USDA Says Corn Supplies Fall, Driving Up Prices


A drop in the amount of corn in storage increased concerns that corn supplies will remain tight and prices high in the near term.

Corn futures surged about 6.6 percent. The report – and the possible impact on food prices – overshadowed a projection by the government that corn growers would plant the largest crop in 75 years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said corn supplies as of March 1 totaled 6.01 billion bushels, down about 8 percent from a year ago. About half the corn is stored on farms.

Although prices have eased some in recent months, high crop prices have been a thorn in the side of consumers and governments for the past two years. Corn is used in everything from fuel and animal feed to syrup for soda.

Wheat stocks also plunged 16 percent from a year ago, the USDA said. Soybean supplies, meanwhile, rose 10 percent.

In a separate report released Friday, the USDA said farmers intend to plant 95.9 million acres of corn this spring. That would be 4 percent higher than a year ago and be the highest since 1937, when 97.2 million acres were planted.

Wheat crops are also expected to increase this year by 3 percent to 55.9 million acres.

More corn and wheat crops – driven mostly by increasing demand from Asia and the ethanol industry – are squeezing out acreage for other crops.

Acreage dedicated to soybean plantings is expected to fall by 1 percent to 73.9 million acres this year. That's down 5 percent from 2010. Cotton planting will be down 11 percent this year, the USDA estimates.

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