Weekly Grain Wrap-Up 3/27/09

Published on: 16:56PM Mar 27, 2009

May 09 Corn
- 3 3/4
July 09 Corn
397 1/2
- 3 3/4
May 09 Beans
- 27
July 09 Beans
915 1/4
- 25 1/4
May 09 Wheat
507 1/4
- 7 1/4
July 09 Wheat
- 7
May 09 Meal
- 7
May 09 Oil
- 1.18
Corn closed 4-cents lower on the day and 10-cents lower on the week. Corn made the highs for the week on Monday’s open and prices have been grinding lower ever since. Corn has had a nice rally in anticipation of losing acres to soybeans, a possible increase in the blending mandate by the EPA and fears of a wet spring. The recent 60-cent rally in corn prices accomplished several things. First of all, this rally drove margins deeper into the red for all sectors. Secondly, it turned the “funds” from having net short positions to having net long positions heading right into a major report. It also gave many farmers throughout the country to sell $4.00 cash corn for both the ’08-09 crop and the ’09-10 crop. There have been millions of bushels waiting to be sold at the $4 mark for months now and many farmers (not all unfortunately) finally had the opportunity. The report next Tuesday will set the stage as we head forward. There is a wide range of estimates for corn acres. Estimates range from 5 million less to 3 million more acres than a year ago. Most in the industry are expecting a 2-3 million acre decline with very few expecting acres to be unchanged or higher. I do not know what the acres will be, but corn prices have gained significant ground on soybeans since January and fertilizer prices have also come down significantly. My guess is that corn bought SOME acres back from soybeans during this time frame. The question is: how many corn acres were we losing before? In my opinion, if acres are unchanged from a year ago the market would perceive this as very bearish. A big number to look at will be total acres. If total corn and soybean acres are 165 million (our estimate) or greater, it seems likely that we will continue to build stocks for corn, soybean and wheat. Obviously we will know more on Tuesday, so it is foolish to get too involved with estimates at this time. As a producer, I would not go into the report with a lot of unsold /unprotected bushels.
Soybeans closed 27-cents lower on the day and 35-cents lower on the week. As with the corn, the soybean market made its highs for the week on Monday and its lows on Friday. After many traders had positioned themselves for a bearish report two weeks ago, the market rallied very sharply and made most of these traders “cover” their positions before the report. The “funds” are now long just as the Argentine farmers are coming off of their strike, China is considering the release of 500,000- 1 million MT from their strategic reserves for domestic use, and we have the potential to increase U.S. soybean plantings by 5 million+ acres on Tuesday. 

                For soybeans, the biggest fundamental right now is 2009 acres. Everyone is expecting soybean acres to be up on the year, including myself. Some are expecting a small increase and some a very large increase. Because soybeans are so much cheaper to plant, we should definitely see an increase in the fringe areas of the belt especially were we lost wheat and cotton acres. In the heart of the belt, we should see mixed results. Because highly productive land has been consistently producing 200+ bushel corn on average over the past several years, these areas will probably stay with corn. On the other hand, part of the reason that we have seen corn acres increase over the past few years has been ethanol demand. Large ethanol plants have been going up all across the Midwest over the past 3 years and this gave many farmers confidence to plant extra corn as they knew there would be plenty of demand for their corn. With the ethanol industry now struggling and many plants not running at all, some of this optimism has been lost. With inputs still high relatively (although nearly half of last fall), many farmers could opt to move closer to a 50/50 rotation this year. Either way, it still seems likely that soybean acres will increase on the year. If they increase by 5 million or more, we could be looking at a carryover near 500 million by the end of the ’09-10 marketing year.
The wheat market closed 7-cents lower on the day and 43-cents lower on the week. After a sharp run-up in prices on fears of a “drought” in the Plains, forecasts changed and heavy rains fell throughout the Plains. To me, the best potential of a rally in the wheat market would be for Hard Red Spring wheat. Spring wheat looks to lose acres to soybeans and the stocks are much more snug then either HRW or SRW. HRW and SRW stocks are very ample and will need to become competitive in the world market and/or need to stay closely tied to corn prices to find feed demand. With a 600+ carryout still forecast for 2009, it will be hard to stage much of a rally without a serious weather problem.

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