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Articles from 2019 In August

This Week in Agribusiness, Aug. 31, 2019

Part 1

Max, Orion and Greg Soulje bring you the show from Farm Progress Show, and Greg offers an early weather outlook.

Max and Orion visit with Sonny Perdue about trade, including a phone call from President Trump.

Steve Nicholson, Rabo Agrifinance, joins the show to share a market outlook.

Part 2

Steve Nicholson is back, talking about commodity demand and marketing advice.

Chad Colby talks about the new technology featured at Farm Progress Show, including automation.

Steve Bridge talked with corn growers about demand for the crop. Kevin Ross, National Corn Growers Association, shares his thoughts.

Part 3

Max and Orion recap the Half Century of Progress Show.

Part 4

Zippy Duvall, president, American Farm Bureau, joins Max and Orion to talk about the Washington issues, including farm labor.

Greg Soulje is back with a weather outlook for the week ahead.

Part 5

Greg Soulje is back with an extended weather forecast.

Part 6

There’s a 1960 Oliver 880 Diesel in Max’s Tractor Shed this week.

The FFA Chapter Tribute goes to Humansville FFA in Missouri.

Orion marvels at the land that he’s seen while flying above farm country, as well as the farmers who farm it in Samuelson Sez.

Part 7

Steve Bridge reports on hemp farming, talking with Geoff Whaling, National Hemp Association.

Humansville FFA

The FFA Chapter Tribute goes to Humansville FFA in Missouri.

The group has 40 members who embrace opportunities, including horticulture classes and fundraisers. Member Katelyn Hoskins shares her appreciation for the national convention.

The weekly FFA Chapter Tribute is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the good work of your local chapter. Tell us about what you're doing, give us some history from your group and tell our viewers of the work you do in the community. FFA chapters across the country deserve recognition for the work they do, make sure we include yours.

To have your chapter considered for this weekly feature, send along information about your group by e-mail to Max Armstrong at They'll get your group on the list of those that will be covered in the future. It's a chance to share your story beyond the local community. Drop Orion or Max a "line" soon.

The National FFA Organization, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, is a national youth organization of about 650,000 student members as part of 7,757 local FFA chapters. The National FFA Organization remains committed to the individual student, providing a path to achievement in premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. For more, visit the National FFA Organization online, on Facebook at, on Twitter at


Shaun Casteel in soybean field
RACE TO FINISH: Shaun Casteel has documented this entire season, from near-record slow planting in spring to projected leaf-shedding dates in early October. While Indiana’s average soybean yield may dip below trend, he says plants have shown great resiliency.

Help to wrap up tough year

To say that 2019 has been an unusual crop year in Indiana and most of the country is an understatement. What’s still not clear is where this season will go down in history for yields and crop prices. What is clear is that it will be a race against the calendar for crops to both mature and dry down enough to allow for a reasonably efficient harvest.

Shaun Casteel, Purdue University Extension soybean specialist, has tracked progress — or lack of it — from the very start this year. “The 2019 season rivaled a couple other years in the last 40 for slowest planting progress for soybeans,” he says. “The Indiana soybean crop didn’t reach 50% planted until about mid-June. We were a full month late getting the crop in the ground.”

Soybeans respond to photoperiod, or length of nighttime, to help trigger reproductive stages; the crop overall was three weeks late reaching R3, or early pod set, which happened during the second week of August.   

“Despite the super-slow start, the crop still had decent yield potential at that point,” Casteel says. “We knew then the outcome on yield was going to be all about weather in September. Normally August is critical for soybeans, but this year it’s September.”

What’s ahead

Based on modeling and projections, Casteel expects 50% of Indiana’s soybean crop will reach R7, or leaf shed, around the first week of October. If a killing 28-degree-F freeze occurs at a normal date based on the past 30 years, that portion of the crop should mature with some time to spare. Harvest would follow around mid-October.

The question mark comes on the other half of the crop, he acknowledges. “We need as many warm, sunny days as we can get from here on out,” Casteel says. Even if all or most of the crop matures before frost, harvest could easily run into early November.

