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Crop conditions vary from east to west, and that's what the markets are watching right now

With the August WASDE and Crop Production reports out of the way, traders are now focused on weather and crop conditions, Carah Hart of Red River Farm Network said on this week's Agweek Market Wrap. And Randy Martinson of Martinson Ag Risk Management said that attention is showing a big east versus west disparity in this year's crops.

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With the August WASDE and Crop Production reports out of the way, traders are now focused on weather and crop conditions, Carah Hart of Red River Farm Network said on this week's Agweek Market Wrap. And Randy Martinson of Martinson Ag Risk Management said that attention is showing a big east versus west disparity in this year's crops.

Martinson said corn and soybeans in the western Corn Belt, especially areas of South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri and western Iowa, are seeing big decreases in crop ratings, likely to continue in Monday's Crop Progress reports. That's because of continuing intense heat and drought.

The central Corn Belt looks a little better, maybe average, while the eastern Corn Belt could see above average yields.

Martinson said USDA gave a "hint" that they think the "crop isn't all there" by lowering corn yields in the WASDE report.

The ProFarmer tour, which starts next week, will go through large portions of the Midwest checking corn and soybean conditions and yield expectations. That will give an idea of what stage the crops are at — and how much time it needs to develop before a frost, Martinson said.

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In North Dakota, which is not part of the ProFarmer tour, growing degree units might be the issue, Hart and Martinson discussed.

"Frost is definitely a concern for us up here in the northern Plains," Martinson said. Recent rains may have been a "crop saver" that can push the crop toward the finish line. "But again, we're going to need all of September and likely the first week or two weeks of October to get this crop to maturity so we're still not out of the woods yet."

Spring wheat harvest has been highly variable, Martinson said, with good yields in the west where wheat was planted before snow fell in April but not so good in the east where crops were mudded in or put in late. Plus, heat in flowering hurt yield potential. He said in some places, yields dropped about a third from expectations. Some quality issues, including ergot in south central North Dakota, also have popped up.

Farm Service Agency did not report prevented planting estimates yet but intends to next week, Hart said. But Martinson said numbers released now will still be preliminary and likely won't be right until September. Hart said there is speculation that prevented planting will be less than assumed in the wet spring because prices incentivized planting. Martinson said that may be true and may explain some poor wheat yield reports coming in where people "pushed the envelope" to get seed in the ground.

A heat wave in China and drought in France are worth watching. China's historic heat wave could increase their need for corn and soybeans, and Martinson said he hopes tensions between the U.S. and China don't escalate.

Cattle have been seeing moderate gains, and Martinson said a little pullback late week was due to an expected slightly negative Cattle on Feed report coming Friday afternoon. But he said cattle could use a little setback and likely will remain strong because of tight supplies. Plus, cheaper feed is helping feedlots stay full and driving a strong cash market at the salebarns.

Hogs have experienced more of a setback of late, Martinson said, with Chinese economic problems to blame. But that's "hitting us harder than it should" and he expects tight supplies to continue to drive the market.

The Agweek Market Wrap is sponsored by Gateway Building Systems.

Jenny Schlecht is the editor of Agweek and Sugarbeet Grower Magazine. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.
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