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Market Matters Blog 11/20 12:17

  • 20 Nov, 2017
  • 12:19:00

Market Matters Blog 11/20 12:17 2017 HRS Wheat, Durum Crop: Survival of the Fittest DDG Prices Jump Higher Divergence and the Rubber-Band Principle China Cracks the Door Open for US DDGS Exports DDG Prices Sharply Higher Study Released on Impacts of Unscheduled River Lock Outages Upper Midwest Fall Harvest Results Mixed After Summer Drought DDG Prices Firm US River System Still Not Flowing Smoothly Amid Fall Harvest DDG Prices Firm ****************************************************************************** 2017 HRS Wheat, Durum Crop: Survival of the Fittest The 2017 U.S. hard red spring wheat crop may have been lower in production, but overall, it featured a high grade profile, high protein content and very good functional performance, according to the North Dakota Wheat Commission (NDWC) 2017 U.S. Hard Red Spring Wheat and Durum Regional Quality Report. The report noted that production was down 21% from 2016 due to lower planted area, and severe drought conditions across the western portion of the main four-state production region. The impact from drought offset production gains in the Pacific Northwest and eastern half of the four-state growing region, where a more favorable growing season produced above-average to record yields. The spring wheat crop averaged a No. 1 Northern Spring protein compared to a No. 1 Dark Northern Spring (the preferred flavor of top exporters) a year ago, as average vitreous kernel levels fell from 77% to 71%. Protein averaged 14.5%, which was higher than the five-year average. Drought conditions and above-average temperatures led to the higher protein, with the most notable gains in protein in drought-affected areas, noted the report. I spoke to shippers and farmers in the key growing areas of Montana and North Dakota, as well as western Minnesota and South Dakota. With the severity of the drought varied in all of the growing areas, results were mixed. Perhaps the hardest-hit area of the spring wheat growing states was Montana. Todd LaPlant, elevator manager at EGT LLC in Glasgow, Montana, told me, "We estimate yield for northeast Montana spring wheat at 17 bushels per acre, down from 40+ bpa last year. We also estimate abandonment at 25%. Most of the spring wheat that wasn't worth harvesting was also too thin to bale in our area." Tim Luken, manager of Oahe Grain in Onida, South Dakota, told me, "In 2016, our elevator took in 720,000 bushels of spring wheat, grading 60.9 test weight (tw) and 14.4% protein (pro). In 2017, we took in 224,000 bushels grading 60.9 tw and 15.6% pro." Luken told me that the lower grain intake was due to drought and acres lost to corn and soybeans in 2017 -- maybe 15% to 18%. "I would say our yields in our trade territory will average somewhere in that 47-bushel-per-acre area," said Jeff Kittell, merchandiser for Border Ag and Energy in Russell, North Dakota. "Quality was good with no vomitoxin, and our protein will average 14.0%. We had no significant amount of wheat acres abandoned." Keith Brandt, general manager of Plains, Grain and Agronomy in Enderlin, North Dakota, told me, "Spring wheat yields ended up at 65 bu/acre. Good quality, 14.0 pro. Nothing baled up in southeast North Dakota. Look for about 10% increase in planted acres in 2018. Part of this is price related because wheat will cash flow, but maybe a bigger part is getting wheat in the rotation for weed control and getting a crop harvested earlier, so they can come back to do ditching, tiling and/or make effective use of cover crops -- all beneficial ways to improving soil conditions." A shuttle loader in eastern North Dakota told me that his area had an average crop of wheat with protein about a half of a percent over the average. "We were hurt by some dryness, but nothing was wiped out in the valley. The area in east-central North Dakota averaged around 75 bpa and 14.2% pro." He also noted that early talk is for a little more wheat planting intended and less corn, but "it's still early." In northwestern Minnesota, Tim Dufault, who farms in the Crookston, Minnesota, area said his wheat was "right at 75 bushels per acre, about the third-best-ever yield. Quality was good also. One variety of seed was under 14% protein, but for the whole crop, I would estimate my pro will be a hair over 14%. Test weights and color were also good." "I am a board member of the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council," said Dufault. "That is the group that takes the checkoff fee and promotes our wheat through the U.S. Wheat Associates. At our board meeting Nov. 16, the ones that were there said they expect there would be a lot more spring wheat planted next year (we are a nine-person board and not everyone was at the meeting). A lot of them also said this year's wheat crop was their best ever. Those present farmed from west-central Minnesota all the way up to the Canadian border." Next, let's take a look at how North Dakota farmers did on their durum... what there was of it. According to the NDWC Quality Report, the 2017 northern durum crop averaged a No. 1 Hard Amber Durum grade with an average protein level of 14.5%. While average vitreous kernel content is at 88%, rains in areas did adversely affect the color on a portion of the crop. Also, effects of the drought were seen in the lower thousand kernel weights (average is 38.4 grams) and larger percentage of medium-sized kernels. The report also stated that durum production in Montana and North Dakota in 2017 is down significantly due to a small decline in acreage and to sharply lower yields, as the region was afflicted with serious drought conditions. Durum production in the two states combined is 41.5 million bushels (1.13 million metric tons), less than half of 2016's production. HOW DID CANADA DO THIS YEAR? I asked DTN Canadian Grains Analyst Cliff Jamieson about Canada's 2017 durum and spring wheat crops. Here's his report. "The 2017 Canadian durum crop is of high quality, with the Saskatchewan government estimating that 95% of the crop will fall within the top two grades, well above the 10-year average of 57%," said Jamieson. "The Alberta government has estimated that 85% of the crop will fall within the top two grades, up from the five-year average of 71%. The ongoing harvest sample program conducted by the Canadian Grain Commission has so far posted test results for 1,442 samples, of which 1,313 samples, or 91%, have fallen within the top two grades. "Statistics Canada's most recent reports have estimated prairie durum yields at 31 bushels per acre, well below the five-year average of 41.8 bu/ac. With seeded acres expected down an estimated 16%, estimated production of 4.3 million metric tons points to the smallest crop in six years. "Provincial government crop estimates were more optimistic," said Jamieson. "The Saskatchewan government's provincial average is pegged at 36 bu/ac and the Alberta government's average at 35.8 bu/ac, which could point to high odds of an upward revision in production estimates when Statistics Canada releases their next round of estimates based on November surveys on Dec. 6." As for the spring wheat crop, Jamieson said, "Like durum, the overall quality of the wheat crop is extremely high. While the Canadian Grain Commission's harvest sample program does not provide an accurate reflection of grade distribution across the prairies, so far, 4,176 samples of the 4,454 samples tested, or 93.8%, have graded either 1 CWRS or 2 CWRS. The mean protein is reported at 13.01% for all samples submitted, with the mean protein reported the lowest in Saskatchewan at 12.77%. The prairie average is down from the 13.6% reported for all samples tested in 2016." Current estimates suggest that Canada's hard red spring production will reach 17.126 million metric tons, up 2.7% from 2016, but 4.5% below the five-year average. "It is interesting to note that hard red spring production is estimated to account for 75% of all wheat production in Canada (excluding durum), up from 69.6% in 2016 and the five-year average of 72.5%," said Jamieson. According to Jamieson, wheat yields on the prairies were seen as highly variable in 2017, with the southern prairies facing drought conditions while many northern areas received excessive -- even record -- rainfall. "Crop quality is reported as well-above-average levels and has led to a rebound in exports from levels seen in 2016/17." Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com Follow Mary Kennedy on Twitter @MaryCKenn ****************************************************************************** DDG Prices Jump Higher OMAHA (DTN) -- The DTN average dried distillers grains (DDG) spot price from the 39 locations DTN collects bids from was $124 for the week ended Nov. 16, 7 cents higher from the prior week. Merchandisers noted that markets have been climbing higher with the arrival of seasonal demand, which is catching some plants a little short of product. That is also due in part to the renewal of shipments to Vietnam after the fumigation issue was resolved in September, a market that exporters had been unable to partake in since one year ago. Based on the average of bids collected by DTN, the value of DDG relative to corn for the week ended Nov. 16 was at 103.18%, and the value of DDG relative to soybean meal was at 39.94%. The cost per unit of protein for DDG was $4.59, compared to the cost per unit of protein for soybean meal at $6.54. CIF NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) prices for November were at $150 to $155 per ton and December was at $152 to $156. Barges are in the process of heading south from the UMR to get downriver before locks start to close for the winter. Barges leaving St. Paul and south of there (MM857-MM640) need to be on their way by Sunday, Nov. 19, to make it past the final lock where the river closes for the winter. The last barges leaving the southern UMR down to MM240, need to be moving by Dec. 3. DDGS NEWS The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) reported that shipping containers containing 7,850 metric tons of U.S. distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) arrived into the Port of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, between Oct. 25 and Nov. 10, 2017, among the first orders filled following a September announcement by the Vietnamese government that it would lift its suspension of DDGS imports and ease fumigation requirements for U.S. corn and wheat imports. Manuel Sanchez, USGC regional director for South and Southeast Asia, was on site as the containers of U.S. DDGS arrived. The containers were among the first to arrive in Vietnam following the government lifting a suspension put in place in October 2016. "We are glad to see the first shipment and arrival of U.S. DDGS back into the Vietnamese market," said Sanchez. "The Council collaborated closely with our own government, the Vietnamese government and industries in both countries to resolve this trade disruption." Last week, DDGS imports into China saw a bit of good news when China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they would allow U.S. distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) to be imported without charging an 11% value added tax (VAT). While the VAT has been removed, the anti-dumping and countervailing duties remain, but shippers agree that this news may be one small step toward China possibly easing up on the current penalties. CURRENT PREVIOUS CHANGE COMPANY STATE 11/16/2017 11/9/2017 Bartlett and Company, Kansas City, MO (816-753-6300) Missouri Dry $132 $132 $0 Modified $68 $68 $0 CHS, Minneapolis, MN (800-769-1066) Illinois Dry $122 $118 $4 Indiana Dry $122 $117 $5 Iowa Dry $120 $116 $4 Michigan Dry $112 $112 $0 Minnesota Dry $125 $118 $7 North Dakota Dry $135 $128 $7 New York Dry $132 $122 $10 South Dakota Dry $135 $118 $17 MGP Ingredients, Atchison, KS (800-255-0302 Ext. 5253) Kansas Dry $130 $128 $2 POET Nutrition, Sioux Falls, SD (888-327-8799) Indiana Dry $125 $120 $5 Iowa Dry $120 $117 $3 Michigan Dry $125 $120 $5 Minnesota Dry $120 $115 $5 Missouri Dry $135 $125 $10 Ohio Dry $125 $120 $5 South Dakota Dry $130 $115 $15 ` ` United BioEnergy, Wichita, KS (316-616-3521) Kansas Dry $140 $140 $0 Wet $60 $60 $0 Illinois Dry $140 $140 $0 Nebraska Dry $140 $140 $0 Wet $60 $60 $0 U.S. Commodities, Minneapolis, MN (888-293-1640) Illinois Dry $120 $120 $0 Indiana Dry $110 $110 $0 Iowa Dry $118 $118 $0 Michigan Dry $110 $110 $0 Minnesota Dry $115 $115 $0 Nebraska Dry $135 $135 $0 New York Dry $125 $125 $0 North Dakota Dry $130 $130 $0 Ohio Dry $115 $115 $0 South Dakota Dry $120 $120 $0 Wisconsin Dry $115 $115 $0 Valero Energy Corp., San Antonio, TX (402-932-5901) Indiana Dry $120 $115 $5 Iowa Dry $115 $112 $3 Minnesota Dry $120 $115 $5 Nebraska Dry $130 $128 $2 Ohio Dry $130 $118 $12 South Dakota Dry $110 $105 $5 California $188 $188 $0 Western Milling, Goshen, California (559-302-1074) California Dry $206 $215 -$9 *Prices listed per ton. Weekly Average $124 $117 $7 The weekly average prices above reflect only those companies DTN collects spot prices from. States include: Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana. Prices for Pennsylvania, New York and California are not included in the averages. VALUE OF DDG VS. CORN & SOYBEAN MEAL Settlement Price: Quote Date Bushel Short Ton Corn 11/16/2017 $3.3650 $120.18 Soybean Meal 11/16/2017 $310.50 DDG Weekly Average Spot Price $124.00 DDG Value Relative to: 11/16 11/9 Corn 103.18% 95.93% Soybean Meal 39.94% 37.52% Cost Per Unit of Protein: DDG $4.59 $4.33 Soybean Meal $6.54 $6.56 Notes: Corn and soybean prices take from DTN Market Quotes. DDG price represents the average spot price from Midwest companies collected on Thursday afternoons. Soybean meal cost per unit of protein is cost per ton divided by 47.5. DDG cost per unit of protein is cost per ton divided by 27. Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com Follow Mary Kennedy on Twitter @MaryCKenn ****************************************************************************** Divergence and the Rubber-Band Principle I like the social media site Twitter. It brings a world of people sharing the same interests -- though not necessarily the same opinions -- to your computer screen opening the door to discussions on an untold number of topics. Recent examples, in my case, have covered behavioral economics in trading, the benefits of climate change and much discussion regarding the flow of money out of (and possibly into) grain and oilseed markets. It's the latter I want to discuss in this blog post, following a question I received earlier in the week. I was asked, "Why did the (soybean) market not really do anything the day of the (USDA) report (Thursday, November 9) and are now down 20 cents this week?" This question came in Tuesday, when the January soybean contract was near its low for the week (so far) of $9.67, off 20 cents from last Friday's settlement of $9.87. My response was, "I see a collapse in the divergence between commercial and noncommercial traders. Last week's USDA numbers were "carp": Nothing bullish or bearish. However, Jan beans break below 4-week low and sell orders are triggered this week." Do you see now why I need more than 280 characters for this particular question? Let's start with USDA's November numbers. In its monthly round of crop production and supply and demand guesses, USDA decreased 2017 production by 6 mb, despite leaving harvested area and national average yield unchanged, resulting in a 5 mb decrease in ending stocks and no changes made from previous demand guesses. Again, don't try to do the math. USDA's November ending stocks guess of 425 mb was well below its prognostication of 495 mb from last June. This keep the downtrend of USDA guesses in place, and in line with what is normally seen, and could ending with September 2018 quarterly stocks near 310 mb. For the week, January soybeans closed up 1/4 cent, but 21 cents off its weekly high. That means, using this week's low of $9.67, the January contract is actually down 41 cents from last week's high. In my opinion, it has more to do with the noncommercial side of the market trying to get back in line with a commercial view that has been growing more bearish since August. Take a look at the accompanying chart. The blue line represents the noncommercial net-long futures position (long futures minus short futures) reported each week by the CFTC in its Commitment of Traders reports. I use the Legacy reports, futures only. Notice that the latest report showed this group holding net-long futures of 70,814 contracts, an increase of 2,942 contracts from the previous week (these reports run from Tuesday to Tuesday). Meanwhile, as mentioned before, the commercial view continues to grow more bearish. Note the green line representing the nearby futures spread (nearby futures contract minus first deferred contract). Notice that it has been trending down, showing a stronger carry (more bearish view of fundamentals), while the noncommercial position has been trending up (larger net-long futures position). Given that a market has only two sides, and in this case those sides were moving in opposite direction or diverging, I call this type of situation a "divergence." I've also described it using the Rubber-Band Principle, meaning that you can stretch a rubber-band only so far before it breaks and snaps back. In the case of commodity markets, that break usually means noncommercial traders tend to move, eventually and quickly, back in the direction of commercial traders. In the case of soybeans, that means selling some of their net-long futures position, maybe all before it's said and done, or before commercial traders start buying again. The key is the commercial side usually (similar to the old four out of five dentists) doesn't change its mind based on silly USDA reports. Commercial traders leave that for noncommercials to do. Therefore, with the carry in the nearby futures spread bearish for quite some time, it was no surprise when noncommercial selling began, then accelerated as January soybeans moved through technical (chart based) price support. For more information on that development, see the most recently Technically Speaking post on DTN. To track my thoughts on the markets throughout the day, follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DarinNewsom ****************************************************************************** China Cracks the Door Open for US DDGS Exports China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on its website that it would again allow U.S. distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) to be imported without charging an 11% value-added tax (VAT), the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) reported Nov. 9. The announcement was made in a report of key areas of consensus between the United States and China during President Donald Trump's official visit that week. I spoke to USGC President and CEO Tom Sleight about this latest news, which had been rumored since June. He said China's statement to remove its VAT on imports of U.S. DDGS "opens the door a little" for U.S. imports. "We are pleased to see this move, which we've been working toward for months," said Sleight. However, while the VAT has been removed, the anti-dumping and countervailing duties remain, noted Sleight. China's Ministry of Commerce began anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations related to U.S. DDGS exports to its country in January 2016. Those cases resulted in a final ruling against the U.S. on Jan. 10, 2017, with China setting anti-dumping duties at a range from 42.2% to 53.7%, while anti-subsidy tariffs were set between 11.2% and 12%. Along with the Jan. 10 duties applied to U.S. DDGS, Sleight said that also meant an end to the "ongoing exemption from paying the VAT. The combination of the duties and the VAT made U.S. DDGS exports to China even less competitive, affecting market prices and export flows globally." Those "penalties," applied to both U.S. distillers dried grains with or without solubles, caused U.S. exports to China to fall from 5.4 million metric tons in 2015 to 3.3 mmt in 2016 and just 739,000 tons so far in 2017, according to USGC. The council's staff members in China and the United States have been working closely with the U.S government at the highest levels for nearly a year to emphasize the importance of this $1.5 billion market to the U.S. grains and ethanol industries. "This change will immediately improve the competitiveness of U.S. DDGS in what was once our top market, which is a very positive thing," said Sleight. He also noted that this may be a step, albeit small, toward a possible negotiation over the stiff duties and tariffs U.S. DDGS exports to China still face. DDGS PRICES GAIN ON CHINA NEWS, U.S. RIVER ISSUES Internationally, the Asian DDG market continues to firm with noted buying support. Prices to China and Vietnam are up $2 to $3 per metric ton while other destinations saw lower bids. On average, 40-foot containers to Southeast Asia were steady this week at $202 mt. Early week buying was attributed to President Trump's visit to Asia that was expected to improve trade relations, while late-week price increases were due to announced tax/tariff changes in the region, according to USGC weekly price update. In DTN's weekly DDG price update on Nov. 10, prices rose $4 mt in the domestic market on average, and some merchandisers were in agreement that some of the support for prices came from the China news. Here is a link to the update posted Friday: https://goo.gl/u2kuAm CIF (cost, insurance and freight) NOLA (New, Orleans, Lousiana) barge prices rose $6.50 mt the past week and FOB (free on board) NOLA prices were up $7 mt due in part to issues on parts of the river system causing freight availability to be tight in spots. Stoppages and slowdowns continue on the Ohio River due to higher water and ongoing issues at Lock 52. Ceres Barge Line noted that Ohio River shippers were in the market, buying "on-station freight" for the end of the week, as the lock is still closed, keeping the empties from getting into position. The USACE reported that as of Nov. 10, the navigation pass remained open during daylight hours only for all navigation traffic southbound and all light boat northbound. The USACE expects to reevaluate the restrictions by Nov. 13. The Illinois River was also "very tight" for the end of week and was seeing a few barges trade on that segment if on station, noted Ceres Barge Line. For the upcoming week, freight on that segment still seems to be all offers. On top of that, the current estimated date for all barges coming from St. Paul, Minnesota, Upper Mississippi River MM 857 through 640 that need to be loaded and released is Nov. 19. The final date for the last segment of UMR MM 520 through 240 is Dec. 3, according to American Commercial Barge Line. Once this portion of the UMR closes for the winter, shippers need to find other, likely more expensive methods to transport not just DDGS, but all other commodities from the Upper Midwest to St. Louis down to the Gulf until spring when the river reopens. Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com Follow Mary Kennedy on Twitter @MaryCKenn ****************************************************************************** DDG Prices Sharply Higher OMAHA (DTN) -- The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) reported Nov. 9 that an announcement was posted on China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs' website that the country would again allow U.S. distiller's dried grains with solubles (DDGS) to be imported without charging an 11% value added tax (VAT), potentially altering global DDGS market dynamics for the better. However, while the VAT has been removed, the anti-dumping and countervailing duties remain. But it's a start in the right direction. The DTN average dried distillers grains (DDG) spot price from the 39 locations DTN collects bids from was $117 for the week ended Nov. 9, 4 cents higher from two weeks ago. Merchandisers noted that markets have been climber higher as demand is firming with the recent onset of colder temperatures, especially this week in parts of the U.S. where winter is expected to make an appearance through the weekend. However, some merchandisers were in agreement that support for prices came from the China news. One merchandiser told me the China announcement "priced itself in this week," moving the market higher on top of the strength seen in the domestic market the past few weeks. Based on the average of bids collected by DTN, the value of DDG relative to corn for the week ended Nov. 9 was at 95.93%, and the value of DDG relative to soybean meal was at 37.52%. The cost per unit of protein for DDG was $4.33, compared to the cost per unit of protein for soybean meal at $6.56. CURRENT PREVIOUS CHANGE COMPANY STATE 11/8/2017 10/26/2017 Bartlett and Company, Kansas City, MO (816-753-6300) Missouri Dry $132 $125 $7 Modified $68 $65 $3 CHS, Minneapolis, MN (800-769-1066) Illinois Dry $118 $115 $3 Indiana Dry $117 $115 $2 Iowa Dry $116 $110 $6 Michigan Dry $112 $110 $2 Minnesota Dry $118 $110 $8 North Dakota Dry $128 $120 $8 New York Dry $122 $120 $2 South Dakota Dry $118 $110 $8 MGP Ingredients, Atchison, KS (800-255-0302 Ext. 5253) Kansas Dry $128 $125 $3 POET Nutrition, Sioux Falls, SD (888-327-8799) Indiana Dry $120 $110 $10 Iowa Dry $117 $105 $12 Michigan Dry $120 $110 $10 Minnesota Dry $115 $105 $10 Missouri Dry $125 $115 $10 Ohio Dry $120 $110 $10 South Dakota Dry $115 $105 $10 ` ` United BioEnergy, Wichita, KS (316-616-3521) Kansas Dry $140 $118 $22 Wet $60 $50 $10 Illinois Dry $0 $0 $0 Nebraska Dry $140 $118 $22 Wet $60 $50 $10 U.S. Commodities, Minneapolis, MN (888-293-1640) Illinois Dry $120 $115 $5 Indiana Dry $110 $110 $0 Iowa Dry $118 $110 $8 Michigan Dry $110 $110 $0 Minnesota Dry $115 $110 $5 Nebraska Dry $135 $125 $10 New York Dry $125 $125 $0 North Dakota Dry $130 $115 $15 Ohio Dry $115 $110 $5 South Dakota Dry $120 $110 $10 Wisconsin Dry $115 $110 $5 Valero Energy Corp., San Antonio, TX (402-932-5901) Indiana Dry $115 $110 $5 Iowa Dry $112 $110 $2 Minnesota Dry $115 $110 $5 Nebraska Dry $128 $125 $3 Ohio Dry $118 $115 $3 South Dakota Dry $105 $105 $0 California $188 $180 $8 Western Milling, Goshen, California (559-302-1074) California Dry $0 $0 $0 *Prices listed per ton. Weekly Average $117 $113 $4 The weekly average prices above reflect only those companies DTN collects spot prices from. States include: Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana. Prices for Pennsylvania, New York and VALUE OF DDG VS. CORN & SOYBEAN MEAL Settlement Price: Quote Date Bushel Short Ton Corn 11/9/2017 $3.4150 $121.96 Soybean Meal 11/9/2017 $311.80 DDG Weekly Average Spot Price $117.00 DDG Value Relative to: 11/9 10/26 Corn 95.93% 90.27% Soybean Meal 37.52% 36.20% Cost Per Unit of Protein: DDG $4.33 $4.19 Soybean Meal $6.56 $6.57 Notes: Corn and soybean prices take from DTN Market Quotes. DDG price represents the average spot price from Midwest companies collected on Thursday afternoons. Soybean meal cost per unit of protein is cost per ton divided by 47.5. DDG cost per unit of protein is cost per ton divided by 27. Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com Follow Mary Kennedy on Twitter @MaryCKenn ****************************************************************************** Study Released on Impacts of Unscheduled River Lock Outages An October study commissioned by the National Waterways Foundation and U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) was released on Nov. 1 "highlighting the economic benefits associated with reliable inland navigation." The study focused on four geographically different locks on the inland waterways system: Markland Locks and Dam (Ohio River near Cincinnati), which opened in 1959; Calcasieu Lock (Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Louisiana), which opened in 1950; LaGrange Lock and Dam (southern-most of the navigation structures on the Illinois River), which opened in 1939; and Lock and Dam 25 (Mississippi River, north of St. Louis), which opened in 1939. These four locks support traffic on every segment of the Mississippi River system, according to the study. "The study underscores that if the inland waterways were unavailable to transport the nation's freight, the average number of trucks on rural highways would increase and result in significant impacts on safety, highway maintenance cost and fuel consumption. Increased rail transportation safety impacts may occur at rail crossings, especially in urban areas and in increased fuel consumption," said MARAD Executive Director Joel Szabat in a press release Nov. 1. On the same day the study was released, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue posted on Twitter, "At the White House to talk to various stakeholders in a conversation about POTUS's infrastructure agenda. Important to rural America." The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) said in its weekly newsletter that Waterborne Commerce Chair Scott Leininger of CGB Enterprises, Inc., joined NGFA Director of Legislative Affairs and Public Policy Bobby Frederick at the White House "Rural Infrastructure Conversation" also on Nov. 1. NGFA noted that the meeting featured remarks by Secretary Perdue, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn, and DJ Gribbin, who is with the National Economic Council. "During the conversation, Leininger thanked Perdue for shining a light on the dilapidated state of inland waterway locks and dams. Both Leininger and Perdue agreed that the U.S. transportation infrastructure provides a competitive advantage over foreign competitors, but that inland waterways must be bolstered to support Perdue's goal of growing American ag exports," said the NGFA. "The larger unknown is how improvements to these 1920s and 1930s locks and dams, which President Trump described as 'critical corridors of commerce' during his June visit to the Ohio River, will be funded," added the NGFA. The NGFA said it will continue to monitor and inform this debate, as well as "work with congressional partners who previously have helped defeat the concept of allowing for tolling or lockage fees on the inland waterways that would drive traffic off the river and increase the burden on U.S. highways and railways." The October study notes that on waterway segments where dams and locks are necessary, any disruption in a lock's operation can significantly inhibit barge transportation. In some cases, lock outages are scheduled to allow for necessary maintenance. These scheduled outages are announced months or even years in advance so that affected waterway shippers can adjust commodity inventories or otherwise prepare for the service disruption. In other cases, however, "weather, accidents or mechanical failures" lead to unscheduled lock closures of varying durations. Because carriers and shippers have no opportunity to prepare for unscheduled lock outages, these closures can be tremendously disruptive to water-dependent commerce, according to the study. The most notable disruption recently was the multiple closures between September and October at Lock and Dam 52 and 53 on the Ohio River. These disruptions occurred at the worst time for farmers who were hauling their fall harvest to the river for shipment to the Gulf. Even though the river finally reopened there on Oct. 19, the backlog of tows is still an issue. As of Nov. 3, Ingram Barge Co. noted on its website that Lock 52 had 27 boats in queue, and informed shippers to plan for a one- to two-day delay transiting through there. All traffic is scheduled to transit the main (1200 FT) lock chamber, while a contractor places stone above the wicket dam to facilitate repair efforts at Locks and Dam 52. The main lock chamber will be utilized in lieu of the navigation pass until river elevations exceed the maximum locking stage, 20.7 feet. Throughout the project, transiting the navigation pass will be evaluated based on river conditions, according to the river condition update on the website. One of the key findings of the study is that each of the four locks considered within the study "helps shippers avoid more than $1 billion in additional transportation costs each year." Every time there are outages at Locks and Dams along the U.S. River system, barge freight increases in some of those cases. In turn, shippers may pass the extra costs to the farmer who hauls his grain to river terminals. Higher barge freight, and in some cases, the inability to haul grain due to river closures, can be detrimental to the farmer's bottom line and overall profitability. It's time the government takes action to help fix our waterways rather than continue to just talk about fixing them before it is too late and the whole system goes to ruins. Here is a link to the National Waterways Foundation October study: https://goo.gl/M9KqLM Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com Follow Mary Kennedy on Twitter @MaryCKenn ****************************************************************************** Upper Midwest Fall Harvest Results Mixed After Summer Drought North and South Dakota and parts of northwestern Minnesota suffered severe drought conditions this past summer -- some areas more extreme than others -- during critical growth