Corn production this year could be down as much as 7 percent from the record-breaking heights of 2007, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released Friday.
The prediction is a foreboding sign for those hoping for a drop in prices.
"What's it mean ultimately? High food prices, for sure," said Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities in West Des Moines.
The USDA report projects farmers will harvest about 12 billion bushels of corn this year. About one-third of the harvest will be directed toward ethanol production, the USDA estimates.
The revised projections came as wet weather in the Corn Belt slowed plantings, causing the greatest delay since 1995. The USDA reported that only 27 percent of the nation's corn crop had been planted through May 4.
Analysts believe Friday's report could extend sky-high corn prices. Prices for the crop have skyrocketed over the last year, lingering for weeks at more than $6 per bushel amid an ethanol boom and more demand for exports.
"Today's report is an indicator that we're going to be living with very high corn prices for a very long time, at least through the next crop year," said Mark McMinimy, an agribusiness and biofuels analyst with the Stanford Group.
"The bottom line is it says we're off to a poor start," Roose said. "We needed things to go almost perfect this year to avoid a big problem and so far we're staring at that big problem."