USDA is estimating a U.S. cotton crop of 18.8 million bales this season, along with higher exports and declining domestic mill use.

In its first estimate of production for new crop, released May 11, USDA projected a smaller U.S. cotton acreage, but a higher percentage of harvested acreage. The latter is likely due to favorable soil moisture conditions in the Southwest.

Yield per harvested acre is projected at 820 pounds. Domestic mill use is likely to decline to 4.4 million bales as U.S. mills lose market share to textile imports. In contrast, exports are projected to rise nearly one-third to 17.5 million bales, due to both strong foreign import demand and record U.S. exportable supplies. Ending stocks are projected at 6.4 million bales.

World production is forecast down slightly from 2006-07 at 116 million bales. World consumption is projected at 127 million bales, an increase of nearly 4 percent, reflecting continued strong world economic growth and competitive cotton prices relative to polyester.

For old crop cotton, USDA estimates slightly lower domestic mill use and a reduction of 250,000 bales in the export forecast to 13.25 million bales. The adjustments raise ending stocks to 9.5 million bales, the largest since 1966-67.

U.S. rice production in 2007-08 is projected at 183 million hundredweight, about 6 percent below 2006-07, and the smallest crop since 1997-98. Planted area is estimated at 2.64 million acres.