PEORIA, Ill. -- Falling corn prices and questions about ethanol demand could lead Illinois farmers to plant fewer acres of corn this year.
Instead, farmers are likely to use some of that acreage to plant soybeans, said Patrick Kirchhofer, manager of the Peoria County Farm Bureau.
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The shift comes after several years of increasing corn production fueled by higher prices. Nationwide, analysts have called last year's crop a record-breaker, at more than 14 billion bushels. But the excess corn has pushed prices down from $8 a bushel in 2012 to about $4.
At the same time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed reducing the amount of ethanol required to be blended into the nation's fuel, which could weaken demand for corn. The corn-based fuel currently uses up to 40 percent of the nation's corn crop.
Farmer Ross Pauli, of Edwards, said he was worried that the EPA proposal, if approved, would hurt the farm economy. He's urging other farmers to share their views with lawmakers.
"It's a case of bad timing," he told the (Peoria) Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1amMnBu ). "Now when we have excess corn and all these (ethanol) plants built, they want to cut back on production."
Still, Pauli is also planning to plant less corn this year on his 650 acres.
"I will still plant more corn than soybeans but the percentage will be 60 percent corn to 40 percent soybeans," he said. "Last year it was probably about 65 percent corn."
Soybean prices have also dipped, but to a lesser extent than corn.
University of Illinois economist Darrel Good doesn't anticipate a huge shift in the crops.
"I do expect some cutback of corn acres and I think we'll see a tick up in soybean acres but, at this point, I look for a fairly minor adjustment," he told the Journal Star.