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Associated Press, Published November 12 2009

Crop estimate may ease harvest fears

BISMARCK – Newly released estimates for U.S. wheat, corn and soybean crops may put to rest fears that a wet harvest season in many parts of the country could cut into production.

Late-season rains had delayed harvest of small grains in many areas, raising concerns about whether farmers’ record crops might die in the fields. But U.S. Department of Agriculture crop estimates released Tuesday show little change over the past month, and analysts now expect little – if any – changes in prices for either farmers or consumers.

The crop estimates “came mostly within expectations,” said John Sanow, an analyst with the Omaha, Neb.-based market information company DTN.

Estimated U.S. spring wheat production is down less than 1 percent from the Sept. 30 estimate and durum wheat production is down 1 percent. Total production of all types of wheat is virtually unchanged at 2.22 billion bushels.

U.S. production of both oats and barley also is almost unchanged from September, and the new figures for corn and soybeans vary only slightly from the Oct. 9 report.

The late September small grains summary, based on farmer surveys, usually is USDA’s final word on production. This year, the agency took the uncommon step of re-contacting farmers in Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming in late October because wet weather during the initial survey period in September had significantly delayed harvest in some areas. That meant many farmers had to guess at how much of their crop they would be able to harvest.

Meanwhile, North Dakota’s dry pea and lentil crops are expected to set records this year.

The Agriculture Department is projecting the state’s pea crop at 11.5 million hundredweight, up 46 percent from last year, and the lentil crop at 2.54 million hundredweight, more than triple the size of last year’s crop. Drought was a problem for the 2008 crop.

This year’s state soybean crop is forecast at 116 million bushels, up 10 percent from a year ago, thanks to an increase in harvested acres and yield.

The corn crop in North Dakota is pegged at 212 million bushels, down 26 percent from last year’s record high. Officials say harvested acres are down 24 percent.

Fall potato production in the state is estimated at 18.8 million hundredweight, down 17 percent from last year.

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