The U.S. cotton, rice, and corn crops may not break last year's record for production, but they'll come close — the second largest — if USDA's Sept. 12 supply and demand estimates prove correct.

On the other hand, USDA's forecasts surprised many who believed damage from drought and/or hurricanes had taken U.S. crops down a few notches.

Cotton production is forecast at 22.3 million bales, up 5 percent from the August forecast but 4 percent below last year's production. Yield is expected to average 782 pounds per acre, 34 pounds above August. If realized, both the yield and production will be the second highest on record.

Dry weather has had an impact on the Mid-South crop. Forecast yields decreased for every state except Louisiana, where USDA projected a 106-pound increase from August.

Harvested area is expected to total 13.7 million acres, up less than 1 percent from August and 5 percent above 2004.

Worldwide, USDA raised cotton production significantly in India, based on continued reports of excellent crop development. Production is reduced in China, due to excessive rain in the southeastern cotton-growing areas.

U.S. corn production is forecast at 10.6 billion bushels, up 3 percent from August, but 10 percent below 2004. If realized, this would be the second largest crop on record. Based on conditions as of Sept. 1, yields are expected to average 143.2 bushels per acre, up 4 bushels from August but 17.2 bushels below the record high last year. Farmers expect to harvest 74.3 million acres of corn for grain, down 50,000 acres from August but up 1 percent from 2004.

Projected 2005-06 corn exports are up 50 million bushels due to increased imports by Mexico and Egypt. Estimated corn ending stocks are up 179 million bushels from last month but are 46 million lower than the previous year. Corn prices in 2005-06 are projected to average $1.70 to $2.10, down 10 cents on each end from last month, compared with $2.06 for 2004-05.

Soybean production is forecast at 2.86 billion bushels, up 2 percent from the August forecast but down 9 percent from the record crop of 2004. Based on Sept. 1 conditions, yields are expected to average 39.6 bushels per acre.

Soybean exports are raised for September due to lower prices and reduced competitor supplies. Soybean ending stocks are projected at 205 million bushels, up 25 million from August.

Adequate moisture across most of the Corn Belt and the Great Plains by the end of the month was a relief for many dry areas, including most of the drought-stricken areas of Illinois and Missouri. The Delta and Southeast also received favorable moisture, maintaining good yield potential in most areas, including a record high forecast in Louisiana and a record-tying forecast in South Carolina.

Season-average soybean prices for 2005-06 are projected at $5.15 to $6.05 compared with $5.50 to $6.50 per bushel in August.

U.S. rice production in 2005-06 is forecast at 228.3 million hundredweight, 1.6 million hundredweight above the August estimate and the second largest on record. Harvested area is projected at 3.34 million acres, up 2 percent from last month. The average yield is estimated at 6,830 pounds per acre, down 67 pounds per acre from August.

Ending stocks of all rice are projected at 33.9 million hundredweight, 4.3 million hundredweight above August. The season-average farm price is projected at $7.25 to $7.55 per hundredweight, unchanged from August.

Global 2005-06 rice production and imports are raised slightly from August, while consumption and ending stocks for 2005-06 are projected at 65.6 million tons, about 800,000 tons below August. The decrease in stocks is due mainly to smaller stocks projected for India.

Grain sorghum production is projected at 18 million bushels above August. Projected 2005-06 grain sorghum exports are up 5 million bushels (due to increased imports by Mexico) and feed and residual use is up 5 million.

Grain sorghum ending stocks are up 7 million bushels. Grain sorghum prices in 2005-06 are projected to average $1.50 to $1.90, down 10 cents on each end from last month compared with $1.78 for 2004-05.

Projected U.S. 2005-06 ending stocks of wheat are down 10 million bushels from August due to higher food use, partially offset by larger imports. The projected 2005-06 price range is $3.00 to $3.40 per bushel, up 15 cents on the low end and up 5 cents on the high end from August.

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com