Major Crops Grown in the United States
In round numbers, U.S. farmers produce about $143 billion worth of crops and about $153 billion worth of livestock each year.
Corn: The United States is, by far, the largest producer of corn in the world, producing 32 percent of the world's corn crop in the early 2010s. Corn is grown on over 400,000 U.S. farms. The U.S. exports about 20 percent of the U.S. farmer's corn production. Corn grown for grain accounts for almost one quarter of the harvested crop acres in this country. Corn grown for silage accounts for about two percent of the total harvested cropland or about 6 million acres. The amount of land dedicated to corn silage production varies based on growing conditions. In years that produce weather unfavorable to high corn grain yields, corn can be "salvaged" by harvesting the entire plant as silage. Additionally, corn farming has become exponentially more efficient. If U.S. farmers in 1931 wanted to equivalently yield the same amount of corn as farmers in 2008, the 1931 farmers would need an additional 490 million acres!
According to the National Corn Growers Association, about eighty percent of all corn grown in the U.S. is consumed by domestic and overseas livestock, poultry, and fish production. The National Corn Growers Association also reports that each American consumes 25 pounds of corn annually. The crop is fed as ground grain, silage, high-moisture, and high-oil corn. About 12% of the U.S. corn crop ends up in foods that are either consumed directly (e.g. corn chips) or indirectly (e.g. high fructose corn syrup). Corn has a wide array of industrial uses including ethanol, a popular oxygenate in cleaner burning auto fuels. In addition many household products contain corn, including paints, candles, fireworks, drywall, sandpaper, dyes, crayons, shoe polish, antibiotics, and adhesives.
National Corn Grower's Association 2013 Report. N.p., 11 Feb. 2013. Web. <http://www.ncga.com/upload/files/documents/pdf/WOC%202013.pdf>.
U.S. USDA. Economic Research Service. Corn: Trade. N.p. Web. <http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/corn/trade.aspx#.UWbCQ7UX-w5>.
Soybeans: Approximately 3.06 billion bushels of soybeans were harvested from 73.6 million acres of cropland in the U.S. in 2011. This acreage is roughly equivalent to that of corn grown for grain (84 million acres in 2011). Soybeans rank second, after corn, among the most-planted field crops in the U.S. Over 279,110 (2007 Census of Agriculture) farms in the U.S. produce soybeans making the U.S. the largest producer and exporter of soybeans. , accounting for over 50% of the world's soybean production and $3-4 billion in soybean and product exports in the late 2000s. Soybeans represent 50 percent of world oilseed production.
Soybeans are used to create a variety of products, the most basic of which are soybean oil, meal, and hulls. According to the United Soybean Board, soybean oil, used in both food manufacturing and frying and sautéing, is the number one edible oil in the U.S. Currently, soybean oil represents approximately 65 percent of all edible oil consumed in the United States, down from about 79 percent in 2000 due to controversy over trans-fat. Soybean oil also makes its way into products ranging from anti-corrosion agents to Soy Diesel fuel to waterproof cement. Over 30 million tons of soybean meal is consumed as livestock feed in a year. Even the hulls are used as a component of cattle feed rations.
U.S. USDA. ERS. Characteristics and Production Costs of U.S. Soybean Farms. N.p., Mar. 2002. Web. < http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/761260/sb974-4_1_.pdf>.
U.S. USDA. ERS. Soybeans and Oil Crops: Background. Web. Accessed 4 Apr. 2013. < http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/soybeans-oil-crops/background.aspx#.UV3SYZMX-5Q>.
U.S. USDA. ERS. Soybeans and Oil Crops: Trade. Web. Accessed 4 Apr. 2013. < http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/soybeans-oil-crops/trade.aspx#US>.
United Soybean Board. New QUALISOY Efforts Reach out to Educate Soybean Value Chain. March 2013. Web. < http://www.unitedsoybean.org/issue_entry/march/>.
