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Crunch time for planters-Ray Grabanski

It's been a long spring for producers in the HRS wheat belt and the eastern Corn Belt to this date, with planting progress lagging terribly vs. normal at this late time of year.  It is becoming absolutely critical for planters to get things done in the next two weeks, as the opportunity to grow a crop this year is quickly closing its window in early June. 

Thus far, the eastern Corn Belt (IND, OH, and PA) and northern Plains have gotten little done, with corn planting well behind normal and soybean planting just miniscule.  Essentially, 50-70% of the total land still remains to be planted, and the pressure is on for planters to get the crop planted now - crunch time for planters in the eastern Corn Belt and northern Plains!  

And the weather forecast couldn't be more different for these two areas, with the eastern Corn Belt dry the past 5-7 days and forecast to remain dry for the coming week, essentially opening a wide window of planting opportunity that will likely result in as much crop planted this week as has been done the past six weeks!  The point of desperation has passed, and it's now total panic on the part of farmers to utilize the land they make their livelihood from. This should result in a drastic improvement in crop prospects in the eastern Corn Belt, with essentially a crop-saving weather pattern in June that might just revive farmers income possibilities in 2011.

The picture couldn't be more different in the Northern Plains, where farmers were just soaked over the weekend by 1-3" general rains that essentially will lock them out of fields for much of this week.  And the forecast there couldn't be more different, with annoying light rains forecast every few days that will continue to hamper planting progress in what has become the "spring from hell"!  It's likely that while the eastern Corn Belt will get much or even all of the crop planted this June, the Northern Plains might make little progress the next two weeks.  That could mean the end of a what was a promising season - even before the growing season really gets started!

This has far reaching implications for the crops, as it's HRS wheat that is likely to lose significant acreage in 2011, while corn and soybean acreage may be salvaged here at the end of the planting season.  We may just see us reach close to the USDA projected numbers yet by the time mid-June arrives, in contrast to recent private estimates that look for much smaller acreage (that has supported the corn/soybean market this week).  

That would have far-reaching implications for world grain prices, with most traders selling wheat futures this week on news that the FSU (Russia and Ukraine mostly) has removed the ban on exports of wheat from those important exporting countries. While that is relatively old news (the drought from 2010 basically ended last fall there), the confirmation of those changes has pressured wheat prices this week.  

But this is old news, and the futures market might return to the new news this week, and that is of the continued delays in HRS wheat planting in the northern Plains.  It's likely that prevent plant will be the second largest cash-crop in ND this year, and it will likely come mostly at the expense of HRS wheat acreage (which is well behind normal vs. corn planting that is now approaching normal status in ND).  Look for the most surprising prevent plant in central and western ND, where typically they are concerned about droughts, not excess moisture.  That is the most surprising thing about 2011, with prevent planting likely spreading into typically dry MT.  

So, while HRS wheat concerns may be heightened this week, corn and soybean 

concerns will be largely abated by this week's planting progress.  But again, we may not see that market reaction until next week, when that will be confirmed by the crop progress reports.  


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