July 20, 2012

What are the uses of corn?


Corn takes many forms and gets used in many ways. Corn from Nebraska gets divided among three major markets: livestock, value-added and exports.NEBCornGraphic0605Livestock
Livestock is one of the corn grower’s most important customer, consuming more than 40 percent of all U.S. corn – plus the growing supply of corn co-products like distillers grains, which are produced by corn ethanol plants.

In Nebraska, livestock production is the engine that powers state’s economy. It is a more than $7.5 billion industry that is fundamental to the well-being of Nebraska – and contributes in some way to the financial health of every Nebraskan.

DSC_0015About 14 percent of the Nebraska’s corn crop is fed to livestock within Nebraska, with the bulk of that (more than 70 percent) going to beef cattle. For a complete breakdown, click here. In total, though, about 40 percent of the corn grown in Nebraska is fed to livestock somewhere in the United States or around the world. We also feed distillers grains – a coproduct made from ethanol production – to livestock in the state.

Nebraska has more than 5,000 feedyards willing to work with cow-calf producers interested in retaining ownership or partnering on their feeder cattle. They offer competitive feeding rations from the quality feedstuffs available in the state. And now, cow-calf producers nationwide can get an up-close view of the cattle feeding industry in Nebraska, thanks to the six minute video, “Consider the Possibilities – Cattle, Corn and Co-Products – Feeding Cattle in Nebraska”.

Value-Added (biofuels, PLA, corn sugar, etc)
blender pump2One of the first ways we like to add value to corn is by creating a renewable fuel – ethanol. Just one Nebraska plant in 1985 has grown to 24 ethanol plants in 2012. Spread throughout much of the state, these plants have a capacity of nearly 2.0 billion gallons – making Nebraska the second-largest ethanol producing state in the country. Combined, these plants use more than 700 million bushels of corn per year – and produce more than 6 million tons of distillers grains, a high protein feed ingredient comprised of the parts of the corn kernel not used for ethanol production.  

Ethanol has been the fuel choice of most drivers in Nebraska – with market share reaching 70 percent beginning in 2007. Consumers can use E10 or if they own a Flex Fuel Vehicle, can use up to E85 – 85% ethanol! Just recently the EPA has approved the use of E15  in cars manufactured in 2001 and newer.

Fleishmann_PLAAnother way to use corn is for corn-based PLA -- polylactic acid. PLA is clean, green and renewable, and it replaces petroleum-based alternatives. A lot of Nebraska corn is made into PLA since it is produced at a plant in Blair, Nebraska. Pretty much anything that is plastic can be made from corn – plastic cups, silverware, plates, bags, golf tees – you name it!

One more use is for corn sugar or HFCS – a natural sweetener that is used to sweeten and keep foods fresh. Corn sugar is the same as table sugar – just made from corn rather than cane or beet. Corn sugar is handled by the body the same as sugar, has the same number of calories as sugar, is nutritionally the same as sugar and is fine in moderation. Learn more about this at SweetSurprise.com.

DSC_0060Corn exports out of Nebraska are divided into two categories: foreign and domestic. “Foreign exports” involve corn sales to countries around the world. “Domestic exports” includes any corn that is shipped from Nebraska to another state in the U.S., with California being the largest market for Nebraska corn, taking about 145 million bushels of Nebraska corn mostly for livestock and poultry last year. Foreign sales make up about 6 percent of corn usage, with Mexico (via rail) being a top market.

To support foreign markets for corn, the Nebraska Corn Board partners with the U.S. Grains Council to break down trade policy barriers and to educate buyers about the quality of U.S. corn and value-added corn products—as well as sorghum and barley. The Council is a unique partnership of producers, agribusiness, the public sector and overseas customers. It’s goal is to strengthen U.S. farmers’ profitability by boosting worldwide demand for grain. The Council operates offices around the world and conducts innovative market development programs in dozens of countries.

Just as important as feeding corn and its co-products to livestock is developing markets for Nebraska beef and pork overseas. After all, sending corn-fed beef and pork to international customers around the world has a larger economic impact than exporting raw corn and corn co-products. This is why the Nebraska Corn Board supports the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) and invests towards market promotion activities and supported U.S. beef and pork trade missions around the world.

Corn Uses
Iowa State University recently developed this poster to show the processing and utilization of corn. Click here to see a larger image.


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