Strong planting progress, but prices still weak

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Corn prices on the Chicago Board of Trade have made new lows most days recently. July corn futures this Tuesday, May 5, touched $3.57, a new recent low to go along with four other lows in the last eight sessions. We are now within reaching distance of the contract and harvest low, made at $3.48 Oct. 2.

Driving prices lower is the planting progress in the country and the bird flu talk. May 4, USDA released the weekly progress report. No surprise there — the farmers have been hitting it hard this week. For the U.S. we are now caught up to normal and are now ahead of the five-year pace.

Planting progress

The U.S. as a whole is now 55 percent planted, versus just 19 percent last week. The average for this date is just 38 percent, so the crop is now officially off to a fast start. Sounds like a lot of planting, not so much of sleep.

Ohio, however, lags the U.S. significantly, as do other eastern states. Part of this is just that we got so far behind and are still playing catch-up. Ohio is now just 15 percent planted, but that is jump from just two percent last week. Normal is 30 percent.

Locally we may be ahead of the Ohio average. One major farmer I talked to this morning is nearing 50 percent for both corn and soybeans. The average for Northeast Ohio is probably more like a third done corn and 20 percent done soybeans, but we are apparently ahead of the Ohio average.

More progress

Of course, the government stats are based on Sunday night, and the Monday was a huge day for planting.
The soybeans officially are at 13 percent planted for the US, a big gain over the two percent of last week. Last year at this time we had just five percent planted. The average is nine.

Ohio is only four percent planted, and only gained one percent last week. I assume the corn was the concern last week.

Ohio normally has 11 percent planted by now, more than the U.S. as a whole. This week could bring anything.

There is rain in the west, but we are forecast to get less than an inch out of it. That could mean that we just get a pause for quick repairs, or it could me a couple of days of drizzle. We are forecast to be warmer than normal. That sounds like the East will catch up to the West this week.

Bird flu

The bird flu that started in turkeys and spread to chickens is now spreading north and south, but staying west of Ohio. The market is using this and the recovered planting progress to slam prices.

Some reports, however, say that the actual feed use represented by the liquidation of the herds involved, are not that big. It remains to be seen if this is a knee-jerk reaction to problems that has over-corrected the market, or if the market is being properly cautious about the demand reductions as the flu spreads.

The same articles suggest that the nature of the disease is to fade with warm weather. The good news is that this strain of disease is not communicable to humans. The bad news is that it is very communicable to other birds, and the sanitized houses are not repopulated for months.

Meanwhile, the soybean chart is very different from the corn chart. July soybeans have been in a two-week up trend that has only recently been weaker for a couple of days. We have been mostly higher since the July futures low of $9.49 on April 10.

We put in a recent high on April 30, at $9.95. This Tuesday morning we are trading at $9.78-3/4, up two and a half cents, even while corn is lower.

The spread between corn and beans is to be expected. The planting progress in corn takes the price pressure off the soybeans as it reduces the fear of switching late corn acres to beans.

The wheat prices continue lower, as conditions have improved in the Plains and there have been rains in the southern Plains. The price slide has taken wheat nearly 80 cents lower since the $5.42-3/4 July futures high on April 6.

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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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