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Corn is America’s Largest Crop in 2019

Despite an unusually wet spring followed by an unusually cool June, America’s corn farmers planted even more than they did last year.

U.S. farmers have planted 91.7 million acres of corn in 2019, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). That’s about 69 million football fields of corn and 3 percent more corn than last year, far more acres than the next largest crop, soybeans.

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) publishes a monthly Feed Outlook report that analyzes supply and demand data to provide information on expected prices, production, exports, and feed uses for corn and other feed grains. The following is just some of the information available.

Corn farmers faced one of the most challenging planting seasons in recent memory, and while the corn did get planted, farmers planted much of it later than usual. In early July, 57 percent of the crop was reported to be in good or excellent condition, while last year 75 percent was reported good or excellent by that time. Based on the late start to the crop and the continued cool weather, USDA is forecasting slightly lower yields than last year. At present, however, USDA forecasts that corn supplies will be sufficient to meet demand because farmers have plenty of corn stored from last year’s crop. That ear of corn on the cob you may enjoy at a summer picnic is just one of many uses of corn. Here are a few more:

About a third of America’s corn crop is used for feeding cattle, hogs, and poultry in the U.S. Corn provides the “carbs” in animal feed, while soybeans provide the protein. It takes a couple of bushels of American corn to make corn-fed steak; by some estimates, a beef cow can eat a ton of corn if raised in a feedlot. Both dairy cows and beef cows also consume silage, which is fermented corn stalks and other green plants.
Just over a third of the corn crop is used to make ethanol, which serves as a renewable fuel additive to gasoline. The Renewable Fuel Standard requires that 10% of gasoline be renewable fuel, but you can find E15 (15 percent ethanol) or E85 (85 percent) ethanol in some areas, particularly in the Midwest.
The rest of the corn crop is used for human food, beverages, and industrial uses in the U.S., or exported to other countries for food or feed use. Corn has hundreds of uses. It is used to make breakfast cereal, tortilla chips, grits, canned beer, soda, cooking oil, and bio-degradable packing materials. It’s the key ingredient in the growing medium for life-saving medicines including penicillin. Corn gluten meal is used on flower beds to prevent weeds.
America’s biggest customers are Mexico, South Korea, Japan, and Colombia. U.S. white corn is particularly prized in Mexico and Colombia as a high quality food ingredient, while Japan and South Korea pay a premium for high quality, USDA-inspected feed corn for poultry and beef.

Why does corn have the most acres of any major crop in the U.S.? It can be grown in nearly every State in the U.S. Seed companies provide hybrid, organic, and bio-engineered varieties that are specially bred to be the best for different soil and weather conditions. Seed companies have developed different corn varieties for different end uses, including feed corn, sweet corn, white corn, and popcorn.

You can learn more about corn from a variety of USDA sources. ERS maintains a feed grains database with historical information on production, trade, prices, livestock feed demand, and many other data items. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) researches insect and weed pests, and new crop varieties. The World Agricultural Outlook Board, part of the Office of the Chief Economist, coordinates economic analysis from across USDA to provide monthly reports on the supply and demand of corn and other crops, while the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and ERS also publish more detailed analysis of specific issues like ethanol usage and foreign demand for feed and food corn and many other crops.


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