Bob Nielsen, Purdue Extension corn specialist, says the picture is similar for corn. Even in northern Indiana, 100-day corn should reach black layer by early October, safe from a freeze, he expects. However, black layer in corn is 30% moisture or higher. Unless October is exceptional for field drying, there could be lots of wet corn and even some high-moisture soybeans to harvest this fall.

Like Casteel with soybeans, Nielsen says the final yield outcome in corn may not be known until combines run. There was drought stress in parts of the state in August, when many cornfields were pollinating, and during early grain fill.

deviled eggs bhofack2/Getty Images
‘WICKED’ GIFT: Even a senior relative gets a chuckle out of a sign that says: “Wicked chickens lay deviled eggs.”

Best gifts show up in strangest places

You never know what treasure you’ll find at a Cracker Barrel restaurant.

My family frequently savors their slow-cooked pot roast, corn muffins and fried apples. I’ve been known to slip into the shop for gifts … often. One such shopping day a few years ago, I beheld a plaque that would forever live in infamy in the Hayhurst family. The black, white and red wall hanging read: “Wicked chickens lay deviled eggs.”

Breaking out in loud laughter in Cracker Barrel isn’t the demurest thing to do, but you must understand the back story.

My sweet, tiny mother-in-law, Betty Jo, is the family’s queen for making deviled eggs for every family dinner. Her eggs grace Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas spreads, and nearly every family dinner throughout the year. Wicked is not a word that I have ever heard her utter, nor has she probably ever thought of it. Leave it to her “outlaw” daughter-in-law to bring it to her attention.

Of course, I purchased the plaque, then laughed all the way to the car. Our family burst into loud laughter when she opened her present on Christmas day. Betty Jo proudly displays her gift above her typewriter at the family accounting office for all to see.

As if “wicked chickens” weren’t enough, earlier this year I visited Tractor Supply Co. and spied the perfect birthday gift. She could have her very own T-shirt with the same saying! Betty Jo was so thrilled, she wore it to her doctor’s office to tell him her deviled eggs story.

We don’t raise chickens, and my husband, Terry, says we never will. But we sure have a “wicked” good cook to make our deviled eggs!

Hayhurst writes from Terre Haute, Ind.

Bears keep pressure on

Hot money ran cold again this week through the commodity markets. Big speculators added to bearish bets and liquidated some of their sparse bullish positions.

Here’s what funds were up to through Tuesday, August 27, when the CFTC collected data for its latest Commitment of Traders released Friday.


Rare commodity

Bullish fund traders were hard to find this week as big speculators extended bearish bets in crop and livestock by another 61,250 contracts. Investors hoping to gain exposure to commodities through index funds were also selling a little of their net long positions.


USDA wake

After turning bearish on corn last for the first time since Memorial Day, big speculators kept pressing this week, adding 44,409 contracts to their net short position, taking it out to 114,984 contracts.



Big speculators didn’t do much in soybeans over the last week, at least collectively through Tuesday, when the CFTC data is collected. The hedge funds added only 190 contracts to their modest net short position.


Triple play

After shifting short again last week, big speculators tripled their new bearish bet in soybean oil last week, selling a net 10,618 contracts.


Out of favor

Soybean meal normally leads the bean complex but continues to see hard times. Funds added another 1,547 contracts to their net short position in the product.


False hope

Soft red winter wheat tried to prove a turnaround this week, helped by big speculators who trimmed 1,008 contracts off their net short position. But deliveries swamped the market later in the week.


Short pause

Funds covered a few bearish bets in hard red winter wheat this week, buying back 653 lots of their net short position. That wasn’t enough to keep the market from staying trapped below $4 however.


Still no end

Large traders in Minneapolis sold again this week, adding another 599 contracts to their record net short position ahead of active deliveries on first notice day Friday.



Money managers ran hot or cold on crude oil over the summer. This week they gave petroleum the cold shoulder, selling $1.4 billion in crude oil futures and options as prices continue to churn.

