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Corn crop harvest estimates downgraded slightly

July 11, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture slightly lowered its estimate of the corn crop on Thursday, a reflection of late planting in parts of the U.S. Midwest, known as the Corn Belt, due to the wet spring.

Farmers are now expected to harvest about 13.95 billion bushels, 55 million fewer bushels than predicted in June. That still beats the 2009 record by about 858 million bushels. A bushel of corn, when on the ears, weighs about 70 pounds (31 kilograms).

The USDA also said farmers are now expected to harvest about 89.1 million acres (36 million hectares)of corn, down from the 89.5 million acres expected a month ago.

For many farmers in Iowa and surrounding states, the rainy spring left fields soggy for weeks, causing them to delay planting weeks later than normal and, in some cases, re-plant because seeds had rotted.

Producing an expected record crop in a year that started poorly for many is still largely possible because of the number of acres (hectares) planted in corn, said Chad Hart, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University.

Farmers planted 97.4 million acres (39.4 million hectares) in corn this year, the USDA said. Just four years ago it was about 87 million acres (35 million hectares). That combined with corn plants that better withstand heat, drought and other stresses results in bigger harvests under less than optimal conditions, Hart said.

Corn prices will likely stay high because of a dwindling supply this summer due to last year’s drought, which produced just 11 billion bushels, and a late harvest this fall. Higher prices are good for farmers selling grain, but they increase the cost of feed for livestock producers using corn-based feed for cattle, chickens and pigs.

Food prices aren’t likely to be affected much by the change.

Farmers also are expected to produce a record soybean crop if the latest USDA estimates hold true. Thursday’s report shows an expected harvest of 3.4 billion bushels, better than the 3.36 billion bushels produced in 2009.

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