Featured Agriculture News

09/24/2018 - Crossing Paths

A new trend brings together rural landowners and biking enthusiasts across the country.

09/24/2018 - Cattle on Feed Report Summary

Cattle and calves on feed for the slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 11.1 million head on September 1, 2018, USDA reported Friday.

09/24/2018 - Todd's Take

If corn prices seem especially bearish lately, they are. However, slumps like these have been seen before and sometimes, they're hiding the next surprise.

09/21/2018 - Minnesota Grain Co-op Fraud

The Ashby Farmers Cooperative Elevator closed earlier his month after it became clear the cooperative was missing at least $2 million in funds and the former elevator manager has disappeared.

09/21/2018 - Flooding Swamps Upper Midwest Harvest

Significant disruption to harvest, along with crop damage, is in store for a high-production sector of the Upper Midwest following two days of heavy thunderstorms.

09/21/2018 - Climate Change Gets Local

An Ohio State expert highlighted the regional effects of climate change in ag and urged growers to think about local solutions.

09/20/2018 - Prep Bins for Harvest

Farmers can save themselves a headache and money if they take action to prepare their grain storage before harvesting a single ear of corn.

09/20/2018 - View From the Cab

As soybean harvest closes in, View From the Cab farmers Kyle Krier and Genny Haun race to get caught up on other tasks. In Kansas, that means putting up the latest cutting of alfalfa. In Ohio, it's work on waterways and seeding cover crops.

09/20/2018 - Todd's Take

Much like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football, we continue to rediscover that we're not very accurate at making early corn yield estimates.
Powered by
TELVENT - DTN

09/24/2018 Crossing Paths

By Joel Reichenberger
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

Marsha Daughenbaugh doesn't ride bicycles -- she rides horses. The third-generation rancher in rural Routt County, Colorado, works the meadows just outside the county seat of Steamboat Springs. Decades ago, her grandfather started, and she still runs, the Rocking C Bar cattle ranch here.

So, even she found herself looking on with wonder early this summer when she played host to more than 200 Lycra-clad cyclists in her backyard. The farmyard was filled with their dust-encrusted bikes leaning on machinery sheds and the white-painted wood fencing that surrounds the livestock pens. The riders, meanwhile, stretched out beneath towering old-growth shade trees, swapping stories with each other but, also, with ranchers and ranch hands from the community.

Daughenbaugh's shady backyard has become the meeting place for two deeply entrenched, deeply passionate communities that are more often finding themselves running into one another. Recent trends in the biking industry are encouraging riders to move off the blacktop and onto gravel roads, bringing them into contact with ranchers and farmers in ways they haven't before.

"We're seeing more riders, and at all times of the day," Daughenbaugh said. "We see them out early and late in the evening, which you'd expect; but, now we're seeing them in the heat of the day, too. Ag people are not using the roads like they used to."

DUAL ENDEAVOR

The Moots Colorado Ranch Rally is an effort to both show off the beauty of those dirt roads and foster an understanding between the two groups. This year marked the fifth anniversary of the event, which spends only 10% of its 50-mile length on paved roads.

Moots, a boutique bicycle manufacturing company in Steamboat Springs, has been at the leading edge of an industry shift to gravel riding, building and selling bikes specifically designed for those expansive road networks that, for many cyclists, have always seemed off-limits.

Gravel bikes look most similar to the light, fast and delicate road bikes of races such as the Tour de France, but with several key engineering differences. They're designed for a more robust tire than is found on road bikes, allowing better contact with the ground and better traction on dirt. They're also built sturdier to handle rougher roads and with a lower center of gravity to keep a rider upright on a sandy surface.

"Right now, the industry is seeing a big decline in road bikes, and gravel bikes are on a huge upswing," said Jon Cariveau, marketing director at Moots and one of the Ranch Rally's chief organizers. "We're at the point where more than 50 percent of our bike sales are gravel bikes. It's a much more utilitarian bicycle that can be used for so many things, and people love them."

Cyclists have taken to the idea, embracing the chance to get away from the crowded paved roads, where there's often little shoulder. They have also flocked to gravel bike events around the Midwest, often bringing hundreds, even thousands, of riders into places elite cyclists haven't often ventured. One of the largest events, the Dirty Kanza, drew 3,000 riders to Emporia, Kansas, in June for a 200-mile gravel road race through the Flint Hills.

