U.S. Grains Council – Importer Manual, Chapter1

U.S. Grains Council – Importer Manual, Chapter1

U.S. Grains – Commodity Descriptions
Corn is the world’s renewable golden resource. Each year U.S.
farmers devote 1 in 4 arable hectares or acres to its production. No
other country can match U.S. productivity in growing corn or its
efficiency in harvesting corn’s energy potential. The U.S. livestock
industry is the world’s most efficient due to the availability of
inexpensive, energy-efficient corn. The U.S. grain handling and
export industry has evolved into the envy of the world on the
strength of ever increasing production.
The same crop has, through its abundance, challenged several
generations of entrepreneurs to derive unique products from its
component parts, including everything from sweeteners, ethanol and
road salt, to packaging products, fabric and golf tees.  
Corn has generated all this dynamic economic activity because it has
remained abundant and inexpensive, despite the unpredictable
ravages of nature through flood, drought and freeze. In real terms,
corn prices today are just 35 percent of what they were 20 years ago.
Though demand from innovative industrial processes just coming on
line is expected to accelerate in the coming years, vast productive
capacity remains untapped in the United States. Improved hybrid
strains, along with more efficient and ecologically sound farm
practices will enable the U.S. producer to meet expanding demand
in the 21st century. Most importantly for the consumer, demand is
expected to be met in the same environment of stable or declining
real prices which have occurred during the last two decades of this

The principle use of corn, in both the United States and the rest of
the world, is in livestock feed. In the United States, corn
consumption as animal feed has averaged over 120 million metric
tons (MMT) over the last five years. Corn can supply all the energy
and a large percentage of the protein in an animal’s diet. Its low cost,
high palatability, availability and consistent nutrient content make it
the feed ingredient of choice by livestock producers of every kind.
In the United States, where wheat, oats, barley and sorghum
compete as feed grains, corn represents up to 86 percent of the grain
used as feed. A single metric ton of economical, efficient corn can be
converted into .27 MT of beef; .48 MT of pork; or .66 MT of
Corn is also processed into industrial goods by wet or dry milling.
Each corn kernel is separated into three component parts: the germ;
starch; and the hull. From the germ comes corn oil. Starch is the
feedstock for further processing into ethanol (ethyl alcohol), fructose
and industrial starch. The hull, or bran, is combined with residue
from these extraction processes to become corn gluten feed or corn
gluten meal, which are both prized additions to livestock feed.  
Corn gluten meal, the combination of bran fibers and the corn oil
cake left from the extraction of corn oil, has protein content in
excess of 60 percent and is a low-cost alternative to soybean meal or
other expensive protein sources. Poultry feeders particularly value
corn gluten meal because of the presence of xanthophyll, a pro-
vitamin which determines corn’s pigmentation and enriches the
yellow color in a chicken’s skin and eggs. Corn gluten feed is a
result of gluten, removed from the heavier starch, being combined
with bran from the hull to make a feed ingredient that dairy cattle
and sheep find particularly palatable.  
For more than 100 years, millers have been devising new products
from the chemical manipulation of the refined starch feedstock.
Today, products made from corn starch, or its manufacture, include
high fructose corn syrup, ethanol, antibiotics, stiffeners for paper,
textiles and food, paint, make-up, coatings, films and adhesives. As
dextrose, corn becomes the principal ingredient of many processed
foods, such as peanut butter, hot dogs and baby food. In the textile
industry it finds use, aside from starch, in absorbents, dyes and
sizing. The packing industry uses biodegradable corn “peanuts,”
while ecologically friendly garbage bags are making their way into
U.S. households.  
Corn has already made significant inroads into every facet of U.S.
leisure and business life. Extensive, ongoing research at the
governmental, institutional and corporate levels ensures that the
limitless resources of corn will continue to astound us in the future.
This marvelous plant, which has been domesticated for 7,000 years,
has only begun to demonstrate the broad range of applications it has
in our daily lives.

