From Nebraska: http://www.theindependent.com/storie..._grain24.shtml **** web-posted Sunday, February 24, 2008 America's grain stocks running short By Robert Pore Global demand for grain and oilseeds is at record levels, causing the nation's grain stocks to reach critically low levels, according to Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt. With a weak U.S. dollar and global demand so high, foreign buyers are outbidding domestic buyers for American grain, Hurt said. "Food consumers worldwide are going to have to pay more," Hurt said. "We ended 2007 with our monthly inflation rate on food nearly 5 percent higher. I think we'll see times in 2008 where the food inflation rate might be as much as 6 percent." Increasing food costs will ignite the debate on food security this year, Hurt said. "We'll have discussions about whether we should allow the foreign sector to buy our food," he said. "Is food a strategic item that we need to keep in our country?" The USDA recently released a revised forecast for agricultural exports, predicting a record of $101 billion for fiscal year 2008. According to the U.S. Grains Council, a significant increase in feed grain exports buoyed the forecasts. Specifically, the forecast for coarse grain exports is raised to 70 million tons, up 2 million tons since November. Corn and sorghum exports are up $2.4 billion from November. Coarse grain exports are forecast at $14.1 billion, $4.3 billion above last year's level. Hurt said the 2007 U.S. wheat crop is virtually sold out, while domestic soybean stocks soon will fall below a 20-day supply. Corn inventories are stronger, but with demand from export markets, the livestock industry and ethanol plants, supplies also could be just as scarce for the 2008 crop. More than 70 percent of Nebraska corn crop this year could go to ethanol production. But what concerns Hurt the most is weather. Adverse weather could trim crop yields this year and cause crop prices to skyrocket even further. Last year, Nebraska had a record corn crop of nearly 1.5 billion bushels. But rainfall was exceptional last year, especially during the growing season, which helped increase crop yields. He said recent cash prices for wheat, soybeans and corn are up dramatically from two years ago. Wheat prices have been near $10 a bushel, more than $6 a bushel higher. Cash prices for soybeans are about $13 a bushel, up more than $7 a bushel. Corn is pricing at almost $5 a bushel, an increase of greater than $3 a bushel.