There are hundreds more gravel biking rides and races popping up in small, rural communities from Kansas to Mississippi to New York, and thousands of riders heading down roads new to them.

"It's a great day on the bike," said Kelly Boniface, a Routt County cyclist who's participated in all five years of the Ranch Rally. "It's a ride, not a race, so that changes the vibe. In a race, you might not notice anything else, but at the Ranch Rally, you can look around, see the baby horses in the field. You get to take in that part of Routt County, and it lets us experience the day-to-day lifestyle of those in the agriculture community."

COMMUNITY ADVOCACY

Those roads are anything but new. Daughenbaugh, her neighbors and their forefathers have been using them to move machinery and livestock between meadows and ranches for more than 100 years.

Daughenbaugh has been involved in advocating for the community since the 1990s. Her work helped lead to the Community Agriculture Alliance, which sought to bring together different groups and help educate county residents on the region's agriculture operations. Cyclists weren't always on the organization's radar. Encroaching development and land-use debates helped spur the group's existence, but it's become an effective way for ranchers to reach out to cyclists, too.

Moots started planning a gravel bike ride five years ago, just a year after introducing its first gravel bike, and it had a unique idea: reaching out to the people who use those roads on a regular basis.

"The first thing I said was, 'Thank you for calling,'" Daughenbaugh said. "Of all the events we've had in this area, it was the first time we had someone call to talk to us about it."

She joined up with organizers in reaching out to all the ranchers and farmers on the proposed route for the event, letting them know what was happening and how many riders to expect and when to expect them to help avoid, or at least prepare for, any encounters. Riders were given a preride safety speech about what to do if they encountered, say, a herd of cattle or a flock of sheep being moved between fields, or hay equipment in transit, situations perhaps foreign to them.

Daughenbaugh then offered up her backyard as a late-ride rest stop. This year, a local sandwich shop came through with catering, and 200 cyclists spent an hour under the shady trees on a working cattle ranch sharing a dialog and learning about a world that's admittedly foreign to them.

Five years in, Daughenbaugh said she sees some results. There are still some riders who cause frustration, but there are also some who've started making house calls to the Daughenbaughs and the Rocking C Bar ranch, stopping in to say hello, to check out the livestock and learn about the world they're suddenly riding into on a regular basis.

"I think they were surprised not all ranchers were jerks, that there were ones who were riding bikes themselves and seeing firsthand some of the dangers that exist," Daughenbaugh said. "Some of the bikers were surprised how important agriculture is to our community."

For More Information:

Moots Colorado Ranch Rally: www.moots.com/5th-annual-ranch-rally-2018-edition

Dirty Kanza: www.dirtykanza.com

Community Agriculture Alliance: www.communityagalliance.org

(AG)

09/24/2018 Cattle on Feed Report Summary

Editor's Note: This article was originally posted at 2:02 p.m. CDT. It was reposted with additional information at 2:46 p.m. CDT.

**

OMAHA (DTN) -- Cattle and calves on feed for the slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 11.1 million head on Sept. 1, 2018. The inventory was 6% above Sept. 1, 2017, USDA reported Friday.

This is the highest Sept. 1 inventory since the series began in 1996.

Placements in feedlots during August totaled 2.07 million head, 7% above 2017. Net placements were 2.02 million head. During August, placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds were 430,000 head, 600-699 pounds were 335,000 head, 700-799 pounds were 460,000 head, 800-899 pounds were 475,000 head, 900-999 pounds were 240,000 head, and 1,000 pounds and greater were 130,000 head.

Marketings of fed cattle during August totaled 1.98 million head, slightly above 2017.

Other disappearance totaled 55,000 head during August, 12% above 2017.

"Friday's cattle on feed estimate of 11.125 million head was more than expected and will likely have a bearish impact on Monday's futures prices for deferred months," said DTN Analyst Todd Hultman. "August placements being 7% higher than a year ago likely benefited from decent summer conditions in the western Plains. The big-producing states of Texas, Kansas and Nebraska saw on-feed increases of 3%, 4%, and 8% from a year ago."

