MOBILE, Ala. (AP) _ Barring soggy weather, Alabama cotton growers expect an impressive harvest that could make up for last year's disastrous crop.

Per-acre yields last year were about 382 pounds, compared with a possible 700 pounds this year. ``It will be one of our best years,'' said cotton analyst Buddy Adamson of the Alabama Farmers Federation.

Cotton has started arriving at some gins, which have begun 24-hour operations.

Last month, federal cotton analysts predicted an average yield of 638 pounds per acre for Alabama, with production estimated at 740,000 bales. That's 50 percent above last year's harvest of 492,000 bales, which was worth about $138 million.

Prices this year are 70 to 80 cents a pound. The price for Alabama cotton has risen over the past three years from about 50 cents, said Herb Vanderberry of the Alabama Agricultural Statistics Service.

Limestone County is the state's largest cotton producer with 56,000 acres in production. Auburn University extension agent Curtis Grissom said growers expect to complete their harvest this month.

``If we can get the crop picked it will be good. We hope to have 700 pounds or more,'' said Grissom, who lives in Athens. Limestone's record came in 1994 with 1,048 pounds per acre.

He said 1995 was a disaster not only because of the low yield, but production costs were high. Insect spraying was a big-ticket expense, reduced this year with the genetically altered ``Bt'' cotton widely planted.

The insect-resistant Bt, planted throughout the state, met expectations except for isolated worm infestations in humid Baldwin County, judging from reports to extension agents.

``Bt took care of the majority of worm problems we had sprayed for the year before,'' said cotton expert Charlie Burmester of the Auburn Extension Service in Madison County.

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. growers exported almost 127,000 metric tons of unmanufactured tobacco in the first seven months of the year, up 3 percent from a year earlier.

The tobacco was worth $782 million, down 4 percent from the January-July period of 1995, the Agriculture Department says.

The United States shipped more than 134 billion cigarettes abroad during the period, a 4 percent growth. They were valued at $2.63 billion, 2 percent less than a year earlier.

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ The interest rate on pre-1996 crop-year Commodity Credit Corp. loans disbursed this month is 5.875 percent, up from 5.75 percent in September.

The Agriculture Department said loans on the 1996 crop is 6.875 percent, up from 6.75 percent last month.

The rates are based on what the corporation has to pay the Treasury Department to borrow.

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Landowners now may enroll eligible acres in the Wetlands Reserve Program without waiting for a set sign-up period.

The voluntary program offers financial incentives to enhance wetlands in exchange for retiring marginal farmland. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said 325,000 acres of high-quality wetlands have been restored, and another 650,000 acres are targeted over the next six years.

The chance to sign up acreage at any time was offered for an indefinite period, starting Oct. 1.