The final report from the USDA on the 2009 corn harvest is one for the record books. Despite poor planting conditions, a cool, wet growing season, and an abysmal harvest that still sees corn standing in fields, American farmers shattered records for both yield per acre and total production.
In the January Crop Production report, USDA estimates farmers averaged 165.2 bushels of corn per acres, up from its previous estimate of 162.9 and shattering the previous record of 160.4 in 2004. Notably, average yields are more than 11 bushels per acre higher (7 percent) than last year’s average yield. In addition, this record yield helped produce the largest corn crop ever – 13.2 billion bushels. All of this occurred despite one of the slowest and most challenging harvests on record.
“The unparalleled productivity of America’s farmers continues to amaze even the most skeptical of critics,” says Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen. “Despite unfavorable weather conditions from start to finish, farmers produced considerably more corn than the food, feed, and fuel markets are demanding. Such gains in productivity undermine any claims that U.S. biofuel production will require new lands in other nations to come into production. There can be no question that American farmers have both the capability and the can-do attitude to feed the world while simultaneously helping reduce our nation’s reliance on imported oil.”
Dinneen also pointed out that the record 2009 crop was produced on 7 million less acres than were required to produce the second-largest crop on record (13.0 billion bushels) in 2007.
Despite raising total production and yield numbers, USDA left demand for all sectors, save feed use, unchanged. The fact that feed use is increasing at the same time that surplus stocks are growing drives yet another nail in the coffin of the trite feed versus fuel argument, Dinneen says. For ethanol, USDA is estimating 4.2 billion bushels of demand for the marketing year September 1, 2009-August 31, 2010. That is enough to produce 11.7 billion gallons of ethanol based on industry ethanol yield averages.
For calendar year 2009, the U.S. is expected to produce 10.6 billion gallons of ethanol and more than 30 million metric tons of livestock feed from 3.8 billion bushels of corn.