First blast of winter is a hard reminder

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Corn snow
A harvested corn field, with snow.

 A large winter storm has ended the harvest across the country for now. A little cleanup remains when the weather improves or when colder temperatures provide that wonder of winter entertainment: combining on frozen ground.

This was even more entertaining back when we did it from open tractors. Long-live Carhartts and heat housers! This is a morning to sit and wonder how we wasted the summer and fall, and what we have to do right now to prepare for winter.

Things to do

I still have some shrubs that didn’t get transplanted, and the decorative tree-surround bench is still hanging from the tree branch where I painted it in August.

I will worry about lining up the snow plow guy later (call me if you read this)!

Number one son, Josh, talked me into my first IDPA pistol match north of Marysville Saturday. We got our first real taste of winter standing outside for five hours while it decided whether to rain or snow.

It would have looked like a farmer group except that the Carhartt coats didn’t have a season’s worth of grease on them, and much of the group had decided on Columbia or some high-tech thin black layers that started with Under Armour. (Any of these companies can check with the number below for the sizes I use and the address to send your complimentary clothing.)

The markets

The most noticeable market features of this new, almost-winter, are the large spec positions we are seeing. The Friday Commitment of Traders Report from CFTC showed the funds net short 85,000 corn contracts.

The previous report showed net short 19,000. This is the mood you farmers have to overcome to have higher prices.

The same report, however, showed the funds net long 86,000 contracts, down from a net long 116,000. So, the funds have a nearly perfect corn/bean spread working!

Do they know something we don’t?

Meanwhile the wheat specs have increased their net short from 136,000 to 154,000 contracts. The wheat market is interesting, to say the least. We have struggled with low prices because of great yields and good planted acres.

Meanwhile, farmers did not plant much wheat. The early acreage estimate is for 47 million acres. That would be the lowest since, get this, the early 1900s.

We are still in a long adjustment from wheat being the cash crop for farmers to soybeans being the cash crop. Locally, I remember when we planted almost no soybeans, but had big wheat acres.

Affecting the market

This trend to soybeans has continued for 50 years. The problem with the specs is that they disproportionately affect the market, but they are fickle. A day will come when the marching orders hit the market to liquidate positions, and it will happen overnight.

Looking at prices, the December wheat futures are currently, on this Nov. 21 morning, trading at $4.09, up a penny. There is good support around $3.90, since we have had cycle lows of $3.863⁄4, $3.90, and $3.921⁄2 in that order.

The recent high was at $4.201⁄4 on Nov. 14. December corn futures are trading this morning at $3.463⁄4, up over a penny. We had a low of $3.143⁄4 the last day of August, then a low of $3.25 the last day of September.

The middle of October we got down to $3.261⁄2, and the 24th we touched $3.461⁄4. The January soybean contract is currently trading $10.041⁄4. The spec longs are helping it to a gain currently of over a dime.

We have had consistent lows around $9.40 since the first of September. The recent high was $10.31 on Oct. 27.

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