Keith Collins, USDA's chief economist, provided some ag perspectives on renewable energy before a Senate Ag Committee hearing this week. According to Collins:

  • In 2000, the U.S. produced 1.6 billion gals. of ethanol, utilizing about 6% of the 2000 corn harvest. In 2006, an estimated 5 billion gals. of ethanol were produced, utilizing 20% of the 2006 corn harvest.

    With 110 ethanol plants operating, another 73 under construction, and eight facilities expanding, ethanol capacity will reach 11.4 billion gals./year in 2008-2009.

  • For 2006/2007, USDA forecasts the total use of U.S. corn will be equivalent to the production of 85.6 million acres, but only 78.6 million acres were planted in 2006. Corn supplies are expected to meet demand because of a large carryin stock of corn, which is expected to be reduced by more than half.

  • Looking to the 2007 corn crop, based on current ethanol plant construction, it's likely that corn used in ethanol production will rise by more than 1 billion bu., from the 2.15 billion bu. of the 2006 corn crop expected to be used for ethanol. Use of 1 billion bu., at a trend yield of 152 bu./acre, would require an additional 6.5 million acres of corn, if corn consumed in other uses remains unchanged from this year's projected levels.
-- P. Scott Shearer, Washington, D.C., correspondent