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'06 cotton forecast revised

USDA reduced its September forecast for the 2006 U.S. upland and Pima cotton crops by about 100,000 bales from last month's. But the estimate disappointed some analysts who thought USDA should lower it by a million bales or more.

With drought and high temperatures taking a toll on much of the Rain Belt crop until recent days, analysts said they would not have been surprised if USDA had cut the forecast to 18.5 million to 19.5 million bales.

Instead, USDA said it expects U.S. farmers to harvest 20.35 million 480-pound bales — 19.52 million bales of Upland and 825,000 bales of Pima or extra long staple cotton — from this year's crop. The September estimate is 15 percent lower than last year's record 23.89 million bales.

USDA said growers could harvest an average of 762 pounds of lint per acre, down 3 percent from the Aug. 11 forecast and 69 pounds from last year. Harvested area is expected to total 12.8 million acres or 7 percent less than in 2005.

U.S. corn production was put at 11.1 billion bushels, up 1 percent from the Aug. 11 forecast and fractionally above 2005. Based on conditions as of Sept. 1, yields will average 154.7 bushels per acre, up 2.5 bushels from August and 6.8 bushels from last year. If realized, yield and production would be the second largest on record, behind 2004.

Soybean production is forecast at 3.09 billion bushels, up 6 percent from the August forecast and up slightly from the 2005 crop. The 3.08 billion bushels would be the second highest production on record.

Based on Sept. 1 conditions, soybean yields are expected to average 41.8 bushels per acre, up 2.2 bushels from August but down 1.5 bushels from last year's record high yield. “Compared with last month, yields are forecast higher across the Corn Belt and most of the northern and central Great Plains,” NASS said.

“Near or above normal moisture in those areas during August improved crop conditions. In contrast, yields are down or unchanged from the Aug. 1 forecast across the Gulf Coast States and Atlantic Coast States, with the exception of South Carolina.

U.S. rice production is forecast to decline to 2.283 million hundredweight or 13 percent less than last year's 223.24 million hundredweight after farmers decreased planted acreage from 2005's 3.36 million to 2.82 million due to low rice prices and high fuel and fertilizer costs.

Although economists and growers in the southeast states and on the Texas High Plains have said their crops have suffered due to the heat and dry weather, USDA said its early September survey indicated only a slight decline in the production prospects across the Cotton Belt.

“On August 20, ninety-six percent of the acreage was setting bolls or beyond, 5 points ahead of last year and 3 points ahead of normal,” NASS reported in its crop summary. “Progress was at or ahead of normal in all states, except Alabama, which trailed two weeks behind normal due to dry conditions.”

NASS said the crop was rated in mostly good to excellent condition except in Alabama and Georgia where the crop is in mostly fair to poor condition. In the early part of August, it said, beneficial rains brought some relief to parts of Alabama, Georgia and Florida, but dry conditions continued throughout the region.

“The cotton crop in the Delta States advanced ahead of normal due to the hot, dry weather during August,” NASS said. “In Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee, the crop is rated in good to excellent condition while in Mississippi and Louisiana the crop is in mostly fair to good condition. In mid-August, typical summer showers and cooler temperatures brought relief to the crop in the Northern Delta, while defoliation of the crop got underway in the Southern Delta.”

The NASS summary said cotton producers in the High Plains of Texas were plagued with continual hot, dry weather in early August. “Scattered showers and cooler temperatures toward the end of the month brought relief to the heat stressed crop.”

“The crop in Texas is rated as mostly fair to poor,” it said. “Data from the objective yield survey show Texas boll counts are down from last year but above the average of the last five years. In Oklahoma, the crop is developing slightly behind the five-year average and the crop is rated in fair to poor condition.”

California upland cotton producers faced intense summer heat causing some boll shedding, it said. “The crop is maturing ahead of last year but virtually the same as the five-year average. By late August, harvest was underway in the Desert Southwest. Objective yield survey data indicates California's boll counts are the lowest in the last five years.

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