Drought Cutting Into Crop Harvest


Thursday, October 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


WASHINGTON (AP) — Farmers are harvesting less corn, soybeans and cotton this fall than the government had expected because of the drought gripping parts of the Great Plains and the South.

This year's corn and soybean crops are still expected to be records. But the smaller production will help increase prices paid to farmers for the commodities, the Agriculture Department said Thursday in its monthly reports on U.S. crop conditions and world commodity supplies.

Growers are expected to harvest 10.2 billion bushels of corn, 2 percent less than USDA projected a month ago but 8 percent above the 1999 crop.

Soybean production is forecast at 2.8 billion bushels, down 3 percent from the department's September forecast but 6 percent above last year's harvest.

Cotton growers are expected to harvest 17.5 million 480-pound bales. That is 5 percent less than forecast in September but 3 percent more than last year's harvest. The cotton crop would be well below the record of 19.7 million bales set in 1994.

The drought intensified on the southern Plains last month and ``also remained a concern across the South, especially from Alabama westward,'' USDA said.

Farmers who lost uninsured crops to the dry weather will be eligible for special government aid again this year. Congress is finishing work on an agricultural spending bill that includes $1.6 billion for farmers who lost crops to drought and disease and $490 million for livestock producers whose pastures were damaged by the dry weather.

The higher crop prices are unlikely to have any impact on consumers, because fluctuations in the cost of raw ingredients and animal feed have little impact on retail food prices.

The average price paid to farmers for corn this year is estimated to be $1.85 a bushel, up 15 cents from last month's forecast and 5 cents above the average price in 1999, USDA said.

The average soybean price was put at $4.90 per bushel, up from $4.75 in last month's forecast. The average price last year was $4.65 per bushel.

The government is barred by law from forecasting cotton prices.

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On the Net: USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service: http://www.nass.usda.gov