscal year 1958-1959.