For the second month in a row, the Class III price gained ground.

The USDA announced the September Class III price at $9.92 — a 38-cent increase compared to August. That, however, is still $5.98 less than a year ago.

During the first three quarters of this year, the Class III price has averaged $10.52 per hundredweight — 26 percent below the same time period in 2001, notes Phil Plourd, senior market analyst with Blimling and Associates, Cottage Grove, Wis. The Class III price also averaged $9.60 during the third quarter. That is $4.05 less than the five-year average Class III price and the lowest third-quarter price since 1978, Plourd adds.

Despite the Class III price gain, both the Class II and IV prices declined. The USDA announced the September Class IV price at $10.22 — a 19-cent drop from August. The Class II price fell 16 cents — to $10.91.

Like the Class III price, the cheese market — particularly the price for block cheese — has gained ground. At the close of trading on Oct. 4, the block price on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange settled at $1.30. There is, however, a 14.5-cent price spread between the block and barrel prices. At the close on Oct. 4, barrel cheese came in at $1.155.

Several factors — including continued steadiness in the cheese market in the coming weeks — could urge the Class III price closer to $11 for October.