The 2011 U.S. Corn Quality Harvest Report has been designed to help foreign U.S. corn buyers understand the initial quality of U.S. yellow commodity corn as it enters the merchandising channel. The quality characteristics of the corn identifed at harvest establish the foundation for the quality of the grain ultimately arriving at the export customers’ doors. As corn passes through the U.S. marketing system, it is mingled with corn from other locations, aggregated into trucks, barges and rail cars, stored, and loaded and unloaded several times. Therefore, the condition of the corn changes from the point of first sale to the export elevator. For this reason, the Harvest Report should be studied carefully in tandem with the Export Cargo Report that will follow in February 2012.
This is the first of what we intend to be an annual survey of the quality of the U.S. corn crop at harvest. By itself, and without the ability to compare the 2011 results with past years, this report should be interpreted with caution. However, this year’s report will establish a benchmark for comparison of subsequent corn crops. As we accumulate these reports over several years, the Harvest Report will gain increased value by enabling export buyers to see patterns of corn quality based on growing conditions across the years.
Even though this year’s quality results cannot be compared directly to results from previous years, we are able to draw some baseline conclusions about the initial quality of the 2011 corn crop based on our years of experience in observing corn quality. Despite the challenging growing conditions experienced by many of the U.S. corn production regions during the 2011 growing season, the U. S. produced a favorable quality corn crop. The findings of our quality review of official grade and non-grade factors are summarized in the Executive Overview and detailed in the following sections.
This Harvest Report is based on 474 yellow commodity corn samples taken from areas within twelve of the top corn producing and exporting states. Inbound samples were collected from country grain elevators to assess corn quality at the point of origin, and to provide the most representative information about the variability of the quality characteristics across the diverse geographic regions.
The sample test results are reported at the U.S. aggregate level (U.S. Aggregate). In addition, the sampling areas in the twelve states are divided into three general groupings that we label ‘Export Catchment Areas’ (ECAs). These three ECAs are identifed by the three major pathways to export markets:
- The Gulf ECA consisting of areas that typically export through the U.S. Gulf ports,
- The Pacific Northwest (PNW) ECA that includes areas exporting corn through Pacific Northwest and California ports, and
- The Southern Rail ECA comprising of areas generally exporting corn by rail to Mexico.
Details of the sampling and statistical analysis methods are presented in the “Survey and Statistical Analysis Methods” section.