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Harvest figures

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The summer drought took its toll on the nation’s main cash crops, and will affect food prices in the near future.

Yet the soybean harvest is going better than previously thought, the U.S. Agriculture Department reported last week.

The USDA revised its estimates for soybean production higher, the New York Times reported.

Unfortunately, the department lowered its estimates for corn, the country’s largest cash crop, for the fourth consecutive month.

The Agriculture Department reduced its forecast for domestic corn production to 10.706 billion bushels — a 13 percent drop from 2011 and a far cry from the 15 billion bushels expected at the beginning of the season. The initial expectations for the crop were high because American farmers had planted the most acreage in about 70 years.

There was better news on the soybean front. Domestic soybean production will rise to 2.86 billion bushels this season, the agency reported, up from the September estimate of 2.634 billion.

The estimates are considered pretty solid, coming as they do amid the harvests, which are expected to be completed this month.

Only 25 percent of the corn crop was judged in good or excellent condition as of Sept. 30, the Times reported. Some 37 percent of the soybean crop received good or excellent ratings.

In 2011, the corn crop was valued at $76.5 billion, soybeans at $35.8 billion. It will be interesting to see how that compares to this year.

The cost of animal feed remains high, since it is made primarily from corn and soybeans. That should mean higher food prices for consumers in the near future.

The repercussions continue nationally from the extraordinarily difficult growing season. U.S. farmers coped about as well as they could, but the intense heat and prolonged drought took their toll.

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