Across the editor's desk: Mid-February
If you have a feeling you are being stalked, perhaps you are right. This year, your every crop-related decision is of high interest to the world of commodities. If you grow corn or control land that could grow corn, you are a news-making star.
The world's corn cupboard is nearly empty. At the same time, the world's current and projected appetite for corn seems to expand by millions of bushels a day.
Survey after survey predicts a shift to more acres of corn. Both simple-penciled budgets and sophisticated computer models point to the business advantage of growing more corn and less of anything else.
Friday, March 30, will be among the most anticipated days in the history of USDA reports. That's when the most universally respected scoreboard of producer-intended behavior lights up with the Prospective Plantings Report.
It will be exciting to see how the price relationships of corn, soybeans, cotton, and other cropping options line up with the intended acreage numbers. Will corn have purchased, by intent at least, enough acres to calm the fears of a likely supply-deficient situation?
If seemingly short of intended acres, how much higher will corn prices have to go to lure additional acres into production? If the market has overbought acres, how far might prices fall to find a temporary point of balance? Of course, how will market prices for soybeans, cotton, and other option crops react to the scoreboard's numbers?
I invite you to pull up a seat on the 50-yard line of Agriculture Online (www.agriculture.com). On your computer screen, you'll be able to follow the action on March 30. The post-game analysis by market pros and avid followers, particularly all of you who grow corn and soybeans, will keep you informed and entertained through the weekend.
The choices you make on the farm do count on a global scale in the same way your one vote influences an election. So-called swing voters often determine elections. This year, growers who swing acres more toward corn force new decisions and behavior change all over the world.
Here are a few obvious issues that come to mind.
- Inputs. Supplies of additional seed, crop protection products, and fertilizer should not necessarily be a problem. The industry has a reputation for moving things to the right location in a timely manner.
- Machinery. "Much of the new equipment purchased today must be preordered," says Greg Peterson, who writes the "Machinery Pete" column (see page 40). When equipment must be replaced and a new piece can't be acquired in time, then producers turn to the used market.
- Users and consumers. Livestock producers, ethanol plants, and food-industry buyers are cheering like Bears fans at the Super Bowl for you to switch acres to corn. It is in their best interests to have plentiful supplies at prices they can at least manage. They'll entice you with price until they have the acres they need.
What they are finding this spring is more buyers with more money to spend, higher prices, fewer dealers and auctions, and less equipment to buy, Peterson says.