To view the full Cattle on Feed report, visit https://www.nass.usda.gov/…

USDA Actual Average Guess Range
Cattle on Feed:
On Feed Sept. 1 106.0% 105.3% 104.2-105.9%
Placed in August 107.0% 104.0% 101.1-107.0%
Marketed in August 100.0% 100.1% 99.8-104.3%

(AG)

09/24/2018 Todd's Take

By Todd Hultman
DTN Analyst

A week ago Thursday, I was driving back to Omaha with DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson, and we were surveying one corn field after another along I-80. We had just come from three days of speaking engagements at Husker Harvest Days in Grand Island, Nebraska, and still had USDA's latest crop estimate fresh on our minds -- 14.83 billion bushels (bb) of corn.

Looking over what seemed like endless rows of full, good-looking crops for miles and miles, I commented to Bryce that it was difficult to even imagine how much corn this country produces, knowing that the fields we were seeing from the road in central Nebraska only represented a tiny sliver of the nation's output.

Bryce said he remembered in 1981 what a big deal it seemed to be when the harvest first hit 8 bb. I replied that I remembered 10 bb being a big accomplishment, but I couldn't remember which year it was. My best guess was the early 1990s.

Working with a faint cellphone signal, Bryce found a website with the answers we were looking for and started reading off crop sizes by the year. 1985 and 1986 were both over 8 billion, and when was the drought? Oh yeah, 1988.

1992 had a big crop of nearly 9.5 bb, but the 10-bb mark wasn't broken until 1994 with a record yield of 138.6 bushels per acre (bpa) -- a yield that would be considered a disaster today. In between those two big crops was the wet year of 1993 when harvest fell to 6.3 bb.

As Bryce continued reading off the numbers, this analyst's wheels started to run. Isn't it interesting, I thought, how several of the big crop years were followed one or two years later by an event that would take prices significantly higher. When prices were depressed, we had no way of knowing that big opportunities were just around the corner.

Big crops of 1981 and 1982 were followed by drought in 1983. Depressed prices at the time of the big ending stocks in the mid-1980s were rescued from the lows by the drought of 1988. The wet year of 1993 followed a big crop in 1992 and that 10-bb achievement in 1994 was followed by 1995-96, the biggest bull market corn had seen at that time.

I don't mean to sound like Pollyanna here, and the moral of the story is not that big price rallies always follow big crops. I also remember the long, four-year slump from 1998 to 2001 that was accompanied by Asia's recession and a string of big crops.

My interest was more from an analytical point of view of how much emphasis we often put on the market factors that we know -- especially at harvest time when talk about the size of the crop overshadows everything else.

I won't disagree that 14.8 bb is a lot of corn, and the bearish impact it is having on current prices is obvious and well known. My conversation with Bryce, however, reminded me once again that we have to hold lightly the factors we know. An entirely different market environment could be less than a year away, and that is why we stay vigilant -- we have seen all too often how unexpected events can change the trajectory of expectations.

The good news for corn prices is that world demand is rising, and thanks to lower South American production in 2018, the U.S. is poised to benefit from increased exports the next several months. Thursday's export sales report from USDA already shows total commitments for corn up 50% from where they were at this time a year ago.

We can admire this big crop for now, but in the months ahead, we need to keep our eyes on the road. This is no time to be caught gazing in the rearview mirror.

Todd Hultman can be reached at Todd.Hultman@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ToddHultman

(BAS/SK)

09/21/2018 Minnesota Grain Co-op Fraud

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) -- Roughly 150 farmers attended a meeting Tuesday night in Ashby, Minnesota, looking for answers about the closed Ashby Farmers Cooperative Elevator and its former manager, who allegedly stole at least $2 million from the elevator before disappearing earlier this month.

An audit of the grain cooperative's books is continuing to detail actual losses, and investigators are looking into the alleged fraud by former elevator manager Jerry Hennessey. He had managed the elevator since 1989, but has not been seen in Ashby since it became clear the elevator was missing funds.

