Market to Market - October 6, 2023

Market to Market | Episode
Oct 6, 2023 | 27 min

On this edition of Market to Market ... The government averts a shutdown, removes a speaker and throws Congressional business into disarray. A battle over carrots comes down to water. Solving the problem of safety when entering the bin. And, market analysis with Sue Martin.


Paul Yeager Coming up on Market to Market, the government averts a shutdown, removes the speaker and throws congressional business into disarray. The battle over carrots comes down to water and solving the problem of safety when entering the barn. We'll also have market analysis with Sue Martin next.

Announcer What's next? Doesn't happen by chance. It happens when researchers and farmers work together to solve tomorrow's agronomic challenges. We're committed to creating what's next because a Pioneer, our name is our mission.

Announcer SUKUP manufacturing, celebrating 60 years of innovation as a family owned and operated manufacturer of grain storage, drying and handling equipment out of Sheffield, Iowa. Learn more at Sukup tomorrow.

Announcer For over 100 years, we've worked to help our customers be ready for tomorrow. Trust in tomorrow. Information is available from a Grinnell Mutual agent today.

Announcer This is the Friday, October 6th edition of Market to Market, The weekly Journal of Rural America.

Paul Yeager Hello, I'm Paul Yeager. A deal to keep the government open. Cost at least one person his job as Kevin McCarthy was voted out. Speaker of the house, the 45 day extension for federal funding, the farm bill and any other bills working their way through Congress were launched into unknown territory. Friday's economic news was mostly created before the week started.

As the Look Back report added, Jobs was a surprise. More than 336,000 positions were added in September, the biggest gain since January, and the unemployment rate held at 3.8%. Another item, still high temperatures across the globe, June, July, August and now September all have gone into the books as the hottest months on record. Prolonged heat and drought persist and have created problems in plans to preserve the one core element water. Here's David Miller.

David Miller September set another record for heat, adding to a string of hottest months recorded and keeping the globe positioned to have the hottest year recorded. The European Space Agency’s Copernicus group showed last month’s temperatures were the highest above normal since records started being kept 83 years ago.

The U.S. was included in the planet’s hot weather distress. Dry weather added a 10th week of expansion to the Drought Monitor.  Areas affected by lack of moisture grew across the South from the Lower Mississippi Valley to the Southern Appalachians.  Nearly all of California is currently out of drought. But leftovers from previous dry periods have pitted neighbor against neighbor over water with carrots being put in the crosshairs. 

Jeff Huckaby is president and CEO of Grimmway Farms, a company in the middle of the fight. 

Jeff Huckaby, president and CEO of Grimmway Farms: "We're proud to be growing in the Cuyama Valley, grow some of the best carrots in the nation, right here in the middle of the summer."

David Miller That product has drawn protests and calls for boycotts over treatment of the community.  In 2014, California lawmakers changed from a hands off policy for groundwater regulation and began requiring management plans be approved by the state.  Officials with control of now overdrawn basins were some of the first people to develop plans for sustainability of their groundwater.  Lee Harrington lives in the central California town of New Cuyama and is one of many farmers, ranchers and others being sued by Grimmway Farms and Bolthouse Land Company over the use of groundwater.

Lee Harrington, California Pistachio Farmer: "They're good  farmers, you know, but the problem is they've been overdrafting ever since they've been here."

David Miller Legal bills for Harrington and others named in the suit have piled up as they push back against how much water beneath their feet they’ll be allowed to use. Grimmway and Bolthouse initially supported the groundwater sustainability plan, but have since claimed other farmers are getting a pass and two years ago filed a lawsuit against area producers. Officials with both companies want the courts to determine what they call a more equitable solution to a reduction in pumping that is fair to everyone in the basin.

Harrington looks over his pistachio trees and is predicting a dire situation if corporations like Grimway pull up stakes and leave the region.  Lee Harrington, pistachio farmer: "The bottom line is, for the last 40 years, it was a huge pool. But now it's going down, down. And the pools will be empty. So then they're going to leave. And with they leaving, it's a Dust Bowl, it's going to turn to weeds, tumbleweeds. It's gonna be a nightmare."

