A slight reduction in cow numbers caused the USDA to tweak its milk-production forecast down a notch for the 2001/02 marketing year, which began Oct. 1 and extends through Sept. 30, 2002.

According to the December “World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates” report, released today, 2001/2002 milk production is forecast to be 168.7 billion pounds, down 0.2 billion pounds from USDA’s November projection.

The USDA says the extension of the price-support program through next May is expected to bolster Class IV prices. Consequently, USDA increased the Class IV milk-price forecast 5 cents — to range between $11.55 and $12.35.

The Class III milk price is forecast to range between $11.30 and $11.90 during the 2001/2002 marketing year — a 5-cent reduction, which the USDA says is due to “slower expected growth in product demand.” The all-milk price is forecast at $13.05 to $13.65 per hundredweight.

Elsewhere in the report, ending stocks for soybeans decreased by 25 million bushels from last month’s projection — to 330 million bushels. As a result, soybean prices for 2001/2002 are projected at $4.00 to $4.80 per bushel, an increase of 10 cents from last month.

Despite a lack of change in corn stocks from last month, USDA narrowed its price projection for corn by 5 cents on each end of the range. The forecast calls for corn prices to between $1.85 and $2.15 per bushel during the 2001/2002 marketing year.