The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) looked back at some of the key happenings that made 2004 one of the most memorable years in the history of the corn industry. Here, in no particular order, are some of the most unforgettable stories from 2004:
- Corn producers harvested the largest crop on record in 2004. The December USDA production report pegged the crop at 11.74 billion bushels, 16% larger than the previous record crop in 2003. Demand kept pace with supply, as USDA projected total use to be a record 10.9 billion bushels.
- The ethanol industry continued its rapid growth in 2004, producing 21% more ethanol than in 2003. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, 83 plants were operational in 2004, producing approximately 3.4 billion gallons. More than 1.2 billion bushels of corn were used in ethanol production in 2004, according to USDA.
- As natural gas and crude oil prices reached record-high prices in 2004, NCGA continued its push for comprehensive energy legislation including the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). While an energy bill did not pass in 2004, NCGA was encouraged by enactment of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit and other ethanol-friendly measures included in the corporate tax bill.
- The Army Corps of Engineersâ€™ marked the conclusion of its 15-year navigation study with a recommendation to build seven new locks on the upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers. Both the House and Senate introduced legislation calling for the new locks, but legislators failed to pass lock modernization measures before Congress adjourned. However, NCGA was encouraged by congressional authorization of nearly $14 million in pre-engineering and design work for the new locks.
- Progress continued on the effort to sequence the maize genome. In March, NCGA announced that it would launch a database containing genome sequencing data provided by Monsanto Company, DuPont's Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. and Ceres Inc. The genome effort also received a $30 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy and USDA.
- In May, NCGA attended the Washington, D.C., signing ceremony for the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), an accord that is expected to significantly increase export opportunities for U.S. corn growers. CAFTA will provide guaranteed access totaling more than 1 million metric tons duty free and tariffs eliminated within 15 years. In 2003, CAFTA countries imported 1.7 million metric tons of corn.
- At NCGAâ€™s Corn Utilization and Technology Conference in June, USDA Economist Hosein Shapouri says the net energy balance of ethanol is now believed to be 1.66, meaning ethanol generates 66% more energy than it takes to produce. The net energy balance of ethanol was previously thought to be 1.33.