This year’s attendance for the USDA’s annual Outlook Forum has attracted a much larger than normal crowd of farmers and agricultural commodities traders, bringing to light the growing importance of rising food prices worldwide. According to The Financial Times, more than 2,000 delegates heard Joseph Glauber, USDA’s chief economist, say that the grains markets’ tightness will likely extend into 2012.

During his annual outlook, Glauber said the U.S. “corn market will continue to be tight” next year, wheat “will tighten further,” and soy beans “remain tight as well.” As a result, the cost of food – already at an all-time nominal high at a wholesale level – will increase. In 2011, consumer prices for food are expected to rise to between 3% and 4% in the U.S., and possibly more in the latter half of the year, ending a tame period at the supermarket, USDA forecasts.

USDA predicts current high prices will cause farmers to sow 9.8 million more acres with crop seeds this year, bringing total planted acreage to 255 million acres for the eight major field crops. As the most widely grown crop, corn will likely be planted on 92 million acres, an increase of 3.8 million acres from 2010.

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