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Huge strides or baby steps

Jeff Caldwell Updated: 05/09/2011 @ 8:32pm Agricultural content creator and marketer.

It was an awfully big week last week for a lot of corn farmers...in some parts of the country.

Farmers in states like Iowa and Nebraska made enormous planting strides in the last week, while those in other states in the eastern Corn Belt remained stalled out because of wet, cool weather.

The discrepancies in planting progress among Corn Belt states are enormous; In Iowa, farmers planted 61% of that state's corn crop last week, going from 8% to 69% in the last week, according to Monday's USDA-NASS Crop Progress report. Similar strides were made in Nebraska, where farmers have 57% of the crop in the ground, up from 15% last week.

"Been planting for a few days now in east-central Iowa -- we are 50% done," says Agriculture.com Marketing Talk member tree fmr. "Even had a tree planting party and planted 5 acres of trees! A lot of corn went in the ground over the weekend!"

But, soybean planting's a different story so far. As of Sunday, the nation's farmers have 7% of that crop planted, down from the normal pace of 17%. Though it hasn't happened yet, that slow pace could raise concerns down the road, says Bryan Doherty, Stewart-Peterson market analyst and Agriculture.com contributor.

"They're not major concerns yet -- I think weather after mid-May plays a greater role. For now however attention may begin to focus on a potential increase for soybean acres if corn planting stays behind in areas of the Midwest," he says.

But, you don't have to move too far east to see the progress isn't that widespread: Though Illinois farmers went from 10% to 34% planted over the last week, progress was almost non-existent in Indiana and Ohio, where only 4% and 2% of the crop is in the ground respectively, both doubling the previous week's totals.

"I just went tromping in the mud to check our field conditions and had to leave the shoes at the door," says Ohio farmer and Marketing Talk member SouthWestOhio. "My guess is it will take three more days to get on my driest field but 50% chance tomorrow and more Friday makes this week a wash."

How will the trade react? Rich Feltes, RJ O'Brien, vice-president of research, says Monday's Crop Progress Report is bearish for the grain and soybean markets. "The report shows more corn planted than expected and the soybean pace slow as expected. It's a tad bearish for overnight trade, although the larger issue of recovering commodity prices, Monday, will temper selling pressure."

Adds Price Futures Group market analyst in Chicago, Jack Scoville: "Corn planting is what sticks out the most. I don't think anyone had figured 40% planted. It should be a negative for prices tonight, but maybe only for a day or two if the rains come back as forecast. Wheat condition slides more, that will support although the market was pretty strong today and might just tread water for a day or two to consolidate."  

So, looking ahead, how will Mother Nature respond to the week of hit-and-miss planting progress? Many farmers who have been on hold in places like the eastern Corn Belt could see better conditions by mid-week, only to have them washed away with more rain moving into the Midwest, with totals between 1/2 inch to 2 inches throughout the region Wednesday through Friday, says Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., ag meteorologist Craig Solberg.

"For the Corn Belt, look for most of the rain through early Wednesday to be over northern and eastern parts of the region, mainly Minnesota, northeastern Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, northern Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Widespread rains will then cover the region for later Wednesday through the end of the work- week," Solberg said Monday. "Most of the Corn Belt will see over a half inch of rain this week and localized rains will exceed two inches. That is not good news for areas that still have not recovered from all of the wet weather of late April and early this month, but is good news in the west where I am hearing complaints of newly-seeded corn sitting in dry dirt."


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