Iowa's corn growers are on their way to harvesting the biggest acreage ever, according to the June 29 USDA Planted Acreage Report. The survey shows 14.3 million acres of corn planted in Iowa in 2007, a 13.5% increase from last year and 3.2% higher than the March USDA Planting Intentions estimate.
Iowa farmers in 2007 have just missed eclipsing the state's all-time record of 14.4 million acres planted to corn, which was set in 1981.
Assuming a state average yield of 176 bushels per acre, the 14.3 million acres of corn planted could mean a bin-busting Iowa crop of almost 2.5 billion bushels this fall. Nationwide, the corn crop could top 12.8 billion bushels. Iowa's largest crop ever was 2.2 billion bushels, harvested from 12.4 million acres in 2004.
Will we see corn piles this fall?
Gary Edwards, a corn farmer from Anamosa in eastern Iowa and an officer in the Iowa Corn Growers Association, called the report "refreshing" after all the questions raised earlier this year about corn supplies. "This report shows that Iowa's farmers are responding to the market to meet the needs of livestock producers, export customers and the ethanol industry," says Edwards. He sells his crop mostly to processors in the Cedar Rapids area and also to Mississippi River markets that ship corn for export.
Nationwide, farmers have planted 92.9 million acres, the largest planted acreage since 1944. Improved yields are also expected to increase the corn supply. Darrel McAlexander, an officer on the Iowa Corn Promotion Board and a corn grower from Sydney in Iowa's southwest corner, notes the role biotechnology is playing in improved corn production.
"It's a godsent to the consumer and the farmer, because we're producing more corn off of each acre to supply the livestock and ethanol industries," says McAlexander. He notes that biotechnology has allowed him to use no-till farming methods that reduce soil erosion, improve soil condition and help corn plants perform better under drought conditions.
Both Edwards and McAlexander emphasize that demand is driving the marketplace for corn and that this increased demand is not coming solely from ethanol. McAlexander points out that export demand is also strong. Edwards predicts that the strong ongoing demand-oriented market for corn will mean continued volatility in corn prices.
Farmers are exceeding expectations
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Ag Committee, issued the following statement after the June 29 USDA Acreage Report was released.
"Farmers not only have met, but are exceeding the expectations of the USDA's Prospective Plantings report released just three months ago," says Harkin. "The 92.9 million acres of corn USDA says is planted in the U.S. in 2007 is at the highest level in five decades. This demonstrates even more clearly that farmers will respond to market signals arising from the increased demand for corn and ethanol. And it further confirms that production and usage of biofuels can boost farm income, economic growth and jobs in rural communities while enhancing America's energy security."
He adds: "The 2007 corn acreage figure should further ease concerns about corn supplies this year to meet feed, food and fuel demands, though we all have to hope for good growing conditions the remainder of this growing season. Intensified crop production also reminds us of the necessity of sound farm conservation and environmental practices and the greater need for conservation support in the new farm bill that Congress is currently in the process of writing.
"Iowa farmers have traditionally led the nation in producing corn, accounting for more than 2 billion bushels of production in each of the last three years," notes Harkin. "If normal weather prevails in the 2007-2008 crop year, these 13.9 million corn acres planted by Iowa farmers for grain should yield more than 2.4 billion bushels, based on recent yield trends. The most recent weekly Crop Progress report from USDA indicates that 78% of the Iowa corn crop is deemed to be in good or excellent condition thus far in 2007, suggesting strong prospects for a bumper Iowa corn crop this year."