Erik Ahlgren, an attorney hired to sort through the losses and find a possible buyer for the 307,000-bushel-capacity grain elevator, said roughly half the people in the crowd raised their hands when he asked how many farmers were still owed money from the cooperative.

Minnesota requires bonding, but the bond for the cooperative is valued at $125,000. Farmers can file claims with the state, but officials won't know the exact total of claims filed and possible payout per farmer until at least six months from now. The pool of claims is determined, then divided pro rata among all of those who file, Ahlgren said.

Insurance on the elevator for crimes is $100,000 per loss. That raises questions of how single losses are defined and whether that will cover a larger amount. In a statement to farmers announcing the closure, Ahlgren stated the co-op board did not expect to have funds to pay the co-op's outstanding obligations.

Beyond what is owed to farmers, the Ashby Farmers Cooperative also owes $8 million to the Farm Credit lender CoBank.

The cooperative has about 300 members who are defined as having at least $500 in transactions with the elevator over the last year.

The elevator stopped taking deliveries on Sept. 10 and effectively shut down Sept. 14.

Ahlgren, whose office is in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, was brought in to deal with the aftermath and find a new owner. He said the cooperative board began immediately looking for new owners and told DTN on Thursday at least one company would submit a bid before the end of the day. At least two other grain businesses were also weighing bids for the elevator.

"I hope to at least get a deal structured where we could get the elevator up and running, possibly in the next week or two weeks," Ahlgren said. "That would require us to do an interim lease, but we are open to doing an interim lease. I understand the bank would be supportive of us doing an interim lease. That would be a way for us to get it up and running while we are completing a sale."

The initial investigation showed at least $2 million in unauthorized checks signed by Hennessey, which included more than $1 million paid on a personal Cabela's Visa card, more than $500,000 for taxidermy services and $375,000 for safari hunting trips. Hennessey is a big-game hunter and was out of the country most of August on a safari trip.

DTN could not reach Hennessey for comment.

Ahlgren said that once the full reckoning of lost assets is known, as well as how much is owed to farmers, civil cases will likely be brought to go after Hennessey's personal assets.

Since the situation with missing money became clear, Hennessey has disappeared from the Ashby area. A criminal investigation has been opened by the Grant County (Minnesota) Sheriff's Office, and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has been brought in as well.

Last April, when the co-op held its annual meeting, sales for the prior year were reported $14,565,516. The grain bushel handle was reported at $2,852,553, local profits were $238,977 and total net profits after regional patronage refunds were $335,812, according to the report in the Battle Lake, (Minnesota) Review. All of those numbers are now suspect.

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

(AG/GH)

09/21/2018 Flooding Swamps Upper Midwest Harvest

By Bryce Anderson
DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist

OMAHA (DTN) -- Forecasts for heavy rain in the Upper Midwest for the final days of the official 2018 summer season have been verified -- and the result is not favorable for harvest.

From eastern South Dakota to across northern Iowa, southern Minnesota and into southern Wisconsin, rainfall of 2 to 5 inches has flooded fields, delayed harvest and leads to potential for crop loss. About 10% of total U.S. corn and soybean production is in the area hit by the storms.

The heavy rain is the product of three large-scale atmospheric features that all played a part, according to DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Mike Palmerino.

"You have a hot, powerful high-pressure ridge over the Alabama-Tennessee border. Then, there's a moderate trough in the interior West to send short waves of energy eastward. And, finally, cool-to-cold air in Canada leads to instability and the potential for thunderstorms," Palmerino said. "But the big player in all this is that southeastern high. It blocks the movement of the other features. Also, that southeastern ridge means that there is a lot of Gulf of Mexico moisture available to move northward into the Upper Midwest for those heavy rains to develop."

Market reaction to this heavy rain, however, is likely to be muted, simply due to record production expectations.

"The market may not care yet because of the expectations for a large corn crop," said DTN Cash Grains Analyst Mary Kennedy. "However, these heavy rains will affect the condition of the corn, especially if any of it sits in water. Mold could set in, and on top of the rain, high winds could push the plants over."

