Ohio, Pa. farmers push to finish harvest

But no one is hungry enough to push grain market prices higher

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combining beans
Farm and Dairy file photo

Don’t look now, but the soybean harvest is over. It must be. Uncle Sugar says so.

Notable in the Nov. 27 USDA Crop Progress Report (link opens .pdf) is the omission of any numbers reporting the harvest progress for soybeans. Officially, we don’t need any numbers, since the harvest is done.

This may come as a shock to those Ohio farmers in northern Ashtabula County and elsewhere who are still trying to scrape the last of the beans off the fields that never got harvested. The beans still had leaves on them when the weather was dry. Or, they just had too many acres. Or, drizzle or worse every third day has kept them too wet. We have seen both extremes this year.

Early, we saw beans that were 10 percent moisture. Lately, we have seen the ones that were 17 or 18 percent.

Ohio vs. US

USDA says the corn harvest is nearly done, but not in Ohio. The nation is reported at 95 percent harvested, up from 90 percent last week, but behind the average and behind last year’s pace, which both were at 98 percent. The Ohio crop, meanwhile, is just at 87 percent done, up from 79 percent, but well off the 98 percent pace of last year, or the average of 96.

As this is being written, the push is on to finish all this. We are in the second of a predicted three-day window of dry weather, and farmers are racing to get the last of the crop to town.

I say, “to town,” because the bins are full and sales to elevators and processors have picked up as farmers look for space. The 6- to 10-day forecast is looking for higher than normal temperatures and low chances of precipitation, helping the harvest. Today, Tuesday, we are supposed to be in the 60s!

The low price is discouraging corn sales, but space dictates that something be done. That could be why our leading ethanol producer bought 100,000 bushels of corn Monday. The basis has improved, and the space has disappeared.

Bean market

Soybeans continue the erratic, but mostly sideways, pricing pattern of the last couple of months. Monday soybeans were up nearly 3 cents. Tuesday, in early trading as this is written, prices are down nearly a nickel. January soybean futures are at 9.91 1/4 after a Monday excursion to just over 10.01.

This is a little more than in the middle of the recent range. We were as high as 10.13 on Oct. 13, which has a certain poetry. We dipped to 9.67 on Nov. 14.

South America

Bean prices are looking for a final production number, which we won’t actually see until January. Our markets from now until the spring will be predicated on expectations of the South American crop. Every market letter now mentions weather there.

For example, the first half of December in Argentina is expected to be dry, hurting late-planted corn. The planting is slower than usual right now. Brazil, however, is seeing good rain, and a planting progress slightly ahead of the 79 percent average, at 84 percent.

Draw your own conclusions from this. They do not really offset, since the bean crop is much bigger in Brazil.

The point is, however, that weather there will dominate prices for a time, mostly because there is nothing else to talk about that really matters.

Exports matter a little, and we should worry that the soybean exports this week came in at the low end of the trade guess. We moved out 1.578 mmt, against an estimate of 1.5 to 1.8.

Nothing pushing corn

While bean prices are sideways above the middle of the range, the corn prices are sideways at the low.

This morning we are trading December corn futures at 3.37, just three ticks above the 3.36 1/4 contract low of Nov. 16. Nothing seems to get us to rally away from this more than a few cents, and the higher-than-expected yields are not helping.

We are seeing two huge crops in a row, and the market does not care if farmers sell or not. No one is hungry enough to push prices higher right now.

Wheat

Wheat markets are focusing on Crop Condition Reports from USDA as we go into winter. Later, we will talk about winter kill and try to talk up damage to the crop, since we do it nearly every year and the traders have come to expect it.

For now, we see a winter wheat condition that is slightly lower than expected. The nation came in Monday at 50 percent of the crop rated good or excellent. Last week it was 50, and I don’t know what caused the change.

In Ohio, the wheat producers are all smiles, although they did not plant a lot of acres around here. Ohio’s crop is rated 88 percent good and excellent.

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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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