WASHINGTON (AP) _ The outlook improved Tuesday for the nation's corn and soybean crops, which may dampen the effort in Congress to spend billions of dollars in drought aid.
The Agriculture Department raised production forecasts in its monthly crop report, as better yield prospects boosted the soybean estimate by 6 percent and the corn estimate by 1 percent.
If predictions are realized, this year's harvest will be the second-best on record for both crops.
That forecast may sound incredible to farmers and ranchers suffering from prolonged drought, but yields look promising in other parts of the country, analysts said. And significant rain last month gave some relief to dryness and heat that had lingered in soybean fields in the western Corn Belt.
Soybean production is forecast at 3.1 billion bushels, up 165 million bushels from last month's forecast. Price estimates dropped 10 cents to $4.90 to $5.90 a bushel, compared with last year's average of $5.68.
The production forecast for corn is 11.1 billion bushels, up 138 million from last month's forecast. Prices were unchanged at $2.15 to $2.55 a bushel, compared with an average of $1.99 last year.
The rosier outlook should bolster the Bush administration's resistance to a massive, $6.5 billion drought relief plan in Congress.
The administration is offering much more modest drought aid that includes $50 million for livestock producers. In all, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has promised nearly $780 million to farmers; the amount includes $700 million in payments that were already planned but which farmers will get sooner.
The administration has resisted spending billions of dollars in aid because of the pricetag and because Johanns argues it would be unfairly distributed.