A rather rare soybean field in Buffalo County, NebraskaOn Monday, I was driving from Des Moines to visit my family's farm in Nebraska. I jumped off I-80 just west of Grand Island and took the backroads northwest through the Platte River valley and then into the hills of Buffalo County.
At one point, buzzing down a gravel road, I had a strange feeling. I realized I had been driving through wall-to-wall corn on both sides of the road for a long stretch. I looked down at the odometer and started to measure. Went about six miles before I spotted something besides corn--a smallish bean field, like a punctuation mark, then back to corn.
On our little plot in Buffalo County, we planted all beans this year, though. That's them in the photo above, looking pretty good on a 98-degree day. When I walked up the hill there to look at the pivot, all you could see was corn, except for our dryland patch of beans across the road.
I realize Nebraska farmers grow a lot of continous corn, but they know how to grow beans, too. Go big red, the state has the second highest average soybean yield in the U.S, tied with Indiana, a half bushel behind Iowa. So, man, where have all the soybeans gone, long time passing?
USDA reported this month that farmers planted the fewest acres of beans this spring since 1994. Nationally, soybean production declined 15%, versus a 19% jump for corn. Soybean acres fell by more than a million acres from last year in Indiana, Minnesota, and Nebraska, USDA said.
Anyway, this image of a corn-covered landscape stuck in my head for the whole trip back and forth to Nebraska. And, every day I keep thinking this volatile grain market wants to say more and more about soybean prices.
Okay, so I'll just get to the point. Our markets editor, Mike McGinnis, dropped by the office today, leaned in the doorway, and shot me a sly grin. A little birdie, who prefers to go unnamed, told him that beans could go to $18 at some point in the next sometime, Mike said. The little birdie is a well-known markets analyst.
I'll not go into all the bean numbers here. A lot smarter people than me do that every day 0n our Web site markets pages. But, you can just see the drama with your own eyes in one certain part of Nebraska. Beans ain't competing this year.
Ron and Susan Mortensen in their Agriculture Online column last week, on a much more conservative note than our little birdie, put it this way: "The basic fact for soybeans is that they must do much better in 2008 in the fight for acres.... Price must do a better job of attracting soybean acres...."
Would $18 get the job done?