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USDA economist sees more corn, less wheat

U. S. farmers will plant close to 90 million acres of corn in 2009 and cut back a bit on wheat, the Agriculture Department’s chief economist said Dec. 2.

Chief economist Joe Glauber said at a conference sponsored by Farm Journal magazine that grain and soybean prices would remain volatile because of tight supplies.

Food price inflation, now the highest in two decades, should rise at a slower rate in 2009, an effect of the fall-off in market prices since the summer. He said food prices might rise four to 4.5 per cent in 2009.

“We may see a bit of a drop there,” Glauber said in discussing wheat plantings. He said wheat plantings would fall due to competition from corn and soybeans. Soybean sowings would be stable next year, he said.

Corn plantings “should be closer to 90 million acres next year,” said Glauber, due to comparatively small stockpiles and rising demand for ethanol, now made mostly from corn.

For 2008 harvest, growers planted 63 million acres of wheat, 85.9 million acres of corn and 75.9 million acres of soybeans.

USDA will report on winter wheat plantings in early January and make its first projections of spring plantings in late February.

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