Tough summer: Hot weather, cool grain markets

combining wheat
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

Farmers are catching up rain-delayed field work this week. But the grain marketing is not being caught up at all, as farmers watched the early seasonal highs in corn and beans, hoped for higher prices, moved targets too high, and are now hoping for a late-summer miracle.

Corn side-dressing finally moved into full swing locally this weekend. Those with high clearance sprayers and liquid nitrogen were catching up nitrogen application in tall corn, while many struggled to use ammonia toolbars in corn too tall for the equipment.

Hay fields were finally stripped, after rain delays that saw hay mature a month ago just now being cut. The field next to me went from dried-out rank hay to big round bales in three days. I am sure it is the best tonnage ever off that field after all the rain. It is also a month past prime.

Many Roundup-ready soybean fields finally saw the Roundup this weekend. I am wondering what a modern farmer does to kill the unsprayed weeds in corn that is waist high.

Farmers struggled to get the crop in between rain drops. Many acres in some areas are unplanted and will stay that way. Then, the same farmers struggled to keep the field work going. Now they are struggling with the fact that the crops look very good, and that fact has badly hurt prices. Add trade-war issues, especially to the soybeans, and you have a tough summer to survive.

A producer should start with the understanding that he is better with a good crop and poor prices than a poor crop with good prices. Then, hope that he is the one with a good crop this year!

Corn fields will never be uniformly perfect this year. There are compacted yellow areas where the rains did not drain. There are skips where wet holes were jumped with the planter. But, the overall crops are greening up out of the rains and looking good.

Market response

As we anticipated the planting problems, grain prices made early highs. Now the question is, can we get a bounce?

December corn futures had a high of 4.29 1/2 on May 24. Three weeks later, the futures low came at 3.60, almost 70 cents lower. The good news is we have bounced a dime off that. Big deal! So far that is a “dead cat bounce.” (Even a dead cat can bounce a little.)

The soybeans are worse, hurt by good weather and bad politics. In the long run, we need to have better trade policies with China. In the short run, we are losing a lot of money to be the price of foreign policy.

November soybean futures put the high in at or near 10.60 five different times going back to early April. The last high was at 10.60 1/2 on May 29. After the collapse, we were just 8.6 1/2 on June 19. In round numbers, that is a $2 loss. We are currently 14 cents off the low. Big whoop!

I am on record twice now that soybeans are a world market, and destinations will just be switched around. Someone will buy our soybeans. That may still be true, but the uncertainty is making for bad prices right now.

The winter wheat crop is well into harvest. That includes our soft red winter wheat crop, which started harvest in Ohio last week. We fear qualities problems, but are still not sure what we will see. One farmer who sprayed a fungicide says he still has extensive scab problems. An early load into our Mansfield elevator was only 54-pound test weight. Stay tuned on this situation.

Take the wheat off wet and dry it. Many elevators will be offering shrink only to try to preserve quality.

The hard wheat crop in the Plains has been disappointing for yield, but better than first thought.

The market is starting to focus more on foreign crops now. The French crop is now estimated to be 33.2 mmt, down 4 mmt. The Russian crop estimate is being dropped. Other countries have already prepared us for droughty crops.

Chicago September wheat futures are up three cents this Monday morning, at 5.04 1/2. That is 24 cents above the recent low of 4.80 on June 19. However the high, made before the crop proved to be a little better than feared, was at 5.70 3/4.


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