Some Irish luck for the grain markets?

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My ancestors and Squeeze’s are mostly Scots and Irish. Some are that interesting combination known as “Ulster Scots.”

Those people moved from Scotland to the closest part of Ireland, which is Ulster.

They remained Protestant, and when they emigrated to this country they tended to go inland, to western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, and what is now West Virginia.

March 17 was St. Patrick’s Day, when the Irish celebrate an ancient Protestant cleric, the Catholics forget he was Protestant, and everybody claims to be part Irish.

I will skip the parades and the green beer today. I don’t like crowds, which may be the cultural heritage that explains why my ancestors didn’t stay in Boston.

Also, my last beer was 41 years ago, so I am apparently safe now.

Having fun

Sometimes I joke about my heritage. I remember a Halloween when I was at Deerfield that a phone customer asked me if I had anything special planned. I glibly told him that we were Irish, so that was the day to paint ourselves blue and dance naked in the woods!

I must have sounded convincing, because the next day he called to see how it went and if I made it to work!

One grandmother was Manx (from the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea), so Mother kept some odd Manx customs. On New Year’s Day we ate an orange with a spoon and waited to see who our first visitor was.

He was the Quakela, a harbinger of the year to come. Hope that your Quakela was an energetic young man!
If we tripped going upstairs, the Manx believed good luck was ahead. I believed I was clumsy.

Better luck

On this St. Patrick’s Day we hope that the luck of the Irish is for better grain prices. Sadly, we are stuck at the low end of the corn trading range and the luck of the Irish is mostly better if they are not farming. Leave that to the Germans. They farm most of the best land in Ohio anyway.

The Irish stayed in Eastern Ohio and still scratch out a living in the heavy soil when it is not buried in snow or floods. The Germans dug huge ditches, drained the swamps, and built substantial brick houses off the largess of the Black Swamp.

If you don’t believe me, drive to Northwest Ohio, and check out the names on the mailboxes in front of the beautiful 1890s homes.

On this very Irish day, grain prices are sharply lower after two days of lower prices already. When corn was down a nickel Friday, I told a customer that we might rebound on Monday, that Friday was often a profit-taking day before the weekend.

That farmer called Monday and was unhappy to find out that there was no rebound. Wonder if he calls today, March 17. Today, May corn futures are at $3.75-1/2, down three and a half cents. February 27 we had a high of $3.96-1/4.

On Feb. 9 we hit $4. We have lost 25 cents just in the time the farmers were holding off sales until we went up 25 cents. May soybean futures are $9.63-1/2 this morning, down five and three quarters cents.

Large supply

As recently as March 2, we hit $10.39, more than 75 cents higher. The corn is being hurt by the large supply. We have too much, and don’t see reason to believe that demand increases enough to work us out of the cheap corn.

Last week I said we might now know what really cheap corn was. This week we had technical letters talking about testing the Jan. 30 low of $3.73-3/4, and we touched $3.75 this morning.

The next support was seen as $3.39-1/4.

We last traded that low as the harvest low of Oct. 1. It is very ugly to think we would get back there.

Oil factor

Corn is also being hurt by cheap oil prices, since the dominant market for corn is for ethanol production. Crude oil goes down, gas goes down, ethanol goes down.

Crude is back down, and is now at the six-year low. This morning we hit $42.67 a barrel.
Good for travel, good for filling the tractor — bad for selling corn.

The soybeans are lower as the labor problems and the weather problems that were limiting the South American beans moving to town seem to have gone away. Brazilian farmers have aggressively moved beans, and the declining prices show it.

The bright spot for grain this week is the 37-1/2-cent gain in wheat prices. We have traded $5.15-3/4 yesterday, but this morning are at $5.09-1/2 May futures, down four and a half.

Unfortunately, wheat prices are better because of dry weather in the Plains as we break dormancy and need moisture.

It is also reported to be dry in the wheat regions of Russia, where they are planting spring wheat.

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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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