According to recent estimates by University of Missouri economists, more corn grown in the United States is being used for ethanol production than for livestock feed. Using U.S. Department of Agriculture Production and Supply/Demand Reports, Missouri economist Ron Plain estimates that 200 million more bushels of corn will end up in gas tanks than in livestock farms.
This is a major change for American agriculture. For generations, animal feed, primarily cattle and poultry, was the largest use of corn in the United States. The abundance of corn helped fuel the development of American livestock farms and created the meat-heavy diets that many Americans have today.
However, ever-increasing fuel costs over the last several decades have persuaded many policy makers to shift corn supplies to fuel production. The rise of global terrorism and the recent instability in the Middle East have only intensified calls for American to become fuel independent.
This new pressure on U.S. corn supplies and the rising price of corn has spurred some farmers to reduce their livestock and poultry stocks, hoping that fewer animals will help lower their maintenance costs given the high price of corn. However, that reduction could result in higher prices for consumers at the supermarket. Already faced by high food costs due to the increased demands of ethanol production, a dip in livestock supplies could result in even higher food prices across the country.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer