Markets Overlook Flooding’s Estimated Near-$1 Billion in Losses

March 19, 2019 11:19 AM
Hogs, cattle and corn are seeing minimal movement as questions remain about the total number of livestock lost and the impact on spring corn acres.

As floodwaters tear through the western Corn Belt the market has been slow to react. Hogs, cattle and corn are seeing minimal movement as questions remain about the total number of livestock lost and the impact on spring corn acres.

“I think this all happened so quickly it’s hard to get a handle on,” says Matt Bennett, owner of Bennett Consulting and partner with, farm division of John Stewart and Associates. “I don’t know how to get a handle on numbers—I don’t know if anyone knows. Right now, all those guys are worried about is getting to their farms.”

While it’s too early to definitively estimate, early estimates put ranching losses at up to $500 million and row crops at another $400 million, according to Nebraska Farm Bureau. Livestock losses cover not only loss of life, but of feed sources and other assets needed in those operations.

The hog market is already a flurry of activity. “I think the way things are the hog market doesn’t need the help,” Bennett says. “If China is buying pork there’s no question it’s friendly. If you lose hogs it’s nothing but supportive—but I still don’t know how many hogs we’re talking.”

Lean hogs are trading around $71 for April and $90 for July. Bennett recommends independents or anyone who has the ability to consider risk management in that high $80 to low $90 range.

“We could be looking at a perfect storm in the cattle market,” he says. “I’m not saying prices for cattle will skyrocket, but without the Chinese situation and flooding situation I would think $129 fat price is too high.”

In the past six years China has increased its beef consumption by 20%. Growing export demand, partnered with unknown losses supports a potentially strong cattle market in the next few months. A market Bennett says he’s going to keep a close eye on as it impacts other markets, too.

“There are pictures of bins collapsing, bags under water and they’re losing some feed,” he says. “Dynamics are interesting and will have a large impact in those areas on basis in cash corn.

“I don’t know that the market is lending enough credence to the fact that it’s getting late enough in the spring in the western Corn Belt and the snow pack we have up in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota. It looks to be a late spring, but it also calls into question the number of prevent plant acres given the last couple of years have been historically low.

USDA recently pegged corn at about 92 million acres for 2019—a number Bennett doesn’t expect farmers to hit unless weather turns ideal from this point forward.  

“Next week’s planting intention number could be between 90 and 93 million acres for corn and now we could lose acres to weather or, the more likely scenario, might be prevent plant in the Dakotas,” he says. “You’ll have compromised ground in Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri, but I don’t think it’s in the millions.”’s official estimate for the March planting intentions corn number is 91.7 million acres. Next week’s report might be taken with a grain of salt more than usual due to flooding and other weather considerations. The market isn’t reacting just yet, farmers can plant quickly, but he says if things don’t change in the next few weeks the matket could quickly change.

“In my opinion, mid- to late-April would be the earliest the market will get fired up about this—if we’re saturated and more wet weather is on the way the market could get interesting,” Bennett says. “Funds are currently short over 200,000 contracts on corn and stocks to use are the tightest we’ve seen in the last few years. It’s unlikely the funds will go into the growing season short, in my opinion”

He’s not donning his bull horns just yet though and says farmers should continue to sell in incremental numbers. Bennett advises producers to consider backing up a portion of sales with a call, especially the more aggressive a producer gets in their sales strategy.

“It’s going to be very interesting the next six weeks or so out to the first of May to see how this all plays out,” Bennett adds. “I think producers across the Midwest are going to ban together to help. It’s going to be a nightmare to keep livestock fed, I feel sorry for these guys. It’s going to take a while to recover from this.”

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Spell Check

Southern, LA
3/19/2019 05:34 PM

  I doubt some of those farmers affected by the floods will get much planted in the way of corn. There will be a fairly large switch to soybeans and more milo I suppose in those affected areas. I seriously doubt it will dry out enough for the ground to be prepped for planting. There may be a massive amount of prevented plant acres. I will always contend that if there is no grain left in this country, the speculators will continue to drive the price to 0. The excuse will be then 'we have no exports.' Keep an eye on basis. If it narrows or creeps positive there is strong demand. This flood might get some end users jumping. But maybe not. Gosh, I sound like a typical trader. God speed to those affected by the flooding!

The shoe, TX
3/19/2019 08:48 PM

  For all those affected in the floods it’s truly heartbreaking, it is a shame that it takes a disaster to possibly change markets for a positive in grains. Well that used to be the case when traders used true information and data. Now it’s all deception, smoke and mirrors to set the sails of fortune in favor of the least honest. The traders do not care about what happens on our farms, nor do they care. Everything makes the markets go down and nothing makes them go up, not even 1 billion in destruction, the loss of many potential corn acres!! God bless the honest, men and women of agriculture, and all blue collar industries, the salt of the earth!!!

Osterdock , IA
3/19/2019 10:46 PM

  Let’s not write off the corn acres’s early...but you have to wonder how many million bushels of stored corn were damaged... The USDA will say anything to keep the market down for China...