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Drought Seen Cutting Corn Harvest 34%

Associated Press

Corn production is expected to total 4.67 billion bushels this year, 3% above last month’s forecast but still a drop of 34% from the 1987 crop, the Agriculture Department said Wednesday.

As farmers struggled to bring the last of the corn from the fields, the falloff in production reflected last summer’s fierce drought.

The searing heat and lack of rain was reflected in an average yield per acre of 83.2 bushels for corn forecast by USDA’s Agricultural Statistics Board. That was down 37.1 bushels from last year but 2.1 bushels above the level contained in last month’s forecast.

The harvest was the smallest since 1983, when another drought lowered output to 4.17 billion bushels. The record was 8.88 billion bushels in 1985.

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As of Nov. 1, farmers had harvested an estimated 83% of this fall’s corn acreage, 7% behind last year but still 16% ahead of the 1983-87 average, the board said.

Only 63% of the corn is normally harvested by now.

This year, farmers cut back to slightly more than 56.7 million acres for corn harvest from 59.1 million in 1987. One reason is participation by farmers in government programs designed to take acreage out of production and thus prevent surpluses that drive down crop prices.

Soybean Production Falls

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Despite the drought, the Agriculture Department is forecasting an adequate supply of corn next year, largely because of an abundant existing stockpile.

According to USDA economists, the drought is likely to add 1% to the consumer price index for food this year and 2% next year as the impact of the reduced crop is passed through to the market.

Officials said the “all-crops” production index as of Nov. 1 averaged 87% of the base year of 1977, down dramatically from 106% at the same time last year and the lowest level in 10 years.

Soybean production was forecast at 1.51 billion bushels, up 1% from last month’s level but 21% below last year’s harvest of 1.92 billion bushels. The record was 2.26 billion bushels in 1979.

The cotton harvest was estimated at 14.8 million bales, 1% above both the 1987 crop and the Oct. 1 forecast. The record was 18.95 million bales in 1937.

With the harvest of 1988 crops winding down, no new production figures were included for many earlier commodities, such as wheat, oats and barley.

Other crops in the November production report included:

- Sorghum, 546.3 million bushels and 60.6 bushels per acre, compared to 740.8 million and 69.9 bushels per acre last year.

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- Rice, 158.4 million hundredweight and 5,547 pounds per acre, against 127.7 million and 5,482 pounds last year.

- Peanuts, 4.12 billion pounds and 2,507 pounds per acre, compared to 3.62 billion pounds and 2,341 pounds per acre last year.


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