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U.S. popcorn industry thriving, ag census shows

If recent USDA data are any indication, the U.S. popcorn
production business is as healthy as it's ever been, according to Iowa State
University Agricultural Marketing Resource Center specialist Ray Hansen.

According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, the results of
which were released in 2009, consumer demand supported the production of
popcorn on over 201,000 acres in 29 states during 2007, with volume reaching
nearly 861 million pounds of shelled popcorn. Nebraska is the top
popcorn-producing state, harvesting 294.5 million pounds of shelled popcorn, or
34 percent of all popcorn production. The states of Indiana, Illinois and Ohio
are also top producers of popcorn; all produced between 110 and 221 million
pounds of shelled popcorn.

The ag census shows 968 farms raised 860.9 million pounds of
shelled popcorn that year, compared to the 1,701 farms that raised over 945.2
million pounds of shelled popcorn in 2002. In 2007 the largest number of
popcorn farms raised only 100 to 250 acres of popcorn; however, the farms
producing the largest quantity of popcorn raised the crop on 250 to 500 acres.

While Americans are consuming less popcorn than a decade
ago, the opposite is true in other parts of the world. Worldwide consumption
continued to grow until the recent recession depressed sales. As a result, U.S.
exports of popcorn dropped from 246 million pounds in 2008 to more than 244
million pounds in 2009. According to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service
(FAS), the leading market for popcorn that year was Mexico, followed by South
Korea, Japan and China. Popcorn imports are minimal. Normally, small amounts are
imported from Canada and Argentina.

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