Be thankful if your harvest is complete

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Soybeans
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

The reality of November in northeast Ohio is that we tend to get drizzly or heavy rain one day out of three. Lately, it has been two out of three.

The fantastic early soybean harvest has given in to the reality of a lot of corn and even some beans out in the field for Thanksgiving.

I remember some of the traditions of farming from my youth. Rural non-farm people went hunting on Thanksgiving morning and the opening of deer season the Monday after the holiday. Most farm families ate the big holiday meal at noon, then put the Carhartts back on and picked corn in the afternoon.

I remember one Thanksgiving only when we were done with harvest. Some of the others we stayed in and loafed because there was too much snow on the ground, but mostly we worked.

Yuck! With modern limited till practices, tough seed varieties, and big equipment, the holiday is more and more a celebration of the harvest being in the bin. Not so for many farmers in the north, especially this year.

Still in field

There are beans that were not ready when the weather was good. Now it rains just enough to keep them wet, so the good days are spent with the corn head on the combine. A good portion of the corn crop is still out.

The good news is that the yields are better than expected, and in many cases are the best ever. Part of the reason corn is standing is that there was too much to dry to keep harvesting.

In other cases, the weather has not cooperated. Until recently, delays were temporary. That has changed in the last few days.

Here in Southern Ashtabula County, we must have had a good four inches of rain in the last couple of days. I have not checked my rain gauge, but it is surely running over.

Or, it might be broken again. I always intend to turn it over so it doesn’t freeze, but I never get it done in time.

We had several inches of snow this morning, so it might be too late for the rain gauge again. You can teach an old dog new tricks, but it hasn’t happened with the rain gauge.

Corn prices

While the harvest has been progressing, corn prices have bounced along on the contract low until finally this week we slipped through support and made a new low again.

Now we have seen $3.361⁄2 December futures, and the harvest is far enough along that I hope that is the end of it. The futures market has been pressured by the normal commercial hedging of farmer sales.

We have also seen spec funds short the markets at the same time, which is even worse. The specs were reported to be short 264,300 contracts last week. The high of $4.171⁄4 on July 11 seems a long time ago

We quickly slid to a low of $3.441⁄4 the last day of August, then bounced along just above that until recently. I have told my customers that this is a perfect year for minimum price.

The board is cheap, and it has been cheap long enough to make options inexpensive. I am not bullish corn, but we are due for the dead-cat bounce.

You know, they say even a dead cat can bounce a little. A bounce out of harvest and into January would be normal, so let’s plunk down a little option money and shoot the moon.

We were up sharply Friday. Soybeans remain a different sort of market. There we have a “tweener” market. The price bounced up over 80 cents starting in August, then came back down half of that.

Decent prices

Now we had a wild day Friday and are thinking about decent prices again. Decent, as long as you didn’t get too used to “beans in the teens!”

January beans made a low at $9.291⁄4 near the end of August, but bounced to $10.13 on Oct. 13. (There is a beauty to those numbers being the same.) Three weeks later we were back down to $9.67.

This Monday morning, Nov. 20, we are trading at $9.85, but that is down five-and-a-half cents. Friday was the bid day, with an 18 and-a-half-cent gain after a high of $9.92. The official harvest numbers will not be released by USDA until this afternoon, but traders assume the nation is 92 percent harvested for corn, a few percent behind our average.

Ohio lags that another few percent. The soybean harvest is virtually done, at 96 percent.

Normally we would be 99 percent, with the last left for the snow.

This is a short trading week. Wednesday, the Chicago Board of Trade will have normal hours, but Thursday it will be closed. Friday it will close early, at 1 p.m. EST, instead of 3:15 p.m.

Most traders will take a four-day holiday, so Friday might not mean much.

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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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