The amount of land being harvested this fall is the smallest total in this century, the result of the brutal drought and government land-idling plans, the Agriculture Department said Friday.

"Crop failure, mainly from widespread drought, is expected to cause farmers to abandon harvest on about 14 million acres, twice the normal rate in recent years," the department's Economic Research Service said in a report on agricultural resources.The harvest is estimated to cover 284 million acres, which is 9 million acres, or 3 percent, fewer than last year and 67 million acres below the peak year of 1981, when no cropland was idled in federal programs.

More than 78 million acres were held out of crop production this year, about 54 million as land setaside so farmers could qualify for farm program benefits and the rest in the long-term Conservation Reserve.

About 328 million acres was planted to crops this year, 3 percent less than in 1987. There are 999 million acres in farm use in the United States.

"While well above normal for recent years, crop failure is substantially below that which occurred in the drought years of the 1930s when crop failure in one year reached 64 million acres," the ERS said.

The amount of land held out of production this year tied the record established in 1983.

Crop acreage is likely to increase next year. The government already has given farmers permission to grow more wheat.