As corn growers begin harvest the size of the 2007 crop is becoming more clear, says the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

The latest report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), released the end of last week, increased the estimated corn production to 13.3 billion bushels, up from 13.1 billion bushels just a month ago.

The new estimates are in line with several private analysts’ recent forecasts.

“Farmers responded to the market this year, and nature has been cooperating,” said NCGA President Ken McCauley. “Carryout supplies are increasing, so we’ve ‘restocked the shelves’ for our customers to meet feed, fuel, food and fiber needs.”

According to the report, USDA expects yields to average 155.8 bu./acre, the second highest yield ever. The number of corn acres harvested is projected to be the highest since 1933.

The weather has been a question mark throughout the last several weeks, McCauley says. The maturing crop was helped by timely rains throughout most of the Great Plains and central Corn Belt, more than offsetting drought and high temperatures across most of the South and Southeast, and some other eastern and northern areas.

“New corn hybrids and new production techniques are better able to deal with stress,” he says. “In my own area (northeast Kansas) we’ve had a lot of stress this year, but we’ve still had outstanding yields.”

Harvest is progressing at a faster than normal rate in Texas, Tennessee and North Carolina, says USDA. Even as far north as central Illinois, growers are harvesting early, says NCGA Corn Board member Garry Niemeyer.

“I would advise growers in other areas who haven't harvested as of yet, don’t wait for the corn to dry down, especially if you’re going to an elevator,” cautions Niemeyer, a grower from central Illinois. “Both of our rail loaders are full after 10 days of harvest and they are each getting a unit train every other day. Lines at the elevator are two hours long. This is going to be a long season for sure.”