Weekly commodity wrap-up

Corn crash continues

Rain makes grain. Corn, especially, was the crop most in need of moisture this summer and we sure got a dose in the driest regions. December corn slammed down to a low today of $5.12½ after hitting a high of $6.11 on July First. Soft, red wheat and beans tumbled, too, but oats and Minneapolis wheat recovered price-wise as the drought continued in their regions.

Corn for December traded at $5.15 per bushel today at noon. November beans brought $13.25.

Are the bugs coming back?

The drought out west has increased grasshopper populations since they thrive in hot, dry conditions, adding to farmers’ list of challenges. Ranchers are facing the worst year since 1977 for feeding cattle on grasslands.

Grasshopper swarms in 1931 serve as an example of how one species can ravage North American crops in just one season. That summer, grasshoppers devoured millions of acres in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota which, like this June corn planting season, was suffering from drought. The critters ate entire corn plants right down to the ground.

Other pests like black cutworms and corn rootworms could become a problem and, like most years, soybean aphids could hurt yields. The emergence of Japanese beetles and rootworm adults are on schedule and could reduce yields dramatically in some areas. The rootworm larvae have done their damage to roots, weakening the plant’s support and ability to absorb moisture. The black and yellow adults are emerging now, ready to mate and begin their attack on leaf tissue and soon, clipping silk during pollination, resulting in poorly formed ears.

The east coast, in addition to receiving the brunt of the 17-year locust hatch, is also suffering from a growing infestation with the Lantern Fly. The Asian invasives are stripping all trees in their path. Worldwide, more than 40% of agricultural crops are lost to pests each year, according to the United Nations.

Could COVID-19 return?

We’re all tired of the pandemic, but with a new variant circulating at increasing rates, we might not be in the clear just yet. The Delta variant is the most easily transmissible COVID-19 variant so far. It’s spreading quickly in the U.S., especially in areas with low rates of vaccination. While vaccines aren’t perfect, those who have been vaccinated should have a high rate of protection against the Delta variant. The reintroduction of curfews and masks could complicate what Americans were hoping would be a “normal” autumn.

If the Delta Variant spreads quickly we might see a repeat of hoarding meats and toilet paper, while jet fuel and gasoline would see a drop in demand.

Opinions are solely the writer’s. Walt Breitinger is a commodity futures broker with Paragon Investments in Silver Lake, Kan.