Besides being a huge exporter of agricultural products, the United States also is one of the biggest importers. Even castor oil and feathers are on the list, says the Agriculture Department.

Total commodity exports in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 were at a nine-year high of $40.2 billion. Department analysts say exports may be down a bit, but don't bet that imports will follow suit.Imports in the 1990 fiscal year were at a record $22.5 billion, according to a report by Stephen R. Milmoe of the department's Economic Research Service. That was up $1 billion from the previous high set in 1989.

As a result, that squeezed the U.S. agricultural trade surplus - the difference in value between exports and imports - to $17.7 billion.

Back in 1972, when U.S. farm exports were loafing along at $8.2 billion, the import value that year was $5.9 billion.