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DTN Field Roundup             05/17 07:12

   Still Stuck: Widespread Wetness, Stormy Markets Weigh on Farmers

   Persistent wet weather, a slow planting pace and volatile markets are making 
#plant19 one for the memory books.

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

   ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- This spring is delivering a grim message to many 
farmers this year.

   "It seems like both the weather and the markets are telling us not to plant 
any of the big three cash crops this year," said Dan Petker, a farmer from 
Ontario, Canada. "Personally, if it stops raining today, we'd still be waiting 
at least 10 days before we could get started with planting. Ontario doesn't 
have a prevent plant program like [the U.S.], so a crop will most likely be 
planted; be it a profitable one or not."

   In this week's Field Roundup, a group of farmers and ranchers from across 
the farm belt weighed in on the spring's many challenges so far, from 
persistent wet and cold conditions to volatile commodity markets.

   WET EVERYWHERE, BUT SOME PROGRESS IN THE SOUTH

   Farmers in more Southern regions have made some progress on planting, but 
their Midwest and northern counterparts remain caught in a stagnant wet weather 
cycle. Some snuck in some corn and even soybean planting back in late April, 
but what has emerged is showing the effects of a long wait in cold soils 
without much sunshine.

   "It has been raining at least every other day, if not every day, for the 
last month," said Raymond Simpkins, who farms in southeastern Michigan. "Very 
little corn and beans went in four weeks ago and has yet to emerge."

   Kyle Samp's April-planted corn took 20 days to emerge in north-central 
Missouri. "One-third is up and looks OK, on one-third, the stand is iffy, and 
the last one-third is no doubt a replant," he estimated. "Ideally, we would be 
done with corn and have a good jump on beans. I don't really see a scenario 
where we aren't planting beans well into June."

   Likewise, Josh Miller of southern Illinois managed to squeeze 60 acres of 
corn planting in, only to see half of it disappear under the floodwaters of the 
swollen Mississippi River. "We haven't been in the field for over a month," he 
said. 

   Farther south, farmers have had a slightly less miserable spring planting 
season. Oklahoma farmer Zack Rendel wrapped up his corn planting on time two 
weeks ago, but he's waiting for drier conditions to start soybeans. His region 
of northeastern Oklahoma has received 12 inches of rain in the past three weeks 
-- more than a quarter of its annual average precipitation. 

   "All of our corn is out of the ground and looks really good," Rendel said, 
with some surprise. "Some places are yellowing a little from too much wet feet, 
but for how many inches they've endured, it looks fantastic." 

   Charles Williams of northeastern Arkansas finished corn planting a few days 
later than normal and has jumped right into cotton and soybean planting. "Then 
we'll evaluate the need for replants and determine whether we'd like to plant 
additional acreage to cotton," he said. "It's best to have cotton planted by 
May 20 in the North Delta, but we've planted up until the 25th plenty of 
times." 

   In the Texas Panhandle, farmer and rancher Mike Lass isn't sweating a slight 
cotton delay, either. "Cotton planting is in rain/low-temps delay mode for 
now," he said. "But still plenty of time to plant cotton before the June 5 
[full insurance] cutoff."

   PREVENTED PLANTING VS. SWITCHING CROPS

   Many in the Midwest facing more rain in the forecast are making the 
difficult decision to tweak their inputs or seed selection. Missouri's Samp has 
already switched out his longest-season corn hybrid for a shorter one to cut on 
drying costs this fall, and he is considering increasing his nitrogen rate at 
sidedressing to account for leaching this spring. 

   Some farmers are making the conventional pivot to soybeans, which can handle 
a shorter season better than other crops. If William's heavy gumbo soils in 
Arkansas don't dry out in time, many of his rice acres might be switched to 
soybeans, and Illinois' Miller expects to move about 15% of his soggy corn 
acres to soybeans soon.

   But others are bucking the beans, which have emerged as a major market 
casualty in the trade war with China.

   In central Kansas, Kyle Krier is mulling moving some acres out of grain 
entirely, into teff grass or hay, which look potentially more profitable than 
either corn or soybeans.

   For others, prevented planting, as unpleasant as it is, may be the most 
economical decision for wet corn acres than any other crop -- particularly 
soybeans.

   "If I end up with prevent corn acres, I will leave them fallow," said 
Michigan's Simpkins. "Last year, I switched acres to beans. But with the 
current market, I will not grow more beans."

   Some have already tangled with prevented planting this year. Both Kansas' 
Krier and Oklahoma's Rendel had to leave wheat acres unplanted last fall. With 
the prevented planting payment for wheat, plus a spring soybean crop, those 
lost acres might redeem themselves, both noted.

   "There should be an opportunity for some profitability on those acres if we 
get this next crop in the ground timely," Krier said.

   MARKET MADNESS

   The soybean markets have been the source of much heartburn this spring, 
particularly in the last week, when prices rode a rollercoaster of Twitter 
announcements of additional tariffs and another round of trade mitigation 
payments to farmers.

   Farmer reactions varied widely, from anger and disgust to stoic support and 
even Zen-like detachment.

   "The markets just feel like a punch in the gut right now," said Honebrink. 
"Every time I get my new budget and plan figured out, markets drop and I have 
to go back to the drawing board."

   Rendel added: "I can't tell you how worried and on edge I am every day 
watching the markets, wondering what is the next thing I'm going to see on 
Twitter. I'm walking on pins and needles every day."

   In central Ohio, Keith Peters believes not all our trade partners will 
return when the dust settles. "We have to go forward with the realization that 
we have lost market share for the foreseeable future," he said.

   But other farmers view themselves as soldiers in the trenches of the trade 
war -- battered, but determined, even optimistic. "You have damages from war -- 
the American farmer is seeing this with the soybean price," explained Nebraska 
farmer Luke Lauritsen. "But the corn market has a good profit potential."

   "We've gone this far; we can't back down now -- that's just what China 
expects us to do because we always have," added Bob Birdsell, of northwest 
Missouri. "Some people are upset, but this is what [President Donald Trump] 
said he would do, and a lot of people voted for him to do it."

   Finally, some farmers are fulfilling the old serenity prayer to change the 
things they can, but accept the things they cannot.

   "We've got enough to worry about with the stuff we can control like inputs 
and costs," said Lass, of Texas. "The government and the markets are like the 
weather -- volatile and unpredictable. Whatever happens, happens!"

   Emily Unglesbee can be reached at Emily.unglesbee@dtn.com 

   Follow her on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee


(PS/AG/ES)

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