Forecasts through the rest of September show a cooler but drier pattern for the Upper Midwest. The drier trend will no doubt be welcome in an area that has had its share of rain, and then some, throughout this crop year.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at Bryce.anderson@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @BAndersonDTN

(AG)

09/21/2018 Climate Change Gets Local

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

LONDON, Ohio (DTN) -- At 6 feet, 8 inches tall, with a bushy, orange beard, Aaron Wilson towers very visibly above the crowds at Ohio State University's Farm Science Review.

But it's what he's talking about that really makes him stand out at the annual farm trade show.

In addition to OSU Extension, Wilson works at the Byrd Polar & Climate Research Center, studying the effects of climate change, an often controversial and misunderstood topic in agriculture.

What often gets lost amid the political debates and scientific conversations around climate change is how deeply personal it is for everyone, including farmers, Wilson said.

"Climate change has a personal impact on every person where they live, and those impacts vary depending on where you live," Wilson said. "I'm trying to bring down that global picture to a more local impact. What's changing in Ohio, and what are the potential impacts on ag?"

In Ohio and the rest of the Midwest, the answers to those questions are growing increasingly clear, Wilson said. Temperatures are rising and extreme rainfall events are more frequent.

THE IMPACT OF RISING TEMPERATURES

Many people tend to associate global warming with scorching-hot summer days, but the effects have been mostly concentrated in winters and summer nights, Wilson said.

"Our winters are warming about twice as fast as summers," he said. "Our coldest day of the year has warmed anywhere from 2 to 6 degrees compared to the mid-20th century."

Growers are also seeing more "false springs," where temperatures warm significantly in February, bringing many plants out of dormancy early -- only to be sabotaged by the usual spring freezes.

The pattern of warmer winters is likely to affect which crops farmers can grow and the pests that come with them, Wilson said. Insects will overwinter farther north, and more will begin to produce multiple generations within a season in the Midwest -- a phenomenon usually associated with the Southern U.S.

In the summer, overnight temperatures are on the rise, Wilson added. Specifically, nights where temperatures stay above 70 to 75 degrees are more frequent, which can have a serious effect on crop stress.

GETTING USED TO HEAVY RAINS

With warming temperatures comes a rise in atmospheric moisture, Wilson said. The amount of water vapor in the atmosphere has risen 10% to 15% in the past 50 years, which has increased the frequency of extreme rainfall events.

"These events where we're seeing 2- or 3-inch rainfalls -- we're seeing those occur more frequently, and we're also seeing a rise in the number of rainy days," Wilson said.

Specifically, the top 1% of heaviest rainfall events have increased 20% in the Midwest since the mid-20th century, he said.

That puts tremendous stress on cropland, from soil erosion to nutrient loss and plant health.

FARM SOLUTIONS

Overall, by 2030, climate researchers expect a state like Ohio to have the climate of southern Illinois. By 2100, the state will look more like Arkansas or west Texas, Wilson said.

"So what does farm management look like under those conditions?" he said.

That's where farmers and ag scientists come in.

"I'm a climate scientist, I need the farmer expertise," Wilson said. "What do we do together to bring around solutions?"

The growing movement to study and improve soil health is a good start, Wilson said. No-till and cover crop practices can help sequester carbon from the atmosphere -- the source of rising temperatures.

"Tillage releases a tremendous amount of carbon into the atmosphere," Wilson said.

New crop rotations, different hybrids and varieties, improved pest management practices and better soil health will all be crucial to growing crops in a warmer environment. But first, farmers have to pay attention and care, Wilson said.

People in agriculture often ask him why warming temperatures are a problem, given that the earth has seen temperature extremes in both directions over millions of years.

"There have certainly been periods where the earth's temperatures were a lot warmer," he said. "But did it sustain human life? That's really what it comes down to -- our relationship to the environment. How are we going to adapt to that future?"

The answer is likely a local one, Wilson concluded.

"The first thing is just knowing what your local impacts and threats are," he said. "If you start there, then you can prioritize your assets and how to build resilience in them -- in your farm, in your equipment. Have a plan of action."

