Harvest hurries toward completion

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Soybean harvest 2017
Harvesting soybeans in Madison County, Ohio.

The most interesting news to hit the markets for most farmers is how close we are to being done with harvest. That estimate is found in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Crop Progress Report, out in the middle of the day Oct. 30.

The report showed a good run on corn and beans in the Central Corn Belt. Weather forecasts predict that farmers there will have only widely scattered light showers to fight off in the coming week, so many farmers will be washing combines in a few more days.

This is not the same story for Ohio farmers. By the evening of Oct. 29, Ohio growers had gained 16% on soybean acres, but only 9% of the corn. The report showed 29% of the corn off, way off the five-year average of 49%.

The soybean acres showed progress, with 80% done versus an average of 64%. Looks like farmers were making good progress while things were dry, but the forecast makes me think that might not be the same for this week. What rain we will be getting in the Corn Belt is in the east. We might see a lot of switching of combine heads to use the days wisely in Ohio.

Nationally, farmers are ahead of Ohio progress, as has been true for the entire harvest. The nation is now 71% done on the corn, a gain of 12% last week. That is well above the 66% average. The nation’s soybeans are now 85% harvested. That is well above the 78% average. All but a minimal percentage will likely be finished this week.

Grain prices. The harvest is pushing prices down. Also, helping was the realization that planting in South America is catching up. Other factors hurting prices are higher water levels on the Big Muddy, which is reducing freight costs and good export sales. Analysts are now anticipating that we will catch up to the USDA estimate for annual shipments abroad.

December corn futures were down 15 cents this week, taking us to levels near the lows at the end of July. This support is just below $4.78, and that is almost 30 cents lower than the Oct. 27 high of last week.

Soybeans have more reason to gain, but maybe we did and now we are lower. The high three weeks ago was at $13.17 on November futures, but the support the last two weeks has been at $12.77. The market will not likely let us get much higher if harvest is still rolling in and the bushels are not counted.

Chicago wheat prices continue to fall without much reason and the traders focus on corn and soybeans. We lost a dime this week on our cookie wheat. The Kansas City bread wheat lost 27 cents last week, which is hard to explain since we have a short crop.

The Minneapolis hard red spring wheat was the underwhelming event this week. That is, we lost 11 cents to offset the 9 cents we gained last week. In eastern Ohio, we have little interest in spring wheat except for how it trades against our class of wheat.

(Marlin Clark has been observing and trading cash and futures grain markets for over 50 years. Comments are welcome at 440-363-1803.)

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