ALBANY, Ga. (AP) _ After enduring extreme weather swings ranging from a wet spring to a sizzling three-month drought, the first peanuts harvested this year exceed expectations.

``It's too early to say that we've dodged a bullet, but the indications are that ... we'll probably do as well or a little better than the crop estimate,'' said Frank Bodiford, state director of the Federal-State Inspection Service, which is responsible for grading Georgia's peanut crop.

Peanuts arriving at buying points are smaller than usual, but they have graded well and only a few loads have shown up with the mold that causes aflatoxin, a naturally occurring carcinogen that can contaminate peanuts and corn.

The mold that produces the toxin tends to increase during hot, dry weather. Peanuts contaminated with it can't be sold for human consumption.

Peanut officials say Georgia's best peanuts _ those planted after May 1 _ are yet to come.

``Surprisingly, it looks like dry-land will do almost as good as irrigated,'' Bodiford said.

The forecast for Georgia's peanut crop this year was 1.3 billion pounds, the lowest in nine years. The low estimate stemmed from poor growing conditions. The forecast called for a yield of 2,450 pounds per acres, 320 pounds per acre lower than 1997.

But peanut growers have been optimistic, pointing to occasional breaks in the weather and the tenacity of some varieties. Peanuts are Georgia's second-highest cash crop behind cotton.

For the first time in years, farmers with peanuts suspected of carrying aflatoxin have 24 hours to have those peanuts cleaned and regraded.

At the buying points, peanuts are classified into three categories: Segregation 1, the only edible grade; Segregation 2, no aflatoxin, but a higher percentage of damaged kernels than the top grade; and Segregation 3, inedible because of mold contamination.

For years, peanuts found on first inspection to have the fungus were automatically condemned. But farm groups succeeded in having the rule changed.

Bodiford said farmers are taking advantage of the clean-and-regrade policy with mixed results. He said few loads have been declared Segregation 3.


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Corn and soybean harvest is reported in full swing across Iowa, with crops on higher ground yielding much better than those that had too much standing water this summer.

``Reporters are indicating that corn and soybeans look excellent,'' the Agriculture Department's weekly crop report said Monday. ``However, crop maturity in some areas is uneven.''

The Agriculture Department said a freeze would be welcomed by some farmers to even up the crops and kill weeds.

Corn was reported mature in 97 percent of the total acreage planted. That is 10 days ahead of last year's pace of 77 percent and more than two weeks ahead of the five-year average of 71 percent.

Harvest continues to progress with 13 percent of the corn crop out of the fields as of Sunday, the report said. Normally at this time of year, 5 percent is harvested, while last year 3 percent of the corn acreage had been harvested at this time.

Moisture level of corn remaining in the field averaged 24 percent, while the moisture level of harvested corn averaged 20 percent. The condition of the corn crop was rated 2 percent very poor, 5 percent poor, 19 percent fair, 50 percent good, and 24 percent excellent.