Harvest Low Short-Lived in Cash Grain Market

If you blinked, you likely missed it this year. The usual drop in basis levels seen around harvest has been mostly non-existent this year, except for a few parts of the country with better supply prospects. Since September 1, corn basis has fallen only 5 cents while beans posted a more typical 20-cent loss. This year’s exceptionally tight stocks and production prospects continue to prop up basis levels for much of the country.

For the week ending October 11, corn and soybean basis levels were up 2 cents a bushel on average across the country. Continued declines in barge rates coupled with harvest wrapping up in key grain producing areas is help giving a lift to basis through much of the Midwest.

In the corn market, river terminals were driven higher thanks to a 5 to 10-cent a bushel drop in barge rates in the past week. However, the prospect of strong export demand stimulus this year seems unlikely as export sales continue to be lackluster. For the week, Gulf export basis bids were unchanged. Domestically, U.S. ethanol producers were up 2 cents on basis which was on par for the U.S average gains. Areas of weakness were noted in the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest where production has been more favorable.

For the soybean market, basis levels were substantially higher along the river this week thanks to sliding barge costs, but Gulf basis was 1 cent lower. Weakness was hitting the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic as double-crop beans start to be harvested in full force.

Basis levels should continue to firm as we finish up the short harvest this year. But, the prospect of sharp rallies in basis seems dim. Already lofty basis levels, especially in corn, combined with slow export business should keep basis levels tied to domestic users like ethanol and feeders, where profitability is already being squeezed.