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Nation & World

USDA reduces corn crop to reflect cool, wet spring

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Corn farmers are feeling the impact of a cool, wet spring but are still expected to bring in a record crop this year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its monthly report released Wednesday that farmers are expected to bring in 14 billion bushels of corn this year. That’s 135 million bushels less than last month’s estimate, reflecting the impact of the cooler spring.

But that would still beat the 13.1 billion bushel record, set in 2009. Last year, farmers harvested only about 11 billion bushels because of the drought.

The changes are not expected to significantly affect food prices for consumers.

The USDA said the amount of corn expected to be harvested per acre – the yield – will be reduced to 156.5 bushels per acre down from 158 bushels estimated a month ago.

Last year’s drought-withered corn yielded 123 bushels per acre.

Farmers in the Midwest received a short break from rain between May 13 and 19 and in that period corn planting advanced from 28 percent to 71 percent complete. That matched the weekly record of 43 percentage points sent in May 1992, the USDA said. However, rain and cool temperatures later in May further delayed progress.

In some parts of Illinois the corn looks as good as ever, said Jerry Gulke, an Illinois farmer who runs a farm management and market advisory business based in Chicago. He toured 400 acres of Illinois farmland on Tuesday.

“We have record or near record crops in some places,” he said. “I saw some of the best stands in years.”

The eastern corn belt states including Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio appear to have a very good corn crop. The question is how bad it will be for Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and North and South Dakota, said Chad Hart, an agriculture economist at Iowa State University.

“A lot of us are saying it will be a better year than last year, but it won’t be a normal year,” Hart said.

It’s possible the very good areas could end up harvesting a good enough crop to help offset the land that didn’t get planted or suffers from too much water, he said.

The government left unchanged the 97.3 million acres planted in corn and the anticipated 89.5 million acres to be harvested.

Those numbers are likely to change, however, because it’s clear in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and parts of northern Iowa that farmers couldn’t get into the fields in time to plant what they thought they would this year.

The adjustment likely will be seen in an annual report on acreage to be released June 28. That report is based on surveys with farmers reflecting what they actually have in the ground.

Some analysts expect the government to reduce the corn acres by anywhere between 1 million and 3 million acres for the report.

No changes were made in the soybean estimates in Wednesday’s report although the government increased the expected average price to between $9.75 and $11.75 per bushel from the earlier range of $9.50 to $11.50.

Corn prices also were adjusted upward 10 cents per bushel on both the low and high end to between $4.40 and $5.20 a bushel.

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