Hay: Hay production in the United States exceeds 119 million tons per year. Alfalfa is the primary hay crop grown in this country. U.S. hay is produced mainly for domestic consumption although there is a growing export market. Hay can be packaged in bales or made into cubes or pellets. Hay crops also produce seeds that can be used for planting or as specialized grains.
Wheat: Over 160,810 (2007 Census of Agriculture) farms in the United States produce wheat and wheat production exceeds 2.27 billion bushels a year. The U.S. produces about 10% of the world's wheat and supplies about 25% of the world's wheat export market. About two-thirds of total U.S. wheat production comes from the Great Plains (from Texas to Montana).
Wheat is classified by time of year planted, hardness, and color (e.g. Hard Red Winter (HRW)). The characteristics of each class of wheat affect milling and baking when used in food products. Of the wheat consumed in the United States, over 70% is used for food products, about 22% is used for animal feed and residuals, and the remainder is used for seed.
Cotton: Fewer than 18,605 (2007 Census of Agriculture) farms in the United States produce cotton (2007 Census of Agriculture). Cotton is grown from coast-to-coast, but in only 17 southern states, concentrated in California, Texas, and the Southeast. According to the National Cotton Council of America, farms in those states produce over 30% of the world's cotton with annual exports of more than $7 billion. The nation's cotton farmers harvest about 15 million bales or 7.3 billion pounds of cotton each year.
Cotton is used in a number of consumer and industrial products and is also a feed and food ingredient. Most of the crop (75 percent) goes into apparel, 18 percent into home furnishings and 7 percent into industrial products each year. Cottonseed and cottonseed meal are used in feed for livestock, dairy cattle, and poultry. Cottonseed oil is also used for food products such as margarine and salad dressing.
"World of Cotton." National Cotton Council. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2013. <http://www.cotton.org/econ/world/>.
U.S. USDA. NASS. 2007 Census of Agriculture, Cotton Industry. Web. 27 Jan. 2010. <http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2007/Online_Highlights/Fact_Sheets/Production/cotton.pdf>.
Grain sorghum: In the United States, 26,242 farms grow grain sorghum. Grain Sorghum is used primarily as an animal feed, but also is used in food products and as an industrial feedstock. Industrial products that utilize sorghum include wallboard and biodegradable packaging materials. Worldwide, over half of the sorghum grown is for human consumption.
Some farmers grow sorghum as a hedge against drought. This water-efficient crop is more drought tolerant and requires fewer inputs than corn. Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Missouri produce most of the grain sorghum grown in this country. The U.S. exports almost half of the sorghum it produces and controls 70% to 80% of world sorghum exports.
As much as one-third of domestic sorghum production goes to produce biofuels like ethanol and its various co-products. With demand for renewable fuel sources increasing, demand for co-products like sorghum-DDG (dry distillers grain) will increase as well due to sorghum's favorable nutrition profile.
"Biofuels." Sorghum Checkoff. N.p., Apr. 2012. Web. 04 Apr. 2013. <http://sorghumcheckoff.com/sorghum-markets/biofuels/>.
U.S. USDA. ERS. Feed Grains: Yearbook Tables; Overview: Web. Accessed 10 Apr. 2013. < http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/feed-grains-database/feed-grains-yearbook-tables.aspx#26773>
Rice: Just over 6,084 (2007 Census of Agriculture)farms produce rice in the United States. Those farms are concentrated in four regions including the Arkansas Grand Prairie, the Mississippi Delta (parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Louisiana), the Gulf Coast (Texas and Southwest Louisiana), and the Sacramento Valley of California. There are three types of rice grain; long, medium, and short, and each growing region harvests the type of rice best suited for the land. U.S. rice production accounts for just under 2% of the world's total, but this country is the second leading rice exporter with 10% of the world market.
About 50 - 60% of the rice consumed in the U.S. is for direct food use; another 18% goes into processed foods, 10-12 percent goes into pet food, and most of the rest (about 10 percent) goes into beer production.
U.S. USDA. ERS. Rice: Trade. Web. Accessed 4 Apr. 2013.
This article originally appeared in the Ag 101 section on the U.S. EPA website. Click Here to view the original article.