WASHINGTON – USDA is projecting record U.S. corn and rice crops in its first survey-based crop report of the year. The agency also forecast a 20-million-bale cotton crop, as well as the second largest soybean production on record.

In today’s report, USDA forecast cotton production at 20.2 million 480-pound bales, up 11 percent from last year's 18.3 million bales. The yield is expected to average 727 pounds per harvested acre, down 3 pounds from 2003. Producers expect to harvest 13.3 million acres of all cotton, 11 percent above last year.

Upland cotton harvested area, at 13.1 million acres, is 1.24 million acres more than a year ago. American-Pima harvested area is expected to total 250,000 acres, 41 percent more than 2003. Arizona and Texas increased American-Pima planted area by 1,000 and 4,000 acres, respectively, resulting in a total U.S. American-Pima planted estimate of 252,000 acres.

Corn production is forecast at 10.9 billion bushels, up 8 percent from last year and 22 percent above 2002. Based on conditions as of August 1, yields are expected to average 148.9 bushels per acre, up 6.7 bushels from last year. If realized, both production and yield would be the largest on record.

Yields are higher in most of the Corn Belt and Great Plains States as weather conditions have been favorable during much of the growing season. Farmers expect to harvest 73.4 million acres of corn for grain, virtually unchanged from June but up 3 percent from 2003.

USDA is projecting a record U.S. rice crop of 221.6 million hundredweight, down less than 1 percent from last month’s projection but up 11 percent from 2003/04. The U.S. 2004/05 average yield is forecast at a record 6,680 pounds per acre, down 41 pounds per acre from last month, but 35 pounds per acre above 2003/04.

Soybean production is forecast at 2.88 billion bushels, up 19 percent from 2003 and 4 percent from 2002. If realized, this would be the second largest U.S. soybean production on record. Based on Aug. 1 conditions, yields are expected to average 39.1 bushels per acre, up 5.7 bushels from 2003. Yields are higher than 2003 throughout the Grain Plains and across the Corn Belt, but lower than the record high yields of 2003 in the Southeast. Area for harvest, at 73.7 million acres, is unchanged from June but up 2 percent from 2003 acreage.

Meanwhile, in its August supply and demand estimates, the World Agricultural Outlook Board projected the highest level of ending stocks for cotton in three years.

WAOB forecast U.S. cotton ending stocks at 5.9 million bales, which is more than 30 percent above last month. Exports, however, were raised 700,000 bales to 12 million bales. Soybean ending stocks are projected at 190 million bushels, down 20 million bushels from last month. Despite the reduction, this would still be the first increase in ending stocks from the previous year since 1998/99.

Forecast corn ending stocks were raised 141 million bushels from last month and are up 218 million bushels from last year.

Projected U.S. 2004/05 ending stocks of wheat are up 84 million bushels from last month due to an increase in production and reduced exports. Total wheat production is forecast at 2.123 billion bushels, up sharply from last month but down 214 million bushels from last year.

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com