This is up from the estimate for this year of 68 cents, the department’s Economic Research Service says in its most recent Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook. The forecast calls for egg prices increasing from 64 cents in the third quarter 2006 to 73-75 cents in the fourth quarter.

The department forecasts per capita consumption of eggs to increase from 256.9 in 2006 to 259.4 in 2007. Per capita use in 2005 was 255.1 eggs, and 257.2 in 2004.

On the input side, the department estimates U.S. corn production at 10.9 billion bushels in its October Crop Production report, down from the September forecast of 11.1 billion bushels, but still the third-largest crop on record. Dry, hot conditions resulted in lower harvested acreage than a year earlier. Due to stronger demand, largely due to increasing ethanol use, corn ending stocks have declined from 2.1 billion bushels 2 years ago to 2 billion bushels in 2005-06, and are expected to be less than 1 billion bushels at the end of 2006-07.

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As a result, USDA has increased its 2006-07 average price for corn to $2.40 to $2.80 per bushel, reflecting the tighter balance sheet, higher-than-expected cash prices in recent weeks, and strong futures prices. This is up sharply from prices over the past two years

Since USDA’s report came out, futures prices have continued to increase, however. Yesterday (Oct. 31), the December 2007 corn futures contract on the Chicago Board of Trade settled at more than $3.20 per bushel.