Producers predict flat ag prices after soggy season

Friday, October 12, 2018

Gray days and misty haze have been the norm for many area farmers recently. Many field crops continue to stand in soil still soggy from light-yet-persistent showers.

“The ag economy’s pretty tough right now, to be honest about it,” Lake Park area farmer Vince Elser said. “With the weather we had this summer and prices, I think that profits are going to be pretty slim.”

The rain scattered across recent weeks has slowed fall harvest for many producers like Elser. State Climatologist Justin Glisan said the statewide average rainfall was around 1.61 inches for the first week of October - 0.93 inches above average. There were only 1.6 days of suitable fieldwork to start the month, according to this week’s Iowa Crop Progress and Condition Report. The report said producers harvested both corn and soy beans as weather permitted.

Elser said about half of both his corn and soybean crop had been harvested as of Friday. He said strong winds near the Fourth of July holiday prompted an early start.

“It just happened that we had some corn that was damaged from green snap, and we got at that early because we were worried, if we got some more wind, that it would blow over even more,” Elser said. “Then we were able to work in some beans here and there that were ready. We were kind of lucky between the weather and the rains.”

Southeast of Milford, farmer Tom Kremmin said his harvest was less than a quarter complete before the weekend began.

“We’ve just got a few acres of beans out — about 70 — and probably a little over 100 acres of corn done,” he said. “Everything’s been behind this year. With the wet spring, everything got planted late. Things just keep getting later.”

An estimated 95 percent of the state’s corn crop is mature, according to the condition report, but only an estimated 15 percent of corn for grain has been harvested. Yet, the maturing of the corn is nine days ahead of average, and the harvest is 10 days ahead of average, according to the report. About 18 percent of the state’s soybean crop has been harvested — five days behind average. Both crop conditions rated 70 percent in either good or excellent condition.

Despite the late start, Kremmin said harvests may still be plentiful for many producers. He said both corn and soybean yields have been slowly increasing.

“National yields are going to be pretty high for total bushels,” he said. “From the surveys that have been out, it’s going to be really close to last year, maybe a little bit higher.”

But, of course, a high yield doesn’t necessarily align with a high price, and some producers choose to hold onto their harvest in hopes of a higher price down the line. Kremmin said local prices for corn are around $3 per bushel, while soybeans are near $7.50 per bushel. Regionally, producers in northwest Iowa could expect anywhere from $3.14 to $3.23 per bushel, according to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Oct. 5 report. The data showed a wider spread for soybeans. Northwest Iowa showed an average of $7.67 per bushel — the second highest in the state. Both Kremmin and Elser expect the market prices will remain where they are for the short term.

“I am not real optimistic about prices improving a lot,” Elser said. “They may sell some through the winter and early next summer, but we’ve got quite a supply on hand of carryover. The tariffs and so forth are not helping the situation.”

Elser said he had yet to familiarize himself with the new NAFTA agreement sought and secured by the Trump administration but, to his understanding, the dairy and automobile industries will benefit most from the deal. Kremmin said he’s simply thankful an agreement could be reached.

“Hopefully it’ll help,” he said. “At least it won’t hurt.”

For now, he said he’s taking a wait-and-see approach on most of his fields as harvest season continues to roll.

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