Stuck in the spring that wouldn’t end

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flooded field
A flooded field in northwest Ohio. (Farm and Dairy file photo.)

We are told from an early age that, “April showers bring May flowers.”

This is supposed to help us deal with the rainy period that is supposedly good for us, because it results in better things later. Well, the rain that buried us in some areas of northeast Ohio over the weekend does not bring images of delayed gratification.

For those who have never quite gotten to finish planting of corn and soybeans, the rains represent a frustrating mess that presages poor crops and a busy summer trying to catch up hay-making, side-dressing, and post-planting spray regimens.

Wet

How wet is it? The stories are all over. Some farmers are done planting, and are beaming about the hot weather and the regular seed soakings.

Some farmers are frustrated, trying to get the last fields in, and complaining that they just have not had good drying weather. Then, there are those in northeast Trumbull County and part of bordering western Pennsylvania who got flooded Friday night.

Two men coming into our home Bible study Friday night told of rivers of water running through planted fields, and water over the road in Jamestown, Pennsylvania. This came as a result of 5 inches of rain in a couple of hours.

Yet, the worst of the rain was local. Northeast of Kinsman a farmer had just an inch of rain Friday, but 2 inches in a local thunderstorm Saturday.

Most of Ohio made good planting progress, but the state’s farmers slipped a little behind pace after being ahead a little last week.

Corn

Ohio farmers now have 90 percent of the corn planted, but 93 percent is the five-year average. They gained 8 percent in the week.

The U.S. at the same time is now 97 percent planted, 2 percent ahead of the average. They only gained 5 percent for the week, however.

Soybeans

The soybean statistics are similar. Last week we had 67 percent planted in Ohio, which was eight points ahead of normal.

By this week, we were only 1 percent ahead of normal, at 81 percent planted. So, we planted 14 percent of the crop in the week, but are now just a percent ahead of the 80 percent, five-year average.

Crop Condition reporting from USDA is now being watched carefully. This week the corn is rated at 61 percent good and 17 percent excellent for a total of 78 percent.

This is a slip of 1 percent from last week, but is still 10 points above the ratings from last year at this time. I am not sure what the difference is between “good” and “excellent.”

On the one hand, the corn that has emerged is looking wonderful, with perfect stands and moist seedbeds. On the other hand, corn in our best years got planted three weeks earlier, and some fields were knee-high by now.

The soybeans have had condition reported for the first time this year in this most-recent report — 75 percent is reported as good and excellent.

The bean condition locally would be ahead of normal in many cases, although in recent years the beans, too, are planted earlier.

Grain

The planting pace and the current world politics have led to a break in grain prices that were at the contract highs last week.

Corn had made new highs, especially in the new crop, and the soybeans were back to the highs. That ended fairly quickly.

July corn futures had a contract high at 4.121⁄4 May 24. This Tuesday morning we are trading 3.823⁄4 after a Monday low of 3.801⁄2. December futures had a contract high of 4.291⁄2 May 24, but a low of 4.01 on Monday.

We are now trading 4.031⁄4.

Chinese

Blame the break in corn prices on the weather, and on fickle specs who reversed some positions. The soybean break was similar, but that can be blamed on Uncle Sam’s struggles in trade talks with the Chinese.

An interesting note in my CHS Hedging letter yesterday afternoon was that Chinese ports are backed up with ships to unload soybeans — 7.26 mmt. are waiting to unload, and they are mostly from Brazil, not us.

November soybean futures are trading at 10.301⁄4 Tuesday morning, but were as low as 10.19 Monday. This, after a high of 10.601⁄2 May 29.

Add to the Chinese politics the same great growing conditions we had for corn, and you get a market on the edge.

Meanwhile, the wheat market has shrugged off the worries of dry weather as the Northern Plains got rain, and the harvest reports for farther south are of “decent” yields, whatever that is.

It is better than expected, is the real market factor. July wheat futures are back to near $5 after being over $5.50 May 29.

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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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