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Across the Editor's Desk: September 2008

Agriculture.com Staff 09/11/2008 @ 8:33am

Mark Twain once said, "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes."

If Twain were alive today, he'd be saying the same about grain prices. As I write this on August 12, corn opened lower as expected on the CBOT based on the unfriendly numbers in the USDA August crop production report.

Then, like a pendulum, prices swung higher, closing up nearly 12 cents for September futures. The day's trading range was 27 cents.

Did the corn market put in a summer seasonal price low today? I refuse to speculate. The way the markets can rapidly change directions, I could get caught looking out of touch like Governor Rick Perry of Texas did in the Wall Street Journal on August 12.

In an opinion piece titled, "Texas is fed up with corn ethanol," he wrote, "Corn prices were once driven by market forces. Today they are artificially driven up by a government mandate. In 2004, before the mandates were imposed, the cost of corn hovered around $2 per bushel. Now it is close to $8 per bushel."

Sorry, Governor, but my local co-op bid this morning was $4.37 as I read his opinion piece. I know the governor is a smart man, informed about agriculture. But he strongly supports his huge Texas cattle industry over corn growers. I'm guessing this is what happened: He wrote his piece several weeks or a month earlier, and the WSJ didn't run it until August 12. He was trapped using corn prices that fell like a waterfall (nearly $3 a bushel) from late June into early August. Of course, by the time you read this in September, corn might be $8 again!

While commodity prices can change quickly and accelerate rapidly, some things rarely change. So when they do, it is news. Here's an example is this issue.

Even better and bigger, we are increasing the amounts we pay for your ideas. Starting with this issue, Successful Farming magazine is partnering with Firestone Farm Tires to award $2,500 of Firestone in-store credit for the AATF Idea of the Month.

I've always been curious about the people who create and build such useful ideas. So you'll be meeting the folks behind the welding helmet shells. Roger Johnson of Chandler, Minnesota, is this month's winner. We also pay $200 for ideas that appear with drawings and $100 for unillustrated ideas. We look forward to hearing from you.

I have one more change to report, but with mixed feelings. Managing Editor Gene Johnston retires August 31 after more than 32 years at Successful Farming magazine. His impact on every page is immeasurable. A relentless advocate for the needs of readers, he demands that stories always be packed with information you can use.

While Gene will be missed on staff each day, there is good news. He will continue as contributing editor of the expanding Beef Insider section. If you raise beef and don't receive Beef Insider in six issues a year, send me an e-mail message. Gene has some good ideas for you.

Mark Twain once said, "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes."

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