stages for corn, soybeans and sunflowers. I talked to growers in different parts of these drought-stricken areas and heard mixed comments about how the dry conditions affected the yields and the quality of the different fall crops. Onida, South Dakota, was in the area that had been considered to be in extreme drought most of the spring and summer. It was so bad that much of the winter wheat and some of the spring wheat was baled to feed livestock because pastures had dried up. Tim Luken, manager of Oahe Grain in central South Dakota said, "Beans are done, and we while don't take any beans here, I can tell you, I have heard yields to be 15 to 60 bpa and have also heard a lot of 40 to 45 bpa." "As far as our corn crop, I have talked with farmers and am hearing yields 40 to 125 bpa," Luken said. "So far at the elevator, I have dumped corn with 12.8 to 17.5 (percent) moisture and 54 to 60 (pound) test weight. This past spring, we had corn come up in three different stages in some fields, so corn had three different heights in the same field. If you go in those same fields today, you'll see an ear that's long and filled to the end and stubby ears not filled. Field moistures are all over in these type of fields at 18.5 to 21% moisture. Still, overall, farmers are pleasantly surprised with corn." Luken said he was worried about the sunflower crop, which looked uniform but came up short. "Then the August rains come and flowers took off, headed out and looked very good," he said. "Yes, there are a few wrecks out there, but overall very good-looking flowers. Yields I have heard are worst-case 500 pounds per acre, and best I have heard is 3,800; but talking with producers, there are a lot of 2,000-plus yields. Not sure about oil content yet, but I can't help but think it will be in the 42 to 45% range with test weight 28 to 36 lbs. We are dumping a lot of 32 to 33 lb. sunflowers, and thanks to the late frost we had this year again, the sunflowers picked up more test weight and oil content." "Remember how dry we were in May, June and July?" asked Luken. "August rains are the proof in the pudding that soybeans are a smart plant and can put yield on very fast." Northeast of Onida, Ashley, North Dakota, was another area that was hit by extreme drought conditions this past summer. I reached out to Mark Rohrich of Maverick Ag who had just spent a late night harvesting. "Got the sunflowers done before the ridiculous wind of 40 mph and even up to 60 mph comes today (Oct. 26). The sunflowers showed their resilience to what I would expect in a dry year. Above-average yields with good test weights and oil." "Our soybeans have been done for some time now, and most guys here are finishing up," said Rohrich. "The soybean harvest went well with yield from 30s to upper 40s; good bean yields for the moisture we had. We started on some corn this last weekend. Around 17% moisture or less so far on earliest variety. Because of the two-month-long dry spells, the corn plants are short with low and really low ears. Test weight is good so far, but yields are less than average but a little better than expected considering the season, and (we're) just happy to start getting it out of the field. We will get back to corn harvest when the weather settles, with about a week left to go there." Ryan Wagner, Wagner Farms of Rosyln, South Dakota, told me that outside of a few spots that were too wet, they finished up with soybeans on Friday, Oct. 20, and started on corn. "Soybean yields were about halfway between average and last year's outstanding crop," said Wagner. "Viewed through the lens of last year's crop, I suppose you could consider them a little disappointing, but if we didn't have last year's crop as reference, we would consider this an outstanding crop. We had a good run harvesting soybeans with moistures dropping throughout harvest, and we finished with soybean moistures below 10%." "Just getting started on corn, and yields look to be similar to soybeans in that they are above average but significantly down from last year's bin-buster. Moisture is ranging from 20 to 23%, and so we are running everything through the dryer at this point." Wagner said they have also begun fall fertilizer application with field conditions pretty good, if not slightly wet after the 7 inches of rain they have had in the last two months. "All in all, we are happy with the yields this year, considering how dry we were at the end of July," he said. "I think our no-till program really helped to conserve moisture and allow the crops to hang on for as long as they did, and the varieties and hybrids really seem to be able to handle a lot of stress and still kick out a decent yield." Heading into eastern North Dakota, an elevator manager told me that they were done with beans and ended up with a 39 bpa average versus last year's record of 52 bpa. He told me that the drought "got the beans," as they had no rain in last half August and his draw area experienced more Sclerotinia stem rot (white mold) than normal. As far as the corn, he said that drought hurt the corn on poor sandy ground and last year's beet ground with yields at 120 to 140 bushels per acre. But he said they had fields where the crop "tapped into subsoil that ran 230 to 240 bpa." Corn shuttles are not in demand right now at the Pacific Northwest until December forward so, the elevator manager said, "we have big carries and will have farms and commercials full." In southeastern North Dakota, Keith Brandt, general manager of Plains Grain and Agronomy in Enderlin, told me, "Soybean harvest is 98%-plus completed. Yields are better than expected at 42 to 43 bpa. We had no appreciable yield loss from dicamba drift." "Our corn harvest is about 20% completed," Brandt said. "Yields so far at 170 bpa vs. last year yield of nearly 200. There is still too much 2016 corn unpriced or stored on the farm, which will keep price rallies limited. Basis will widen with any futures strength." One thing to note versus last year, Brandt added, is that so far, he is not piling grain. "With the lesser yields and more farm storage, we should get by with not piling as much. Maybe 500,000 bushels or less this year compared to 2,000,000 bushels piled last year." Tim Dufault, who farms in Crookston in northwestern Minnesota, said that, "Although the valley started September with 2 to 7 inches of rain, by the end of September, harvest was in gear and field conditions were fine. A warmer-than-average October was a big help for dry-down also. Most soybean yields hung near average. Early maturing varieties were hurt the most by the dry summer. They yielded from the teens to 30 bpa. Whereas later varieties were from 30 to the low 40 bpa. The beans were small in size. Another result of the dry growing season." "Corn has been all over the board," Dufault added. "Depends on if your field caught any of the spotty summer rain showers. From what I have heard, yields are from 140 to 190 bpa. Mostly around 160. Good test weight and moistures down to 17% this past week." Dufault said that while the summer drought for eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota wasn't as bad as it was further west, it did affect yields on the fall crops. "Most producers will have average yields, but the potential was there for a bigger crop before the drought hit," he said. Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn ****************************************************************************** DDG Prices Firm OMAHA (DTN) -- The DTN average dried distillers grains (DDG) spot price from the 39 locations DTN collects bids from was $113 for the week ended Oct. 26, 2 cents higher on average from two weeks ago. Merchandisers have noted that markets have been climber higher as demand is firming with the onset of colder temperatures. Based on the average of bids collected by DTN, the value of DDG relative to corn for the week ended Oct. 26 was at 90.27%, and the value of DDG relative to soybean meal was at 36.20%. The cost per unit of protein for DDG was $4.19, compared to the cost per unit of protein for soybean meal at $6.57. CIF NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) DDG prices were steady with October at $146 to $152, and November and December at $145 to $150. The U.S. river system is still not in the best shape in certain spots, slowing barges trying to move south in those areas. As of Oct. 26, Lock 52 on the Ohio River still had at least 41 boats waiting to pass. Since only 12-15 boats can lock through each day, two- to three-day delays are expected, according to barge lines. The Upper Mississippi River (UMR) is closed intermittently through Oct. 27 for powerline work, also stalling barges in that area. Barges needing to transit the UMR out of St. Paul will need to be on their way by mid-November to get past the Davenport, Iowa, district before the northern section of the UMR river closes for the winter. NEW OPPORTUNITY FOR U.S. DDGS? The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) is exploring the geographic advantage of unit trains carrying U.S. corn and distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) to Canadian feedlots around Lethbridge, Alberta. In their weekly global update, the council noted that the first unit train of corn sold in the 2017/18 marketing year was delivered into Lethbridge the week before the recent October mission. "Thanks to continued market development work by the council and its Canadian consultants, more U.S. corn and DDGS will head north in the year to come." According to the council, Canada imported 670,000 metric tons (26.4 million bushels) of U.S. corn in 2016/17 as well as 735,000 tons of U.S. DDGS, a 13% increase year over year. While these sales made Canada the sixth-largest market for U.S. DDGS, Canada has the potential to utilize more than 4 million tons of DDGS annually, which the council is working to capture. "In the Lethbridge area, U.S. corn can be railed directly into the region on unit trains. Favorable pricing combined with these logistical opportunities promote inclusion into local feed rations." The council said it is working with other Alberta feedlots to support the development of additional trans-loading facilities in the region to further provide opportunities for rail shipments from the United States. VALUE OF DDG VS. CORN & SOYBEAN MEAL Settlement Price: Quote Date Bushel Short Ton Corn 10/26/2017 $3.5050 $125.18 Soybean Meal 10/26/2017 $312.10 DDG Weekly Average Spot Price $113.00 DDG Value Relative to: 10/26 10/5 Corn 90.27% 88.92% Soybean Meal 36.20% 35.85% Cost Per Unit of Protein: DDG $4.19 $4.11 Soybean Meal $6.57 $6.59 Notes: Corn and soybean prices take from DTN Market Quotes. DDG price represents the average spot price from Midwest companies collected on Thursday afternoons. Soybean meal cost per unit of protein is cost per ton divided by 47.5. DDG cost per unit of protein is cost per ton divided by 27. Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com Follow Mary Kennedy on Twitter @MaryCKenn ****************************************************************************** US River System Still Not Flowing Smoothly Amid Fall Harvest As new-crop soybeans head to U.S. rivers for shipment to the Gulf of Mexico, low water in some spots, high water in other areas and ongoing service issues will slow shipments. The Ohio River near Brookport, Illinois, has been the biggest problem child this fall. After being closed for nearly one week due to rising water, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) reported that the Ohio River at Lock and Dam 52 (L&D 52) reopened on Oct. 16. The closure caused a backlog of nearly 60 vessels with over 650 barges of all commodities waiting to transit the site, according to the USDA Weekly Grain Transportation report (GTR). This outage was in addition to the river closure at Lock 53 on Oct. 2 due to a failure of the hydraulics that open and close the lower wicket gate. According to the USACE, Lock and Dam 52 is a low-lift wicket dam built in 1928 consisting of 487 timber-and-steel wicket gates adjacent to one another, stretching the width of the Ohio River at mile marker 938.9. During periods of high-water navigation, traffic transits over the lowered wicket gates. But during low water, the gates must be raised individually to impound water, creating a navigable depth from Lock and Dam 52 to Smithland Lock and Dam, Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. These are the same locks and dams that were closed from Sept. 6-14 due to an unscheduled maintenance outage at the 89-year-old facility. The navigation pass was closed to traffic while project personnel raised the wicket dam. The USACE in a press release noted that, "During the raising event, there was a five-wicket hole encountered. Due to the increased velocity around the end of the dam, project personnel were unable to continue raising the wickets. As the river elevations fell, and with decreased water velocity, project personnel were successful in raising wickets beyond the hole. Once the wickets were raised and a navigable pool was impounded, navigation traffic began to use the lock chambers." Both dams were upgraded with "temporary" 1,200-foot locks to accommodate modern tows when the wickets are up. In a set of emergency repairs completed in June 2017 at a cost of more than $8 million, 82 of the wicket gates at Dam 53 were removed and