Corn grown in Nebraska and other states has important uses in the United States and around the world.

Corn is a major force in local and global markets, playing a vital role in countless industries worldwide. In the U.S., corn production not only fuels the domestic market, especially as feed grain for livestock and renewable biofuel, but also positions the country as a top exporter of corn and corn-based products globally.

Because corn farmers in Nebraska and other states are able to generate a surplus of this versatile grain, the U.S. meets the demands of countries relying on corn imports for a variety of needs, including animal feed, food production and industrial applications. From cornmeal to corn oil, the U.S. holds a leading position for international corn exports.

How Corn Is Used in the US

Major uses of corn in the US

Most of the corn used in the U.S. is field corn used for animal feed and ethanol. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 40% of the corn used in the U.S. is fed to animals. Another 40-45% is used to make ethanol biofuel and the remaining 20% of corn used in the U.S. is made into human food products or used for other industrial purposes.

Common food products made from corn include high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners, starch, corn oil, corn meal, tortilla chips and cereals. That’s in addition to two forms of corn eaten fresh or whole in the U.S., such as sweet corn and popcorn.

A smaller percentage of corn grown in the U.S. is used in a wide variety of non-food products, ranging from vehicle tires to cat litter and even cutlery made from a corn-based bioplastic.

How Much Corn is Consumed/Used Domestically

Eighty to ninety percent of the corn grown in the U.S. is used domestically. The USDA estimates American farmers produced 13.7 billion bushels of corn in 2022, which means approximately 11-12 million bushels were used as food, animal feed or made into products here in the U.S.

How Corn Is Used Internationally

How corn is used around the world

The U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of corn, exporting 10-20% of the corn it produces each year. And, as it is in the U.S., a significant portion of corn exported by American farmers is used to feed livestock around the world.

In 2022, the U.S. exported an estimated $18.57 Billion worth of corn.

Who buys the most corn from the U.S. and what do they use it for?

The countries that buy the most corn from the U.S. include Mexico, China, Japan and South Korea.

In many of these countries, corn imported from the U.S. is mostly used to make corn-based animal feed for livestock such as cattle, hogs and chickens. For this reason, global demand for corn from the U.S. and other major corn-producing countries such as Brazil, Argentina and the Ukraine can be impacted significantly by the need from livestock-production industries in countries around the world.

In addition to buying U.S. corn for livestock feed, countries also import and eat corn. For example, approximately 20% of U.S. corn exports to Mexico is white corn intended for food products. Nebraska is the nation’s leading producer of white corn.

What corn-based products are exported internationally?

In addition to exporting corn to other countries, the U.S. also sells corn-based products to other countries. Nebraska is among the nation’s leading producers of two of those products: ethanol biofuel and meat from beef and other livestock fed with corn.

According to the U.S. Meat Federation, a record 1.47 million metric tons of beef worth an estimated $11.68 billion was exported to other countries in 2022. Another 244,718 million metric tons of pork was exported that year, worth an estimated $687.3 million.

An estimated $3.7 billion worth of ethanol biofuel was exported in 2022, with the top markets being Canada, South Korea and European Union countries, according to the USDA.

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