Washington — Farmers will harvest record crops of corn and soybeans this year, thanks to timely rains and excellent growing conditions this summer across the Midwest, the government said Friday.
Based on its monthly survey of farms, the Agriculture Department estimated U.S. corn production at 10.4 billion bushels, up 10 percent from last year and 6 percent from 1998. The average yield also is expected to be a record at 141.9 bushels an acre, an increase of more than 8 bushels from last year.
The projected corn harvest would break a record of 10 billion bushels set in 1994.
"These are massive crops," said Bill Biedermann, a commodities analyst with Allendale Inc. Thanks to the bumper crops and hefty government subsidies, "there are going to be a lot of happy farmers" despite relatively low market prices, he said.
"Just about every kernel we planted grew," said Dave Nelson, who farms near Belmond, Iowa.
"We had an excellent winter, an excellent spring, where we got all the crops planted very timely ... and we got some nice rains in June and another big shot in July," he said.
Farmers are expected to harvest 2.99 billion bushels of soybeans this year, a 13 percent increase from 1999 and 9 percent above 1998's record crop. Yields this year are expected to average 40.7 bushels per acre, which would be the second highest yield on record.
A large section of the western Corn Belt was gripped in drought this spring, but the rain came in time to salvage crops. Iowa, the No. 1 corn producer, is expected to produce 1.86 billion bushels this year, up from 1.76 billion bushels last year. Nebraska's crop is forecast at 1.09 billion bushels, down from 1.15 billion in 1999.
The bumper crops will serve to hold down the prices that farmers are paid, which remain well below support levels that trigger government subsidies.
Consumers are unlikely to see much effect from the big harvest because the cost of such raw ingredients has little direct effect on the price of processed food.
USDA estimated that the average price of corn this year will be $1.65 a bushel, down 5 cents from its projection in July. The estimated price for soybeans was lowered 5 cents from last month to $4.35 a bushel.
Corn and soybeans, which are used for both food and animal feed, are the nation's biggest crops.
Other commodities also are having big years:
Cotton production is forecast at 19.2 million bales, an increase of 13 percent from 1999 despite a lingering drought in parts of the South.
Production of spring-planted varieties of wheat will be up sharply this year. Production of durum wheat, the type used to make pasta, is forecast at 115.2 million bushels, up from 99.3 million bushels in 1999. Production of other spring varieties is forecast at 553.7 million bushels, up from 503.1 million last year.
Grape production is estimated at 7.4 million tons, up from 6.2 million in 1999. This year's apple crop is estimated at 10.7 million pounds, up from 10.6 million last year. The peach harvest has increased from 2.5 million pounds in 1999 to 2.7 million this year.