Grain futures markets rally after losses

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foggy corn field

Prices were lower the week of June 17 on the futures markets in Chicago.

Corn markets lost a dime, as traders focused on the idea of better weather helping crop condition — not on the awful condition and the perceived loss of acres.

Prices rallied June 24-25, however. In early trading June 25, corn and soybeans were each up a nickel.

Desperation planting

This is mostly a reaction to U.S. Department of Agriculture reports out late June 24, which detailed continued incomplete planting and dreadful crop conditions. I say “incomplete planting,” instead of “delayed planting,” because it is now near the end of June.

Corn planting has stopped, and bean planting is continuing only in desperation.

I talked to a man on a bean planter yesterday in Trumbull County, who was struggling to continue to plant soybeans in wet conditions. Since he normally plants double-crop beans at this time into his barley, he has a realistic idea of what he might get for a crop.

He gave up on corn with 600 acres to go.

Follow the leader?

Ohio continues to lead the nation in late planting, a distinction we could do without. USDA pegs us at 80% planted on corn. That surely is a final number, unless some dairy farmer is looking for some green chop corn without much for corn kernels.

I have to admit I planted some corn on July 4 one year after cleaning up cages and buildings for a 35,000-animal mink farm we were reclaiming. I did get some corn, harvested the next May, but I didn’t have the heart to weigh it.

Ohio is normally 100% planted by now. Amazingly, as late as it is, we had 12% of the crop planted last week. The nation is finally at 96% planted, up from 92% last week.

It should be no surprise that USDA crop condition reports are sad. Ohio corn is rated at just 34% good and 5% excellent. Even the nation, as a whole, is at 58% good and 19%, for a total of 59%. Normal is 77%.

Only 66% of Ohio’s corn is even emerged, as of June 23. The fields that do not have drowned spots have corn that is yellow and 4 inches high. In some areas, the corn was never sprayed, and the grass is solid and as tall as the corn.

To plant, or not

Yesterday, in what has to be the driest part of Ohio in the northeast, I saw just two ammonia rigs in the fields on 175-mile loop. One was working. One was parked.

One neighbor swung into a field and circled right back out across the corn, leaving muddy tracks the whole way. Can’t blame him for trying.

Yesterday, I got a letter from a reader who described a trip he made in eastern Ohio, where he was surprised he did not see tractors running because the fields were dry. He was looking at the dry crust on fields of pudding-quality mud.

Eastern Ohio is full of unplanted fields, and we are the good part of Ohio. Ashtabula County is better than Trumbull County this year. Crops have been fought in for the much of the northeast, but they got much planted.

North central Ohio farmers admit they had it good, and got planted nearly on time and have good crops.

Farther west, there are farmers with very little progress who are giving up. Since farther west is where most of the crops are in Ohio, that is why we only got two-thirds planted.

Soybeans lagging

Meanwhile, Ohio soybeans are just 65% planted, although there were beans still going in June 24. That is up 19% in one week, but we should be done. The nation is lagging, at 85%, instead of 97.

Only 45% of the beans have emerged in Ohio. Some of those have been planted a long time, and some are recent replants.

The nation is 71% emerged, off 20% of normal.

It is no surprise that soybean condition ratings also lag badly. Ohio is rated at just 27% good — and 3, yes, 3% excellent — for a 30% total.

The nation is at 47%, plus 7%, for a 54% total. The average this time of year is 73%.

Expected report

On June 29, we will see the USDA planted acres and June 1 grain stocks reports. They will be significant, because we may see a significant reduction in acres reported for the first time.

Recently, USDA did reduce expected yields by 10 bushels per acre. One prominent observer, Michael Cordonnier, now pegs the corn crop at just over 12 billion bushels, down from nearly 15 billion expected before this horrible planting season.

He is looking for just 85.3 million planted acres. The general feeling is that corn acres will be down 8 million, and even more, and the yields will be even worse than now projected.

The other night, I had a nightmare that I still had a couple of hundred acres to plant. I have not actually planted corn since 1987, so some nightmares never go away. For most Ohio farmers, they are all too real.

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Marlin Clark is an associate of Russell Consulting Group, with a local office in Williamsfield, Ohio. Comments are welcome at 440-363-1803.

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