New year, same old grain markets

Grain bins
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

The New Year. The Fresh Start. The New Beginning. 

Monday was the day to celebrate second chances. This year I will … fill in the blank.

Be a better person. Lose weight. Pay my taxes without an extension. Invite someone on my road to go to church with me. 

I’m not off to a very good start. I didn’t finish the day with ice cream, but I did waste it lounging in bed and binge-watching Street Outlaws. 

Maybe I wanted to enjoy the big flat screen I moved to the bedroom when I got the newer, bigger flat screen installed in the living room Christmas Day.

Maybe I just wanted to know if a small-block with twin turbos could beat a big-block with three nitrous kits. Maybe I wanted to know why, if this is actually street racing, why the cops never show up and why the disclaimer in the beginning says the race surfaces are controlled for safety. 

Maybe I just want to know where the money comes from for these cars. 

Big boys and their big toys. I remember going to a tractor pull at the state fair with college friend John Fark one year in the late ’60s. Between runs, he was explaining to me all his neighbor, a nationally ranked puller, went through to be competitive. 

“John, you’re talking about big money!” I reacted. 

I have never forgotten his reaction. He looked at me, amused, and said, “Some people drink, some people go to tractor pulls!” 

Grain farming itself must feel like that some years. We are in the middle of winter, and we are still in the middle of a price slump that we can only hope will go away with the snow in the spring. 

Corn prices continue to bounce along a few cents above the contract lows. Soybeans, which had been a brighter bulb on the grain Christmas tree, have now slipped over the last three weeks to near the contract low. 

Some people drink, some people raise corn and soybeans. 

How discouraging are the prices? Let’s just say that if you call your elevator today, the buyer will answer on the first ring, unless he is taking a walk or washing her hair or something. 

Look at futures

March corn futures made a new contract low on Dec. 19 at $3.46 1/2. We rallied all the way to $3.54 1/2 last week on the 27th, but we are now trading $3.51 again on this Tuesday morning. 

Soybeans, meanwhile, have lost nearly 75 cents in three weeks. We are now trading $9.62 1/2 March futures after seeing $10.27 on Dec. 5. 

The good news is that we are not down to the contract low yet. We were $9.37 1/2 back in the middle of August. 

USDA reports. This time of year our hope for better prices comes with the January USDA reports. On Jan. 12 at noon, our time Uncle Sugar will give us the annual inventory report, which represents the final crop production numbers for corn and soybeans. 

We will also get December 1 Grain Stocks Report, and the report on winter wheat planting acres. At this point it is unknown what those numbers will really be.

The trade is already guessing, because that is all they have to look at fundamentally right now, except for the occasional export report. So far the guesses are off-setting. 

Traders think we will see 55 to 60 million bushels more in the grain stocks, and a slightly higher yield. However, they think the carryout will be decreased by an increase in ethanol production. 

The soybean expectations may be more negative, but may be also already “in the market.” Traders look for USDA to report a bean stocks increase from this time last year, and a slightly higher soybean production number. 

These are both negative, but if they are the reason for the recent decline in price, then the worst may be over. If they are worse than the trade expects, new contract lows are ahead for soybeans. 

Oh, yeah! As predicted, we are now “killing” the wheat crops. The current cold snap is killing the crop in parts of Kansas and Missouri. 

My cynical remark last week that killing the wheat crop is the winter sport of grain analysts is sadly true this week in those states. So, another year and the same old depressing grain news. 


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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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