Happy days

Agriculture.com Staff 10/31/2008 @ 8:28am

Earlier this week, I was reminded why I am glad I still farm. But, also why I am glad I do not farm full time any more.

My retirement farming consists of planting and scouting the 220 acres of crops that I grow on land Sharon and I own. I hire the spraying and fertilizer application. At harvest I drive a truck for a neighbor in return for his harvesting my grain. I am still responsible for either storing or delivering the grain from the land I farm.

I take soybeans directly to the elevator because I don't produce enough to fill a bin. Besides, I hate cleaning out the soybean bin when it is time to be emptied. I still store corn in the bins on my farm. That is where the problems arose when the corn combine came to my place.

To begin with, the 40 year old tractor that I drive the auger with has been leaking antifreeze into the oil for some time. This year, when I used it on the auger, the problem got noticeably worse. To avoid ruining the engine completely, I decided to put an even older tractor, 1953 vintage, on the task. The tractor worked fine, but the following day, I changed two discharge auger bearings, unplugged the auger which had sheared a pin, dealt with a malfunctioning ammeter on the transfer system and discovered a worn out belt on the Stirway. I was glad harvest at my farm lasted only two days! My muscles were so sore and my hands hurt so badly from all the repairs I could hardly sleep that night.

On the bright side, the yields were better than I expected. Soybean yields were 18 percent over the ten year average and corn yields were 11 percent over the long term average. For a year, with numerous planting delays and almost six weeks on July and August with no rain, I am really happy with the outcome.

Another bright factor this week is that prices are finally starting to rebound from the wash out since last summer. The forward contracts on soybeans and put options on corn from several months back look really good in light of the excellent yields. For a while I feared that the proverbial "Dead Cat Bounce" might be a victim of the stock market crash. It is too early to tell, but the attitude of traders seems to be improving this week. That in turn has been a factor in the soybean futures market rallying 82 cents. In addition the basis here in eastern Nebraska improved 70 cents compared to March futures. The cash bid increased $1.11 from October 15 until Wednesday of this week.

I am not saying that the rally is over. I do not think that is the case. I am saying that it has met more than the minimum criteria and that any more price improvement is a gift. I do not know where or when the top will come. I do know that a bounce at this time of year usually does not go straight up or straight down. A couple of days pull back would not hurt the positive outlook.

The basis has slipped a few cents in the past week. This could be caused by the rush of soybeans coming to town as harvest is finished. In some previous years it has been a sign that the rally was coming to an end. This is a time when good judgment is critical to success. With cash soybeans close to $9.00, this is no time to be greedy.

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