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Published November 08, 2013, 05:00 PM

USDA: Record US corn crop

U.S. farmers will harvest a record corn crop, according to a key report issued Friday.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

U.S. farmers will harvest a record corn crop, according to a key report issued Friday.

The Nov. 8 crop production report, from the National Agricultural Statistics Services, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, also projects more canola acres than expected and a shake-up in sunflower production.

The report is of particular interest to farmers and others involved in food production because it contains estimates and forecasts originally slated for the October report, which was cancelled because of the government shutdown.

For instance, NASS now estimates that U.S. farmers will harvest 1.28 million of the 1.37 million acres planted to canola. The 1.28 million harvested acres, though 26 percent less than in 2012, would still be the third highest annual total since 2003.

In North Dakota, the nation’s dominant canola producer, farmers this year are expected to harvest 910,000 of 920,000 acres planted this year to canola.

An exceptionally wet spring in northern North Dakota, where canola is especially popular, led to concern that many canola fields wouldn’t be planted. But the Friday report indicates that some farmers planted canola after all, albeit later than usual, says Frayne Olson, crops economist and marketing specialist with the North Dakota State University Extension Service.

“It was a bit of a surprise to see canola acreage that high,” he says.

Barry Coleman, executive director of the Northern Canola Growers Association in Bismarck, N.D., also says canola acreage was higher than expected.

The Friday report doesn’t list estimated canola yields, but most canola farmers had excellent yields, Coleman says.

NASS also estimates that U.S. farmers will harvest 1.5 million of the 1.58 million acres planted to sunflowers. Producers in North Dakota and South Dakota are projected to harvest nearly all of their sunflowers, despite the early October blizzard in the western Dakotas, where the crop is popular.

Historically, North Dakota is the nation’s leading sunflower producer, with South Dakota second. This spring, however, South Dakota farmers planted 680,000 acres of the crop, with their counterparts in North Dakota planting 499,000 acres, according to the report.

Heavy spring rains in western North Dakota, where sunflowers are common, held down acreage of the crop this year. The numbers released Friday indicate that many acres originally intended for sunflowers went instead to prevented planting, Olson says.

Corn, soybeans

Nationally, NASS now projects a 1 percent increase in corn production and a 3 percent increase in soybean production from its September forecast.

U.S. corn production is estimated at 14 billion bushels, which would be a record, up from 10.8 billion. The average U.S. corn yield this year is pegged at 160.4 bushels per acre, up from 123.4 bushels a year ago.

Grain industry analysts had expected corn production to rise, Olson says.

Average corn yields rose sharply this year in most of the Corn Belt, which was hammered by drought in 2012. South Dakota reflects that. The state’s average corn yield is pegged at 145 bushels per acre this year, up from the average yield of 101 bushels per acre in drought-hampered 2012.

North Dakota farmers are projected to have an average corn yield of 107 bushels per acre, down from 122 bushels per acre last year. Many corn fields in the state had less subsoil moisture this year, which hurt yields. Heavy spring rains that delayed planting also contributed to lower yields.

In Minnesota, corn is estimated to yield an average 164 bushels per acre, little changed from the average yield of 165 bushels per acre last year.

Nationally, soybean production is estimated at 3.25 billion bushels, up 3 billion from 2012.

North Dakota’s average soybean yield is estimated at 30 bushels per acre, down from 34.5 bushels per acre last year. As is the case with corn yields, diminished subsoil moisture, late planting and a dry summer get the blame.

In Minnesota, the average soybean yield is estimated at 39 bushels per acre, down from 43.5 bushels per acre last year. Diminished subsoil moisture, delayed playing and dry conditions this summer are responsible.

South Dakota farmers averaged an estimated 40 bushels per acre of soybeans, up from 30.5 bushels per acre in drought-plagued 2012.

Following is a quick look at what the report said about several other crops:

• Sugar beets — Average yields are projected to drop in Minnesota and North Dakota, but rise in Montana. Minnesota’s average beet yield is pegged at 25 tons per acre, down from 26.5 tons per acre in 2012. North Dakota’s average beet yield is estimated at 25 tons per acre, down from 28 tons per acre last year. In Montana, which benefited from plentiful rains, an average beet yield of 29.4 tons per acre is projected, up from 28.2 tons per acre last year.

• Potatoes —NASS projects that Minnesota farmers will harvest 45,000 of the 47,000 acres planted to potatoes. It’s estimated that the average yield dipped to 390 hundredweight per acre this year from 400 hundredweight per acre in 2012.

In North Dakota, NASS estimates that farmers harvested 78,000 of the 81,000 acres planted to potatoes. The average yield dipped to 290 hundredweight per acre from 300 hundredweight per acre in 2012, NASS projects.

• Dry beans — U.S. dry edible beans acreage is estimated at 1.34 million, down 23 percent from the previous year. Harvested area is forecast at 1.29 million acres, down 24 percent from 2012.

In North Dakota, the nation’s leading dry bean producer, farmers will harvest an estimated 420,000 of 440,000 acres planted to the crop.