Today’s Grain Market Update

by Jennifer Stanton

December corn closed down 6 1/2 cents and November soybeans were down 13 3/4 cents, one day after USDA showed another successful week of planting progress, despite the stormy challenges. July contracts of all three U.S. wheats fell back as traders responded with caution to Tuesday’s new multi-month highs.

WHEAT:

July KC wheat closed down 11 1/2 cents at $7.19 3/4, falling back from its highest close in eight months on Tuesday as traders show more caution about prices at these higher levels. Concerns about stressed wheat crops around the Black Sea region are the primary source of support lately. There are some chances for light rain in the forecast the next seven days, more for eastern Ukraine than for southern Russia. Temperatures will remain well above normal in southern Russia the next 10 days, adding to crop stress. In western Europe, the forecast remains unfavorably wet another two days before giving France and the U.K. a break next week. According to BBC.com, up to one-fourth of the wheat crop in the U.K. will be lost this year after experiencing the wettest winter on record. In related news, Reuters reported India is considering an end to its 40% tax on wheat imports, possibly after June.

Late Tuesday, USDA said 48% of the winter wheat crop was rated good to excellent, a slight decline from last week, but well above last year’s 34% rating. Kansas continues to have the highest poor-to-very poor crop rating at 32%. USDA also said 88% of spring wheat was planted, well ahead of its five-year average of 81% for this time of year. Fifteen percent of North Dakota was said to have surplus topsoil moisture. The forecast expects moderate to heavy rains up and down the western U.S. Plains the next seven days with the heaviest amounts from Kansas to Texas. Tuesday’s report showed 21% of the winter wheat in Texas is harvested, so there is some vulnerability to heavy rains further north.

Because Russia’s dominance of world wheat exports is being challenged by adverse weather in early 2024, wheat prices are potentially volatile at this time and, as is often the case, much will depend on how the weather turns out. For now, the price trends remain up for the July contracts of all three U.S. wheats. DTN’s National HRW Index closed at $6.78 Tuesday, its highest close in seven months. DTN’s National HRS Index closed at $7.20.

CORN:

December corn ended down 6 1/2 cents at $4.78 3/4 Wednesday, lightly pressured by higher-than-expected planting progress in USDA’s weekly report. Late Tuesday, USDA said 83% of the corn crop was planted, slightly above its five-year average of 82% for this time of year. Emergence was at 58%, also on schedule. Iowa is 88% planted and Illinois is at 80%. Compared to their respective five-year averages, Pennsylvania and Kentucky show the slowest progress at 53% and 73% planted, respectively.

Even though corn planting is making good progress, there is still a chance wet pockets in the remaining 17% of unplanted fields either won’t be planted in 2024 or will be planted to something else, possibly soybeans. Add in the uncertainty of USDA’s 90.0-million-acre planting estimate from March and USDA’s Acreage report on June 28 could offer prices a significant surprise.

On the demand side, corn exports remain active and Thursday’s report of ethanol production may slip a little, but should stay near its current pace of roughly 4% more than a year ago. On Tuesday, USDA estimated corn’s processing value in Iowa at $6.32 a bushel, well above the national cash average price of $4.43 a bushel. The next estimate of ethanol production will be out Thursday morning.

With ongoing uncertainty about U.S. corn plantings and yield in 2024, the trend in December corn remains up, but it may be difficult for prices to extend higher. DTN’s National Corn Index was priced at $4.41 Tuesday evening, 22 cents below the July futures. Dow Jones futures were down almost 1% Wednesday afternoon with a GDP report due out Thursday and the PCE inflation index due out Friday.