Perfect storm, crummy grain harvest


In early September, Ohio farmers looked forward to one bright spot in a difficult year. At least we would have an early harvest and an easy end to all the struggle.

In northeastern Ohio, we were blessed with enough rain to escape the worst ravages of the record drought year that destroyed crops over most of the Midwest. The moisture stress that had reduced yields now at least aimed at an early harvest.

The rains came

Then, the weather refused to cooperate.

Rain every third day slowed the soybean harvest so that many were still cutting beans at the end of October. Only the biggest and best-equipped got any significant corn off in October between the rains.

Now it is November, or will be when this is read. Now is the cleanup from the perfect storm that has hit the eastern U.S.

Now is the fall of our discontent, soon to be winter most foul.

No thanks to Sandy

As this is written on Monday night, we are being lashed with high winds and heavy rain. What is being called the “perfect storm” or “Stormageddon” has devastated the East Coast and has now turned across New Jersey and toward Cleveland.

The map this morning predicted three to six inches of rain as far west as Cleveland. The map tonight shows that rain as far as Toledo, and is showing snow in the higher elevations such as Mansfield. A major blizzard with two to three feet of snow is predicted for the central Appalachians.

My latest tailgate survey shows most of the beans cut in my part of the world, but not that much corn. Some heroic efforts have led to big progress on some farms.

Dean Miller of Gustavus told me today that they tucked away 50,000 bushels of corn in one day, Friday. When I went by one of their fields on the way to the fish dinner in Johnston, they had three semis, two monster combines, and the biggest grain cart I had ever seen hard at it. Pappy would have said that no one needed to be rocked to sleep out of this crew Friday night.

So, now the harvest is stopped and it might be two good weeks before it starts again. Who knows what happens in Ashtabula County when the bad weather starts!

Market confusion

Now we are on our way to a stretched-out harvest and no real harvest basis values. Elevators and processors fighting for their share of the corn crop have already given up on harvest basis. Now there will likely be no busy week to give us a glut of grain to bring it back.

Our elevators were plugged with beans a few days ago. Corn was going on the ground at some elevators that were plugged with beans.

Now transportation has arrived to get the grain moving, and we just look forward to the prospect of lines again, sometime.

This is the time of the week when we should be reporting on the harvest progress, but that can only be guessed at today. USDA offices, like all offices up the East Coast, were closed Monday. That means that there was no Crop Progress Report released.

On this dark day, even Wall Street is closed for the second day, Tuesday, now. This is the first time it has closed for two days since a big blizzard in the 1880s.

We look for some direction in the grain charts. December corn futures made what we now recognize as the harvest low Sept. 28, at 7.05. A quick rebound got us to 7.76 by Oct. 11, partly on delayed harvest. By the 15th, we were back to a low of 7.32 1/2.

Blame this on government reports that showed less carryout at the end of the marketing year for this crop being harvested.

On Monday we closed at 7.37, but dipped back to that 7.32 1/2 recent low. In early Tuesday trading we have a nickel bounce, to 7.42 December futures.

If there is direction here, it is hard to see. We are trading in a range, and looking for news. The delay of the rest of the harvest could be that, but the delay will hardly extend into the Corn Belt, which modern economists paint as starting at Interstate 71.

November soybeans did not have an early harvest low. We put in a low Oct. 15 at 14.85 3/4, but bounced to a double top on the 24th and 25th at 15.74 3/4 and 15.74 1/2, respectively. Monday we saw a low again of 15.24, but we are now trading Tuesday morning at 15.36 3/4, up most of a dime.


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