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Mammoth U.S. Corn Crop; Wheat Stocks Shrink: USDA

U.S. farmers will harvest a record 13.3 billion bushels of corn -- a quarter-billion bushels more than forecast a month ago -- thanks to beneficial late-season rain, the government said on Wednesday.

The Agriculture Department forecast a soybean crop of 2.62 billon bushels, down slightly from its initial forecast. USDA said the wheat stockpile will shrink to 362 million bushels by next spring, the smallest supply since 1973/74.

USDA said ethanol makers would use less corn -- 3.3 billion bushels -- than initially expected in the coming 12 months. It pointed to a slowdown in the skyrocketing growth of the fuel ethanol industry.

USDA said corn yields "are higher than last month across the northern and central Great Plains and Corn Belt, where heavy rainfall during (August) provided much-needed moisture for the crop." USDA's forecast of the corn crop was up 254 million bushels from last month. Hot, dry weather reduced soybean prospects in the South.

With world wheat production falling, the farm-gate price for U.S. wheat was forecast to average $5.80 a bushel, well above the record $4.55 set in 1995/96.

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