In Poultry-Raising States, High Corn Prices Are A Mixed Bag

US - Farmer L.C. Jones is making room for more corn in his fields, hoping to take advantage of skyrocketing corn prices this year.
calendar icon 25 April 2007
clock icon 3 minute read
corn makes up about 70 percent of chicken feed.

But as Jones prepares for a boost in corn profits, he knows his neighbors on the poultry-raising Eastern Shore of Maryland are watching corn prices with a nervous eye.

“We’ll plant a little more corn than we did last year,” Jones said. “But it means the chicken business is going to be hurting.”

Corn is golden this year for farmers nationwide. It’s selling near $4 a bushel, up about 25 percent from last year, a boom attributed to higher demand for ethanol fuel.

In Maryland, where many farmers will plant corn this week, total acreage is up 12 percent, from 490,000 acres last year to a projected 550,000 acres this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Delaware corn acres are up 9 percent.

Corn plantings are up even higher in other poultry industry states. In Georgia, corn acres are up 79 percent. In Arkansas, home to Tyson Foods Inc., the nation’s largest meat producer, corn acres have almost tripled from last year. The nation as a whole could produce the most corn since World War II, federal projections show.

The boom is great news for corn growers, but bad news for meat producers. Poultry is perhaps the most corn-dependent industry of all; corn makes up about 70 percent of chicken feed.

“Corn that we would like to give to our chickens is going into your fuel tank,” said Richard Lobb, spokesman for the Washington-based National Chicken Council.

Though high corn prices could affect many foods, from breakfast cereals to beer, poultry growers are particularly sensitive, Lobb said. Most all the corn grown in Maryland is destined for a chicken.

“The cost of producing a chicken has gone up about 40 percent because the cost of feed is the largest single factor in producing a chicken,” said Lobb, who predicted higher chicken and egg prices for consumers. “You just can’t stand a 40 percent increase in production costs without passing it on.”

Source: Delawareonline

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