Corn production has been a key factor in the Iowa economy for more than 150 years.
The state's 21st-century economy is characterized by increasing diversity. Agriculture isn't as dominant as once was the case. Even so, there can be little doubt that corn remains of critical importance. The renewable fuels industries have increased demand for corn as a critical ingredient in manufacturing ethanol. Ethanol production has not only increased demand for corn, but also strengthens corn's already enormous importance to Iowa's prosperity.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, corn production nationally in 2011 was 12.4 billion bushels. That was down 5 percent from the record high of 13.1 billion bushels in 2009, which narrowly surpassed the previous record set in 2007. The 2011 total was about 1 percent less than in 2010.
Iowa continues to top the nation in corn production even though weather-related difficulties made 2011 a challenging year for farmers. Iowa's corn yield for 2011 was estimated by the USDA to be 2.36 billion bushels - up 9 percent from 2010. According to the USDA, 14.1 million acres of farmland was planted with corn in 2011. That was 5 percent greater than in 2010.
In north central Iowa ethanol producers and other manufacturers that utilize corn are big factors in the future of the region's economy. In that regard, the purchase in 2011 by Cargill of the facility Tate & Lyle had built but never opened is especially good news. Cargill will use 150,000 bushels of corn per day to make sugars and amino acids. The announcement that CJ CheilJedang will build a $300 million plant in Webster County to make dextrose is similarly a bullish development for the future.
Corn has been king in Iowa for generations. It seems likely to remain so well into the 21st century.