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Drought Cuts US Wheat Yield to Lowest in 30 Years

U.S. wheat crop lowest in thirty years
The Associated Press,
Jan. 10, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) Wheat production dropped last year to its lowest since 1972, a casualty of a drought that singed crops across the nation, the Agriculture Department said Friday.

U.S. farmers harvested 1.62 billion bushels of wheat, down 17% from 2001. Winter wheat in particular did not fare well with production at 1.14 billion bushels - the lowest since 1970.

The department's corn production estimates for 2002 remained steady at 9.01 billion bushels - nearly the same amount projected in November.

A lack of water stunted yields. Nebraska, for instance, harvested 940 million bushels of corn, down from the 1.14 billion harvested in 2001.

Eastern states such as North Carolina also saw a drop in yields because of the dry weather. North Carolina farmers collected 58 million bushels compared to the 78 million harvested in 2001.

Two states, however, were virtually untouched by drought and saw record yields: Iowa and Minnesota. Iowa farms produced 1.96 billion bushels and Minnesota produced 1.05 billion bushels.

Soybeans also were affected by the weather. U.S. production was 2.73 billion bushels, about 6% below 2001.

In citrus, Florida's grapefruit production is expected to be the smallest since groves were hit by a freeze in the 1989-90 season.

Cold, rainy weather in Florida took its toll on the citrus crop. The Agriculture Department forecasts Florida's grapefruit production for the 2002-03 season at 1.7 million tons, or 40 million boxes - slightly more than the 35.6 million boxes harvested in 1989-90.

Total U.S. grapefruit production is predicted at 2.12 million tons, down 13% from last season.

Temperatures in December dropped into the 30s in Florida and heavy rain saturated groves, forcing farmers to plow and disc to drain excess water from the groves.

Projections for the U.S. orange crop for 2002-03 season remain at about 11 million tons. Florida is expected to harvest 14% fewer boxes than last season - 197 million. But California groves improved 9% since last season, and production is projected at 61 million boxes.

Copyright 2002 Associated Press.