U.S. farmers dreaming of record corn cropU.S. farmers are eyeing a record corn crop this year, NPR reports.

Though the 2012 corn harvest is still in its development phase, farmers across the nation are hoping for a bumper crop this year. Favorable weather conditions, including a mild spring and precipitous uptick in planting have helped fuel prospects about this fall's harvest, according to the news provider.

According to new data, the Great Depression was the last time farmers planted as heavily as they did this year. Agricultural technologies have significantly improved since then, further bolstering hopes of a record yield. Bill Couser, a farmer in Nevada, Iowa, told NPR the signs of a healthy corn harvest are mounting.

"This corn crop will knock your socks off, if all the stars line up and the good Lord gives us that blessing," he said. "You can just start seeing everything kinda poppin' up through."

A robust harvest would bring a windfall to U.S. farmers, as global demand for the grain has soared over the past decade. U.S. subsidies supporting the domestic ethanol industry have further supported the spike in corn prices, experts assert. Still, a jump in U.S.-produced corn could have a significant impact on prices.

In an effort to earn a piece of what could be record earnings, farmers have increased their planting at twice the rate of an average year. According to NPR, more than half of the U.S. crop this year is already planted, a move that carries risks but could prove profitable over the course of 2012, noted Paul Bertels, an economist with the National Corn Growers Association.

"The sooner you get the crop in – provided you don't have a cold snap – you'll actually get that plant through pollination before the real heat of the summer," he said.

Some farmers have had to scrap cost savings plans as they increased corn planting. While they are bullish on this year's harvest, a marked jump in supplies could satiate demand, ultimately driving prices lower. Couser and other farmers are aware of such risks, but for many, the allure of record profits eclipses their worries.

Experts are largely optimistic, though, in this year's bumper crop. A number of agriculture economists affirm that even if a record harvest were to cause prices to fall, the revenue generated through excess inventory would mitigate such effects. What's more, worldwide demand for food is only going to continue to climb as nations such as Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC), along with other developing regions of the globe, experience rapid population growth.

More importantly, a drop in corn prices by $1 per bushel would afford businesses and other nations increased purchasing power. Food companies have struggled to contend with soaring raw materials costs over the past few years, according to industry analysts, and falling corn prices would bolster profitability.

While food giants such as Kraft have had to implement cost reduction initiatives as they pursued earnings growth, a fall in direct material costs would benefit their overall business strategy.

On the Chicago Board of Trade on Thursday, corn futures for July delivery fell 3.25 percent to $5.87 per bushel. Prices have flirted with record levels over the course of the past year. As recently as the mid-2000s, corn prices hovered between $2 and $3 per bushel, underscoring how demand and prices have soared.

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