Corn has taken an increasing role in the national economy in recent years because of its dual role as a source for auto fuel and its ubiquitous use in the food industry. The grain is the major feed source for livestock and is an ingredient in foods as disparate as yogurt, soda, cereals and ketchup. Corn is also a major export item.
The USDA estimated that the crop would total 12.3 billion bushels, up from 11.7 billion projected a month earlier; that would make the harvest the second-largest on record. The upward revision from a month ago comes after heavy flooding in the Midwest delayed planting at some farms and threatened crops already in the ground.
An analysis of satellite imagery by Lanworth, a natural resource information company in Itasca, Ill., supported the USDA revision, said Nick Kouchoukos, Lanworth's director of information services.
Still, farmers are expected to harvest about 79 million acres, about 8% less than last year. But because the USDA expects the plants to produce more corn per acre, the crop should see only a 6% decline from the prior year, the government said.