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Published October 09, 2009, 03:07 PM

USDA Forecasts Record Soybean and Corn Harvests

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A record corn and soybean harvest will do little to help farmers already struggling with low prices and high production costs, a farm economist said Friday after the latest crop projections were released.

By: Michael J. Crumb, AP

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A record corn and soybean harvest will do little to help farmers already struggling with low prices and high production costs, a farm economist said Friday after the latest crop projections were released.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service forecast is for the second-largest corn harvest on record and a new record for soybeans.

Neither comes as a surprise because more acres were planted this year and earlier forecasts also predicted a strong crop, said Lance Honig, chief of the crops branch for the Washington-based NASS, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Corn production is estimated at 13 billion bushels, up 8 percent from 2008. If that holds up, it will be the second-highest production behind 2007, when 13.04 billion bushels were harvest.

Gary Schnitkey, a farm economist at the University of Illinois, said record production usually results in lower prices farmers get for their crop.

"This year we're actually looking at pretty low incomes for farmers, not only with the fall of commodity prices which began last year at this time, but at the same time the costs farmers have had to pay have been high, particularly fertilizer," Schniktey said.

But the prospect of lower corn prices shouldn't send consumers scurrying to the store in hopes of getting a break on their box of corn flakes, Schnitkey said.

"For the consumer, it doesn't mean a lot," he said. "A lot of agricultural products, the amount in a certain product is very small.

"It's a big deal to producers, but by the time it reaches the end consumer it has less of an impact."

The beneficiaries of a giant crop are usually food processors and grain elevators "because they're running more product through," he said.

He also said consumers overseas benefit because other countries can import U.S. grain for a lower price.

Yields — or amount harvested per acre — are forecast to average a record 164.2 bushels per acre this year, up more than 10 bushels from 2008.

Corn is grown in nearly every state but the top five producers are Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota and Indiana.

A record 3.25 billion bushels is forecast for soybeans, up 10 percent from 2008. Yields are expected to average 42.4 bushels per acre, the third-highest on record. The top corn states are also the biggest producers of soybeans.

Farmers say the challenge now is to bring the record crop in from fields drenched by rain, delaying the harvest.

"Usually by this time I'm about one-third done with beans and well into the corn," said Don Kleckner, a farmer near St. Ansgar in northern Iowa. "I haven't started beans or corn. I haven't rolled a wheel."

He also said he's beginning to see stalk deterioration because of corn root worm, other diseases and fungus.

The corn crop grew slowly due to cool, wet conditions through much of the spring, raising concerns it might not mature before a killing frost. But in most areas, the crop has matured enough that it won't be hurt by a hard freeze, Honig said.

One exception is Illinois, where planting was delayed by a rainy spring.

On his farm near New Berlin in central Illinois, John Olsson has managed to reap only 20 of his 650 acres of his soybeans and 30 of his 650 acres of corn. Most years, he'd be half done with both harvests.

"You just have to roll along with it," Olsson said. "I suppose there's probably some people losing sleep over it. But if you worry about it too much you're probably not going to stay in the business too long. You just have to accept it as part of the risks of farming, make the best of it and go from there."

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Associated Press writer Jim Suhr in St. Louis contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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