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Major Crops Grown in the U.S.


The crops that are grown in the United States are used not only to feed the populace, but are exported to countries around the world. Corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton, and hay account for 90% of harvested acreage in the United States.


Corn: The United States is, by far, the largest producer of corn in the world. Corn grown for grain accounts for almost one quarter of the harvested crop acreage in this country.

Corn grown for silage accounts for about two percent of the total harvested cropland. The amount of land dedicated to corn silage production varies based on growing conditions. In years that produce weather unfavorable to high corn grain yields, corn can be “salvaged” by harvesting the entire plant as silage.

About eighty percent of all corn grown in the U.S. is consumed by domestic and overseas livestock, poultry, and fish production. The crop is fed as ground grain, silage, high-moisture, and high-oil corn. About 12% of the

U.S.  foods that are either consumed directly (e.g. corn chips) or indirectly (e.g. high fructose corn syrup). It also has a wide array of industrial uses including ethanol, a popular oxygenate in cleaner burning auto fuels.


Soybeans: Approximately 4,3 billion bushels of soybeans were harvested  from almost 73 million acres of cropland in the U.S. in 2016. Over 350,000 farms in the United States produce soybeans, accounting for over 50% of the world’s soybean production.

Soybeans are used to create a variety of products, the most basic of which are soybean oil, meal, and hulls. According to the United Soybean Board, soybean oil, used in both food manufacturing and frying and sautéing, represents approximately 79 percent of all edible oil consumed in the United States. Over 30 million tons of soybean meal are consumed as livestock feed in a year. Even the hulls are used as a component of cattle feed rations.


Hay: Hay production in the United States exceeds 150 million tons per year. Alfalfa is the primary hay crop grown in this country. U.S. hay is produced mainly for domestic consumption although there is a growing export market. The most common exports are timothy, some alfalfa, sudangrass, and bermudagrass hay. Hay can be packaged in bales or made into cubes or pellets. Hay crops also produce seeds that can be used for planting or as specialized grains.




Wheat: The U.S. produces about 13% of the world’s wheat and supplies about 25% of the world’s wheat export market. About two-thirds of total U.S. wheat production comes from the Great Plains (from Texas to Montana). Wheat is classified by time of year planted, hardness, and color (e.g. Hard Red Winter (HRW)). The characteristics of each class of wheat affect milling and baking when used in food products. Of the wheat consumed in the United States, over 70% is used for food products, about 22% is used for animal feed and residuals, and the remainder is used for seed.



Cotton: Cotton is grown from coast-to-coast, but in only 17 southern states. Farms in those states produce over 20% of the world’s cotton with annual exports of more than $3 billion. The nation’s cotton farmers harvest about 17 million bales or 7.2 billion pounds of cotton each year.

Cotton is used in a number of consumer and industrial products and is also a feed and food ingredient. Over 60% of the annual cotton crop goes into apparel, 28% into home furnishings, and 8% into industrial products each year. Cottonseed and cottonseed meal are used in feed for livestock, dairy cattle, and poultry. Cottonseed oil is also used for food products such as margarine and salad dressing.


Grain Sorghum: In the United States, grain sorghum is used primarily as an animal feed, but is also used in food products and as an industrial feedstock. Industrial products that utilize sorghum include wallboard and biodegradable packaging materials. Over half of the sorghum grown is for human consumption.

This water-efficient crop is more drought tolerant and requires fewer inputs than corn. Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Missouri produce most of the grain sorghum grown in this country. The U.S. exports almost half of the sorghum it produces and controls 70% to 80% of world sorghum exports. As much as 12% of domestic sorghum production goes to produce ethanol and its various co-products.


Rice: Just over 9,000 farms produce rice in the United States. Those farms are concentrated in six states: Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas. U.S. rice production accounts for just over 1% of the world’s total, but this country is the second leading rice exporter with 18% of the world market.

About 60% of the rice consumed in the U.S. is for direct food use; another 20% goes into processed foods, and most of the rest into beer.