CHICAGO, (Reuters) – U.S. farmers plan to plant their biggest corn acreage in eight years this spring, saying the grain is the best option in a tough farm economy despite weak demand from the biofuel industry as the COVID-19 virus spreads.
The U.S. Agriculture Department in its annual prospective plantings report, which is based on a survey of about 80,000 farmers taken during the first two weeks of March, on Tuesday forecast corn plantings of 96.990 million acres, topping already robust market expectations.
That means the U.S. market could be flooded with corn at a time American ethanol plants, which normally account for some 40% of U.S. corn usage, are closing. There is little demand for the biofuel that is blended into gasoline as Americans stay home.
Although the survey was taken before the rippling effects of the COVID-19 virus pushed corn futures to 3-1/2-year lows due to demand destruction in the ethanol sector, growers said they do not intend to change their plans.
“If you panic with every move, you are not going to be farming your whole life,” said Paul Berbaum, a farmer in Champaign County, Illinois, who plans his usual even split between corn and soybeans on…
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