USDA releases 10-year projections

By Erin Voegele | February 13, 2015

The USDA has released new 10-year projections for the food and agricultural sector, reporting that approximately 35 percent of total corn use is projected to go to ethanol production through 2024.

Regarding biofuels, the USDA predicts ethanol production will remain near current levels over the next decade, with corn remaining the primary feedstock. The blend wall and projected declines in overall U.S. gasoline consumption are assumed to constrain domestic ethanol production. E10 is expected to continue to be the primary gasoline fuel blend. Moderate gains are expected for U.S. ethanol exports.

Food and industrial use of corn for purposes other than ethanol production is projected to rise at a moderate pace over the next decade. U.S. corn exports are expected to increase in response to strong global demand for feed grains to support growth in meat production. The U.S. market share of global trade in corn is expected to reach nearly 45 percent by 2024. The USDA predicts, however, that trade competition from Argentina, Brazil and the Former Soviet Union, as well as continued corn for ethanol production in the U.S., will hold the U.S. trade share well below its 1970-2000 average of 71 percent.

Corn prices are expected to decline in 2015/16 and increase moderately in 2016/17 as ending stocks-to-use rations fall due to growth in feed use, exports and, in the longer run, demand for corn by ethanol producers.  

According to the USDA, more than 5.13 million bushels of corn went to ethanol and byproducts in 2013/14. That volume is expected to increase through 2015/16, when it reaches 5.2 million bushels, drop off for several years, reaching 5.08 million bushels in 2018/19 through 2020/21, before gradually increasing again through 2024/25, when it reaches 5.2 million bushels.

Planted corn acres are expected to remain relatively steady over the next 10 years, ranging from a low of 88 million acres in 2015/16 to a high of 90 million acres in 2016/17 through 2018/19. Bushels per harvested acre are expected to increase steadily, from 158.8 in 2013/14 to 185.3 in 2024/25.

Farm price is also projected to be relatively steady, ranging from a high of $4.46 per bushel in 2013/14 to a low of $3.40 per bushel in 2015/16. From 2017/18 through 2024/25, prices are expected to range from $3.50 per bushel to $3.75 per bushel.

According to the report, the European Union is expected to remain the world’s largest importer of biofuels through 2024, with biodiesel accounting for the majority of EU biofuel imports. Brazil is expected to supply much of the EU’s ethanol imports. In addition, the EU is expected to import oilseeds and vegetable oils for use as biodiesel feedstocks, mainly from Ukraine, Russia and Indonesia.

Argentina, Brazil and the U.S. are expected to be the world’s largest biofuel exporters, with Argentina focused on soybean biodiesel, Brazil on sugarcane ethanol and the U.S. on corn ethanol. While exports from Argentina and Brazil grow steadily in the USDA projections, exports are constrained as both countries increase domestic use of biofuels.

A full copy of the 10-year projections can be downloaded from the USDA’s Economic Research Service website.