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Kan. corn forecast 38 percent above last year

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- With corn harvest getting underway this month, a new government forecast released Thursday projects Kansas is on track to harvest 38 percent more than a year ago in what's expected to be the third largest crop in the state's history.

The updated forecast from the National Agricultural Statistics Service projects Kansas will harvest 525 million bushels. The estimate is based on crop conditions as of Sept. 1, which includes the effects of last month's heavy rains on crops as much of Kansas broke out of a drought.

"This report takes all of that into consideration, so it is up and I think we expected it to be up and are very pleased with those numbers," said Sue Schulte, spokeswoman for the Kansas Corn Growers Association and the Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association.

Farmers are cutting 4.2 million acres of corn this season, up 6 percent from last year, according to the report. Yields are also far better at 125 bushels per acre, up 29 bushels an acre from 2012.

Last year was a tough year for corn and sorghum because of the drought, Schulte said, with sorghum especially affected because most of that is planted on non-irrigated acreage, Schulte said.

"The time the rains came was really perfect for the sorghum crop in a lot of areas," she said.

That's reflected in this year's forecast for sorghum, which is more than twice as much as last year at an anticipated 195 million bushels.

Because both corn and sorghum are considered feed grains, their combined harvest of 720 million bushels far outpaces last year's 461 million bushels in feed grains harvested last year in the state.

"That is a dramatic increase in feed grains that are available for our livestock and ethanol industries," Schulte said.

The outlook is also good for the other major Kansas crop in fields, soybeans. The NASS forecast said soybean production will be up 58 percent from a year ago at a projected 133 million bushels.

Cotton production was forecast to be down 44 percent to 39,000 bales even though its yields are up because Kansas farmers planted fewer acres of cotton this year.