DENVER — Agricultural exports from Colorado during the first half of the year increased 27%, to $508.9 million from the same period last year, according to The Associated Press. Exports of meat, hides and skins; animal products such as milk, eggs and honey; miscellaneous food; and miscellaneous grains, seeds and fruit from that state all increased.

"With continued efforts to open more global markets to Colorado and U.S. beef, we look forward to further increases in our beef exports," said John Stulp, Colorado agriculture commissioner.

Stulp said he was encouraged by a nearly 91% increase in state exports of hides, which are used in car interiors, purses, shoes, belts and jackets. He added Asia has significantly increased hide imports.

Hide exports on a national basis were up 61%, said Tim Larsen of the Colorado Department of Agriculture's markets division. He said he was eager to see whether an uptick in hide imports is an early sign of global economic activity picking up.

In the past year, South Korea has reduced some of its barriers to U.S. beef, Larsen said, and Russia has started buying much more of Colorado's edible beef, going from about $100,000 in imports from Colorado in the first six months of 2009 to $19.5 million in the same period this year.

Colorado's exports of edible beef to Mexico are down about 20% through June. Industry groups expect that total to increase because Mexico has since announced an end to antidumping duties placed on U.S. beef.

Colorado is Canada's largest supplier of fresh beef and Mexico's second-largest supplier, the state Agriculture Department said. Cargill Meat Solutions' plant in Fort Morgan processes about 5,000 head of cattle a day, and Brazilian beef producer JBS has U.S. operations headquartered in Greeley. More than half of Colorado land is used for grazing.