* WHAT: USDA Jan crop, s/d, stocks, acres reports
* WHEN: Wednesday, Jan. 12, 7:30 a.m. CST (1330 GMT)
* Production drop, big demand shrinking corn stocks
* U.S. corn supply seen falling to 15-year low
* Corn use for ethanol nearing 40 percent of production (Repeats to fix Web link to grain stocks graphic, insert link to corn p[roduction poll)
By Sam Nelson
CHICAGO, Jan 7 (Reuters) - U.S. corn stocks are expected to slump to the lowest level in 15 years this year due to strong demand, possibly stoking global food prices which hit a record high last month, a Reuters Poll of analysts showed.
Analysts also said harsh weather cut corn output to 12.502 billion bushels from the previous year's record 13.110 billion and below the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) forecast in November for 12.540 billion bushels.
"If the USDA begins to lower production in the fall, there's usually another reduction in the January report," said Jack Scoville, an analyst for The Price Group.
The USDA will release its January crop production, supply/demand, quarterly stocks and winter wheat acreage reports at 7:30 a.m. CST (1330 GMT) on Wednesday. The Jan. 12 report will be the USDA's final estimate of corn production.
Global food prices rose to a record high in December, said U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization on Wednesday as its Food Price Index surpassed the high in 2008, when food riots broke out in some countries.[ID:nL3E7C6080]
The world's biggest economies are working to find ways to bring down soaring food prices, a G20 official said on Friday, as high food prices and unemployment were blamed for a second day of rioting in Algeria. [ID:nL3E7C70I1] [ID:nCHI753744]
Graphic on grain stocks r.reuters.com/zex35r
Poll on corn production [ID:nN07410138]
The USDA has kept slashing its outlook for 2010 U.S. corn production since projecting production in August at a huge record large 13.365 billion bushels.
The waning output comes at a time corn used for feed, exports and ethanol remains robust, shrinking corn stocks to a projected 779 million bushels, according to an average of analysts' estimates. [ID:nN07415983]
That would be the smallest stockpile of corn since 426 million at the end of the 1995/96 season, a year following a drought that slashed corn production.
"If you cut corn production another 200 million bushels you're getting an extremely bullish carryout number," said Tim Hannagan, analyst for PFG Best.
The stocks-to-use ratio this season could drop below 6.0 (approximately 5.8), also a 15-year low. The stocks-to-use ratio fell to 4.98 in the 1995/96 crop year.
Analysts think the amount of corn exported and fed by the United States may remain relatively stable but they expect corn used to produce ethanol to approach 40 percent of production, above the current USDA projection of 4.8 billion bushels.
"The ethanol can change, but so far ethanol production is more on target to hit 5 billion so we took our estimate up 100 million to 4.9 million," said Don Roose, analyst with U.S. Commodities.
"I think the latter part of the year we saw good ethanol margins and that drew more corn into use for ethanol." said Chris Manns, president of Traders Group Inc.
Manns also pegged corn use for ethanol at 4.9 billion bushels, but some analysts were zeroing in on the 5.0 billion bushel mark.
GLOBAL CORN STOCKS ALSO MAY DWINDLE, FEED WHEAT UP
An analyst average forecast global corn supplies at 127.532 million tonnes, down from the USDA's forecast in December for 130.0 million.
"There will be a global decline for stocks of wheat, corn and for beans. The drought problems in the Black Sea and flooding in Australia cut into wheat and corn and there continues to be good usage out of China," Manns said.
An increased amount of feed wheat in the world this year may take some of the pressure off corn as a prime feed ingredient.
Excessive rainfall in Australia, a key global wheat producer, and an unprecedented drought this summer in Russia's Black Sea grain region led to outlooks for increased supplies of feed wheat.
Manns said global feed wheat supplies may increase a million tonnes or more and that would displace some U.S. corn export business.
Iowa Grain analyst Justin Kelly said global feed wheat supplies may increase as much as 5.0 million tonnes this year. (Reporting by Sam Nelson; Editing by Marguerita Choy)