Image of grain bins with words Grain market week in review with Bryce Knorr and Ben Potter in white. Entire image has red tint.

Grain market week in review - Aug. 30, 2019


Last week ended with markets from stocks to soybeans down in the dumps after announcement of tit-for-tat tariffs in the trade war with China. News overnight that the two sides are talking gain shocked those same markets higher, helping beans to double digit gains.

Hopes for trade talks with China in September are helping some markets as August ends, giving a lift to both stocks and soybeans. Corn followed along with more modest gains overnight but wheat broke in all three markets, weighed down by a rush of deliveries on first notice day for September futures.


Crop progress

USDA moved corn a point higher and soybeans two points higher in its latest crop progress report, out Monday afternoon. This year’s corn crop is now rated 57% good-to-excellent, up from 56% a week ago. Soybeans moved from 53% in good to excellent condition to 55%. Spring wheat conditions slipped a point lower, with 69% of the crop now rated good to excellent. The spring wheat harvest moved from 16% too 38% complete. The winter wheat harvest reached 96% last week.



In the latest weekly export inspection report from USDA, covering the week ending August 22, some totals slipped from a week ago but remained on the high end of trade expectations. Soybean export inspections, in particular, were worth noting according to Farm Futures senior grain market analyst Bryce Knorr.

Wheat wins the gold star in the latest USDA export report, covering the week ending August 22, after climbing to a marketing-year high. Corn and soybean exports didn’t fare too badly either.


2020 forecast

Farmers plan to plant more corn, soybeans and wheat in the coming year after historic flooding in 2019 prevented planting on record acreage. But Farm Futures first survey of 2020 planting intentions shows not all of the lost ground may go back into traditional row crops.


Friday’s market reports

Grain futures are mixed this morning, supported by a better mood in financial markets but weighed down by deliveries across the board against September futures on first notice day. End-of-the-month positioning ahead of the Labor Day weekend could also be in play today in many markets.

Wheat prices fell double digits Friday on a big round of technical selling, with corn also sliding in the red from some technical selling. Soybeans hung on for small gains, in contrast, as U.S.-China trade tensions appear to be easing for now.

GettyImages-894647350.jpg AlbertPego/Getty Images

Government aid boosts farm income

Net farm income could reach a five-year high in 2019, according to new estimates out today from USDA. But sales from crops, livestock and other goods aren’t responsible for most of the gains contained in the latest updates on ag finances. Instead, updates to 2018 figures and government aid to offset losses from trade disputes appears to account for most of the improvement.

The agency’s Economic Research Service projected 2019 net farm income of $88 billion, up 4.8% from 2018. But both years’ estimates were revised sharply higher. In addition to $20.9 billion added to the estimate for last year, expected results for 2019 were up $18.6 billion compared to the initial figures released in March.


The first installment of the second round of Market Facilitation Program payments should add another $8 billon to farm revenues this year, according to detailed line item breakouts. The MFPs are listed as “miscellaneous programs,” which total $17.1 billion. That income would offset a sharp drop in revenues from the Agriculture Risk Coverage, or ARC program, which could be down $9.3 billion this year according to USDA.


In all, direct government payments would rise to $19.5 billion, accounting for 17% of net farm income.

Other income gains also came in programs designed to provide a safety net for growers, including crop insurance. Total insurance payments 2019 were adjusted higher likely due in part to record prevent plant claims following a historically wet spring in many parts of the country. As a result of the lost acres, the 2019 value of crop production dropped $12.2 billion from the agency’s estimate in March. Livestock revenues also were adjusted lower, down $2.7 billion from March. Rising livestock production wasn’t enough to offset lower prices, according to the agency.

In all, the changes mean the total value of ag production would be down slightly from last year, coming in at $414.7 billion.


A drop in production expenses from the March report stemming from reduced acres , including costs for fuel, labor, custom work, depreciation and seed  helped offset those lower revenues.


