USDA estimates of corn and soybean production drop as drought takes its toll on farmers
ST. LOUIS — The government slashed its expectations for U.S. corn and soybean production for the second consecutive month Friday, predicting what could be the lowest average corn yield in more than 15 years as the worst drought in decades grips major farm states.
Nonetheless, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in a statement supplied exclusively to The Associated Press, insisted U.S. farmers and ranchers remain resilient and the country will continue to meet demand as the global leader in farm exports and food aid.The U.S. Agriculture Department cut its projected U.S. corn production to 10.8 billion bushels, down 17 percent from its forecast last month of nearly 13 billion bushels and 13 percent less than last year. That also would be the lowest production since 2006.
The USDA, in its World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report, now expects corn growers to average 123.4 bushels per acre, down 24 bushels from last year in what would be the lowest average yield in 17 years.
Soybean production is now forecast at 2.69 billion bushels, a 12 percent decline from last year and well off the 3.05 billion bushels the USDA had expected last month. The expected average yield of 36.1 bushels per acre would be the lowest since 2003.
Corn farmers had expected a record year just months ago, when they sowed 96.4 million acres — the most since 1937. The USDA now predicts only 87.4 million acres will be harvested, although it notes the crop still could be the eighth-biggest in U.S. history.
On Thursday, the U.N. food agency drew a direct correlation between price hikes in basic food commodities and the months of parched conditions in farm states. The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization said in its monthly price report that its overall food price index climbed 6 percentage points in July, although it was well below the peak reached in February 2011. The FAO’s index, considered a global benchmark used to track market volatility and price trends, measures the monthly price changes for a basket of food, including cereals, oils and fats, meat, dairy products and sugar.
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