Winter Roars In As Grain Market Bulls Find Signs of Life

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    A one-day temperature change of 40 or 50 degrees is fairly rare, but it was common around the nation's center this week as a "polar vortex" roared south and enveloped the U.S., bringing subzero temperatures and snowfall to the Corn Belt and leaving some farmers with another hurdle between them and wrapping up the 2014 corn and soybean harvest. See what else is big this week.

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    Farmers continue to chip away at this fall's corn and soybean harvest despite the likely slowdown brought on by this week's bone-chilling weather shift. Monday's USDA Crop Progress report shows there's about 20% of the corn crop left to harvest and about 10% of the soybean crop remaining in the field.

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    That "polar vortex" isn't just delaying corn and soybean harvest; wheat farmers from the Dakotas all the way to Texas are seeing temperatures well below normal this week -- a trend expected to continue for next week or so -- and it's fueling some fears that the newly planted winter wheat crop may have suffered winterkill in some areas.

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    Despite the turn in the weather, USDA said this week in its monthly Crop Production report that this year's crops still could wind up as the "highest yields on record." Though corn production was pegged slightly lower, soybean prospects surged, yielding a largely "neutral" reaction from the market.

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    "If current production and consumption forecasts actually verify, the big story this year will be that extremely large corn and soybean crops resulted in less than burdensome year-ending stocks," one economist said after the reports this week.

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    Has the weather closed the door on your potential fall nitrogen applications? If not, here are a few tpis to help more efficiently manage your fall N applications, which can translate into a better bottom line on your farm.

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    While temps are cooling off sharply in the U.S., moisture is the greatest concern in South America, where forecasters say if conditions continue to dry down, the soybean crop there could incur some damage. And, the U.S. market is watching closely.

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    On the farm business front, there's a lot of news this week. The first is the likely sharp turn lower for crop insurance guarantees based on what's expected to be a mostly lower grain market moving through winter. See how you might be able to make up for those lower price supports.

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    A meeting of ag bankers this week revealed a few key points from the lending side of the industry, the main one being that, if you've got the money to keep working capital intact, you should be able to manage your way through the current grain market downturn.

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    That operating capital may not allow for many big-ticket purchases and may require some cutbacks in family living expenses. How can that be done? See what respected ag economist David Kohl had to say on the topic this week.

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    Amidst a fairly gloomy crop profit potential picture for 2015, there is one bright spot: Fuel prices are falling, and they're expected to stay on the low side through the next year. What will that mean to your overall crop profits?

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    If the trying economic times are just too much to handle, can you restructure your farm's debt to cut down on your regular payments? It's a good way to save cash if your lender will allow it. See what other factors are in play.

  • 13

    The holiday season is on its way. Why wait until the last minute to get your gift shopping done? If you've got a farmer on your list, or you want to drop a hint or two for what you want in your stocking, check out this year's hot new tools, gadgets, clothing, and more! Here's your 2014 Gift Buying Guide!

As winter makes an early entrance, farmers and economists run numbers for the next year's grain revenue prospects this week.

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