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Blake Nicholson, Associated Press, Published November 09 2010

USDA slightly lowers small-grain estimates

BISMARCK (AP) — The federal government has slightly lowered its official estimates of this year's U.S. spring wheat, durum wheat, barley and oats crops, after taking the unusual step of resurveying farmers in six states.

The revisions are unlikely to influence prices for farmers or consumers, said Darin Newsom, a senior analyst at Omaha, Neb.-based market information company DTN.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to update its small grains estimates because they were based on farmer surveys in early September, when there was significant unharvested acreage in North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington because of bad weather.

The late-September small grains summary usually is USDA's final word on production, but the agency contacted some farmers a second time because those with crops in the field earlier in the month had been forced to estimate production on those acres.

Estimates of all four crops dropped, but the downward revisions released Tuesday were less than 4 percent for durum, less than 2 percent for spring wheat and in the case of oats and barley less than 1 percent.

A big reason for the slight drops was a decrease in the average bushels per acre of the crops, said Darin Jantzi, director of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service field office in North Dakota, which leads the nation in the production of spring wheat, durum wheat and barley.

"The later the crop gets to be, the lower the yield gets to be," he said.

All crops except durum also saw a slight drop in harvested acres from the September report.

"Just a little bit there at the end, even though (farmers) had good weather conditions they weren't able to go out and get," Jantzi said.

Spring wheat typically is used for bread products and durum wheat for pasta. Oats are used for food for both people and animals, and barley is the main ingredient in beer.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.