R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: COVID-19 continues to impact corn futures

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation president, has reportedly recovered from COVID-19. It was reported on July 8 that the Georgia farmer had tested positive, which the farm bureau leader confirmed July 22. (American Farm Bureau Federation photo)

In this week’s farm and rural news roundup: a recent surge in corn prices could be tempered by a resurgence of the novel coronavirus expected to curtail travel — and ethanol demand. The good news for farmers this week, however, is the strong soybean crush volume. Also this week: Farm Progress announced a virtual substitute for the Farm Progress Show. To harvest the details, please read on …


Soybean crush driving demand

BLOOMINGTON — U.S. soybean crush volume is up 3.54 percent in a struggling economy, due in part to expanded trade relationships in emerging global markets like Myanmar, Bangladesh and Southeast Asia. This is according to Eric Woodie, Illinois Soybean Association trade facilitator, who is working to strengthen global trade relationships for Illinois farmers.

“If this continues through the entire marketing year, the total crush will exceed 58.9 million metric tons compared to 56.9 MMT last year. That potential increase translates to 100 million bushels of additional soybean crush,” Woodie said in a July 24 ISA news release.

Illinois soybean growers are at an advantage to market more soybeans overseas due to the large number of soybean crushing facilities in the region, Woodie noted.

“It’s exciting to promote Illinois soybeans and soy products in emerging markets because there is opportunity for substantial growth. When I go out to talk to buyers, it is an easy sell when I can offer Illinois soybeans. They know our reputation for a consistent, quality product,” he says. “When you have a good product, you develop repeat customers. All of this equates to a direct return on investment for Illinois soybean crushers and subsequently Illinois farmers.”

ISA and Woodie are continuing to focus on market development as a top strategic priority in both domestic and foreign markets, as the COVID-19 pandemic and trade deal uncertainties continue to linger.


COVID-19 continues to impact corn futures

URBANA — A monthlong mini-surge in corn prices fueled by USDA acreage estimates and strong export numbers could soon end if pandemic case numbers continue to rise in key areas of the U.S., warns Todd Hubbs, agricultural economist for the University of Illinois College of ACES. Why? Demand for ethanol, which had enjoyed a resurgence as stay-at-home regulations were eased in June, will again plummet if consumers return to their homes for another lockdown.

“Gasoline demand recovered to almost 89 percent of pre-coronavirus lockdown levels in early July,” Hubbs said. “Despite this positive development, the recovery in demand flattened out over the last few weeks. Gasoline stocks began to recede but still sit substantially above levels usually seen at this time of the year.

“Attempts to reopen the economy hit a snag as the virus spread rapidly around the country after initial hopes saw a rapid opening in many areas. At 8.648 million barrels per day, demand recovered substantially from the low point of 5.311 million barrels per day seen in early April. The path back to normal gasoline demand levels appears stalled. Ethanol production followed this recovery and will feel the implications of flattening gasoline use.”

Discussion associated with Hubbs’ Weekly Outlook article, “Revisiting Corn Use for Ethanol,” is available at www.farmdocdaily.illinois.edu/2020/07/revisiting-corn-use-for-ethanol.html.


AFBF president recovering from COVID-19

WASHINGTON, D.C. — While the American Farm Bureau Federation continues to work for an increase in Commodity Credit Corporation funding to ensure USDA can respond more effectively to a future pandemic, its leader is recovering from the effects of COVID-19. It was first disclosed on July 8 that AFBF President Zippy Duvall had tested positive for the virus and was recovering at home. Duvall, a beef and poultry producer from Georgia, sent out a message to farm bureau members and the agricultural community on July 22:

“It’s amazing how this virus hits people in such different ways. My COVID-19 experience has been much lighter than others have had. I’m blessed and grateful for that, but I also want to send prayers to everyone whose health has been more severely impacted, as well as those whose livelihoods have been threatened,” Duvall said, in part. “For me, I felt very sick, had a high fever and headaches, and felt exhausted. I’m happy to say that today I am feeling much better.”

Indeed he was feeling better, for on July 23, Duvall reportedly tested negative for the presence of the COVID-19 virus. In his message, he thanked the farming community for their thoughts and prayers during his illness.

Farm Progress announces virtual ‘experience’

ST. CHARLES — After COVID-19 forced the cancellation of this year’s Farm Progress Show, Matt Jungmann, events manager for the Farm Progress Company, and crew got together to envision a virtual exhibition. The result is the launch of the Farm Progress Virtual Experience, or FPVX, announced for Sept. 15-17, 2020.

“We’re going to have what may be the most extensive field demonstration program we’ve ever conducted with corn harvest, tillage, hay and cattle equipment,” says Matt Jungmann, events manager, Farm Progress. “And we’ll include a first look at a range of autonomous tools. Max Armstrong will be on hand for the three-day online event as the host for this event too.”

The FPVX will allow farmers to engage a range of content. Searching the exhibitors will be easy because they’ll be sorted into the familiar categories farmers have long come to know through more than 65 years of taking part in Farm Progress events, according to Don Tourte, senior vice president of Farm Progress.

“The beauty of a virtual event is that we will open the virtual gates on Sept. 15 with a slate of field demos and rich content, but once live farmers can engage the content all year long,” said Tourte. “With this event the farmer can virtually stroll through more than 500 exhibits in their own time, and each exhibitor will have valuable new information to share.”

Look for a link to the FPVX in an upcoming RFD News and Views column and the Farm Progress website. (FPVX news release)

Report: Corn, soybeans looking good

SPRINGFIELD — Despite weather challenges in certain areas of the state, Illinois corn and soybeans are looking pretty good, by most reports. The July 20 USDA-NASS Illinois Crop Progress and Condition report shows corn silking was at 69 percent compared to the five-year average of 71 percent. Corn dough was at 9 percent compared to the five-year average of 10 percent. Corn condition was rated at 2 percent very poor, 6 percent poor, 29 percent fair, 48 percent good, and 15 percent excellent. Soybeans blooming reached 55 percent compared to the five-year average of 59 percent. Soybeans setting pods was at 22 percent compared to the five-year average of 24 percent. Soybeans condition was rated at 2 percent very poor, 5 percent poor, 26 percent fair, 49 percent good, and 18 percent excellent.

Illinois Farm Fact:

Illinois’ top soybean meal customers include the Philippines and Mexico. (Illinois Soybean Association)