The timeliness of U.S. corn consumption numbers varies by category of use. 

The USDA provides weekly data on the amount of corn inspected for export with a lag time of only four days.

The U.S. Energy information Administration provides weekly estimates of ethanol production (with corn as the predominant feedstock) with a lag of only five days.

Data relative to the consumption of corn for other domestic processing uses is not readily available, but the rate of use is so consistent that consumption is not difficult to anticipate.

 

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In contrast, information relative to the consumption of corn as livestock feed is not available on a timely basis since no Census or USDA survey data are collected in this category. Instead, the USDA’s quarterly estimate of corn stocks provides the basis for estimating feed and residual use of corn in the quarter prior to the reference date for the stocks estimate. 

Feed and residual use is calculated as total use during the quarter minus the estimates of use in the other categories. 

The calculation of feed and residual use during the first quarter of the marketing year is used to forecast use for the rest of the marketing year and that forecast is updated with each subsequent quarterly stocks estimate.

The process of anticipating the magnitude of feed and residual use to be revealed by the stocks estimate and the projection of marketing year use based on the revealed rate of use is “messy” for several reasons.