Grain harvest struggles to its conclusion

When prices go up and down, sometimes without reason, we call it “volatile.” When we can explain it, we describe cycles and retracements and corrections.

We have a basket full of adjectives to describe the chicken-entrail sketching on our charts.

This market we just describe as erratic. That means it has evaded the grasp of our vocabulary, and we are just reporting what happened.

Speculating

No one in his right mind is predicting what is next, but is rather just speculating on what can happen. Part of what can happen will be speculated upon or even predicted by the brave and foolish, latest USDA Crop Progress report released Nov. 23.

The corn crop, which should have been binned three weeks ago, is still partly in the field.

This afternoon Uncle Sugar will tell us how big that part is.

The delayed harvest has helped prices on some days. Those are the days when traders feel the crop will never be finished and we are losing some of the supply we thought we had figured into prices.

Some days prices go down. Those are the days when traders think that it doesn’t matter how long harvest takes, the corn is still there and it is a big crop.

Producers have been more focused on space than on price. Some have looked ahead to sell deferred corn on days the market has been better, and that makes sense.

Mostly though, farmers are just selling enough to get the crop in the bin. Then, they will sit on it, dreaming of $7. Or $4.50, or $5 or some other magic number which, when we get there, they will think is too cheap.

Marketing

The hardest part of farming is not getting this harvest finished. It is doing the marketing. This is probably so because you are on your own.

It is not your fault if it rains. It is your fault, and least it reels that way, if there is a high price for corn and you pass on it until it gets cheaper.

It feels like everyone is in the same boat with the weather, but each marketing decision floats or sinks on its own.

The good news about corn for the harvest season is that it has gained over $1 a bushel in recent times.

On Sept. 8, with a crop report for the second biggest harvest in history staring us in the face, we made a recent low on December futures of 3.02.

Delayed harvest, added to a small cut in USDA expectations in the November USDA Crop Production numbers helped us get to 4.1312 December futures on Oct. 23.

Now, a month later, we are trading just under $4, after a dip to 3.5912 on Nov. 11.

So, a dollar up, 75 cents down, 50 cents up and 10 cents down (rounded off) pretty much describes a market that is erratic.

Meanwhile, the last 10 trading sessions have shown steady, strong gains in the soybean markets. Yes, we had an ugly low Oct. 5 at 8.8512 on the January futures, but after one short cycle we have been higher.

We had a $10.2914 high on Oct. 23, then dipped to 9.7434 four days later.

Since then we have been up, to the overnight high this Monday morning of 10.6634. This is nearly identical to the 10.68 high made in the middle of August.

You have to go back to June 11 and 12 to find a higher price. Then, we wondered if the crop would ever get planted, and we put in the 11.05 contract high.

About the Author

Marlin Clark trades producer and elevator grain from an office near Andover, Ohio for Town & Country Co-op. You can reach him for comment at 440-293-4055. More Stories by Marlin Clark

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