Market analyst: Growing season begins

Ray Grabanski
Special to the Farm Forum

05/19/20 — The 2020 growing season has begun, and it looks like we’ll have an early planted corn and soybean crop, but just about everything else is later than normal in development. Corn planting was almost complete by May 18, with soybeans over half done which is early on both counts. However, almost everything else is late in not only planting, but also development.

Crop progress yesterday 5/18 showed corn planting 80% complete vs. 71% average (9% ahead of normal), soybean planting 53% done vs. 38% ave (15% ahead of normal), and cotton 44% planted vs. 40% normally done (4% ahead of average). But almost everything else is on the late side — even winter wheat heading progress is behind normal. The most concerning area is right here in North Dakota, with this state the furthest behind in the entire nation. Other northern crops are finding planting a slow go, with HRS 60% planted vs. 80% average (20% behind normal), barley 72% planted vs. 82% average (10% behind), sorghum 32% planted vs. 34% average (2% behind), sugarbeets 78% planted vs. 93% average (15% behind), and sunflowers 4% planted vs. 9% average (5% behind normal).

So while corn and soybean planting is well ahead of average, northern crops are behind. Fortunately, northern areas are forecast to have dry and warm weather the next 2 weeks which will allow planting to be more rapid. Unfortunately, only about 25% of the planting season is left, and growers have about 80% of ground left to plant in some northern areas so it is inevitable there will be significant prevent plant in North Dakota and surrounding states. Weather forecasts are still somewhat wet for the Corn Belt the next week, with the wettest weather once again in the southern and eastern Corn Belt. The 8-14 day forecast dries a bit, though, and should allow soggy soils to dry out in that region.

News of China’s imposition this week of an 80.5% tariff on Australian barley is pressuring the grain markets somewhat. In fact, many western countries have expressed dissatisfaction with China’s handling of the COVID-19 crises. That virus had a much more disastrous impact on Western economies than China, and they have been expressing that dissatisfaction directly to China including Australia and New Zealand.

Recently, the U.S. has taken a more aggressive stance towards China where the COVID-19 originated, as well as a strong stance against the World Health Organization, which seemed to back China throughout this debacle. The U.S. wrote a letter to WHO demanding an investigation of the communication between China and WHO from the onset of the crisis in December to now, claiming mismanagement by WHO and undue influence by China. In it, the U.S. threatens to permanently withdraw U.S. backing of WHO unless a full investigation is made. The full letter is posted on President Donald Trump’s Twitter account, and the accusations of mismanagement by WHO is striking in detail and scope. Tensions between China and the U.S. seem tighter than before — making trade more difficult between nations.

On the positive side, the economic recovery/reopening of western counties including the U.S. is proceeding at a rapid pace. A few problem areas exist (mostly large city populations), but overall most of the country seems to be able to operate with little difficulty (especially rural counties/states). Daily and weekly COVID-19 cases continue to decline — even in areas making rapid recoveries. It makes one think that in many senses, it might have been unnecessary for rural areas to participate in any type of lockdown — but cities are different (and especially New York).

Crude oil markets are especially excited about the recovery so far, rallying almost 100% in just a few short weeks on the July contract. Stock values for energy producers have soared as well, with both ethanol and oil producers both seeing large increases in stock values. But they have a lot to recover from with the huge declines in March.