Western Corn Belt catching up

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

After critical delays, harvest is catching up in the western Corn Belt.

The eastern Corn Belt has had a good harvest, and is ahead of the five-year average, but parts of Iowa, Minnesta and South Dakota have suffered with steady rains and worries about damaged soybeans.

This week, our largest corn producer, Iowa, came in Sunday night with 49 percent of the corn harvested. This was a 20 percent gain in one week, but still has them behind the 57 percent average for this time of year.

Minnesota pushed harvest up to 58 percent, which is exactly their average. Wisconsin is still at 46 percent, well below the 63 percent average. Meanwhile, Indiana is at 77 percent, well above the 65 percent average, and Ohio is at 64 percent, above the 56 percent average.

Early harvest

Northeast Ohio continues to confound history by having the earliest harvest in my lifetime. The first heavy rains of the entire fall came this weekend. We have had limited evening showers which have held up the last of the bean harvest.

Until the weekend we had seen semis parked in the fields to load, which is normally unheard of near where I live in Ashtabula County. Cars were parked on my lawn Saturday when we had guests for a costume party.

I assumed they would get stuck, but they didn’t. I told people we didn’t park on the lawn in Wayne — this wasn’t Kinsman! The soybean harvest is still behind normal, but is catching up fast.

Close to average

The U.S. Sunday night was at 72 percent harvested, just off the 81 percent average. Ohio farmers are even closer to the average, with 75 percent off against the 80 average.

I believe Northeast Ohio is ahead of that pace, which would be a first for us. I have been watching statistics for Minnesota, where farm reports had disaster written all over them.

They had a good week, and went from 62 percent to 87 percent. That was a huge gain, even if they are normally at 95 percent.

According to our Monday morning Russell Consulting call, a good forecast has them expecting to finish this week. The return to good harvest weather in the west hurt prices this week.

Corn dipped in response to harvest pressure on prices, but came back on Friday to give us a small gain for the week. On this Tuesday morning, we are trading 3.663⁄4 on December corn futures, unchanged for the day so far.

Our recent high was on the 15th of October, at 3.663⁄4. The low was made ten days later, at 3.601⁄2. The contract low was on Sept. 18 at 3.421⁄2. It feels like we are safely above that low, but have not seen real bullishness.

Slow exports

Hurting our prospects for the bull market we all want is the slow pace of exports. That is not helping us move out the huge supplies we have been building with three big years for corn. So far we see no real help from the plan to allow 15 percent ethanol blends announced by our president.

Previously, they were not allowed in summer months because of environmental concerns (which I do not completely understand, so I should not have mentioned them). It is hoped that once the year-round 15 percent rule is in force, there may be more infrastructure to pump the E-15.

That would likely come from a switch from E-10, as no retailer wants to have pumps for both. While we are on ethanol, it should be mentioned that current cheap corn allows us to sell ethanol to Brazil. This seems odd, since Brazil was the country that first gave a big start to ethanol, but from sugar cane.

Improved currency

In the wake of their recent election of a conservative president, their currency, the real, has improved.

This has made our ethanol more competitive to them and our soybeans more competitive than theirs to go to China. We are seeing no sales to China for political reasons, even though we are now cheaper than Brazil even with the 25 percent Chinese tariff.

Chinese importers worry the tariffs will be increased while the beans are in transit. We are currently trading November soybean futures at 8.40-1⁄4, up one and a quarter cent.

The recent high was 8.92 on October 15th. The low came overnight this Tuesday morning, at 8.353⁄4.

In this case the harvest has pushed prices lower, and they have not rebounded, except to the 8.401⁄4 of this morning. December Chicago wheat continues to be cheap, at 5.061⁄4 this morning.

We had an excursion Friday the 26th to 4.85-1⁄2, but have come back with a USDA report of slow winter wheat planting. We are at 78 percent planted, which is a gain of only six for the week, and well of the normal pace of 85 percent.

November will be here by the time this is published, and it is past time to plant wheat. I don’t see much around here, even with the good weather this fall. I think it is an economic decision.

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