What will the next grain report tell us?

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harvest
Locally, we have seen some beans come off, although any early fields bordered by woods or compacted headlands still have areas of green beans. The early corn is drying off, with brown streaks clear to the top of plants.

The great weather pattern that had an early harvest started in Ohio came to a wet halt Sept. 28. The deluge did not reach as far as my house, but we had steady rain for several hours.

Locally, we have seen some beans come off, although any early fields bordered by woods or compacted headlands still have areas of green beans. Later beans still have half their leaves, and the latest are dead green. We have a little of everything. The early corn is drying off, with brown streaks clear to the top of plants.

Things change

I reminded a younger farmer a couple of days ago that when I was growing up, later planted, slower-drying corn was usually still green when the first frost hit. Dad would stick his head out the door, check the extent of the frost, and proclaim, “Well, the corn got ripe last night!”

Ditto for the beans we grew later.

Genetics, shallow tillage, and 40-foot tillage equipment has changed all that. We learned to plant corn and beans in April, when it was dry enough. We learned that harvest sometimes comes in the end of September, not the first week of November. We no longer pick corn after the Thanksgiving lunch, at least, we hope not to. Actually, we no longer pick corn!

The weather forecast would indicate that harvest will fire back up in a couple of days. I worry that, in the change to October, we will suffer through long wet spells, with cooler temperatures and slower drying, but that is just the farmer in me.

Disappointing

Pappy said, “Nothing is ever any worse than a farmer says it is.”

That may be why, as I listened to farmers across the Midwest on the phone this week, I was struck that they were all reporting smaller soybean yields than expected, and early corn yields in some areas were disappointing.

Of course, disappointing to a modern farmer is anything not exceeding the five-year average (APH). The easy reason given for the 40 cents we lost off bean prices last week was the price pressure of full soybean harvest. Prices were $1.31 off the low, and farmers were willing sellers as they took crop to town.

Corn prices also retreated, with significant harvest in some areas of the country. These dips came even as exports and export sales of corn and soybeans continue at a fast pace. Not all of this is going to China, although they are still leading the pack.

Ethanol slow

Also hurting corn prices is the fact that ethanol grind remains slow. Most closed plants are now open, but they are not working for full production, since Americans are still not driving as much as they were. We bounced back a couple of months ago, and see more cars on the road, but count heads in your local restaurant, and you know that Americans are used to staying home, and are still spooked by the COVID into limited socialization.

Cut the driven miles, and you cut the use of gasoline. Cut gasoline usage, and you cut the demand for ethanol. Cut the ethanol demand, and you cut the demand for corn. Cut the corn demand, and you slash the price.

Ohio’s corn harvest is only at 4%, as of Sept. 27. This is up from 1%, but off the normal, which is 8%. The U.S. is up to normal with 15% against the average 16%. Ohio’s soybean harvest is actually 1% ahead of average, at 13%. The nation as a whole is at 20%, well ahead of the normal 15%.

On Sept. 30, before this is read by most of you, we will get the grain stocks report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This reports the amount of grains left over after the end of the marketing year, which ended Aug. 31.

Some expect a surprise in this report, as this is another chance to adjust the USDA balance sheet for the production of last year, which many think was overestimated. It may also reflect fourth quarter movement of farmer grain that was low in quality and would have been consumed in greater quantity because of low test weight.

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