As printed in our September 25, 2015 issue...

THE CORN HARVEST FORECAST remained strong with USDA projecting the third largest crop on record at 13.59 billion bushels. If realized, this year's corn crop would be down just 4.4 percent from last year's bin buster. The total yield of 167.5 bushels per acre would be the nation's second best.

AT 47.1 BUSHELS PER ACRE, USDA inched up its soybean harvest projections again. The total harvest could mirror last year's record.

CONCERNS MOUNT over growing global dairy product inventory and the resulting downward pressure on prices. That caused USDA economists to lower the 2016 All-Milk price projections for the fourth straight month to a $16.60 midpoint. That's down $1.35 per cwt. in just four months.

CLASS III FUTURES REVEAL A SIMILAR STORY as September-to-February contracts averaged $15.80 at the magazine's close in mid-September. That average was down $1.55 per cwt. since early June trading.

SIX YEARS AFTER THE U.S. DAIRY INDUSTRY was ravaged by low milk prices, dairy farmers across Europe are struggling for their financial lives. As a result, this summer has been filled with farmer protests over worsening below-cost prices for milk and meat.

PRESS ACCOUNTS OF CURRENT PRICES vary widely, but in Great Britain the range was $12.90 to $15.60 per cwt. Those same accounts say the break-even price is $18.30 or more. Two years ago milk sold for $21.

STATESIDE, THE STRONGER U.S. ECONOMY and resulting consumption could buoy dairy prices far better than in Europe. "Personally, I can't think of any compelling reasons to expect a great rise in returns to dairy farmers. But, no great national disaster either," said Andrew Novakovic, an economist with Cornell University.

AMERICANS HAVE BEEN EATING MORE DAIRY than anytime since the early 1970s. At 614 pounds of dairy products per capita (on a milk equivalent basis), dairy foods intake grew 9 pounds this past year.

CHEESE CONSUMPTION NOTCHED a new record again as Americans ate 33.9 pounds per person in 2014. The "other cheese" category, led by Mozzarella, continued to lead the way at 20.4 pounds. American cheese, paced by Cheddar, yielded 13.5 pounds per person.

FLUID MILK SALES FELL by the largest amount in 30 years and reached a record low of 18.5 gallons per person. Canada posted similar sales at 19.5 gallons. The whole milk category was the lone bright spot with 2 percent, 1 percent, skim and flavored milk sales all down over the past year.

DAIRY EXPORTS SLUMPED for the third straight month. Total exports were equivalent to 13.8 percent of U.S production; imports, 3.6 percent.

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