The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Wednesday, September 12, that it had slightly lowered its forecast of soybean and corn yields due to the record heat wave that has devastated Midwest crops, The New York Times reports.
According to the news source, the lower forecast suggests farmers will likely report one of the weakest harvests in years. The monthly estimate marked the third time in which the USDA has lowered its forecast for this year's corn and soybean crop.
The most recent figures indicate U.S. consumers will pay more at the checkout line for various foods as the price of corn and soybeans jump to their highest levels in history. Due to the crops' ubiquity in processed foods, animal feed and biofuels, the higher crop prices will have wide-reaching effects, the media outlet stated.
The new data show 2012 corn crop yield is expected to be 122.8 bushels per acre - the lowest estimate in 17 years. In response, corn prices could soar to as high as $8.60 per bushel. This is compared with last month's government data, which expected yields to be 123.4 bushels per scare.
Jerry Norton, an Agricultural Department analyst, said the forecast was still what most people expected it to be.
"It’s unlikely that we will see any big changes from here on," he said. "A lot of the effects of the drought are reflected in what came out today."
This year's corn crop was originally expected to hit a record 15 billion bushels, when farmers planted the most acreage in 70 years during the spring. However, as soon as record heat rolled in, the forecast for this bumper crop were slashed multiple times, the news provider stated.
The U.S. - the largest exporter of corn and soybeans in the world - could now see much lower exports than last year, which Eric Munoz, a senior policy adviser with Oxfam, said he believes will have major effects on the delivery of food aid to other countries.
"It’s certainly a danger, since several developing countries that get food aid are dealing with limited supplies and rising prices," he said.
However, the latest U.S. Drought Monitor information, released on Thursday, September 13, showed that a recent bit of rainfall could keep the Midwest drought from worsening, and could help crops other than corn, according to The Associated Press.
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