WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government lowered its estimates of this fall's harvest of corn and soybeans, but the crops will still be the largest on record, which will continue to hold down commodity prices.

The corn harvest, which was largely complete at the beginning of November, was expected to total 10.05 billion bushels, 1 percent below last month's forecast but 7 percent above the 1999 crop, the Agriculture Department said Thursday.

Yields are smaller than USDA had expected. They have been averaging 137.7 bushels per acre, which is down 1.9 bushels from the October forecast. The estimates are based on USDA's monthly survey of farm conditions.

The nation's soybean crop was estimated at 2.78 billion bushels, down 2 percent from October but 5 percent higher than last year's harvest.

Farmers have been getting about 38 bushels per acre, slightly less than USDA expected last month but about 1.4 bushels per acre more than they harvested in 1999.

Because the corn crop is a little smaller than expected, USDA said prices paid to farmers would rise about 5 cents to $1.90 a bushel.

The price estimate for soybeans was lowered 20 cents to $4.70 a bushel because of large foreign supplies of the commodity and weak international demand for vegetable oil.

Cotton production is estimated at 17.5 million bales, up slightly from last month's forecast. A bale weighs 480 pounds. USDA is barred by law from forecasting cotton prices.

Meanwhile, a sudden change in weather patterns in October has alleviated a drought that threatened the winter wheat crop on the Plains. However, some fields that weren't planted in the middle of October because it was too dry ``remained unplanted at month's end due to excessive wetness,'' USDA said.

The drought has continued in Mississippi, Alabama and other parts of the Southeast.

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On the Net:

USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service: http://www.nass.usda.gov