Nebraska corn farmers are in the middle of a $2.6 billion investment that has a significant economic impact on dozens of businesses, rural communities and the entire state, according to the Nebraska Corn Board.
"This multi-billion dollar investment, perhaps better known as planting, occurs in just a few weeks every spring," says Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board. "It's a tremendous investment, but one that also is subject to Mother Nature and the whims of outside markets."
The investment made by farmers includes everything from seed to fertilizer to all the other inputs it takes to get the crop in the ground and growing. Those purchases come from local seed dealers, cooperatives and dozens of other businesses that benefit from farmers planting corn.
"To put this $2.6 billion investment into perspective, compare it to the combined construction investments in Lincoln and Omaha," Hutchens says. "Over a two-year period, that comes to about $900 million and includes the construction costs of an arena, baseball stadium and a dozen other projects, all very valuable growth investments, but about one-third the investment farmers make each and every spring."
On average, farmers spend more than $270 per acre to get the crop in the ground and off to a good start, based on estimates calculated by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. Multiplied by the 9.5 million acres USDA estimates Nebraska farmers will plant this year, the investment is $2.6 billion.
That's not the whole story, however. "Those dollars get circulated through communities and the entire state," according to Hutchens. With a multiplier of 2.5, planting corn this year will actually provide a $6.5 billion economic impact across the state.
Those estimates don't include labor or land costs, or the cost of irrigating for those farmers who carefully utilize that resource. It also doesn't include the expense of harvesting, hauling and storing the final crop. All those costs come later and provide their own economic impact.
"While the dollars invested in getting the crop off to a good start are impressive, it also doesn't include the value of that corn crop once it is harvested," Hutchens says. "From feed to fuel to fiber, that crop is worth a whole lot more than just bushels of grain sold into the market."
Corn harvested this fall will be used as feed for livestock and poultry, which results in high-value protein products that Nebraskans and people all over the world enjoy. Ethanol is another important market. That process involves taking corn and creating two products – fuel that helps keep gas prices lower than they otherwise would be and millions of tons of distillers grains, another feed product for livestock and poultry.
Bio-renewable materials like PLA are also made from corn. They are used in everything from plastics to fabrics and replace their petroleum-based counterparts in the process.