September 23, 2003



U.S. Soybean Down As Dry Spell Hits Corn Belt


A late-summer drought has reduced soybean production by more than expected in the top three soy-growing states, as farmers gather their early soybean harvest yields from the main Corn Belt, crop experts said on Monday.


In contrast to close to perfect growing conditions through midsummer, heat and drought followed through late July to August, drying up soybeans in their key growth stages in the western Corn Belt.


The U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) on Sunday rated U.S. soybean condition as 40 percent good to excellent, down one point from last week and versus 44 percent a year earlier -- when drought cut U.S. soybean production 6 percent.


Last year, the eastern Corn Belt was hit harder by drought, especially in the states of Indiana and Ohio. This year, for the first time in years, Illinois looks set to produce more soybeans than Iowa, the perennial leader, due to the intensity of the drought.


Iowa and Illinois alone usually produce about a third of all U.S. soybeans, and with Minnesota are projected to produce about 43 percent of the 2003 crop. Yield reports from all three states from early harvesting are all but good.


As of Sept. 1, the U.S. Agriculture Department already lowered Iowa's projected soybean yield average to 39 bushels an acre, down 7 bushels from its August 1 outlook. That cut production 73 million bushels from USDA's August outlook of 476 million. That heat wave has continued since September 1.


Other areas of the western Corn Belt hit by drought include South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas, with an average of 40 percent graded poor to very poor in the three states.