Huckaby says Grimmway Farms - a resident of this region for more than three decades - has changed the way they water their fields to conserve the precious resource.  Jeff Huckaby, president and CEO of Grimmway Farms: "We're going to adjust and work with, you know, whether it's the committees, the governments, whatever it has to,   to reduce the water that's necessary so that we can all be here for a long time."

For Market to Market, I’m David Miller.

Paul Yeager Illinois officials said five people died last week from exposure to anhydrous ammonia that spilled when a semi-truck overturned in central Illinois. The chemical adds nitrogen to the soil to boost Corn's progress and potential. Now, once that corn is harvested and heads into the bin, another long standing danger may be waiting. If a farmer enters the barn, many scenarios can play out, particularly if conditions have set up for a fatal outcome.

Paul Yeager But there is a new invention aimed at reducing that risk, and it's geared towards saving lives. Josh Buettner has this week's cover story.

Tony Bestwick/Chief, Fire Department – City of York, Nebraska: “Bin rescue is very dangerous.  It doesn’t happen that often. Low frequency/high risk is what we call it.  It’s very labor-intensive.  You can’t just have them come in through the door, because what does that do?  The grain comes down on them, right?  So, if you’ve got a bad situation, and then you just make it worse with this cascading grain.” 

Josh Buettner Chief Tony Bestwick heads up the fire department in York, Nebraska.  Beside battling blazes, his crew has struggled to rescue farm workers trapped in grain bins.  Given even a rapid response, the threat of suffocation looms. Tony Bestwick/Chief, Fire Department – City of York, Nebraska: “It’s a very stressful situation.”

Experts say an adult can be submerged in a grain bin filled with corn or soybeans in as little as 20 seconds – a tragedy some on the farm know all too well.

Zach Hunnicutt/Giltner, Nebraska: “Someone in their family, or a neighbor, or somebody they know… I think just about every farmer that is around grain bins has a story of someone they know that has lost their life in a grain bin.” 

Josh Buettner Safety is top of mind for fifth generation Nebraska row crop producer Zach Hunnicutt.  He was just a child when his grandfather’s brother died in a grain bin accident. Today, Hunnicutt follows proper protocols when moving harvested raw commodities out of storage for buyers.  But one momentous trip to town helped launch a homegrown tech start-up whose mission became no boots in the grain. Ben Johnson/Chief Innovation Officer & CO-Founder – Grain Weevil Corporation: “We were building a robot and we were showing that to people at church and showed that to a family friend of ours, who farms, and he said: If you can build that robot, you should build me a robot to keep me and my kids out of the grain bin.”

Ben Johnson and his father Chad had never set foot in a grain bin before they invented the Grain Weevil, an autonomous robot that cruises through grain loads on a pair of mini-augers, busting up clumps and surface crusting – to maintain profitable product.  They say their machine also minimizes lung complications and combustion issues associated with concentrated grain dust.

Chad Johnson/Chief Executive Officer & CO-Founder – Grain Weevil Corporation: “I like to tell people, it’s like…every dad’s dream to build robots with their kid – and people look at me kind of funny.  I say ok, every nerd dad’s dream.”

Josh Buettner With a love of robotics fostered by his educator father, Ben earned a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska – Omaha.  Their business went from father and son building prototypes at home in small town Aurora, to a shop in the state’s largest metro area with seven full-time employees and six patents in the works. Ben Johnson/Chief Innovation Officer & CO-Founder – Grain Weevil Corporation: “This is three years of our work.  It started in the shed just putting it together with whatever we had.  Now you can see we’ve really grown the team and been able to engineer this thing to be powerful and capable inside the bin.”

Grain Weevil assures one robot alone can manage up to 250,000 bushels.  They’re currently working to earn key safety certifications they claim will unleash a monetized ecosystem between insurance, finance, farmers and ancillary businesses.

Chad Johnson/CEO & CO-Founder – Grain Weevil Corporation: “Take one bushel of grain, and follow that along the supply chain.  We can actually capitalize on that one bushel of grain on the farm, at the co-ops, in the transportation, at the food processing facilities – all have use cases for the robot.”