The versatile corn plant can thrive in climates as diverse as the arid
desert plains of the southwestern United States, to the high Andean
mountain plains of Ecuador and Peru. But it is in the temperate
plains of the U. S. Corn Belt, which include Nebraska, Iowa,
Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio, where the plant dazzles the
agricultural world with its productivity.
Higher yields are strongly correlated with a longer growing season,
and hybrids with 110 days or more until maturity are typically
planted in the United States. Surprisingly, the topsoil and subsoil
moisture content at planting time supplies from 50 to 70 percent of
the plant’s moisture needs. Consequently, moisture conditions
heading into the spring, when corn is planted in the United States,
are very important to potential yield. Crop forecasters base their
crop predictions on a formula derived from soil moisture levels
before the farmers set out to seed their fields.
Germination and seedling establishment follow quickly upon
planting. If the soil is too dry or cold, the seed may not germinate or
the seedling may not take root. No amount of rain in the later stages
of the growing season will counteract an early loss of a plant
population during the germination period.  
It is extremely unusual for high levels of precipitation or soil
moisture to adversely affect corn production. Wet soils can delay
planting and slow maturity. This will expose the plant to additional
risk during the pollination period. But standing water or the
complete saturation of the soil provides benefits that generally
outweigh any risk.
Once established, the corn plant is very strong. Between the seedling
and tassel stages, there is very little harm adverse weather or insects
can do to the corn plant from which it cannot recover. However, it is
in the four weeks surrounding pollination that corn is most
vulnerable. Generally, this most critical period of the growing
season in the Corn Belt encompasses the entire month of July. After
this period, the Corn Belt is safe from damage to production yields.
However, during this period, extreme temperatures or drought will
prevent pollen from fertilizing individual silks, resulting in fewer
kernels on each ear. Hot temperatures during this period inflict much
greater harm on the crop than heat in August and September.  
Early frosts have a marginal effect on yields, cutting short the kernel
filling and drying stages. Extreme cold temperatures at this late
stage in the crop’s development are more likely to effect quality than
final yields.  
Disease and insects are no longer serious threats to U.S. yield
potential. The technological advances made by U.S. farm input
suppliers in fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and pesticides have
dramatically reduced their impact on corn production.
For further information contact:
National Corn Growers Association
632 Cepi Drive
Chesterfield, MO 63005 U.S.A.
Phone: (636) 733-9004
Fax:  (636) 733-9005
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U.S. sorghum production is concentrated in the Central and
Southern Plains. The states of Texas, Kansas, Nebraska and
Missouri produce approximately 80 percent of the U.S. crop.
Unlike corn, the hybridization of sorghum got off to a late start.
Only in the 1950s, when a sorghum hybrid of uniform, short stem
height became commercially available, did sorghum production
really excel. At the beginning of that decade, planted acreage in the
United States was only 3.3 million hectares. Since then it has risen
as high as 10.9 million hectares.  
Like corn, sorghum can be grown under a wide range of soil and
climatic conditions. However, unlike corn, yield variance under
those different conditions is not so great. Across the corn producing
states in the United States, yield can vary as much as .52 MT
plus/minus per hectare. With sorghum, yield variance is much less,
only .20 MT plus/minus per hectare. Sorghum promises a steady,
less spectacular return than corn for feed grains producers.
Consequently, it is grown primarily in arid areas of the plains where
corn production must be irrigated to be profitable. Sorghum is justly
renowned for its ability to survive on limited moisture and to
produce during periods of extended drought.  

