The craze over ethanol and corn has played a major role in the expansion of seed company Monsanto's (NYSE:MON) business. The company announced Tuesday that it would pour $155 million into building a new seed conditioning facility in Nebraska, as well as expanding its existing facility. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates this fall's harvest to be the largest corn crop ever produced. It is little wonder then, that Monsanto was able to realize record net sales of nearly $1.6 billion for its Q4 results that were reported yesterday. The net sales figure represents a 13% increase over the prior year.

On the downside, however, the company reported a net loss of $0.39 per share compared to a net loss of $0.27 per share in its year-ago quarter. Earnings were watered down as a result of the company's acquisition of cotton company Delta and Pine Land. Monsanto also offered up an outlook for its 2008 fiscal year that was slightly below that of Wall Street estimates. Shares of its stock were relatively flat in mid-morning trading action.

There's no doubt that 2007 has been a monster year for Monsanto and its peers. Monsanto shares are up 71.9% year to date. Similar companies that have been able to cash in on the corn craze include Mosaic (NYSE:MOS), Potash (NYSE:POT), and Agrium (NYSE:AGU), with respective year-to-date price appreciation of 160.3%, 136.8%, and 67.5%. While business in general remains strong in this sector of the market, it will be interesting to see what results these companies are able to produce in subsequent months, given the fact that ethanol prices are down 30% since spring. Each of the companies mentioned has a fairly large market cap and should be able to ride out any downturn in the industry, but if you don't already have money in this sector, I'd take a wait-and-see approach.

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