Commodity Corner

Views on commodities and energy

Crop scouts bond over corn yields, long car trips

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Pro Farmer promises nothing to scouts on its annual Midwest Crop Tour but hard work, long days and the chance to get really dirty. For most, it does not sound like the best way to spend a week in mid-August.

But the tour attracts a group of regulars who come back every year to gauge the potential of corn and soybeans around the region as well as reconnect with people they met on previous tours.

“I am still interested in what the crops are doing and we learn a lot,” said Rodney Frick, an Illinois farmer on his fourth crop tour.  “But it is also about the friendships we form.”

 

 

 

Frick joined his first tour in 2005 after getting back into farming full time following 12 years working construction. He has come back every year since, although this year he will have to cut out a little bit early to attend his daughter’s wedding.Corn storage barn in Illinois

Crop Tour-How We Do It

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Calculating corn yieldsThere is no one magic formula for unlocking the secrets of a corn field’s yield potential. There are lots of them.

 

“There are about as many yield formulas as there are ways of doing anything,” said Roger Bernard,  the leader of the eastern leg of the Pro Farmer Midwest crop tour.

Stocking up for the Crop Tour

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Crop Tour SuppliesIf you’re planning on coming on next year’s Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, better start stocking up on supplies now. It takes a lot of equipment to measure a few ears of corn and count soybean pods. Scouts on the annual tour must be ready for nearly anything when they head into fields to gather data for estimates of this year’s corn and soybean harvest.

Let’s start at the bottom – boots.  Solid footwear is essential for tromping through rows of corn, many of which are expected to be muddy due to surplus rainfall around the Corn Belt. More storms are in the forecast for this week, good for crops but bad for crop scouts. A raincoat and pair of waterproof pants can make the difference between merely a bad day and a miserable one if it storms during the tour.

Grain markets flashing warning signs

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Another food price spike could be on the horizon, analysts told Reuters. 
 
Consider these factors:
* Grain prices, led by soybeans, have been up since March. 
* South America’s crop is expected to be a disappointment. Crops in both Brazil and Argentina have a poor outlook. In fact, the U.S. Agriculture Department steadily lowered its forecast for Argentina’s soybean crop throughout the year.

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* Many will be looking to the United States to come through with a big crop. But U.S. soybean stocks began the 2009/10 marketing year at a five year low. That means there’s not a lot of surplus to keep prices level if there’s any type of disruption in supply or weather calamity.

U.S. soy planting record possible, corn out of reach

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U.S. farmers could set a record for soybean plantings this year, topping 2008′s 75.7 million acres. The Agriculture Department will release its initial projection of seedings later this week. Some economists see plantings of 79 million acres (32.9 million ha) given that market prices and production costs currently favor soybeans.

Most expect corn plantings to lose ground as global recession takes the shine off demand from livestock and ethanol. But it would be daunting to break the U.S. corn plantings record even if the biofuels boom were re-ignited.