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USDA predicts record corn, soybean harvest

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Corn and soybean farmers expect a record harvest this year. And that’s after bringing in a record corn crop last year along with one of the largest soybean crops in history.

For once, farmers can thank the weather. It’s been an ideal growing season in much of the Corn Belt with just enough sun and rain to push yields to the limit.In its forecast of the fall harvest, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts farmers will haul in 14 billion bushels of corn and 3.8 billion bushels of soybeans. Some private forecasters expect the number to be even higher.

Iowa and Illinois are expected to lead the U.S. in corn and soybean production.

The chance of a record supply has already drawn down grain prices. Prices peaked during the drought of 2012. Only two years later they have fallen back down to their lowest levels since 2009.

That may be bad news for farmers. But speaking before USDA’s forecast was released, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack pointed out it could be good for farmers’ customers.

“Livestock producers will now have lower costs for feed and the profitability of livestock may increase,” Vilsack said. “Dairy may continue to be profitable, and so it’s always a balance you try to strike.”

Lower corn and soybean prices may also test a new element of the Farm Bill. Farmers can buy insurance protecting against falling prices. That could be the only thing this fall keeping many farmers afloat.

Harvest Public Media's reporter at NET News, where he started as Morning Edition host in 2008. He joined Harvest Public Media in July 2012. Grant has visited coal plants, dairy farms, horse tracks and hospitals to cover a variety of stories. Before going to Nebraska, Grant studied mass communication as a grad student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and completed his undergrad at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. He grew up on a farm in southwestern Iowa where he listened to public radio in the tractor, but has taken up city life in Lincoln, Neb.