While all eyes may be on next week’s release of the USDA’s crop production report, Monday’s weekly report on crop progress offers some good news: The percentage of corn crops rated “good” or “excellent” is significantly higher for 2008 – 66% compared to 56% in 2007.

“We’re optimistic about a good corn crop this year and harvesting the second largest crop in history, despite the late planting and wet weather,” says NCGA President Ron Litterer, a corn grower in Iowa. “Each USDA report gives us more reason to be thankful, and verifies the improved growing conditions in July, indicating much-improved production potential.”

In its crop progress report, the USDA estimated that 83% of corn had reached the silking stage, and 17% the dough stage, compared to 95% and 37% last year, respectively. But the overall condition of the crops was significantly better. Of the 18 top corn-producing states, 49% of the crops were rated good and 17% excellent. Last year at this time, 40% of the crops were rated good and 16% excellent.

Two private firms recently posted corn crop projections that are higher than the USDA’s latest figures. Brownfield AgNews reported that risk management firm FC Stone projects the U.S. corn crop at 12.2 billion bushels, more than 480 million bushels above the latest USDA estimate, with a yield of 154.5 bu./acre, compared to the USDA’s last forecast of 148.4 bu. The news service also reports that Informa Economics projected a corn harvest of approximately 12.33 billion bushels, with an average yield of 155.4 bu./acre.

The August crop production report will be released at 7:30 a.m. CDT Tuesday, Aug. 12. It will provide the first official government projection of production and yield based on actual crop estimates and will also offer a complete look at the ramifications of Midwest flooding earlier this season.