Corn Prices Jump to Record $6 a Bushel, Driving Up Costs for Food, Alternative Energy

NEW YORK (AP) — Corn prices jumped to a record $6 a bushel Thursday, driven up by an expected supply shortfall that will only add to Americans’ growing grocery bill and further squeeze struggling ethanol producers.

Corn prices have shot up nearly 30 percent this year amid dwindling stockpiles and surging demand for the grain used to feed livestock and make alternative fuels including ethanol. Prices are poised to go even higher after the U.S. government this week predicted that American farmers — the world’s biggest corn producers — will plant sharply less of the crop in 2008 compared to last year.

“It’s a demand-driven market and we may not be planting enough acres to supply demand, so that adds to the bullishness of corn,” said Elaine Kub, a grains analyst with DTN in Omaha, Neb.

Corn for the most actively traded May contract rose 4.25 cents to settle at $6 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade, after earlier rising to $6.025 a bushel — a new all-time high.

Worldwide demand for corn to feed livestock and to make biofuel is putting enormous pressure on global supply. And with the U.S. expected to plant less corn, the supply shortage will only worsen. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projected that farmers will plant 86 million acres of corn in 2008, an 8 percent drop from last year.

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