See more from the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center here: https://bpcrc.osu.edu/…

See more about Farm Science Review here: https://fsr.osu.edu/…

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at Emily.unglesbee@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee

(GH/CC/AG)

09/20/2018 Prep Bins for Harvest

By Scott Williams
DTN Entomologist

It may feel like only yesterday that you were doing spring cleaning, but the amber waves of grain outside my window tell me how much time has passed. Hopefully, all the seeds you've sown have grown into mature crops, and that harvest is only weeks away. Now is the perfect time to talk about fall cleaning and to prepare for storing your grain.

You can save yourself a headache and money if you take action before harvesting a single ear of corn. The most important -- and I mean most important -- aspect of grain storage is to keep it clean. Researchers at Purdue University have documented that a small investment in sanitation can increase grain values by as much as $0.85 per bushel. That may not seem like much, but it quickly adds up to a significant amount.

INSPECT AND CLEAN

Start by examining your grain bins for signs of damage or wear. Seal up cracks or holes to keep pests out to make other management practices (i.e., fumigation) more effective. While the bin is empty, clean out old grain or other pest refuges. And, since you're at it, clean any equipment that handles grain, such as combines and augers. The last thing you want to discover is that you've been playing host to bugs during the past few months. So, a good wash or vacuuming will remove old material and unwanted pests.

Clean the area around your bins, as well. Long grass and shrubbery provide hiding spots for mice and insects. Leave a 4-foot gravel perimeter around bins, and remove those refuges. Doing so forces pests to relocate. Also, make sure water drains away from bins. Less standing water reduces the chances of the grain getting wet and moldy while in storage.

If your bin has a history of infestation, you may want to apply a preventative pesticide once you're done cleaning. Products such as Tempo SC Ultra (cyfluthrin), Storcide II (chlorpyrifos-methyl and deltamethrin) and Perma-Guard (diatomaceous earth) can be applied to the inside walls of a bin. Spray until there is runoff on all surfaces. Wait at least 24 hours before loading the grain. Pyrethroid products can also be applied as a perimeter spray on the lower 15 feet of the outer walls. If past infestations were particularly bad, fumigating the bin may be necessary. Products approved for empty-bin fumigation, such as Phostoxin (phosphine), can eliminate any remaining pests but should be applied only by a certified applicator.

DRY AND AERATE

Once you're done with the bin prep, you're ready to load the grain. Separating out broken kernels and foreign objects will improve shelf life and reduce damage to the grain and the handling equipment. Cooling and drying grain before storage also goes a long way in maintaining its value over the next few months. Drying the grain below 14% moisture and aerating the bulk temperature below 50ºF will help prevent moisture migration, mold growth and grain pest survival.

As you load the grain, you can also apply a chemical protectant. These products are registered by crop, with some, such as Diacon-D IGR (s-methoprene), used for corn and soybeans, while others, such as Actellic 5E (pirimiphos-methyl), are only approved for corn. Be sure to check the label.

Now, grab your brooms or other preferred cleaning tools and get to work. You'll thank yourself in a few months when your grain is still clean, whole and readyfor market.

For More Information:

-- University of Nebraska bin and equipment cleaning guidelines:

https://cropwatch.unl.edu/…

-- Purdue University grain storage sanitation practices: https://www.extension.purdue.edu/…

(AG/CZ)

09/20/2018 View From the Cab

By Katie Dehlinger
DTN Farm Business Editor

MOUNT JULIET, Tenn. (DTN) -- Soybean harvest is closing in, and that means busy times on the farms of Kyle Krier and Genny Haun.

Krier, who farms in central Kansas, is putting up the latest hay and grass cuttings and visiting crop insurance customers when he can.

"We're just kind of biding our time right now and getting caught up on spraying, getting caught up on hay before the craziness ensues," he said.

In western Ohio where Genny Haun farms, wet weather has slowed progress on waterway and field-tiling projects but has helped recently flown-on cover crops.

The two young farmers have been reporting on field conditions and farm life this year as part of DTN's View From the Cab series. Here's what's happening in their parts of the farming world.

KYLE KRIER -- CLAFLIN, KANSAS

Krier finished the fourth cutting of alfalfa on Monday night and is working on getting sorghum sudangrass and the second cutting of grass hay put up before it possibly rains later this week.

He said it's very unusual to get a second grass cutting, let alone a second cutting that's larger than the first, but that's the case this year. The wet growing season also means they'll get a fifth cutting of alfalfa.

