Crops are getting ugly out there

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If you drive state Route 307 toward Jefferson, Ohio, from Route 11 in Ashtabula County, you will come to fields on each side of the road that have Case tractors and tillage equipment parked. The ground has been worked up, but not planted. The tractors have been sitting there a long time. Some day, the fields will get dry enough to get them out without mudding up the road, but the fields will not be planted this year.

That picture is being painted in a lot of areas of Ohio and the Midwest — enough that we can now say that the beans crop will never be finished, and the acres are now known to be significantly lower than projected.

Last week USDA said that the nation’s beans were only 90 percent panted. Ohio was at 95 percent. Last night USDA released this week’s numbers, and there was a little surprise — that would be that Ohio climbed to 97 percent. I have no clue where in Ohio a planter could have run last week! The U.S. supposedly gained 4 percent, also. I suppose that is possible.

Nevertheless, it is the end of June and planting is not done. I have to believe that these acres will either not be finished or will have inconsequential yields.

Market movers

The big market movers right now are planted acres and crop condition. This Tuesday morning, just after this is written, we will get new planted acres numbers from Uncle Sugar. The market is a little defensive waiting for the new numbers. The market made new highs on corn Monday, June 29, and on soybeans Friday, then traded lower. The reason given by some observers was this report. It does no good to trade lower crop acres, then get surprised.

Outdated numbers

Whatever the numbers, the report cake comes with trader skepticism baked in. That is because the numbers come from June 1 conditions. In other words, this report is actually old news. On June 1, we had every reason to believe that all the corn was in or we were close, and that all the beans projected to be planted would be. Now we have the reality that nothing much has happened in the fields since June 1.

In many cases the corn has not been side-dressed and the beans have not been sprayed. Some farmers spray pre-plant even if they will later spray Roundup over the top. Those are sitting in a lot better condition than the ones who planned to spray on time after the crop was up, but couldn’t. So now we have crops that are languishing in the rains, and may be under-fertilized and not sprayed.

Crop conditions vary

We have problems other than the rain. The rain is just the worst. Pity the fools who have no tile in a wet year. Large spots of some fields are now flooded and dead. The early corn has shot up to five feet tall and better. The late corn is yellow and not knee-high yet. Some fields are headed to 250-bushel corn in the high spots and 80 downslope. Locally, the late beans seem to be growing out of the slop and looking better. Where they are not flooded, they are greening up on the good days.

It is not surprise that Ohio continues to be the state with the worst decline in conditions. The area around Lima actually got 14 inches of rain last week.

Ohio corn condition declined 19 percent for the second week in a row. I don’t remember ever seeing that before. We are now rated only 42 percent good and excellent. The nation’s corn crop dropped from 71 to 68% good or excellent this week, after a small decline the week before. Last year we were at 75 percent.

Ohio soybeans dropped 11 percent to 44% good or excellent this week. The nation is at 63% in that condition this week, compared to 65 last week and 72 percent last year.

Market response

With all this going on, the market has rallied to new recent highs, although it backed off Monday. December corn futures gained 46 1/2 cents from a low of 3.62 1/2 on June 15th and 16th to the high Monday at 4.09. That is the highest price since April 8. It closed at 4.02 1/4 however, and is less than that now.

November soybeans are actually down almost 8 cents this Tuesday morning, a whole 30 cents off the Friday high. That high was a gain of over a dollar in less than two weeks, and was the highest price since the second of March.

Meanwhile, the wheat, which is in harvest in the Plains and soon will be here, has made a move to a high of 5.91 1/2 on Monday. We are currently holding within a nickel of that. This is the highest price since early January, and it is based on declining crop conditions.

Elevators, ours included, are struggling to get end users to publish discount schedules we can pass on. This is because the continuous rains are seen to be ruining the crop. Beware of great bids that turn out to have horrendous discounts with them.

Farmers with stripper heads are planning to take wheat off at 28 percent moisture, before it can sprout. Conventional combines can run 23 percent wheat, and should. This is not the year to worry about drying costs. They will represent a good investment in better quality wheat, or even wheat that can even be sold for milling.

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