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U.S. farmers look for premium for remaining 2021 corn, soybeans

By Mark Weinraub

CHICAGO, July 1 (Reuters) - U.S. grain dealers will have to boost prices to pry farmers' corn and soybeans from their storage bins as growers are already flush with cash and can afford to wait and see if the market rallies further.

"I assume we are going to have to bid up throughout the summer," a grain dealer in Ohio said. "Farmers are keeping their supplies pretty close to their chest."

Prices for corn and soybeans ratcheted up near record highs this spring as Russia's invasion of Ukraine disrupted global shipping flows and tightened up supplies available on the export market.

Farmers demanding higher bids from grain dealers could contribute to rising prices at the grocery store as costs are passed down the supply chain at a time shoppers already face the highest inflation rate in decades.

David Weaver, a 52-year-old farmer in Rippey, Iowa, still has about 10% of his soybean crop left to sell and plans to wait until mid-July before booking deals.

"I pay my bills first," said Weaver, who grows corn and soybeans in the central portion of the state. "These are gambling bushels."

For farmers, the key is basis - or the difference between a crop's price in the futures market versus what cash buyers will pay for it now. A Reuters analysis of grain basis data shows buyers are offering farmers vastly higher bids than in recent years.

The spot cash basis for corn at 14 key grain elevators, processors, ethanol plants and river terminals around the U.S. Midwest averaged 28 cents a bushel over Chicago Board of Trade futures in mid-June. That compares with an average of 1.8 cents over CBOT futures during the previous four years.

Cash bid for soybeans at 13 Midwest locations averaged 55.5 cents a bushel over CBOT futures compared with the four-year average of 2.3 cents under CBOT futures.

With temperatures expected to rise in the next few weeks, Weaver wants to see if a weather scare could push prices higher, before he sells his last bushels to help pay for fuel and fertilizer for next year.

While up from a year ago, U.S. crop supplies in storage are still much lower than before the pandemic started in 2020, when demand peaked as countries locked in food supplies. With uncertain harvests and the war continuing, global crop prices could remain high for years.

But the U.S. Agriculture Department on Thursday said that U.S. farmers still had 14% of the corn crop and 7.5% of the soybean crop from 2021 in their storage bins, putting them in a strong negotiating position.

"There is 22% more corn in on-farm storage than last year. There's 51% more soybeans in on-farm storage," said Karl Setzer, commodity risk analyst for AgriVisor. "I think you are going to see strong basis levels and strong cash."

(Additional reporting by Karl Plume Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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