Lower interest rates were another plus for income, falling $3 billion from the earlier projection, when it looked like the Federal Reserve might keep raising interest rates. That produced a drop in both the interest as a total percentage of income and debt services as a percentage of gross sales.



Other key ratios were mixed but showed only small changes. While the debt-to-assets ratio for agriculture went up to the highest level since 2002, the increase from last year was only two-tenths of 1%. And at 13.5% the benchmark is still far below levels reached during the 1980s farm crisis.


Other ratios improved. Profit margins improved to 25%, up from 19% in 2016, when net farm income bottomed at $61.5 billion. Return on equity would be up 1% to 3%, despite total farm real estate values that continue to appreciate nationwide.




SHELLEY-HUGULEY-19-pecan-trees-2.jpg Shelley E. Huguley

Strong year for pecans in eastern New Mexico

New Mexico’s commercial pecan industry makes a significant contribution to the state’s agricultural success, including a No.1 rank in total production nationwide last year, but maintaining profitability requires taking on some significant threats.

Insect pests, water management and trade issues pose challenges to commercial pecan growers.

Staying on top may not be the top priority.

“Last year’s No. 1 rank in total pecan production followed damages Georgia’s pecan industry suffered from Hurricane Michael. But pecan acres are expanding across New Mexico, which is poised to remain a major player in the industry,” says Woods Houghton, a long time New Mexico State University Extension agent in Eddy County and a pecan grower on his farm near Carlsbad.

In recent years, farmers have been switching from other crops to tree nuts as their primary enterprise, Houghton says.

 “When you drive up from El Paso toward Las Cruces, you see acre after acre of commercial pecan orchards. And now we’re seeing orchards stretching up the Rio Grande almost all the way to Albuquerque. But expansion in southeastern New Mexico is gaining momentum and acres once dedicated to alfalfa are converting to pecans,” he says.

The area around Carlsbad has long produced high-quality alfalfa to support a robust dairy industry. But with fewer dairy operations, some of which were also converted to pecans, has alfalfa acreage has declined, and most of those are switch to pecans.

Pecan industry facing challenges

Houghton says every crop on every farm faces challenges every year, and pecans are no exception.

Take the pecan weevil, for instance. For more than 30 years, New Mexico has seen periodic introductions of pecan weevil, which have been eradicated each time with the help of an alert and proactive pecan industry. But since the pecan weevil moved back into eastern New Mexico in late 2016, pecan growers in the area are once again fighting to control the insect.

“Our biggest problem with this latest introduction of the weevil is the presence on a backyard variety of pecan tree. Commercial growers monitor carefully for the weevil and they respond quickly to avoid heavy infestations. But weevils often jump from yard to yard and sometimes are not detected or treated until it’s too late,” Houghton says.

Fortunately, efforts to involve homeowners in control of the pest are paying off.

“We don’t have much of a problem with the pecan weevil around Carlsbad. But north of here, near Artesia, we’ve seen a few outbreaks. So, we remain under a quarantine.”

Houghton says private property owners have responded to the call for better monitoring, reporting and treatment. In addition, through quarantines that restrict the movement of in-shell pecans, the war on the weevil is having some success.

In November 2017, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture for Chaves, Curry, Eddy, and Lea counties imposed an interior emergency pecan weevil quarantine. The quarantine was issued as a result of the continued findings of pecan weevil in residential pecan trees in Hobbs, Lovington, Roswell, Clovis, Artesia and in limited commercial southeastern New Mexico orchards.

New Mexico’s exterior pecan weevil quarantine, which was enacted in 1997, restricts the movement of in-shell pecans originating in all states except Arizona, California and the Texas counties of El Paso and Hudspeth, and parts of Culberson County.

Pecan weevil primarily spreads through movement of in-shell pecans and on infested orchard equipment.

Houghton says it takes several years before the all-clear can be sounded after weevils are detected in an area and expressed hope that New Mexico will soon be weevil free.