Livestock feeding accounts for 97 percent or more of domestic
sorghum usage in a given year. Different types of animals use
sorghum more efficiently than others. Tannin, an acidic complex
found in sorghum, can affect both the palatability and nutritional
value. Historically, sorghum was prized for its tannin content
because high-tannin sorghum is not palatable to wild birds. Such
sorghum is still grown in areas of the world where birds are a threat
to the crop.  
In the United States, however, sorghum has long been bred to reduce
the tannin content, improving nutritional value by as much as 30
percent over alternative origins.  
Sorghum has a very hard kernel. This makes it resistant to disease
and damage but also requires further processing to enhance its
feeding efficiency. Sorghum is ground, cracked, steam flaked,
roasted, micronized or reconstituted. Such processing will enhance
the nutritional value of sorghum by 12 to 14 percent.
In the United States, sorghum is a principle feed ingredient for both
cattle and poultry. The swine industry is not as significant a
consumer of sorghum because production is geographically
concentrated in the Corn Belt. Sorghum is processed by wet millers
and dry millers into ethanol. Wet milling plants are concentrated in
the heart of the Corn Belt where transportation spreads discourage
the use of sorghum.  
For further information contact:
National Grain Sorghum Producers  
P.O. Box 5309
Lubbock, TX 79408 U.S.A.
Phone: (806) 749-3478
Fax:  (806) 749-9002
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: www.sorghumgrowers.com


After corn and sorghum, barley is the third largest feed grain crop
produced in the United States. Production in the United States is
concentrated in the Northern Plains and the Pacific Northwest.
Barley is produced in areas of the United States where the growing
season is relatively short and climatic conditions are cool and dry.  
Both two-row and six-row barley is produced in the United States.
Roughly 65 percent of the U.S. acreage is planted to six-row barley
in the Northern Plains and Pacific Coast states. The balance, 35
percent, is planted to two-row barley in the Rocky Mountain states.
Universities in the Northern Plains states maintain aggressive
breeding programs that continue to produce new varieties that
improve the agronomic, feed and malting qualities of U.S. barley.  
U.S. barley producers are committed to improving the quality of the
inputs that go into barley production in the United States. Most
producers plant several of the 100-plus commercially available
barley types. Each practices strict varietal purity, preserving the
identity of each different variety during seeding, harvest, storage and
handling. This combination of innovation and efficiency enables the
U.S. barley industry to satisfy the needs of any barley consumer,
whether they are a livestock feeder, maltster or food retailer.
Though most barley in the United States is grown to be malt barley
because of the price premium it commands, the bulk of U.S. barley
is consumed as livestock feed. With more than 70 percent of the
barley planted to acceptable malting varieties in the United States,
this means the feed compounder is getting a very high quality
The production of malt beverages in the United States has stabilized
over the past decade. The brewing industry uses a mixture of two-
row and six-row barley in the production of malt beverages. Two-
row barley should be a minimum of 85 percent plump, a maximum
of 3 percent thin and 11.5 to 13.5 percent protein. U.S. maltsters
prefer six-row barley with a minimum of 70 percent plump, a
maximum of 3 percent thin and protein levels of 12 to 14 percent.
Germination is very important and that of U.S. barley is consistently
high. The efficient U.S. handling system ensures that skinned and
broken kernels, which reduce germination counts and malt yield, are
kept low.
Though two-row varieties are higher in test weight and kernel
production plumpness, six-row barley has superior enzyme systems
which are crucial to the value of malt in beverage production.
Brewers evaluate malt on the basis of total protein, soluble protein
extract, fine/coarse difference, diastatic power and alpha amylase.
The very high diastatic power and alpha amylase levels in six-row
barley make U.S. malt very efficient in the brew house.
Barley is a popular feed grain throughout those parts of the United
States where it is grown, or has a clear transportation advantage,
such as California. Though barley is not as efficient an energy
converter as corn, it does have a higher protein content which
reduces the need for protein supplements in a compound feed.
Consequently, barley competes very effectively with both corn and
sorghum as a feed grain in the United States.
Barley is popular as a staple food. It is used in soups, as an extender
for vegetable proteins and is occasionally milled into flour.  
For further information contact:
National Barley Growers Association
2601 Wheat Drive
Red Lake Falls, MN 56750 U.S.A.
Phone: (218) 253-4311
Fax:  (218) 253-4320
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Conversion Factors