Corn oil to biodiesel numbers; Prospective Plantings report

A brief overview of corn oil usage for biodiesel production; and the USDA's Prospective Plantings report for corn and soybean acreage
By Ron Kotrba | April 03, 2013

As I work on the May/June issue of Biodiesel Magazine, themed around feedstock and receiving bonus distribution at the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo June 10-13 in St. Louis due to biodiesel producers’ insatiable demand for ethanol plant corn oil, I thought it appropriate to include some fairly impressive numbers on corn oil usage in the U.S. biodiesel industry and how it compares with other conventional feedstocks; followed by the recent USDA announcement on farmers’ intentions to plant record-high combined corn and soybean acreage this spring.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, corn oil use for biodiesel production almost doubled in the U.S. from 2011 to 2012, jumping from 304 million pounds to 571 million pounds, despite nearly the same volume of biodiesel produced both years. U.S. biodiesel producers used more corn oil last year than tallow, poultry fat or white grease, nearly matching yellow grease. In December alone, corn oil for biodiesel production was surpassed only by soybean oil.

The USDA release based on its Prospective Plantings report follows:

Determined to make up for a crop that was adversely affected by historic drought last year, U.S. farmers intend to plant a record-high combined 174.4 million acres of corn and soybeans in 2013, according to the Prospective Plantings report released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). If realized, corn will represent the highest planted acreage in the United States since 1936 (102 million planted acres) and for soybeans the fourth highest acreage on record.

Corn growers intend to plant 97.3 million acres in 2013, up for the fifth consecutive year, slightly higher than last year and 6 percent higher than in 2011. With expected returns for corn historically high going into 2013, producers throughout the south and the northern Great Plains intend to plant more corn. Record high corn acreage is expected in Arizona, Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota and Oregon. Conversely, most states in the Corn Belt which experienced severe drought in 2012 expect to plant slightly less acres to corn in 2013. The largest year-over-year decreases are expected in Illinois, Missouri and South Dakota. Iowa continues to lead the nation with 14.2 million acres of corn.

Farmers in some areas of the country remain challenged by persistent drought conditions which is limiting the amount of expected soybean acreage in some states. Therefore, nationally 77.1 million acres of soybeans are expected to be planted, down slightly from last year but up 3 percent from 2011. Compared with 2012, planting intentions are down across all of the Great Plains, with the exception of North Dakota. The year-over-year national decrease is only 72,000 acres. With planted area in most of the eastern Corn Belt and parts of the Southeast expected to rise, these increases nearly balance out the declines in the Great Plains. If realized, farmers in New York, North Dakota and Pennsylvania will also set new records for planted soybean acres.

Also affected by difficult weather conditions, U.S. cotton growers expect to plant significantly fewer acres in 2013. The expected cotton area this year is 10.0 million acres, down 19 percent from last year. If realized, planted area in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Oklahoma will be a record low. As of March 24, cotton planting in Texas was 3 percent complete, 5 percentage points behind last year and 2 percentage points behind the 5-year average.

Prospective Plantings provides the first official, survey based estimates of U.S. farmers’ 2013 planting intentions. NASS’s acreage estimates are based on surveys conducted during the first two weeks of March from a sample of more than 83,500 farm operators across the United States. Prospective Plantings and all NASS reports are available online at