"Our cuttings have been very close to the same nearly every cutting. You get almost the same tons each cutting, and our quality every cutting goes up. It's nice to have that problem," he said.

Another nice problem to have is strong demand. Krier says hay is selling well, and a lot of it's heading to eastern Kansas and western Missouri, where it was really dry this year. That has the added benefit of lessening his area's abundant supplies.

"We are definitely staring at the barrel of harvest here coming pretty quick," he said.

He estimates soybean harvest is about a week and a half to two weeks away. It's also getting close to time to begin planting wheat, but he said they'll wait until at least next week to limit potential problems with Hessian flies and because they don't plan on doing any grazing.

He expects the wheat crop to get off to a good start this year with good moisture in the forecast and a full soil profile. Farmers are also in the midst of signing up for crop insurance, and while most farmers are sticking with the same coverage levels, a few are buying up.

"I think guys are looking at it, at this point in time, as more of a pricing opportunity than anything, as opposed to trying to increase coverage more so because they think something is going to go wrong," he said. While June Kansas City wheat futures prices generally declined in the Aug. 15 to Sept. 14 discovery period, the $5.74-per-bushel reference price for 2019 crop insurance is 87 cents higher than last year and the highest since 2014.

Krier said half the farmers he's visited with plan to stick to their rotation, while the other half told him they're going to plant wheat "fence row to fence row." There just aren't many good alternatives with soybean and sorghum prices bearing the brunt of the trade dispute with China.

Another large wheat crop could compound storage problems at local elevators. Most of them are so full with this year's wheat, they're planning on piling corn and milo on the ground.

"At this point in time, nobody has begun to go down this road yet, but there is definitely talk of the potential where elevators may force you to sell across the scale if you want to bring your crops in," he said.

GENNY HAUN -- KENTON, OHIO

In western Ohio, soybean harvest is still a week to 10 days away, but wet weather has made it tough to complete other projects.

"We continue to struggle with cooperative weather to finish up waterway and field-tiling projects," she said. "It's a double-edged sword -- wanting rain to finish out crops and start cover crops and wanting a break to dry out enough to move dirt!"

They flew on 1,200 acres of cover crops last week, mostly cereal rye and rapeseed. She said some of what was flown on is starting to emerge, but could use a little more rain to establish a good stand. The forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-80s and lots of sunshine, so it could be a better week for moving dirt.

Haun said the crew plans to visit Ohio State University's Farm Science Review on Wednesday. The three-day show usually attracts more than 140,000 visitors and 600 exhibitors each year. She said they can't see the whole show in one day -- exhibits span 80 acres while demonstrations take place on another 600 -- so they've prepared a list of vendors they want to visit.

"Having managed the company booth for several years with a previous employer, I enjoy being able to visit the show without working it," she said. "It's a great opportunity to catch up with many contacts I've made over the years."

When they get back to the farm, it's time for the final countdown to harvest. While they've already prepared the machinery and equipment, she said there's always something that could come up. Haun said her husband, Matt, will also be busy collecting orders for custom applications to be run with their new John Deere spreader.

Once harvest gets started, they'll try to cut all of their soybeans first. She said some of the corn may be ready sooner than some soybean varieties, and they're prepared to switch one of their two combines over if they have to, even though it's not ideal.

Once the crops come off, they plan to drill cover crops on another 2,000 or so acres. Then, their attention shifts to next year. Haun said they haven't done much marketing on their 2019 crops, breaking with some of their usual patterns.

"As all farmers are, we are closely watching markets and trends and following big issues stateside and across the world to determine our plan of action," she said. "We have already begun thinking ahead to next season in terms of what seed technology we want to embrace and formulate a plan on what soybean varieties and corn hybrids will fit best within our operation."

Katie Dehlinger can be reached at Katie.dehlinger@dtn.com.

You can also follow her on Twitter @KatieD_DTN

(SK/CZ)

09/20/2018 Todd's Take

By Todd Hultman
DTN Analyst

Each fall, when Lucy convinces Charlie Brown that he is supporting the great Thanksgiving tradition of kicking the football, we plead with him not to do it. Of course, Lucy wins out and Chuck ends up on his back, betrayed again by Lucy's dirty trick of pulling the ball away. No matter how many times Charlie tries and fails, he genuinely believes the next time will be different. The naive faith is a bit endearing, but come on -- Chuck also needs to wake up.

