In its November crop production report and supply and demand estimates, USDA forecast soybean production at 2.45 billion bushels, down 16.6 million bushels or 1 percent from the October forecast and 11 percent below 2002.

If realized, this would be the lowest U.S. production since 1996. Based on conditions as of Nov. 1, the crop production said yields would average 33.8 bushels per acre, down 0.2 bushel from October and down 4.2 bushels from 2002. Most of the decrease was attributed to drought conditions and excessive rain at planting in the upper Midwest.

Yield decreases from last month were reported in South Dakota, the upper Mississippi Valley, the Great Lakes and the eastern Corn Belt. However, Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, the Tennessee Valley, and the Atlantic Coastal Plains increased yield prospects from last month.

Projected U.S. soybean stocks were reduced to 125 million bushels, the lowest level since 1976/77. Soybean exports are projected at 890 million bushels, up 20 million bushels from last month due to strong early-season shipments, especially to China.

U.S. cotton production was forecast at 18.2 million bales, up 4 percent from October and up 6 percent from last year's production. Yield is expected to average a record high 722 pounds per acre, up 26 pounds from last month.

The yield would surpass the previous high established in 1994, by 14 pounds. Record high yields are expected in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Harvested area, at 12.1 million acres, is unchanged from Oct. 1 but 3 percent below 2002.

Domestic mill use for cotton was decreased 200,000 bales to 6.2 million bales. Exports were raised 10 percent to 13.2 million bales, exceeding last season's record, due mainly to lower production and higher import demand by China. Accordingly, ending stocks were reduced nearly 8 percent to 4.25 million bales.

U.S. rice production for 2003/04 was forecast at 198.2 million hundredweight, up nearly 1 million hundredweight from last month, but 12.7 million below 2002/03. Average yield for 2003/04 was forecast at a record 6,656 pounds per acre, 32 pounds per acre above last month.

Exports in 2003/04 are projected at 95 million hundredweight, 4 million above last month, but nearly 30 million below the 2002/03 record. All of the increase in exports is rough rice – projected at 42 million hundredweight – up 5 million hundredweight from last month but down about 1 million hundredweight from last year's record. Ending stocks for 2003/04 are projected at 21.9 million hundredweight, 3 million below last month.

Corn production was forecast at 10.3 billion bushels, up 1 percent from last month and 14 percent above 2002. Yields are expected to average 143.2 bushels per acre, up 1 bushel from October and up 13.2 bushels from last year. If realized, both production and yield would be the largest on record. Both previous records were set in 1994.

Projected U.S. 2003/04 ending stocks of wheat were 25 million bushels lower than last month due to a 25-million-bushel increase in exports. Exports are up based on stronger- than-expected shipments to date.

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com