Corn is being produced much more efficiently since 1980. From 1980 to 2011, corn:

• Per Acre: yields increased 64 percent;

• Per Bushel:soil erosion decreased 67 percent, decreased irrigation water 53 percent and energy use 44 percent;

• Total impact:decreased soil erosion 31 percent, increased total land use 21 percent, increased irrigation water 27 percent, and energy use 14 percent;

• source Field to Market Report: http://www.fieldtomarket.org/report/.

Some of the numbers used in the food vs. fuel debate are from older sources. Because farmers have increased yields by 64 percent and decreased per bushel energy use by 44 percent since 1980, using old numbers can result in wrong conclusions.

None of these numbers refer to sweet corn which is grown on other acres. Sweet corn is grown on about 600,000 to 800,000 acres overall. (USDA Census 1987-2007).

The majority of farmers in Kentucky rotate field corn with soybeans or wheat and double-crop soybeans.

While there is concern about using corn for ethanol production, we currently produce enough corn to meet the demands for fuel, feed for livestock and food for people. In addition, we are able to export more corn to other countries than we eat directly.

 

Check current corn futures prices

 

When looking at what corn costs, when corn reached an all-time high of $8.03/bushel last year, a 24-oz box of corn flakes cost $3.28 at Walmart.

If the entire 24 ounces was corn (not sugar, or other ingredients), then the value of corn in that box was $0.22.

If we assume a premium, then that value may have been $0.33 per box.

The current market price of corn is $4.35 per bushel, which is about $0.12 of corn per box. But the price of the 24-oz box of corn flakes is still $3.28. While corn prices dropped 46 percent, the price of corn flakes was unchanged.

Higher corn prices get blamed for higher overall food prices, but in this real example, the actual dollar value received by the farmer has relatively low impact on the overall cost of food at the grocery store.

          More from Southeast Farm Press

Public, private sectors search for answers about target spot in cotton

Concern over aging of U.S. farmers may be overblown

Brazil climbing to top of global soybean ladder

Three finalists named in Kentucky 'Farmer of the Year' award program