The government slashed its expectations for U.S. corn and soybean production for the second consecutive month Friday, predicting what could be the lowest average corn yield in more than 15 years as the worst drought in decades scorches major farm states. The U.S. Agriculture Department cut its projected U.S. corn production to 10.8 billion bushels, down 17 percent from its forecast last month of nearly 13 billion bushels and 13 percent less than last year. That also would be the lowest production since 2006. The USDA, in its World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report, now expects corn growers to average 123.4 bushels per acre, down 24 bushels from last year in what would be the lowest average yield in 17 years. Soybean production is now forecast at 2.69 billion bushels, a 12 percent decline from last year and well off the 3.05 billion bushels the USDA had expected last month. The expected average yield of 36.1 bushels per acre would be the lowest since 2003. Corn farmers had expected a record year just months ago, when they sowed 96.4 million acres, the most since 1937. The USDA now predicts only 87.4 million acres will be harvested, although it notes the crop still could be the eighth biggest in U.S. history. That is due in part to hardier corn varieties, which are better able to withstand drought and heat. Federal scientists say this July was the hottest on record, smoking out even the sweltering temperatures set in the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Wednesday that the stretch from August 2011 through July this year was the warmest 12-month period the U.S. has experienced.