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Roy Smith: Sell new-crop

A big advantage to being a very small farmer is that I can plant my corn crop in three days. I do not even have to work very long days to accomplish that. 

A big disadvantage is that I spend a lot of time doing maintenance and making repairs to my planter. My planter will be in its twentieth season this year. So far, it has not given me any major problems. Nonetheless, being the main piece of machinery in a total no-till operation for that many years means that there is a lot of wear and tear. Things such as grease fittings that no longer take grease and electrical connections that require yearly taping are common place in my operation, even if I only use the planter six days per year.

My target date for planting is April 20. I had thought I would get started a little earlier this year. It seems as if distractions pop up every year that reduce the probability of beating my planned schedule. Sometimes I think I need to shut off my telephone and avoid mail and e-mail for about a month to have any hope of staying ahead of my planned starting date. This year, the main distraction was that I spent more time than normal cutting brush.  Trees around field borders need to be eliminated to keep them away from machinery. This year, the weather was ideal and I ended up spending more time than anticipated. Since my loader tractor is also the planter tractor, I did not get started preparing my planter on time.

I finally got the planter hooked to the tractor this Wednesday. I spent most of that day servicing the tractor. Fortunately, I did not have any flat tires to contend with. Just converting from planting soybeans to planting corn takes several hours. Greasing and oiling all of the moving parts must be done before beginning every season. I took time to check out the monitor, yesterday afternoon, since that can only be done when everything is hooked up and ready to go. Fortunately, everything in that function seems to be in order. I still need to field test it. At least the console is working and all of the parameters set for the final check.

If everything goes as planned, I will be ready to plant by the end of today. Then the only remaining delay will be for the fields to dry out. We have had an inch and a half of rain and it is still raining at mid-morning. We are glad for the moisture and thankful that there is plenty of time to plant. I saw several planters in the field mid-week. At least those farmers had enough time to check out the equipment and do some minor corrections, before hitting it hot and heavy when the weather clears. 

At the same time we are preoccupied with planting, it is a good idea to keep one eye on the markets. The month of April is historically a month of good prices. That is certainly the case this year. It was interesting to watch market action last Friday, following the government report. My take on the report was that nothing much changed. Early predictions were that prices would trade sharply lower. I theorized that prices would rebound and be higher by the close of the day.  In fact, that is what happened.  Locally, cash corn finished nine cents higher. Cash soybeans were up 28 cents. I sold an increment of cash corn for $7.24 during the session. Even though good basis indicated continued demand at that price level, I could not ignore the highest price in history!I have noticed this week that soybean basis improved by five cents per bushel. This makes me think that the down trend in futures might be short-lived.  No doubt the South American crop is putting pressure on the futures market. When the Southern hemisphere harvest is finished, prices could get pretty exciting with few soybeans in farmers hands in this country.  

If forward-pricing new crop grain is in your marketing plan, now is the time to start making sales. If you still have old crop grain in your bins, history indicates making incremental sales in the next two months is usually profitable. Thankfully, we now have cell phones and radios in tractor cabs, so that the grain buyers are never more than a phone call away. Do not let your preoccupation with planting be an excuse for missing some very profitable prices! 

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