USDA sees spring wheat at 15-year low; raises corn, soy harvest

WASHINGTON, July 12 (Reuters) - U.S. production of spring wheat will fall to a 15-year low, the government said on Wednesday, as crop development in top production state North Dakota has been crippled by searing heat and scant rains throughout June and July.

The U.S. Agriculture Department also raised its corn and soybean production forecasts despite a late start to planting and colder-than-usual temperatures during the spring that raised concerns about crop health.

The government in its monthly supply and demand report pegged the harvest of spring wheat other than durum at 423 million bushels on a yield of 40.3 bushels per acre. Analysts had forecast spring wheat production at 416 million bushels, based on the average of estimates given in a Reuters poll.

USDA raised its estimate of the winter wheat crop to 1.279 billion bushels, near the high end of a range of analysts' forecasts, from its June forecast of 1.250 billion bushels. The hard red winter wheat crop was pegged at 758 million bushels, 15 million bushels higher than USDA's June outlook.

The government forecast total wheat production of 1.760 billion bushels, which would be the smallest since a harvest of 1.606 billion bushels in 2002.

For soybeans, USDA surprisingly raised its 2017/18 harvest outlook to 4.260 billion bushels, the high end of market forecasts and 5 million higher than its June estimate. Soybean yields were unchanged at 48.0 bushels per acre.

The average of analysts' forecasts for soybeans was a harvest of 4.243 billion bushels and yields of 47.9 bushels per acre.

The 2017/18 corn crop was pegged at 14.255 billion bushels, above the high end of analysts' forecasts that ranged from 13.841 billion bushels to 14.253 billion bushels. The corn yield outlook was unchanged at 170.7 bushels per acre, which was the high end of market expectations.

USDA trimmed its outlook for 2016/17 soybean ending stocks by 40 million bushels to 410 million bushels due to a 50-million bushel increase to its export forecast and a 10-million bushel cut to its crushing forecast. Soybean ending stocks for 2017/18 were seen at 460 million bushels, 35 million bushels below the government's June estimate.

USDA raised its 2016/17 corn ending stocks view to 2.370 billion bushels due to lower use in the feed and residual category. New-crop corn stocks were raised to 2.325 billion bushels.

For wheat, 2017/18 ending stocks were raised to 938 million bushels.

(Reporting by Mark Weinraub; Editing by Andrea Ricci)