Due to the growing demands of the ethanol industry and strong demands from export customers, Purdue University extension economist Chris Hurt says next spring's U.S. corn acreage will reach the highest levels in recent history.
Hurt is predicting corn acreage in the spring of 2007 to increase by 10 million acres to almost 90 million acres - a level not matched since 1946, when U.S. farmers planted high amounts of corn to feed World War II allies.
"There's no question at this point that we're going to need a massive corn increase in 2007," Hurt says. "That increase is driven primarily by ethanol, but we also have very strong export demand. That export demand is driven mostly by the fact that there is a fear that corn supplies are going to be very tight in the U.S. and that prices will be much higher."
About 2.1 billion bushels of the 2006 corn crop will go to ethanol production at the 106 ethanol plants currently running the U.S. 53 new plants are expected in 2007, demanding perhaps an additional 1.4 billion bushels, according to data from the Renewable Fuels Association.
Hurt also says corn prices may skyrocket due to tight demand for U.S. corn and potential production still unknown. He predicts prices around $3.40 per bushel for the 2007 crop, much higher than the 2006 crop's USDA estimate of $2.60 per bushel.
Much of the new corn acreage would have to come from current soybean acreage in the Midwest, Hurt says, with cotton and spring wheat acreage possibly decreasing as well.