Josh Buettner For Hunnicutt, whose own grain bins have been used as proving ground for the Grain Weevil, it’s an idea that came home to roost. Zach Hunnicutt/Giltner, Nebraska: “It’s just been cool to see that evolution.  We’ve created a lot of technological solutions, in other places on the farm, to protect us from unnecessary risks and this is one of the final frontiers.” 

Dr. Aaron Yoder/Associate Professor – University of Nebraska Medical Center: “We try to find the most current research on keeping the grain in good quality at conferences like this. Whether it’s through - just management techniques, or we can remove the human from hazardous situations…using a robot to do that would be a great example.”

Josh Buettner University of Nebraska Medical Center Associate Professor Dr. Aaron Yoder performs grain bin safety outreach on behalf of his institution’s Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health.  Grain Weevil sought his expertise on compliance – along with Nationwide Insurance, the country’s largest agricultural insurer.  Nationwide conducts an annual Grain Bin Safety Week to raise awareness about the dangers of working in and around the structures.  The company has donated rescue tubes to various fire departments across the U.S., including York, Nebraska.

Dr. Aaron Yoder/Associate Professor – University of Nebraska Medical Center: “I don’t think there’s probably any producer out there that doesn’t know the risk.  It’s just…they’re willing to take more risk than some other people.  When I see things like that, I get tremendously sad, because we know it could be preventable.”

Josh Buettner UNMC’s Nebraska farm fatality and injury statistics 2012-2021 show 13 grain-bin related cases, with nine deaths a direct result of stored-grain engulfment.  This past July another casualty occurred less than an hour west of York, near Grand Island.

Dr. Aaron Yoder/Associate Professor – University of Nebraska Medical Center: “Often times people will go inside the bin to either check the quality of the grain, or to do something if it goes out of condition.  It gets lumpy.  It gets moldy.  They’ll go in to try to break up some of those blockages that might be in there that prevent the grain from flowing.”

Josh Buettner Purdue University tracks a broader scope of fatal and non-fatal grain entrapment cases nationally.  They recently found a nearly 45 percent increase, higher than the five-year average, in incidents between 2021 and 2022.  In Husker country, the sense of urgency is palpable.

Chad Johnson/CEO & CO-Founder – Grain Weevil Corporation: “We gotta hurry.  We gotta do this as fast as we possibly can…but we can’t.  We have to do it right. It takes a lot to develop a machine this complicated.  It really does motivate us though.  It keeps us pushing.  It keeps us moving forward.  We know, every two weeks that we don’t get one done, somebody’s losing a father or a son or a mother that’s in there helping.  It’s tough.”

Josh Buettner First responders caution there is no one-size-fits-all solution in the field – where improvising comes with the territory.  For Chief Bestwick, proactive measures are another addition to the toolbox. Tony Bestwick/Chief, Fire Department – City of York, Nebraska: “Anything that makes it safer for ourselves, or our producers, we’re all for.  You know, there’s no better feeling in the world to know that you took part in a team effort to save a life.”

For Market to Market, I’m Josh Buettner.

Announcer Next, the Market to Market report.

Paul Yeager As harvest hits full stride, commodities are being stored and the end user appears to have come calling, bidding up prices. For the week.. The nearby wheat contract added 27 cents, while December corn rallied 15 cents. The soybean trade dealt with some flushing of long positions while harvest rolled on.  The November contract fell by 9 cents and December meal shed $9.10 per ton. December cotton expanded by 3 cents per hundredweight. Over in the dairy parlor, November Class Three milk futures increased 18 cents. The livestock market was mixed. December cattle lost $1.25. November feeders cut $4.02 and the December lean hog contract gained $1.80.  In the currency markets, the US dollar index gave up 6 ticks. November crude oil sold off $7.78 per barrel. COMEX gold lost $19.60 per ounce, and the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index shed more than 34 points to settle at 574 - sixty. Joining us now is regular market analyst Sue Martin. Hey, Sue.

Sue Martin Hi there.

