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Is it already seed-buying time?
Last week's USDA crop production & supply reports carried one clear message: Next year's corn crop is going to have to be a big one. So now, even before the first combines start kicking up dust in the Corn Belt, farmers say they're looking at getting at least some of their seed corn purchased.
"My seed dealer called me this morning and said to order plenty of seed and try to commit to the varieties I want without changing," says Agriculture.com Farm Business Talk contributor steeringwheelholder. "Said seed will be in short supply and rationing of popular numbers will be a certainty."
And, the looming cloud of supercharged corn demand isn't the only reason farmers are weighing more early seed buys. The way things have shaped up with this year's crop for Farm Business Talk contributor mvp farm, he's looking to nail down supply of the varieties that could thrive better under more difficult conditions like he's had this year.
"I'm thinking about locking in some seed now, too. Frankly, the pictures of ears that I am seeing is scaring me into it!" he says.
And, it's not just demand-driven. Seed supplies may help tighten the bottleneck. Farm Business Talk senior contributor Pupdaddy says he's gotten word from his seed production manager that the tough growing conditions in spots around the country could trim seed supplies in a big way, meaning later seed-buyers could be left without many variety options.
"With the green snap problems, the floods down around Cairo, Illinois, and generally bad weather in other seed growing areas, there could be shortages on lots of the best varieties," Pupdaddy says of a recent seed dealer meeting he attended. "One of their growers called up and told them to expect only 35% of the production he had planned on having for them. The production manager said there will be more seed grown in South America this year than ever before, but getting it harvested and up here on time is a real nightmare."
But, isolated conditions like those aren't enough to break up the seed pipeline. Though adverse weather has caused some seed-growing areas to lose some production, Pioneer Hi-Bred expects such conditions and plans accordingly.
"Pioneer prepares for lost production every year and the losses we've received this year fall well within the parameters for what the company prepares for," says Pioneer communications director Jerry Harrington. "Our expectation is we'll have enough. We have more than 20 production plants -- we grow corn in a broad area of geographies to make up for challenging growing conditions.
"There will be seed corn available for 2012," he adds.
If you're looking to buy seed early, look for any discounts that can trim your costs. Farm Business Talk senior contributor Nebrfarmr says his dealer ties discounts to the timing of purchases, so the earlier he buys, the more he says he can save.
"My dealer offers a 'booking' discount, for early orders. For example, if I talk to him in September, and confirm that I would like to purchase a certain number of bags of seed, I get another $5 a bag off, and any discounts are locked in until January 15," Nebrfarmr says. "I don't have to know exactly which varieties I will be ordering at the time, although they would like a general idea if possible.
"Usually what happens is the dealer calls me in September, asks if I want the same number of bags booked as last year, and then in November sometimes, he calls back for confirmation, and to get down which varieties I want. I think I then get an extra 1% discount on top of everything else if I order by December 15, otherwise the check is due January 15 to get all the other discounts, and every month after that the price goes up a little," he adds.
If you are looking for a couple specific varieties, that is one circumstance that could warrant early purchase considerations, Harrington adds.
"Over the years, we have pushed the seed buying process up further. I remember in the 1980s, Pioneer used to have Pioneer Days in February, and that's when you'd go in and fill out your order form and that'd be good enough," he says. "Now, we get the overwhelming bulk of our orders done before Christmas. The number of individual hybrids the farmer can choose from has expanded. You want to get your order in early so you get what you want for your fields and the agronomics you need. As the number of varieties grows, the quantity of each gets less. And, the earlier you order, the more pay savings you can get."
Despite the supply and demand issues that some say are likely with the seed corn pipeline the next few months, be sure to stay on top of the situation for the varieties and traits you want on your farm. Depending on those -- and your location -- your desired seed may not be scarce, and you may be able to pick it up in the usual winter timeframe, says Farm Business Talk senior contributor and Indiana farmer Blacksandfarmer.
"The weather for the seed-growing region has been pretty good all summer so the drought we experienced shouldn't have hurt the seed any. Whether you guys believe me or not I really don't care, I'm just telling you that the seed dealer will take full advantage of rumors to try to pressure you into buying maybe earlier than you like. With more corn going in the ground next year, I'm sure your favorite varieties will get picked over quickly. But as far as seed in general being scarce, that is doubtful."