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  • Turnaround Tuesday for the grains again?Soybean futures led the way down for the grains on Monday, ending the day double-digits lower. But, prices rebounded in the overnight trade and are slightly higher heading into today's trade. The same factors -- namely the trucker strike and rainfall in Brazil -- remain in play today, though talk that the strike could be ending soon could curtail any price support for soybeans. The trade's also watching the rain there, and while it's not the best thing in the world for harvest underway in Brazil, Kluis Commodities market analyst and grain broker Al Kluis says it seems the market's following the old adage that "rain makes grain." And, heading into Tuesday, there are a few domestic issues that could be taking over the Brazilian factors as market-movers today."Early gains faded as it appears the Brazilian trucker strike is getting worked out, and it is hard to sustain a market rally on wet weather forecasts even when damage is occurring," Kluis says of price action on Monday. "The current soybean to corn ratio of 2.38-to-1 will reduce corn-on-corn acres and increase soybean acres in the big USDA Prospective Plantings report at the end of March. I am watching the extended forecasts for the northern Plains, where it now looks warm and dry through the end of March."See the latest grain prices Spring weather nerves already? Longer-term weather outlooks on Monday showed that a warmup's on the way in the nation's center around the middle of this month, and that could open the door to the spring planting season after a month of February that featured below-normal temperatures that kept snowmelt at a minimum in most of the Corn Belt. What are the market implications to an early warmup this spring? "Today's extended forecast is starting to hint at a warmup in mid-March that could finally end the bitterly cold winter that has the US gripped in its clutches.  Temps could warm into the 40's and 50's as far north as the Dakotas, a perfect time to start a warm up for spring.  If the weather does change, it could impact just how early crops are planted across the corn belt and northern Plains," says market analyst Ray Grabanski. "So "hope springs eternal" in spring, not just in farmers minds but also in market bulls everywhere.  One can speculate on any type of crop problem fueled by weather, and the possibility undeniably exists for a 2012 type crop (a major drought which impacts production) as well as a 2014 type crop (record shattering yields for corn and soybeans).  Which of these two possibilities actually emerges in 2015 will dictate what crop prices do in the next few months as well as the year 2015. In which of these camps are you in to start 2015?  Are you finding yourself excited about the new year, as you feel a drought will be in the offing in 2015?  Or are you imagining a big crop again in 2015 somewhat like the record shattering yields of 2014?  Either way, beware of a bias towards one or the other."See more from GrabanskiIs your planter ready to roll?So, temperatures are going to start warming soon, and spring planting will be here before we know it. Right? So, is your planter ready to go, too? Even if you have the most high-tech planter in the world rolling out in your fields this spring, you're still going to want to conduct a good, comprehensive preseason inspection and any maintenance -- no matter how small -- before you hit the field this spring. Are your seed meters in shape? How about your closing wheels, air bags and seed tubes? They're all critical pieces and warrant a close look before you plant. Check out these tips from our "Planter Doctor," Kevin Kimberley. He's an old pro when it comes to taking care of planters, and offers his tips here. Don't let a broken-down planter stand between you and getting your crop in the ground this spring!Preseason Planter Repair

  • Brazilian rain delays could fuel higher soybean prices today. It's been bone-dry in much of Brazil and Argentina as those nations' farmers work to get the corn and soybean crops harvested. Now, the opposite condition is causing delays. It was a really wet weekend throughout much of South America, and there's more rain on the way. That could keep harvest action in the next few days slowed to a crawl, and that could be bullish for soybeans, says Kluis Commodities market analyst and grain broker Al Kluis. "The weekend weather in South America was very wet, and there is more rain in the extended forecasts. In the US grain markets overnight, prices are mostly higher," he says. "I think that the wet weather in South America will delay the soybean harvest and also the planting of double crop corn."Meanwhile, truckers are still on strike in Brazil, though some roads and ports have been opened. Sources said late last week that truckers are "starting to go broke" and may need to get back to work soon. Watch the weather and progress -- or lack thereof -- on the trucker strike in Brazil for market direction from South America this week.See the latest grain pricesAlso: Port Strike Spotlights Corn, Soybean Export System ChangesMost U.S. corn yield projections 'doable but aggressive.'Now that March is here, the market's done watching the key month of February (for establishing crop insurance coverage levels) and is now looking ahead to see how the "battle for acres" will shake out this spring. With planting now just weeks away, most see soybeans coming out ahead in that fight. That's not good for soybean price potential, but the potential fallout from resulting prices isn't something farmers can't handle with the right marketing approach, one analyst says. "The next 60 days will likely provide the time window and catalyst for farmer decision-making. We're not convinced that insurance levels, as they are discovered the rest of February, are a major factor this year that will contribute to an acreage decision," says Market Analyst Bryan Doherty. "After visiting with numerous producers throughout the Midwest over the last two weeks, it still appears to us that farmers were leaning toward planting more soybeans than corn. At a minimum, soybean acres could increase 2 to 3 million, which would suggest carryout could rise toward 500 million. This is negative for beans in the long run and would suggest November beans (should there be an average to above-average crop) could see prices drop to the $8.50 price level or lower. A reduction in corn acres would provide less of a margin for error producing this year's crop. Most analysts are penciling a new crop corn yield of 165 bushels or higher. From a historical perspective, this high yield is doable but aggressive."Weather will be the biggest factor after acreage to determine price direction. Good weather, and corn could drop to below $3.50; beans to under $8.50 by harvest. You need to be prepared for any scenario. A combination of forward contracting and using put options to establish a price floor on all of your expected production is recommended for both crops. In addition, look to cover forward sales through the use of call options," he adds.See more from Doherty ICYMI: Farm program sign-up's been extended.If you weren't at last week's Commodity Classic in Phoenix, you may have missed an announcement that could take some pressure off as you head into spring. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said USDA extended the deadline for sign-up for some farm programs, namely crop insurance options of ARC and PLC. The original deadline's now passed, but farmers and landowners now have until the end of this month to certify and reallocate base acres for application to either one of those programs for which sign-up deadline is also March 31. He didn't say whether that deadline will be moved back, but added he estimates about 4 out of every 10 farmers has yet to reallocate base acres and just about 1/3 of farmers have already signed up for ARC or PLC. See more  Join the chat: 'Will probably only postpone the bottleneck at the FSA office'