Water and trade woes

Water also remains a constant challenge. Pecan trees require regular water. During dry years or periods of extreme drought, growers have a hard time keeping their orchards irrigated. But when irrigation is limited by drought, many commercial growers turn to pumping groundwater when possible, and even purchase water or irrigation allotments from other property owners.

“Water is always an issue in farming, regardless of what you plant. Pecans are no exception. But good rains and good snowmelt in the mountains can make a big difference any given year, at least until the next dry spell,” Houghton says.

The other major issue since last year has been retaliatory trade tariffs imposed by China and other U.S. trade partners. China is a major market for U.S. commercial pecans, and tariffs have made moving the nut in the global marketplace more difficult.

“Somehow, pecan growers were left out in the cold to qualify for USDA market facilitation funding and that hasn’t made things easier. But like everything else with farming, you learn to meet the challenges or roll with the punches. Demand for pecans remains high worldwide and eventually I think we’ll see the return of a more normal marketing environment,” Houghton says.

 Promising Crop

He says pecans are looking “very good” in Eddy County this year.

“Somehow, we are running just the opposite of pecan orchards in the Central Valley around Las Cruces,” he adds. “Pecans grow in alternating on-year and off-year cycles, but somehow we are having an on-year while along the Rio Grande they are having an off-year, which is actually good for all of us in terms of keeping prices strong year after year.”


Top 6 corn and soybean stories you may have missed

Check out this gallery of the top six stories not to miss in corn and soybeans. They include a look at potassium deficient soybeans and a letter from the National Corn Growers Association to President Trump asking for help for farmers. Plus, some tips on preparing for #harvest19. 

dorian-cone-8-29-2019-pm-1.png NOAA

Dorian’s threat

Some pretty significant changes in the path of Hurricane Dorian over the last day have increased the risk of significant impacts to Georgia this weekend and next week.

Dorian’s path has been farther east than originally forecast, which means that its circulation has avoided the mountainous terrain of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. That means it was less disrupted than expected, and now is forecast to approach the east coast of Florida as a potentially major hurricane by Monday.

The forecast cone includes all of the Georgia coast, however, and there are still likely to be significant changes to the forecast path. The more eastward path has also added time before the projected landfall, so that gives us a little extra time to prepare. There is also a slight chance the storm will recurve to the northeast before it hits the coast—in that case, breathe a sigh of relief and think of this as preparation for the next storm.

If you are in southeastern Georgia, you should be prepared for tropical storm force winds to hit as early as Sunday morning. That means you need to remove anything from outdoors that could become a flying projectile by Saturday night. We should have mostly dry weather through Saturday, but after that the chances for rain go up as onshore flow brings a lot of moisture to the area.

Along the coast, onshore flow coupled with the already higher than normal tides will increase the chances of flooding, and that will only be made worse by the tropical rainfall. Spiral bands ahead of the storm could produce brief tornadoes in isolated thunderstorm cells. Power outages are likely due to the combination of wet soil and strong winds blowing trees over.

If you are in southwestern Georgia, do not let your guard down. A number of computer models indicate that the storm may cross the Florida peninsula and enter the Gulf of Mexico, where sea surface temperatures are above normal. A recurve to the north into Georgia is a possibility, and even if the storm weakens as you might expect, heavy rain and brief tornadoes could occur in that situation. The timing would be starting early next week due to the extra time it would take for Dorian to cross Florida, so you still have time to watch and prepare.

If you are in central and northern Georgia, you have more time to watch the storm development, but you should also prepare for potential tropical storm force winds and heavy rain at times. The timing of the impacts would most likely be Tuesday through Thursday based on today’s forecast, but that could change depending on where Dorian actually goes and how fast it is moving.

In any event with potentially heavy flooding, you should move equipment and livestock out of low-lying areas in advance of the storm and make sure you have fuel and the capacity to provide power if you need it for milking, drying of crops, etc. The combination of strong winds and rainfall means that falling trees are more likely and will impact power availability.

Read more of this article at Climate and Agriculture in the Southeast.