U.S. corn farmers are still on track to produce the third largest crop on record despite difficult growing conditions that have plagued much of the Corn Belt since planting, according to USDA reports released this week. Projected at 12.9 billion bushels, the total 2011 U.S. corn crop will only be 1.3 percent, or 177 million bushels, below the record set in 2009.

“This report confirms again that U.S. farmers continue to work hard to produce the most abundant, affordable crop possible,” said National Corn Growers Association President Bart Schott. “While many of us have faced extreme drought or severe flooding, we have persevered and, through the use of improved technologies and practices, we will nearly reach the crop record set under more favorable conditions. It is important that the 98.5 percent of the population totally removed from agriculture understand that farmers, due to the triumphs of modern agriculture, can and will meet all demands for food, feed, fuel and fiber.”

The USDA revised estimates for the total crop and harvested acreage in these reports to reflect acreage lost due to weather conditions including flooding and acres abandoned in the South due to extreme drought. In spite of these challenges, projections on harvested acreage remained high at 84.4 million acres, the second highest harvested acreage since 1944 behind only the 2007 record of 86.5 million.

Weather conditions also affected national average yield forecasts with the estimate revised to 153 bushels per acre, a 5.7 bushel per acre drop from the July report. While this places estimates slightly below yield trends, if realized it will still be the fourth highest average yield on record.

If this yield estimate stands, it represents a strong performance on the part of corn farmers who faced late planting dates, excessive moisture in the northern Corn Belt, excessive heat during pollination, and prolonged drought across the southern plains, Gulf Coast and southern Atlantic region of the United States. In Iowa, Illinois and South Dakota, yields are projected to be up from last year. Excessive drought negatively impacted yield projections in Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and the Carolinas.

The USDA supply and demand report revised several forecasts from previous editions. While 2010/2011 feed and residual projections held, ethanol and export usage forecasts fell to 5.02 billion bushels and 1.82 billion bushels respectively. These revisions are reflective of larger trends such as decreased consumer demand for automotive fuel and displacement of corn demand by increased use of wheat in the feed sector. In anticipation of these conditions holding into the next year, feed and residual and ethanol demand forecasts for the 2011/2012 crop were also reduced.

Demand forecasts for the 2011/2012 crop were further revised with food, seed and industrial demand increased by 10 million bushels to 1.41 billion bushels and exports reduced to 1.75 billion. The export forecast for the 2011/2012 crop showed decreased demand in the European Union, South Korea and South East Asia with increased demand from Egypt. Estimates of corn exports from this crop to China held steady.

The season-average farm price went up $.70 per bushel to $6.70 reflecting revised total crop projections. This trend held true for most major agricultural commodities.