U.S. farmers are making a habit of raising record-breaking crops — setting all-time highs for yield and production in cotton, corn, soybeans and rice in 2004, according to USDA's Jan. 12 crop production estimate. In 2003, U.S. farmers set average yield records for cotton, rice and corn and produced the biggest corn crop ever.

Cotton

All cotton production is estimated at a record 23 million bales, up less than 1 percent from last month and 26 percent more than last year's production. Yield is expected to average a record 846 pounds per acre, up 116 pounds per acre from a year ago. Harvested area, at 13.1 million acres, is down 1 percent from December but 9 percent above 2003.

In its world agricultural supply and demand estimates, USDA raised projected U.S. cotton exports by 200,000 bales to 12.7 million bales in response to higher world imports, especially by China. U.S. ending stocks are unchanged at 7.7 million bales.

World cotton production for 2004-05 was raised for the eighth consecutive month to 115.6 million bales, an increase of 17 percent over the 2001-02 record. Production forecasts were raised in Pakistan, India, United States, Australia, Sudan, and Syria, and lowered for China.

Large cotton supplies and favorable economic conditions are boosting world consumption, which is estimated higher in China, India, Brazil, and Pakistan. China's imports were raised 1 million bales due to lower production and higher consumption. Imports were reduced for Pakistan, Brazil, and India, while world trade was forecast to rise 2 percent. World ending stocks of 47.1 million bales are 1 percent above last month.

Soybeans

Soybean production in 2004 totaled 3.14 billion bushels, the largest U.S. soybean crop in history. This is down slightly from the November forecast, but is 28 percent above 2003. The average yield per acre is estimated at a record 42.5 bushels, 8.6 bushels above the 2003 final yield.

The soybean crush estimate was raised 15 million bushels based on higher projected soybean meal and oil exports. Soybean stocks are projected at 435 million bushels, down 25 million bushels from December.

Grain

Corn for grain production is estimated at 11.8 billion bushels, up less than 1 percent from the November forecast and up 17 percent from the 10.1 billion bushels produced in 2003.

Average corn yield is estimated at 160.4 bushels per acre, 0.2 bushel above the November forecast and up 18.2 bushels from 2003. Both production and yield estimates would be the largest on record. The previous record for both was set last year when production was estimated at 10.1 billion bushels and yield was 142.2 bushels per acre.

Projected 2004-05 ending stocks of corn are up 116 million bushels from last month due to larger production and smaller use.

Sorghum for grain production in 2004 is estimated at 455 million bushels, down 4 percent from the November forecast but 11 percent above 2003. Area harvested for grain is estimated at 6.52 million acres, down 16 percent from 2003. Average grain yield, at 69.8 bushels per acre, is 17.1 bushels above the 2003 average yield. Sorghum ending stocks are down 7 million bushels from last month.

Rice

Rice production in 2004 totaled a record 231 million hundredweight, up 15 percent from 2003 and up 1 percent from the November forecast. Area for harvest, at 3.33 million acres, is up 11 percent from 2003. The average yield for all U.S. rice is estimated at 6,942 pounds per acre, 272 pounds above the 2003 yield.

Rice yield is the highest on record and is the fifth consecutive year a new record high yield has been established. The adoption of higher-yielding rice varieties by producers continues to drive the increase in yields.

Projected imports for 2004-05 are lowered 1 million hundredweight to 13.5 million hundredweight based on a slower-than-expected pace of medium/short-grain imports to date. Total domestic and residual use is projected at 123 million hundredweight, up 3.9 million hundredweight from last month and 7.1 percent larger than last year.

The upward revision is based on lower-than-expected Dec. 1 stocks. Projected exports remain at 105 million hundredweight, up 1 percent from a year earlier.


e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com