Slow wheat planting supporting stronger grain prices

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planting wheat
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

This time of year we harvest corn and soybeans, and plant wheat. The harvest is back on track nationally, with the corn pace almost normal and the soybeans lagging a little. The winter wheat planting is showing signs of being significantly behind, and running out of time to catch up.

Wheat prices have stabilized on the Chicago Board of Trade, mostly with help from a different class of wheat. The Chicago contract is based on the soft red winter wheat that we grow. Meanwhile, problems in Kansas planting their hard red winter wheat is supporting both the Kansas City and Chicago wheat markets.

The Monday USDA Crop Progress Report showed Kansas with 83 percent of the crop planted. The five-year average is 95 percent. Some reports from the state indicate that farmers are giving up and parking the drills for the year.

Since Kansas produces almost a quarter of the wheat acres in the country, this is a big deal.

December Chicago wheat futures have been supported at $5. Recently, we had an excursion to 4.85 1/2, but we quickly rallied. From the high of 5.27 on Oct. 25, we dropped to the low, then rebounded back above $5. This Tuesday morning, we are trading 5.07 3/4, up a half-cent. The Kansas City prices are very similar.

It is my observation that not very much wheat is being planted in northeast Ohio. We had an early harvest, and good planting conditions. What we did not have was good prices except for a few days last summer. The price and the fears of condition problems that have plagued us in recent years seems to have limited wheat acres.

Corn and soybeans

Ohio has remained on good pace with the corn harvest. Last week’s rains slowed progress, but we are shown Sunday night by USDA at 70 percent complete, which is right on average. We did 6 percent of the corn last week. I am guessing that northeast Ohio is ahead of that progress, maybe by 10 or 15 percent. Some acres are standing because there is not much left and farmers don’t want to tear up the fields this early in November.

A combine with a full bin of corn.
A combine with a full bin of corn.

U.S. farmers are actually slightly behind pace, at 76 percent instead of the average 77. Thirteen percent was harvested last week in what was good weather for much of the Midwest, even while the east was wet.

It should be noted that Illinois is 93 percent harvested, and Iowa is at 72, four behind the normal. They are still catching up, doing 23 percent of the crop just in the last week!

The U.S. and Ohio soybean harvests are still behind the average pace. Blame this on rains that have allowed corn to be cut several days a week while the beans keep getting re-wetted.

Ohio was 82 percent done with beans as of Sunday night, while the nation as a whole was at 83 percent. 89 percent is the average for both.

Locally we saw some scattered harvest Sunday, with more general corn harvest Monday. Farmers I saw on a quick tour those two days mostly had tracks on combines and grain carts. They are risking some compaction, but running without ruts in most cases.

It rained all last night at my house, but the rain was light. If we squeeze through the week without much rain, we will be mostly done around here.

If we do not finish, this is the time of year when the fields normally do not get better. At some point, the last acres are mudded out or left for a freeze. That is true of much of the Midwest.

Farmers that talked in early harvest of record corn yields and average to good bean yields are now saying the corn is not as good as the last two years, but is still exceptional. The beans are a disappointment to those who thought the corn was so good that the beans would be also. They still exceed the five-year average in most cases.

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