Last week, the USDA published its regular report “World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates,” which calculates that in the current corn “marketing year” (September 2010, through the end of August 2011), 11.43 billion bushels of corn will be consumed in the United States. As usual, a small fraction will be used for food or seed: 1.4 billion bushels, or 12.1 percent of the total. Also, as usual, a sizable chunk will be fed to farm animals: 5 billion bushels, or 43.7 percent. But for the first time, the largest chunk will be turned into ethanol: 5.1 billion bushels, or 44.2 percent.
So, the single biggest use of corn in the United States is now highway driving (17 July 2011 Tim Carney)
Herbert Meyer presents an alternative view in the American Thinker ( May 2008 – three years ago). It appears the intervening years have undermined this view. May 14, 2008 The Bum Rap on Biofuels By Herbert E. Meyer
In 2007, US corn production rose to 349 million metric tons. Of this, about 62 million tons were used to produce ethanol, of which 21 million tons of dried distillers grains were returned to the grain market. This left a whopping 308 million tons available for consumption and export — an increase of 110 million tons, or about 82 percent, over the 1995 figures.
During these years, the US population increased by about 14 percent, from 264 million in 1995 to 301 million in 2007. We needed only about 25 million additional tons of corn to meet our rising domestic, non-ethanol consumption and export requirements. In fact, we produced an additional 126 million tons. Obviously, the notion that our increased use of corn for ethanol has “caused” food shortages is false.
In the case of America’s corn growing industry, the beneficial effect of a growing market has been especially pronounced, with corn yields per acre in 2010 (165 bushels per acre) being 37 percent higher than they were in 2002 (120 bushels per acres) and more than four times as great as they were in 1960 (40 bushels per acre.)
Not only that, but in part because of the impetus of the expanded ethanol program, another doubling of yield is now in sight, as the best farms have pushed yields above 300 bushels per acre. As a result, in 2010, the state of Iowa alone produced more corn than the entire United States did in 1947. Of our entire corn crop, only 2 percent is actually eaten by Americans as corn, or 12 percent if one includes products like corn chips and corn syrup.