At 11.8 billion bushels, the 2004 corn crop was the largest in history, according to USDA's annual crop production summary released today. Corn growers also had record-setting yields, producing 160.4 bushels per acre.

The 2004 crop was 17 percent larger than last year's record-setting crop. Yields were 18.2 bushels higher than the previous record of 142.2 bushels per acre also established in 2003.

Corn demand also remained strong. Today’s supply-and-demand estimates peg corn use at 10.82 billion bushels. Driving that demand is expanding U.S. domestic use. Ethanol production is expected to consume 1.43 billion bushels, or 12.1 percent of the 2004 crop. Meanwhile livestock feeding continues as the No. 1 use of U.S. corn at 6.08 billion bushels. Exports were estimated at 1. 95 billion bushels, or 16.5 percent of the crop.

Corn’s versatility and value is growing, and you can expect ethanol production in particular to climb. Other uses including sweeteners and what appear to be plastic bags are samples of future diversified corn usage.

“In the past, corn was seen simply as a source of feed and food,” says  Leon Corzine, president of the National Corn Growers Association. “But with the rapid development of ethanol and other renewable products, corn demand has increased dramatically. But obviously, in 2004 corn growers were able to satisfy record demand levels.”

USDA raised ending corn stocks to 1.96 billion bushels, up from the December estimate of 1.84 billion bushels.

Iowa growers led the nation in corn production last year, harvesting 2.24 billion bushels, averaging 181 bushels per acre. Illinois followed, producing 2.09 billion bushels and yielding 180 bushels per acre. Nebraska ranked third in corn production for the second year in a row, followed by Minnesota and Indiana.

Total corn acerage was 80.9 million acres, up 3 percent from 2003. Area harvested for grain, at 73.6 million acres, with 6.1 million acres harvested for silage.

However, abandoned acres increased to 1.2 million acres, up 11 percent from 2003's 1.08 million acres. The largest increase occurred in North Dakota where a cool, wet summer combined with freezes in August and September prevented the crop in many areas from developing and maturing for harvest.