WASHINGTON (B)--U.S. cattle and hog prices are expected to begin to rise in 2000, as U.S. red meat production goes into a down cycle, a U.S. Department of Agriculture economist said.

The forecasts came in a speech delivered Feb. 25 by USDA economist Shayle Shagam, at the agency's annual Agricultural Outlook forum.

Late in the second quarter of 2000, U.S. cattle slaughter is expected to diminish as the supply of feeder cattle starts to wear thin, according to Shagam.

As a result, U.S. beef production in 2000 is forecast to drop 3% from 1999, to 25.7 billion pounds. With the decline in production, cattle prices in 2000 may approach $70 per hundredweight, Shagam said.

Similarly, U.S. pork production in 2000 is forecast to decline 3 to 4% from 1999, to 18.6 billion pounds. Dramatically low prices in 1998 and 1999 are the cause of the decline, Shagam said.

With lower production, U.S. pork prices in 2000 are forecast to average $39 to $41 per cwt, roughly $5 higher than the 1999 average.

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