replaced, according to the USACE. "Locks and Dams 52 and 53 on the Ohio River are to be replaced by the Olmsted Lock and Dam, which was authorized in 1988, but will not open until the summer of 2018. Once Olmsted is finished, Locks and Dams 52 and 53 will be removed." The Ohio River becomes a tributary of the Mississippi River directly south of Cairo, Illinois. According to the Ingram Barge website, Lock 52 had 43 boats in queue as of Oct. 23, and each day, since only 12-15 boats can lock through, tows must plan for at least a four-day delay there. It was also noted that delays were occurring at various locks across the river system, causing long transit delays. The website also noted that at miles 38-46 on the Upper Mississippi River, rock pinnacle removal, also known as subsurface rock removal work, was suspended due to the Cape Girardeau gauge rising above 15 feet. There was no estimate when that work will resume. As of Oct. 22, the river gauge was at 22.43 feet and is not expected to start falling until early November. BARGE FREIGHT RISES IN TROUBLE AREAS According to the weekly USDA GTR, as of Oct. 17, "Barge rates for export grain on the Ohio River increased 12% compared to the previous week due, in part, to a reduced availability of upbound empty barges." The GTR noted that as of the week ending Oct. 14, "The number of upbound empty barges that had transited L&D 52 was only 31, significantly lower than the previous week's total of 141 upbound empties." As new-crop soybeans moved to the river in many areas, barge freight brokers noted that St. Louis, Illinois, Mid-Mississippi, Ohio and even MTCT (Memphis through Cairo terms) corridors were seeing a pick-up in activity. One barge line noted that shippers were trying to find "on station" freight to load Friday and Saturday, but rain expected on Sunday had left some shippers concerned about buying too much freight for the upcoming week. As long as there is demand for barges to move new crop, freight prices will likely continue to increase. On top of the harvest demand, slowdowns and stoppages due to lock repairs, high or low water conditions and general river maintenance could also add to higher freight costs. With the new-crop cash price for corn and soybeans already succumbing to harvest pressure, the increase in freight costs will only add to weaker prices for farmers. Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com Follow Mary Kennedy on Twitter @MaryCKenn ****************************************************************************** DDG Prices Firm OMAHA (DTN) -- The DTN average dried distillers grains (DDG) spot price from the 39 locations DTN collects bids from was $111 for the week ended Oct. 5, 1 cent higher on average than one week ago. Merchandisers have noted that there are still a few spots down in Nebraska for fall maintenance where product is short and bids there were higher this week. However, once plants finish up fall shutdowns, prices will likely soften. Based on the average of bids collected by DTN, the value of DDG relative to corn for the week ended Oct. 5 was at 88.92%, and the value of DDG relative to soybean meal was at 35.47%. The cost per unit of protein for DDG was $4.11, compared to the cost per unit of protein for soybean meal at $6.59. CIF NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) DDG prices were steady with October at $145 to $153, and November and December at $145 to $151. Barge traffic may improve up river as heavy rains in the upper Midwest have started to help fill rivers in the Upper Mississippi River. Rain is also forecasted for the South, which may prove beneficial to the U.S. river system, but the Mississippi River is not out of the woods yet as water levels in the Lower Mississippi River down to the Gulf are still falling. The Mississippi River at Memphis is still below zero gauge at -6.1 feet as of Oct. 5, and the entire LMR is still facing low water restrictions. Lock repairs on the Illinois River will slow traffic through at least the second week of October. Repairs at Lock 52 and 53 in the lower Ohio River are ongoing and excessive delays are occurring, according to barge lines. CURRENT PREVIOUS CHANGE COMPANY STATE 10/5/2017 9/28/2017 Bartlett and Company, Kansas City, MO (816-753-6300) Missouri Dry $122 $122 $0 Modified $60 $60 $0 CHS, Minneapolis, MN (800-769-1066) Illinois Dry $115 $115 $0 Indiana Dry $108 $108 $0 Iowa Dry $110 $110 $0 Michigan Dry $106 $105 $1 Minnesota Dry $108 $108 $0 North Dakota Dry $115 $115 $0 New York Dry $120 $115 $5 South Dakota Dry $108 $108 $0 MGP Ingredients, Atchison, KS (800-255-0302 Ext. 5253) Kansas Dry $115 $112 $3 POET Nutrition, Sioux Falls, SD (888-327-8799) Indiana Dry $110 $110 $0 Iowa Dry $105 $105 $0 Michigan Dry $110 $110 $0 Minnesota Dry $105 $105 $0 Missouri Dry $115 $115 $0 Ohio Dry $110 $110 $0 South Dakota Dry $105 $105 $0 ` ` United BioEnergy, Wichita, KS (316-616-3521) Kansas Dry $118 $118 $0 Wet $50 $50 $0 Illinois Dry $124 $124 $0 Nebraska Dry $118 $118 $0 Wet $50 $50 $0 U.S. Commodities, Minneapolis, MN (888-293-1640) Illinois Dry $115 $115 $0 Indiana Dry $110 $110 $0 Iowa Dry $105 $105 $0 Michigan Dry $105 $105 $0 Minnesota Dry $105 $105 $0 Nebraska Dry $115 $115 $0 New York Dry $120 $120 $0 North Dakota Dry $115 $115 $0 Ohio Dry $110 $110 $0 South Dakota Dry $105 $105 $0 Wisconsin Dry $105 $105 $0 Valero Energy Corp., San Antonio, TX (402-932-5901) Indiana Dry $115 $115 $0 Iowa Dry $105 $100 $5 Minnesota Dry $105 $100 $5 Nebraska Dry $123 $105 $18 Ohio Dry $115 $115 $0 South Dakota Dry $95 $95 $0 California $173 $170 $3 Western Milling, Goshen, California (559-302-1074) California Dry $185 $183 $2 *Prices listed per ton. Weekly Average $111 $110 $1 The weekly average prices above reflect only those companies DTN collects spot prices from. States include: Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana. Prices for Pennsylvania, New York and California are not included in the averages. VALUE OF DDG VS. CORN & SOYBEAN MEAL Settlement Price: Quote Date Bushel Short Ton Corn 10/5/2017 $3.4950 $124.82 Soybean Meal 10/5/2017 $312.90 DDG Weekly Average Spot Price $111.00 DDG Value Relative to: 10/5 9/28 Corn 88.92% 87.37% Soybean Meal 35.85% 35.85% Cost Per Unit of Protein: DDG $4.11 $4.07 Soybean Meal $6.59 $6.46 Notes: Corn and soybean prices take from DTN Market Quotes. DDG price represents the average spot price from Midwest companies collected on Thursday afternoons. Soybean meal cost per unit of protein is cost per ton divided by 47.5. DDG cost per unit of protein is cost per ton divided by 27. Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn ******************************************************************************