USDA has raised its forecasts for U.S. corn and sorghum exports to the highest levels in nearly two decades. Buoyed in part by U.S. corn and sorghum sales, the value of U.S. agricultural exports rose $1 billion compared to last year. Estimated exports of U.S. corn were increased by 100 million bushels and U.S. sorghum by 40 million bushels.

This is particularly good news for U.S. grain producers as corn demand for ethanol was lowered by 100 million bushels for the second consecutive month.

Ken Hobbie, U.S. Grains Council president and CEO, also noted that the organization’s market building programs have introduced ethanol co-products such as distiller’s grains and corn gluten in markets from Morocco to Taiwan.

According to USDA’s Oct. 12 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, U.S. corn production is expected to reach 13.3 billion bushels and 2007-08 exports are projected to be 2.35 billion bushels, the most in 18 years. USDA also lowered China’s corn production by 157 million bushels, to 5.6 billion bushels.

The latter is in line with assessments by USGC officials on the Council’s 2007 China Corn Tour, which estimated China’s production at approximately 5.5 billion bushels.

In Europe, coarse grain production has suffered from bad weather, creating demand for U.S. sorghum. USDA’s monthly foreign agricultural trade data released on Oct. 11 revealed a 28 percent increase in the value of U.S. grains and feeds exports for October 2006 through August 2007, contributing to an overall increase in value from $63.2 billion to $74.25 billion.

“U.S. grains and grain products are valued across the globe for their high quality and reliable supply,” said Dale Artho, USGC chairman and a Texas sorghum producer. “Europe’s grain shortage is altering international grain markets as their demand for U.S. sorghum will most likely result in some of our grain typically exported to Mexico going instead to European buyers. This will lead to additional export opportunities for U.S. corn to Mexico.”

Artho hopes the tight supply and demand situation will increase calls in the European Union to approve more biotech events and reopen the market to U.S. corn and corn products as a means to control rising food costs on the continent.