The U.S. Department of Agriculture has raised its forecasts for U.S. corn and sorghum exports, predicting U.S. corn exports could reach their highest levels in nearly two decades.

Buoyed in part by U.S. corn and sorghum sales, the value of U.S. agricultural exports rose $1 billion compared to last year. Estimated exports of U.S. corn were increased by 100 million bushels and U.S. sorghum by 40 million bushels.

This is particularly good news for U.S. grain producers as corn demand for ethanol was lowered by 100 million bushels for the second consecutive month.

Long-range planning by the U.S. Grains Council has helped position the U.S. grain industry to capitalize on global market conditions while maintaining a diverse customer base. “The Council is working around the world to monitor the local markets in more than 50 countries, building demand and relationships with grain importers and end users,” said Ken Hobbie, USGC president and CEO.

“Through our international offices, we are able to identify opportunities for U.S. barley, corn and sorghum. Council programs have also introduced ethanol co-products such as distiller’s grains and corn gluten in markets from Morocco to Taiwan, contributing to the overall profitability of individual plants and the industry as a whole.”

According to the Oct. 12 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE), U.S. corn production is expected to reach 13.3 billion bushels and 2007/08 exports are projected to be 2.35 billion bushels, the most in 18 years.

It also revised China’s corn production down 157 million bushels to 5.6 billion bushels, apparently in agreement with the Council’s recent assessment of the crop.

The Council’s 2007 China Corn Tour estimated China’s production will be approximately 5.5 billion bushels.

Coarse grain production in Europe has suffered from bad weather, creating demand for U.S. sorghum.

USDA’s monthly foreign agricultural trade data released on Oct. 11 revealed a 28 percent increase in the value of U.S. grains and feeds exports for the period of October 2006 through August 2007, contributing to an overall increase from $63.2 billion to $74.25 billion.

“Due in part to the Council’s efforts to educate buyers, U.S. grains and grain products are valued across the globe for their high quality and reliable supply,” said Dale Artho, USGC chairman and a Texas sorghum producer.

“Europe’s grain shortage is altering international grain markets as their demand for U.S. sorghum will most likely result in some of our grain typically exported to Mexico going instead to European buyers. This will lead to additional export opportunities for U.S. corn to Mexico.”

Artho hopes the tight supply and demand situation will increase calls in the European Union to approve more biotech events and reopen the market to U.S. corn and corn products as a means to control rising food costs on the continent.