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Published August 13, 2010, 08:47 AM

USDA: US corn, soybean headed for record year

WASHINGTON — U.S. corn and soybean farmers are on track to produce the largest crops in history, according to a government report released Thursday.

WASHINGTON — U.S. corn and soybean farmers are on track to produce the largest crops in history, according to a government report released Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast corn production of 13.4 billion bushels in 2010, with soybean production of 3.43 billion bushels. Both estimates would be a 2 percent increase over 2009 crop figures, the current highest annual production on record.

Corn yields are expected to average 165 bushels per acre, also a record high. Soybean yields are projected to match last year’s record of 44 bushels per acre.

Texas soybean producers are expected to see the biggest gain in crop yields, while favorable soil conditions and temperatures should help corn growers in the upper Mississippi Valley and upper Great Lakes regions.

December corn futures rose slightly Thursday while soybeans for November delivery dipped.

Cotton production is forecast to rise 52 percent from 2009, reaching a level of 18.5 million 480-pound bales. Texas producers are expected to have a record high production.

In Texas, South Plains cotton farmer Doug Hlavaty says his fields in Lubbock and Lamb counties could rival what he harvested in the state’s top-two years — 2005 and 2007.

“It’s a good plant out there,” the South Plains grower said. “It’s close to ‘05 and ‘07, but I don’t think it’s quite as good.”

Texas produced 8.1 million bales in 2007; in 2005 growers harvested 8.5 million bales.

Heavy rains across the South Plains region — the world’s largest contiguous growing patch — in early July came on the heels of ideal planting conditions. After the deluges passed, temperatures heated up and 66 percent of the crop across the state was reported in good to excellent condition on August 1, according the USDA.

The USDA said wheat production should reach 2.26 billion bushels, up 2 percent from 2009. Yields are expected to rise to 46.9 bushels per acre, which would be the highest result ever for U.S. wheat producers.

However, the rising estimate didn’t stop wheat futures from jumping Thursday morning on the Chicago Board of Trade. The USDA has lowered its global production forecast for 2010-2011 because of severe drought in Russia and bad weather in northern Europe. Wheat futures have been rising since the hottest summer in 130 years sparked massive fires in Russia, costing that country more than a third of its wheat crop and prompting the government to ban wheat exports.

The soaring prices are good news for farmers in the U.S., the world’s largest wheat exporter. Analysts say the U.S. and other exporters, principally Argentina and Australia, are set to be big gainers on Russia’s export ban, while Canada and the European Union are not looking at their best harvests.

The government’s forecasts are based on a survey of 27,000 producers between July 25 and Aug. 6.

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Associated Press Writer Betsy Blaney in Lubbock, Texas contributed to this report.

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