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Corn and Soybeans growing share in US agriculture
Illinois Ag Connection - 09/25/2023

Corn and soybeans have dominated the US grain and oilseed production, accounting for a staggering 87% share. This concentration has steadily increased since the mid-1990s, with a quarter of the growth in US grain and oilseed production attributed to this trend. Despite grain and oilseed acreage remaining relatively stable between 225 and 250 million acres since 1985, the private market has driven this shift towards corn and soybeans, balancing supply and demand.

Data for this analysis were sourced from the Quick Stats database of the US Department of Agriculture, covering the period from the 1965/66 crop year to 2022. This timeframe was chosen as it marked the end of the era of fixed price supports under government supply control and public stock programs. Please note that data for 2022 are estimates as of mid-August 2023.

The scope of grains and oilseeds analyzed includes corn, sorghum, barley, oats, wheat, rice, rye, soybeans, canola, sunflowers, peanuts, cottonseed, flaxseed, mustard, rapeseed, and safflower. Production figures were converted into pounds and aggregated across these crops.

The dominance of corn and soybeans is evident in the data. Their combined share of US grain and oilseed production has surged from 62% in 1965 to a staggering 87% in 2022. The average annual increase over this 58-year period stands at 0.44 percentage points, with a slight upward trend over time.

Harvested acres have exhibited similar trends, with the corn-soybean share increasing from 47% in 1965 to 74% in 2022. Notably, the total harvested acres of US grain and oilseeds have remained stable, hovering between 225 and 250 million acres since 1985.

Yield plays a pivotal role in explaining this phenomenon. Corn boasts the highest yield among the 16 grains and oilseeds studied, surpassing the next highest crop, rice, by a substantial 28%. Corn's yield stands at 9,698 pounds per acre compared to rice's 7,575 pounds per acre.

The shift in acres among various grain and oilseed crops has a significant impact on the total production of US grains and oilseeds. This phenomenon is particularly evident when analyzing two distinct time periods: 1965-1969 to 1991-1995 and 1991-1995 to 2018-2022. These periods represent key phases in the evolution of US agricultural policy and provide insights into changing acreage patterns among these crops.

The increasing concentration of corn and soybeans in US grain and oilseed production is a result of market dynamics rather than fluctuating acreage. These two crops have come to dominate the landscape due to their high yields and efficient production. This trend underscores the adaptability and responsiveness of the US agricultural sector to changing market conditions.

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