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Monday, October 10th Wanderabout (Part 1 of 2)

Powderly, Kentucky

October 11, 2022

I woke up yesterday (October 10th) at the Love's Truck Stop in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. (I think I spelled the town's name wrong in previous posts.)

I'm trying to do a better job of taking a photo of my odometer and the weather each morning when I wake up. I figure those are interesting data to keep track of.

Oops -- just a bit out of focus!

Until yesterday I did not appreciate how Lexington and Louisville are in northern Kentucky and how much area there is in southwest Kentucky. I quickly realized I was no longer in horse country as the countryside began to remind me of Indiana and Illinois -- meaning agricultural fields. Still lots of trees, but definitely agriculture.

Kentucky's Corn Industry

Corn is a leading crop in Kentucky along with soybeans.

Corn production in Kentucky for 2021 was reported at 274 million bushels, the largest crop of corn produced in Kentucky on record. Average yield was estimated at 192 bushels per acre, also a record high. Acres for harvest as grain were estimated at 1.44 million acres. Sales for 2021 totaled a record $1.219 billion, bringing more money than any other commodity that year.

Production for 2022 is forecast at 204 million bushels, down 26% from 2021. Based on conditions as of August 1, yield is estimated at 147 bushels per acre, down 45 bushels from last year. Acres for harvest as grain were estimated at 1.39 million acres, down 50,000 acres from 2021

Between 40 and 50% of the Kentucky corn crop is fed to livestock. Poultry in Kentucky consume about 45 million bushels alone. Beef and dairy cattle and hogs are also important Kentucky corn consumers.

About 35 million bushels of Kentucky corn is used annually to produce fuel ethanol. The corn protein, oil, and fiber that are not needed for ethanol are sold for poultry and livestock feed, which are called distillers grains. Each bushel of corn can produce 2.8 gallons of ethanol, 17 pounds of livestock feed (distillers grains), and 18 pounds of carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide can be captured to make dry ice or carbonated beverages.

Another 15-20 million bushels of corn are utilized by Kentucky's bourbon and spirits industry.

About $165.8 million in Kentucky corn were exported overseas in 2020 (Source: ERS). Any additional corn is stored or fed to on-farm livestock.

Kentucky’s family corn farmers are producing twice as much corn as they did in the early 1900s—on two-thirds less land.95% of Kentucky’s corn farms are family-owned, and many of the remaining 5% are partnerships between family members.

Leading corn-producing counties in Kentucky in 2021:

  • Christian

  • Union

  • Daviess

  • Logan

  • Todd

Some top-yielding counties were not included due to not meeting USDA publication parameters.

Top corn yield spot in Kentucky in 2021:

  • Union - 219 bu/acre

  • Webster - 207 bu/acre

  • Hancock - 206 bu/acre

  • Christian - 204 bu/acre

  • Daviess - 204 bu/acre

Kentucky Corn is Grown for Feed, Food, Fuel, & Fun

There are three types of corn grown in Kentucky: field corn, popcorn, and sweet corn.

Field corn is the most popular type of corn grown by our farmers since it can be used for livestock feed, ground into meal and flour for human food, distilled into alcohol (fuel and beverage), or processed to be used in thousands of products.

It takes a corn plant between 3 and 4 months to grow and mature. Most field corn is planted in the spring and harvested in the early fall. A combine harvests field corn when it is dry enough for storage. Corn is then transported to the markets that need it.

About half of the field corn grown in Kentucky is fed to livestock. Chickens eat the most Kentucky field corn. Kentucky also has several food processing companies that use food-grade corn, many distilleries, and an ethanol plant in Hopkinsville that turns corn into fuel. Corn that is not used in Kentucky is exported to other states or across the world.

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