U.S. corn growers appear to be bucking the trend following this year’s nearly 15-million-acre increase in plantings.

USDA said producers are expected to harvest 13.3 billion bushels, 2 percent more than in its August crop forecast and 26 percent above 2006. The 13.3 billion bushels would be the largest crop on record.

Although yields often decline when farmers increase planted acres (and seed more marginal land), USDA said growers could harvest an average of 155.8 bushels per acre, up 3 bushels from August and 6.7 bushels above last year.

The Department also forecast in its Sept. 12 crop production report that U.S. cotton farmers will harvest 17.8 million bales, up 3 percent from the August report but down 17 percent from last year’s 21.6 million bales.

Soybean production was projected to total 2.62 billion bushels, down 18 percent from last year’s record high.

Abundant rainfall across the traditional Corn Belt appeared to be providing the impetus for higher corn yields. States such as Iowa, the nation’s largest corn-producing state, were expected to increase yields by 14 to 16 bushels per acre above 2006.

“Yield forecasts in the southern Great Plains and the Delta are also higher than last month as early harvest results are better than anticipated,” USDA said in the narrative accompanying the crop report.

Growers in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi were expected to produce higher corn yields. The projected state average for Arkansas was increased from 2006’s 146 to 155 bushels per acre; Louisiana, 140 to 160 bushels per acre; and Mississippi, 110 to 130 bushels per acre.

Combined with last spring’s sharp hikes in planted acres — Arkansas from 190,000 to 560,000; Louisiana, 300,000 to 750,000; and Mississippi, 340,000 to 980,000 — the three states are expected to produce 219.8 million more bushels of corn in 2007 than in 2006.

Cotton producers could harvest an average of 811 pounds of lint per acre in 2007, up 28 pounds from what USDA was predicting in August, but down 3 pounds from the final 2006 yield average.

It said lower upland production forecasts in the Delta and Southeast states would be offset by a 15-percent increase in Texas production to 7 million 480-pound bales. Arkansas’ crop was forecast down 675,000 bales to 1.85 million; Louisiana, down 591,000 to 650,000 bales; Mississippi, down 807,000 bales to 1.3 million; Missouri, down 235,000 to 750,000; and Tennessee, down 528,000 to 840,000.

USDA is projecting a total production decrease for the five states of 2.83 million bales, which would translate into a decline of $707.87 million in cotton lint revenue, based on the base loan rate of 52 cents per pound and 480-pound bales.

USDA said soybean yields were expected to be down 0.1 bushel from the August report and 1.3 bushels from last year after U.S. farmers reduced their plantings by 11.3 million acres.

“Compared with last month, yields are forecast lower across the central Corn Belt, the Tennessee Valley and the Southeast,” USDA said. “Hot, dry conditions contributed to most of the decline, especially in Kentucky and Tennessee, down 8 and 9 bushels from last month.

“However, yields increased from the August 1 forecast in the northern Great Plains and northwestern Corn Belt, as beneficial rains fell during the month of August.”

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