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The latest from the Marketing Talk Meeting

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If the tone of the room at Wednesday's Marketing Talk Meeting is any indication, how this year's corn crop ends up is anybody's guess.

That's the main theme as farmers shared views of their fields from around the Midwest. Though conditions range widely, there is one constant: Extremes.

"I've been in Kansas for 60 years, and I have never seen conditions this good," says John Hyde from north-central Kansas.

"It's the best crop we've seen in a long time," says Frank Lechtenberg of the crop conditions in his area of eastern Nebraska.

But, for each bullish crop yield outlook, there's one on the opposite end of the spectrum. Extreme weather conditions earlier in the year -- namely flooding in parts of Iowa and Nebraska -- have yield guesses much further down on the scale.

"We were late with weed control because of the flooding, and when I see fields [with yellow spots where floodwater stood over corn plants in June], I wonder if the high, green spots will make up for the low spots."

Just like conditions, yield estimates run the gamut: Kim Hall, affiliated agent with Progressive Ag Risk Management Specialists in Washington, Iowa, says he's pegging corn yields around 158 bushels per acre, for the national average. Others say that's on the high side.

"I think the government's five percent too high on both corn and beans," says Scott Shellady of Shellady Commodities, an options trading firm in Chicago. "147 to 149 bushels [per acre] on corn is my guess.

"My father's got 1,000 acres right around Dubuque, and I went up there around June 19, and things did not look good. When I got back to the Board of Trade, I tried to buy everything I could see. Everything looked better in July, and I couldn't wait to get back to the Board of Trade and sell everything I'd bought!" Shellady adds.

Nailing down what the crop will yield is just too tough a task at this point in the year, says John Pfaffinger, a farmer from south-central Minnesota. "It's a tough year to estimate because of so much up and down," he says. "Even on your own farm, it's hard to guess within a couple bushels. On a national scale, there have just been so many ups and downs."

So, what will these numbers -- and the corresponding price points they will create on the CBOT trading floor this fall and into this winter -- mean to next year's plantings? While some farmers in the room at Wednesday's meeting say it's too early to tell whether it's time to consider large-scale acreage shifts just yet, the direction in input costs goes a long ways to convince other farmers otherwise.

"My area's not a big corn growing area, but I've talked to some of the best corn growers in my area who say they're going to plant on their best ground and that's it," says Don Larkin, who farms near Chillicothe in north-central Missouri. "There's just too much risk involved."

It seems like throughout the season, if you look at '09 corn and beans now to make decisions with anhydrous this fall, then look at them when buying seed this winter, then make a last-minute decision before planting in the spring, it seems like at different timeframes, the right decision -- or the decision that you would make on paper -- will change," Pfaffinger adds. "Or, you'll make what you think's the best decision, then later in the summer, when everybody planted too many corn or too much beans, you should have done the opposite. It's awfully hard to guess it.

"Sometimes the best thing to do is just do all the paperwork than do the opposite."

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