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FARMERS finding crops even better than expected, government raises estimates

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government Friday boosted its estimates of this year's corn, soybean and cotton crops because many farmers have been getting better yields than expected.

In its monthly survey of crops, the Agriculture Department raised its production forecasts for all three crops by 1 percent over last month's projections.

Corn production is expected to reach 9.55 billion bushels, still 4 percent below last year. But farmers have been harvesting an average 138 bushels of corn per acre, 1.7 bushels an acre more than the department expected last month.

Weather conditions in Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska have been ideal this fall, and the department said yields would also be high in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin despite heavy rains in October that kept farmers out of their fields.

Soybean production is forecast at a record 2.92 billion bushels, up 6 percent from 2000. Yields are expected to average 39.4 bushels an acre, up slightly from the October estimate.

The cotton harvest is expected at 20.2 million bales, up 17 percent from last year. A bale weighs 480 pounds. Yields have been averaging 685 pounds per acre, 4 pounds more than USDA reported in October.

The big crops will hold down commodity prices. USDA lowered its estimate of the average price farmers earn for corn to $2 a bushel, down 10 cents from October. The projected average for soybeans, $4.30 per bushel, was unchanged.

The government does not estimate prices for cotton.
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