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U.S. corn supply is secure, USDA's Vilsack says

08/17/2012 @ 2:58pm

DES MOINES, (Agriculture.com)--Despite the worst drought in five decades, devastating crops in the country's major producing areas, U.S. corn supply remans intact, according to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Following an appearance at the Iowa State Fair Thursday, Secretary Vilsack told reporters that demand destruction will take care of the U.S. corn supply/demand balance sheet.

Vilsack assured the Iowa crowd that the U.S. grain production has increased substantially, to the point that it can get the country through even this year's severe drought.

"In 1988, we produced 5.0 billion bushels of corn, today we are looking at producing 11.0 billion bushels. "I am encouraging farmers to wait on making serious decisions until we know what this crop is going to look like. In addition to size, I'm a little concerned about the crop quality, this year.

Though some marketwatchers believe the latest USDA corn crop estimate of 10.77 billion bushels is too high, Secretary Vilsack says the government agency is watching the crop closely. "The (crop) number could be too high. In 1988, we were off 8%, when all said and done." 

In addition, Secretary Vilsack says he doesn't see the drought causing food shortages and food insecurity. "There's no reason to panic about food riots," he says.

To offset future crop shortages, Secretary Vilsack says the USDA is looking at multiple efforts. For instance, the USDA is continuing to assure global Ag Minister's that the U.S. will be able to honor commodity contracts. "Also, we (USDA) believe the U.S. farmer can be better supported in double and in some areas triple-cropping efforts. The Farm Bill needs to provide incentive to farmers that decide to double-crop vs. deterrents," Vilsack says.

Efforts to develop alternative products to make fuel are 'on the cusp' of seeing the fruits of their research, the USDA leader says. "I believe that in the next few years, we will make great strides with alternative energy products," Vilsack says.

What about the Farm Bill? What about the Environmental Protection Agency's ethanol mandate? These are two very hot agricultural topics that Secretary Vilsack touched the edges of Thursday.

"The ethanol mandate is an EPA decision. I will say, there are some serious questions to be answered," Vilsack says. It's not an easy decision. My hope is to see livestock and grain farmers working together. We can't see splintering in agriculture, right now."

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