In a room full of ethanol industry brass, the National Corn Growers Association CEO Rick Tolman took a few moments to brag on his constituents.
Tolman, speaking at the 2011 National Ethanol Conference, sums it up with his first slide. Between 1990 and 2004, the average ending corn stocks were 1.4 billion bushels. Between 2005 and 2010, in a post-Renewable-Fuel-Standard world, ending corn stocks have averaged 1.5 billion bushels.
These figures should silence any critics trying to drum up support for a food versus fuel debate, Tolman adds. "Sometimes the rest of the world doesn't seem to understand the pie got bigger," Tolman notes. As the U.S. farmer continually increases the size of the pie, the ethanol industry is able to increase the size of its slice each year.
In the past 10 years, the average corn yield has gone from 138 bu./acre to a projected 164 bu./acre in 2011. Results from a recent study commissioned by NCGA projects an average yield of 189 bu./acre by 2020.
In speaking with NCGA members across the Corn Belt, Tolman says U.S. farmers are quite optimistic for the 2011 crop year. Many folks pointed to reduced corn yields in 2010 as a product of a difficult 2009 harvest that put time constraints on last year's prep work.
Wrapping up the 2010 harvest so early has many folks primed to plant in a couple months. Tolman says many folks spoke of addressing tillage and nutrient issues that may have been overlooked last year.
Of course, as always, he admits the spring weather will play a big part in sustaining farmer optimism. However, one thing is clear, ethanol producers will not have to worry about the U.S. farmer's ability to respond to growing corn demand.
"Farmers respond to economic incentives better than anyone I know," Tolman concludes.