Paul Yeager Everybody. So excited. Excited when you come on to the show, but you're wearing all black, so I'm taking that as a are you trying to tell us something here for the. But we'll start with we you have to be somewhat positive about wheat after the week.

Sue Martin I am.

Paul Yeager Or am I misreading something.

Sue Martin No, I'm positive wheat you know the wheat market has been hit so hard and, you know, the open interest or the funds to manage money is probably the most short they've been in years. And on top of it, they've been that way for quite some time. But you have a situation going that first off, you look at the weather and even in the U.S. are hard red winter wheat and you know, and the soft red wheat, maybe the softer it's doing a little better with some moisture, but is still dry in some of those areas.

But the hard red hasn't caught much gratification. So we're still in drought conditions. You look at Australia in drought conditions, you look at Argentina, drought conditions, and they were even saying, you know, I think it was a Rosario grain exchange said that if they didn't catch rain within two weeks and of course there's very little in the forecast that they would have to probably lower their yield production or production number down from 15 million metric tonnes.

So their drought is still ongoing. And then you have Russia in the southern portions of the country hot and dry now, and that's wheat country. And then you have central Ukraine dealing with the same thing. So it looks like all of a sudden and Russia is price. You know, the reason we've been down in the dumpster for so long is because Russia needing to fund a war has been undercutting everybody. And all of a sudden now they're not. And we're the best game in town.

Paul Yeager Usually when China comes calling, does that mean that they think that the that's a good price. You take that?

Sue Martin Oh, absolutely. They think it's a good price. But again, we're just more competitive than everybody else in the world right now, which is a spark of good news. The one thing I think that's going to help really run this wheat market and wheat, you know, there's a saying in wheat, they don't you know, they don't take any prisoners because they kill them all.

And that might be true this year. But I think the wheat market is also you know, everybody's kind of gotten a little bit tone deaf on Russia, Ukraine war. But I think that's going to be changing here as we go towards December. I look for as bad as Ukraine gets and trains the pilots for those F-16s that we're sending over, all of a sudden, it's not just going to be Russia pushing on and hitting, you know, the Danube River or the ports.

Odessa, Mykolaiv, is small. You know, all of a sudden, I think we're going to see that Russia is going to be getting hit pretty hard, too.

Paul Yeager Let's move to corn for a minute, if we could. In the relationship with wheat, do you think that corn is along for the ride or operating independently here?

Sue Martin I think corn is along for the ride for the moment. I think that, you know, we got up to 499 this week and we did break out of that sideways range, which was nice. And usually when you go sideways like that after a long break, the market normally will break out the top side. I've noticed various bears in various clearing firms have turned a little bit more back to neutral, not as negative.

I think that the corn market, we're just getting really good start into harvest. We're going to hear more yields. I think that crop's going to be very much all over the place. And yet corn made pollination and that was a big one.

Paul Yeager Yeah, we don't make that. That's a different story. Let's go to the right at the end of pollination time. December corn. We had not closed about $5 since August one and it not closed above 490 since August 28. So we take out both of those or almost take out the one, take out the other. Do you anticipate we're going to somehow push back up on this December contract above $5 next week?

Sue Martin I do. I don't know if it'll be next week. I think it could be because of the fact that I think that markets got stops building above $5. And again, the short position in corn is fairly hefty. And so sometimes, you know, it takes a reversal with fund money that sets the bottoms and turns those higher. You know, the carry out go didn't come back as strong but the barrel say well but ethanol has reached its peak you know for the industry maybe true but if we can get some usage towards jet fuel, that would be a big positive.

And then I think also we have to keep in mind, I still think exports will pick up. I think one thing we're dealing with or trying to grasp is that we're no longer number one in the world when it comes to corn exports being exports. Brazil has unseated us and I think that's doesn't feel so fuzzy, you know, warm and fuzzy.

Paul Yeager Warm and fuzzy. You, me. Okay. But it does provide some stability in stability. So how do we navigate those waters?

Sue Martin Well, I think that one thing we have to be very mindful that the market has gone from inverted to a caring charge market and farmers are beginning stuff this year. They're bidding their crops. And that's going to make the the commercials, the end users have to bid for it. And but still, when you have a farmer holding the grain, you know, we're going to get a chance to make some marketing. But I think they need to do some flooring under this.

