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WEEKLY GRAIN MOVEMENT: Soybean harvest going fast; barge rates jump

Farmers race to harvest beans before more rain arrives.

A rush to harvest soybeans before more rain arrives has filled Midwest elevators in Iowa and Illinois, and there has been talk of the crop being piled on the ground in some areas, grain dealers said this week.

“It is going to be a race to cut as many beans as they can before Wednesday,” a central Illinois merchant said.

A mostly warm, dry weekend had farmers cutting large amounts of corn and soybeans. More harvesting was expected to be done Monday and Tuesday before the rain in the forecast began late on Tuesday, continuing through Wednesday.

The rapid finish to the harvest has filled grain elevators and on-farm storage, and there has been talk that some soybeans may have to be piled outside. The U.S. Department of Agriculture late on Monday said the corn harvest was 61% completed, and soybeans were 76% done. The corn was one point behind the five-year average, while soybeans matched the average.

Barge rates jump

The incoming supply of harvested crops increased demand for barges to ship it downstream to export elevators. As a result, barge rates spiked higher this week to about 500% of tariff near the Quad Cities on the Mississippi River. A week ago, rates were about 400%. The 100-point rise translates to about a 10 cents/bu. increase in shipping costs for corn and about 9 cents/bu. for soybeans.

“Barges are extremely tight,” one Quad Cities shipper said.

Truckloads of corn have come to the river, even though it is not the best market, because big yields have farmers looking for any place that will take it, the shipper explained, adding, “We are dumping more trucks of corn than what we expected.”

Rail bids improved this week for corn going to the Southeast poultry and ethanol markets and currently are about 3 cents better than the Gulf from central Illinois. Demand from ethanol plants in Illinois has eased as they have much of their November needs covered.

Soybeans in Illinois and Iowa are largely going to local processors as Gulf bids dropped over the past week.

Corn at the Gulf was bid about 40 cents over December for October shipment, compared with 35 cents over in the previous week, and was about 48 cents over for November versus 46 cents a week ago. Soybean bids tumbled, with October shipment bid 25 cents over November versus 44 cents over in the prior week, and November bids were 45 cents over versus about 54 cents a week ago.

USDA’s latest weekly grain inspections for corn of 21.3 million bu. were down from a week ago, missing trade forecasts and under the weekly pace needed to meet USDA’s annual export forecast. Soybean shipments of 100.7 million bu. were up from a week ago, beat trade forecasts and easily topped USDA’s projected weekly rate. Wheat shipments of 9 million bu. were down from a week ago, missed trade forecasts and were under the weekly rate needed to meet USDA’s forecast.


USDA said barge grain shipments during the week ended Oct. 15 were 907,620 tons, up 44% from the prior week and up 19% from a year ago.

In the rail sector, grain car loadings totaled 26,842 for the week ended Oct. 8, down 3% from the prior week and up 8% from a year ago, USDA’s "Grain Transportation Report" said.

For truckers, the U.S. average diesel fuel price rose 4 cents in the latest week to $2.48/gal. That is down 5 cents from the same week last year.

Diesel prices have increased 11 cents/gal. in the past three weeks, which USDA attributed to a larger-than-expected decrease in inventories.

“Refineries use distillate fuel to create both diesel fuel and residential heating oil. As the seasonal demand for heating oil increases, impacts to the diesel fuel market can be expected,” USDA said. “The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration has forecast winter temperatures to be colder than last year for much of the country, particularly the Northeast, where the use of heating oil is most prevalent.”
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