Grain market gurus turn over the flop

playing cards

We were a little shy of entertainment growing up on the farm in Cherry Valley. One tradition endured for years.

In the months that Dad did not “go out” on his steel-hauling truck on Sunday nights, we played cards and had special deserts. Mother would make Parker House rolls or serve vanilla ice cream with fruit or maple syrup on top.

Sometimes the rolls had the maple syrup on top. In fact, there was nothing wrong with just the syrup by itself. I remember when Millers boiled sap and provided little demitasse sample cups in the sugar house to fill from the tap on the first boiling pan.

Whatever the desert, the card game was always pinochle. I was the youngest, and I do not remember how this started, but the idea was that five hundred was too hard, hearts involved calling the queen of spades that nasty word, and euchre was a game college kids played just before they flunked out.

The annoying thing about playing cards with dad was that he was a card counter. If it had been played, he remembered it. This did not seem really fair to an 8-year-old boy.

At some point in the evening, he would lay down all the cards he had left in a hand and claim the last two or three tricks. You were always left thinking he was smirking at you, and you always kicked yourself that you hadn’t counted them, too.

I remember the night my middle sister got upset and commented very innocently that Dad played cards in truck terminal bunkhouses when he was on the road.

Dad said, “yes,” but he never played for money!

Rebecca answered innocently, “It’s a good thing. Someone would have killed you!”

Big cards played

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in their infinite wisdom, played some big cards in a game in which we are all invested. They released the quarterly grain stocks report, and the prospective planting report.

The surprise numbers for corn and soybean acres rattled the markets for a limit up day in corn and soybeans, with follow-through April 1. There was that feeling that the numbers everyone had been traded had just been changed, as USDA threw down their cards and revealed that they had counted everything and come up with a different result.

The USDA “claimed the last three tricks” by declaring that U.S. farmers would plant just 91.14 million acres of corn, not the average trade guesstimate of 93.2 million. Soybean acres are now pegged to be just 87.6 million not the 90 million that was expected by the traders.

If this were Texas Hold ’em, the dealer just dealt three acres into the flop. These lowered acres, if realized, come as the market is struggling to see where the corn and beans are coming from this summer.

We are already looking at importing soybeans to crush, and crushers are shy about forward selling to users since there in uncertainty as to the fair value in this unknown market.

Now, on top of the shortage ahead of us in the old crop, we have planted acre projections that suggest that we will remain tight in the new year, also.

I am on record as repeating the common comment that we need 91 million acres of corn and soybeans each to meet our usage next year. The early spring we are seeing may contribute to more acres of corn, but the 91 million acres of beans seems out of reach without delayed planting.

Effect on the market

With the cards on the table, USDA helped the corn market gain almost 46 cents in two days, although the April 1 trading was a spike up to a new high of $5.85 May futures before falling back to a four and a half-cent loss for the day.

December futures actually made a high of $4.93 April 1 and $4.931⁄4 April 2 to gain almost 42 cents to the new high. May futures were back to $5.53 going into April, while the December gained on the May, trading at $4.881⁄2 overnight into April 6.

The May soybeans did not quite make a new high on the reports. The high April 1, the day after the report, was $14.561⁄4, while the old high was at $14.60 a month ago.

The November contract did make a new high at $12.85 on April 1, after a low March 30 of $11.851⁄2. Quite a bounce!

One more memory of card playing. Dad was not big on direct advice. However, the day he left me at Ohio State for my first quarter, he told me one thing: “Remember, there is always a card game going on around the corner. But, the players change once a quarter!”


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!



We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.