You've probably guessed by now that we are Charlie Brown in this metaphor, surprised again after USDA just pulled the football away on Wednesday and posted a new record-high corn yield estimate of 181.3 bushels per acre (bpa). If the surprise of USDA's higher-than-expected estimate feels familiar, it was just 10 months ago I wrote about USDA posting a new record yield of 175.4 bpa in the November 2017 WASDE report in a column titled "Is This the Year of Super Corn?"

Read the column here: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Last year's record estimate was actually more of a surprise, as drought conditions were more threatening in 2017. Other than Missouri and Kansas, most corn-producing states showed adequate soil moisture this year, and summer temperatures were largely moderate in July and August. Comments from private crop tours frequently included the word "variability" for a second consecutive year, but judging from USDA's latest report, the caution in those observations was unwarranted.

Based on the past 37 years of guessing yields, Wednesday's corn crop estimate has a 90% confidence interval of plus or minus 7.6%, so there is still ample wiggle room in Wednesday's number. However, the same track record also shows that USDA's September estimate has been too low two-thirds of the time. Admittedly, we have no real evidence at this point to argue USDA is drastically wrong, other than the same naive hope that entices Charlie Brown into whiffing each fall.

If we get back to our main task of trying to understand what corn prices should trade at, given what we currently know, Wednesday's report was more apt to be a good buying opportunity for end users than the start of a new bearish move.

I suspect Wednesday's 14 1/4-cent drop in December corn was largely an emotional response of noncommercial liquidation, which will not stand the test of time. USDA's report aside, shame on speculators for hanging on to the long side of the market in front of harvest after a summer of good crop conditions. Like Charlie, they largely got what they deserved.

Corn producers, however, should not be swayed by Wednesday's report. After six consecutive years of good growing weather, it should be no surprise that cash corn prices are low heading into harvest -- that's a common seasonal influence. What is not common is USDA estimating lower ending corn stocks in 2018-19 for both the U.S. and the world -- times are a changing.

The last time I wrote about USDA surprising us with a higher yield estimate for corn was on Nov. 14, 2017. As we now know, last year's yield of 175.4 bpa eventually went even higher, to a final 176.6 bpa in January. November's ending stocks estimate was high at 2.487 billion bushels (bb) and the DTN National Corn Index was low, at $2.99 a bushel. The mood for corn was bearish, noncommercials were net-short 125,113 contracts, and the demand outlook was not so good.

Six months later, the DTN National Corn Index was at $3.62, boosted by an unexpected drought in Argentina that was not part of the conversation in November. Once again, corn's bearish harvest mood proved temporary, and prices succumbed to their seasonal tendency.

In spite of the initial shock of Wednesday's 14.8 bb crop estimate, the outlook for corn prices after harvest looks more bullish than it did a year ago. Among the U.S.' top competitors for 2018-19 exports, Ukraine's crop is expected to be up 271 million bushels from a year ago, while the combined production of Brazil and Argentina was down 1 bb in early 2018. Until South America can ship more corn again in mid-2019, the U.S. is well-positioned to benefit from increased world demand.

As a guy who has studied market behavior for decades, I find it a little humorous that, much like Charlie Brown, we humans continue to get wrapped up in guessing games over yield, and then act surprised when we find out, once again, that we are not very good at it. But in the larger scheme of things, surprises like Wednesday's are small tweaks that need to be considered in the context of everything else going on.

Meanwhile, traders continue to ignore that 2018-19 is offering U.S. corn prices the best demand environment since the ethanol boom. Yes, there is plenty of uncertainty ahead, and this is not a justification for $5.00 corn. However, while we lay on our backs looking at an autumn sky and feeling the pain of the latest whiff, there is plenty of reason to believe that the current bearish mood will not last, and corn's seasonal influence will likely bring higher prices again in the second quarter of 2019.

Todd Hultman can be reached at Todd.Hultman@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ToddHultman

(BAS/AG)