Planting delays in the U.S. have resulted in some of the highest corn prices in several years, as well as a significant rise in soybean prices.

As of May 26, only 58 percent of the corn and 29 percent of the soybeans in the U.S. were planted. Those are among the lowest percentages ever for planted crop acres in late May.

The rise in grain prices have been beneficial to farmers with unpriced 2018 corn and soybeans still in storage; however, it has created a dilemma for farmers with uncertain planting and crop yields for 2019.

In many years, some of the best grain marketing opportunities occur during “planting season,” normally from late April until early June. Sometimes, spring planting delays can lead to some brief enhancements in the grain markets.

The final South American harvest numbers and grain export prospects also can have an impact on grain market movements in the spring.

The Chicago Board of Trade corn futures hit a low point during the second week of May, near $3.40 per bushel. But the price has been on an upswing ever since. The July corn futures price closed at $4.36 per bushel on May 30, the highest closing price since June 2016.

December corn futures prices, which correlate to 2019 harvest prices, have also risen in the past three weeks. December futures closed at $3.72 per bushel on May 10 and increased to $4.52 per bushel on May 30, again the highest price in several years.

Corn prices in southern Minnesota have also improved considerably in recent weeks. Cash corn prices were near $4 per bushel at some locations, and above $3.85 at most locations at the end of May.

The soybean market also is up in recent weeks, but not as dramatically as the corn market. The soybean market is held in check by the projected large soybean carryover numbers from 2018.

Soybean prices are also being impacted by the continued declines in export numbers due to the struggling U.S. trade negotiations with China and other countries.

CBOT soybean futures had a closing price of $7.97 per bushel on May 10, which was near the lowest point of the year, before rising to $8.89 per bushel on May 30, the highest price since early April. November soybean futures, which help set 2019 soybean forward contract bids at local grain elevators and processing plants, closed at $9.15 per bushel on May 30, again, the highest level in several weeks.

Cash prices at the soybean processing plants in Mankato rose above $8.30 per bushel on May 30, as compared to $7.61 per bushel on April 10. Cash soybean prices at local grain elevators in southern Minnesota also saw considerable improvement in recent weeks, with local cash prices in a range of $7.65 to $8 per bushel at the end of May.

Unfortunately, local soybean prices are still below breakeven levels for many producers.

Farmers need to stay fairly aggressive in taking advantage of the current strength in grain market prices to market any “old crop” corn that is not priced. Even though local soybean prices are not as enticing as corn prices, the current cash and harvest soybean prices are considerably better than they were a few weeks ago.

Typically, spring weather markets do not last on a long-term basis and tend to level out as the growing season progresses. Some analysts say this year will be different because of the extreme planting delays. Only time will tell.

Kent Thiesse is a farm management analyst and senior vice president of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, Minn.

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