Grain harvest winds down to early finish

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unloading corn into semi

Although it is only the start of November, this strange and accelerated crop year is winding down to a close. Harvest is almost over, and traders are anticipating crop size numbers from USDA that will be considered to be close to reality. The final numbers for crop production come in the January report, but this should be close.

USDA will release new numbers next week, on Nov. 10. In anticipation, we are seeing one private report at 13.543 billion bushels for the corn crop, and 3.917 billion bushels for the soybeans. These are the numbers being traded for another week. Informa will release its report soon after this is written on this Tuesday morning, so by the time the reader sees this we may have another good estimate.

Monday’s Crop Progress Report from USDA confirms how close to finished the nation is with this harvest. Locally there are a few fields left to go, but each is a surprise. You drive by and wonder why a field is still standing, even though it is so early.

The traditions of my youth have been shattered this year. It was normal to eat the Thanksgiving meal, then gird up with the Carhartts to go out and pick a few more acres of corn before dark, or after. (My mother said the curse of the farmers was when some fool invented lights for the tractors. I remember one year I had 14 flood lights on, and I had to get a larger alternator to keep them all going.)

USDA says that the country’s corn crop is now 85 percent harvested; 79 percent is the five-year average. Last year at this time we were at only 62 percent. Last week we were at 75 percent.

Ohio is ahead of that, with 88 percent off, even though 59 percent is the average. That is why if feels like we are early — we are! Last year we only had 50 percent off at this time, and last week we were at 76 percent.

The soybeans are at a similar stage, although finishing there is a function of gathering in some planted after wheat. The nation is at 92 percent, above the normal 88. Last year we were at 83 percent, and last week we had 87 percent done.

Ohio is at 96 percent harvested, with 79 the average. Last year we were at 69 percent at this time, and last week we were 93 percent complete. The last few percent drag on because, as so many people get done, there are relatively few still accounting for the catch up in numbers. Frequently Northeast Ohio is responsible for some of these lagging bushels, but not so much this year.

Looking abroad

In foreign news, we see where USDA is saying the Ukrainian wheat crop could be at a 25-year high. Their corn crop, however, may be off 20 percent.

The Brazilian bean crop is slow to be planted. The good news is that they are getting good rain. The bad news is that locally this is holding up planting. They are at 31 percent, but normally have 42 percent in by now. Remember, they plant over a long period of time because they plant over such a large range of latitude, unlike the farmers in the U.S. Here we plant most the crop in the same five or 10 degrees of latitude.

The Chinese have supposedly had a poor corn crop. That would be seen to help our exports at some point, but they started stockpiling earlier than usual. Besides, it is dangerous to predict their imports, as they may make a political decision instead of a purely economic one.

One social change in China has been noted this week. It seems they are now allowing a couple to have two children. After decades of population suppression, the government is becoming concerned about the aging population not having enough kids to keep the economy going. There has also been the problem not talked about in some circles, that of the widespread abortion of female babies. This has created the problem that there are not enough females for wives, so that acerbates the demographic problem.

Futures market

Prices have been mostly steady this week, near the high end of recent cycles. December corn futures are trading this Tuesday morning at 3.78 3/4, up two and a half cents. The recent low was 3.72 on the 20th. The recent high was 3.79 3/4 Oct. 7.

The recent January soybean low was on September 11th at 8.57. Since then each low has mostly been a little higher. We had 8.62 1/4 on the 24th of September, 8.76 1/2 on the 9th, and 8.75 1/2 on the 29th. The recent high was at 9.23 1/2.

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