Paul Yeager Are you storing or selling beans off the combine? Soybeans?

Sue Martin Well, here's the thing with beans. I did a study today and I was try it and I could have had a little more to it. But in since 1971. So the last, what, 22 years we have or excuse me, the last 50 years, 51 years, we have had basically looking at the month of May, soybeans will be like May of 24 contract in years of where we've had tighter beginning stocks like we have right now.

And even on that September stocks report, we still tighten supply. We're less than the year before. So as long as we remain less than the year before, the studies logit. And in years of that, there were 22 out of the 51 that we had this setup. And you look at the October, whatever that high is in October for the November or excuse me, the May contract.

And it was interesting out of those years, only two ended up not exceeding the October high for the May contract, whatever that high was for that may and one was steady, the rest all made higher highs. And many times it came like in March, February, March and of course, April, May, the ultimate low off of the October from that October high, the ultimate low. Many times was in November. But out of those 22 years, every one of them retracted back from the October high. At some point.

Paul Yeager Will dive into that a little more in market. Plus, I need to get to livestock because live cattle continue to reverse and give back a lot of these gains. When you see this chart pop up on the screen and heading down. So what do you see?

Sue Martin Well, first, I don't like red. I like green, but I will have to say I'm still bullish cattle, really, and I'm very bullish cattle. But, you know, for now, okay, it's interest rates, the hikes so that started to affect buying feeders is more costly. Of course. The other thing is, is that you have all this talk about, okay, like the stock markets had a tough week or so.

And so the you know, there's an old saying as the stock market so goes cattle and you have a lot of competitive meats out there, the poultry industry, the pork. And so that's I think right now trying to play a little bit of havoc on us. But seasonality, you normally will take feeder cattle and sell them back into October some years.

We've even made it into November. But I think around October 14th, somewhere in there, we're going to try to stick to low. And what might happen is we may have seen a low today or very close to it and then start to chop around and meander. But ultimately, I believe this market's going much higher. We have yet to go through what is called the whiplash effect in cattle, and that's when you start seeing a hold back of heifers for breeding purposes. And so then that tightens supplies even further.

Paul Yeager Okay, Again, like more livestock, because I have a couple more questions. And the hog market just this week was I'm sore from looking at it. Is this going to continue this whiplash?

Sue Martin Well, it's been very whiplash thing. I thought it was interesting. Probably three weeks ago, something like that, we had an entity that had bought 4,500 April puts. And I thought that was like, well, why would you spend $90,000? And I think it was around $0.05 that he paid for them or something like that. So why would you spend $90,000, $40 out of the money?

And that was a fair amount. And I think it's kind of like what does he know? We don't what would it be? I think it's the concern of African swine fever hitting the US. And I'll talk more in and ...

Paul Yeager Market Plus with we've done a good job teasing that. Thank you so appreciate.

Sue Martin You bet. I love it when you're all right.

Paul Yeager Thank you. Hold it there. We're going to pause this analysis and continue our discussion about these markets in our market Plus segment, you can find both analysis, what you just heard and plus on our website of market to market dot org. Our portability keeps you in the loop and us in your cab truck or ears this harvest season.

Follow our YouTube page for full shows Market Plus and the MtoM podcast. Hit Subscribe at Slash Market to Market right now. Next week we take a deep dive into a new round of government data with a panel discussion. Thank you so much for watching. Have a great week.

Announcer Market to Market is a production of Iowa PBS, which is solely responsible for its content.

Announcer What's next doesn't happen by chance. It happens when researchers and farmers work together to solve tomorrow's agronomic challenges. We're committed to creating what's next because of Pioneer. Our name is our mission.

Announcer Sukup Manufacturing. Celebrating 60 years of innovation as a family owned and operated manufacturer of grain storage, drying and handling equipment out of Sheffield, Iowa. Learn more at Sukup dot com tomorrow.

Announcer For over 100 years, we've worked to help our customers be ready for tomorrow. Trust in tomorrow. Information is available from a Grinnell Mutual agent today.

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