Area farmers are bringing in their second bumper corn and soybean harvest in as many years with only one regret.
Almost all local farmers wish they had signed contracts to sell more of their crops at futures market prices offered last spring. Those who locked in prices at the high point will get about 70 percent more for their corn and 50 percent more for their soybeans than those selling at yesterday's cash prices.
"I read it right. I just didn't gamble enough," said Randy Anderson, who in the spring signed contracts for 10 percent of the corn and soybeans from his 600-acre farm in Hancock County. It was his first futures market contract in about eight years.
Area elevators were paying about $1.75 a bushel for corn yesterday. Early in the year, the highest contracts offered for this fall's crop were $3.20.
The differences are similar with soybeans. Area elevators were paying about $4.95 a bushel yesterday, compared to a high point of $7.70 for contracts signed early in the year.
Those spring prices encouraged many farmers to sign futures contracts.
Blanchard Valley Farmers Co-Op Inc., which operates eight elevators in Hancock County, made more contracts with farmers than it has in about five years, said Gale Berry, manager of an elevator west of Findlay.
But signing futures contracts early this year seemed risky. The highest futures prices were well above those elevators paid at the time for corn and soybeans harvested in 2003.
If crops across the Midwest had been poor, those prices would have gone higher by now.
And farmers who had low yields this summer might have had to buy corn and soybeans from others at those high prices in order to fulfill their contracts at lower prices.
Prices at elevators yesterday were low primarily because of abundant supplies.
The U.S. corn crop is expected to be the largest on record and the soybean crop the second largest ever.
Ohio's average corn yield is likely to tie last year's record and the soybean crop is better than last year's.
The Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service yesterday ranked 69 percent of the state's corn and 64 percent of its soybeans as "excellent" or "good."
The Michigan statistics service put 48 percent of the state's corn and 53 percent of its soybeans in those top categories.
"It's been a very pleasant surprise for most producers," said Jim Swartz, assistant manager at Luckey Farmers Inc. group of elevators and farm supply stores based in Woodville.
That's because daily rains early in the season made it difficult to plant and grow crops, which could have meant poor yields.
But September weather meant drier and more mature corn and soybeans than usual, a plus for the farmers, said Jim McKinstray, general manager of grain at The Andersons Inc. elevators in Maumee and Toledo.
About 30 percent of the soybeans and 15 percent of the corn in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan have been harvested, he said.
Across Ohio, the statistics service estimated 37 percent of soybeans had been harvested, putting farmers a week ahead of last year.
An estimated 11 percent of the state's corn has been harvested, which is a week ahead of last year.
To get the most money from this year's crop, farmers will be watching for the low point in the market during harvest with the same interest they watched for the high last spring.
That's the time when they will want to sign up for a particular government aid program, offered only when prices are low.
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