  • Soybean farmers repeated their support for trade promotion authority (TPA) for the president at Saturday’s Commodity Classic voting delegates session. It was just a day after Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged farmers who back TPA to write Congress. Vilsack also said that every living former ag secretary of both parties, from the Carter Administration on, supports it. “Our immediate priority right now is trade promotion authority” says Richard Wilkins, first vice president of the American Soybean Association and head of the ASA policy committee.TPA is considered essential to finish trade talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a twelve nation trading bloc that includes one of America’s best export customers, Japan. TPA, which every president since Gerald Ford has had, speeds the process of approving or voting down proposed trade agreements in Congress. Nearly all ag groups, including most commodity groups and American Farm Bureau Federation already back TPA.Asked if the TPP agreement with Asian and South American nations would pass Congress this year if the president has TPA, Wilkins says, “It’s got to happen this year.” That’s because China is also trying to negotiation its own bilateral trade agreements with nations that would be in the TPP. That could put the U.S. at a disadvantage.ASA also wants low level presence (LLP) allowed for transgenic crops that aren’t approved by U.S. export customers.“Zero tolerance is not attainable. It’s not practical in a commodity handling system” says Wilkins, who farms near Greenwood, Delaware.Like most farm and commodity groups, ASA wants the EPA to announce blending obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard “in a timely manner as established by Congress.” The current delay likely has hurt biodiesel even more than corn ethanol. ASA also favors switching the biodiesel tax credit from blenders to biodiesel makers, to  “promote and support domestic biodiesel  production.” 

  • Farmers wrapped up policy debates at the Commodity Classic in Phoenix, Arizona Saturday, tackling trade issues, defense of crop insurance, environmental regulations and issues that seem as evergreen as perennial crops. But something new is growing out of fertile frustration with a federal government that seems broken.At the Corn Congress, voting delegates from the National Corn Growers Association voted digitally for their top priorities, giving the most points to ways to build demand for corn. They picked their favorites, letting a computer program sort it out. It’s not the sometimes slow debate over resolutions, but a faster process that the group’s leaders and staff will use in budgeting and planning for the coming year, according to NCGA president Chip Bowling, who farms near Newburg, Maryland, and Chris Novak, who took over as the group’s CEO last fall. The result of the vote: bread and butter issues that could build markets for a crop currently valued at or below break even for many producers.Delegates picked their main goals from three lists, called tiers. Leading tier A was building infrastructure to sell higher blends of ethanol. The top goal for tier B. was increasing exports. Topping a third, tier C list, was trade policy support, including defending USDA programs that help promote exports and were used last year for the first time for ethanol and distillers grains marketing overseas.Novak said the list of goals was taken from more than 30 ideas sent to NCGA by state Corn Grower groups.The emphasis on support for more ethanol sales follows a new program that NCGA quietly started within the past year called Prime the Pump.So far Prime the Pump has raised about $26 million to buy blender pumps for retail fuel chains that agree to sell E15 (15% ethanol blends) for five years, Bowling said.“We’re not doing this on our own. We’re doing this with the ethanol industry,” Bowling told after the Corn Congress So far, Prime the Pump is working with five chains in the Midwest and one, Sheetz, that serves populous East Coast states.“It has been remarkably well received and it's working,” said Bowling.NCGA has invested in a project to promote E15 with NASCAR, which uses the fuel in its races.But that soft-sell market promotion ranked much lower in the priority voting. Continuing to work with NASCAR ranked sixth among the Tier B list of goals.Bowling said that many NCGA members still like the NASCAR program and that NCGA likely will work with the racing organization through 2016. But later it will have to weigh how that compares with more direct investment in selling a product that now rivals livestock feed as the largest market for corn.Corn Congress delegates approved waiting until their summer meeting in Washington next July to decide on language for a resolution offered by the Iowa delegation that would have made prevented planting insurance slightly less attractive. Some members have argued that prevented planting coverage is being abused. Others argued that a requirement to plant a field at least once very four years discourages excessive reliance on prevented planting.