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If you are a soybean grower, reading this on Wednesday, Sept. 12, consider yourself lucky. 

That is because soybean growers near Rolla, North Dakota, who probably will not see this, are on the opposite end of the scale. 

The lucky farmers have the benefit of grain elevators, such as Heritage Grain at Dalton City, which was offering $7.90 for soybeans delivered and sold on Tuesday. But the North Dakota soybean growers along the Canadian border were being offered only $6.54 by the North Central Grain Cooperative for their soybeans on Tuesday. You do the math.

And what is more, Heritage Grain, Topflight at Monticello, Legacy at Stonington, are all offering bids on soybeans a far out as March, and well above the $8 mark. The North Dakota boys at Rolla are finding out their elevator doesn’t want soybeans next year. 

When harvest is complete, North Central Cooperative will cover its pile of soybeans and hope that Mother Nature takes over for the winter. In fact, they may have drawn the window blind on that side of the scalehouse to block the view of the soybean pile. You know, out of sight out of mind.

Throughout the Dakotas, soybeans are being treated as the red-haired stepchild. Nobody wants them.  So, why did farmers raise them, if that is the case?  When wheat prices began going south several years ago, row crops moved into the region at breakneck pace. Grain elevators getting less wheat had no problem filling the space with soybeans at a similar yield but at three times the value. 

The big problem was corn, at three times more yield than wheat, because grain elevators had nowhere to store such large volumes of grain, prompting the construction of grain bins at every elevator and on every farm. It was land office business for GSI, Sukup, and many other steel bin companies. Now, the demand is for plastic covers for million-bushel piles of unwanted soybeans.

But why are they unwanted?  China is the reason.  With China imposing tariffs of 25 percent on U.S. beans and the Chinese soybean crushers shifting their business to Brazil, the steady stream of bulk cargo ships from Pacific Northwest grain terminals to Chinese ports has suddenly disappeared.  And the steady stream of BNSF grain trains full of Dakota soybeans to those terminals has disappeared.

Fortunately, for Central Illinois farmers, there are soybean crushing plants in Decatur and scattered around the Corn Belt which are setting records in turning out soybean meal for livestock feed. July was expected to be a record month for the crushing industry and August may have surpassed that when the data is reported.

But that is here, and the Dakota beans are there, and there is a long way to haul those beans to a central Midwestern market. Not that it can’t be done.  But there are plenty of beans in Central Illinois, not only new 2018 beans, but also some 2017 beans.  Don’t ask farmers about those.

Then suddenly headlines screamed China, tariffs, trade war, and that pounded down the value of beans despite a near record crop in the field. But they were pounded down much more in the Dakotas than at Dalton City.

Farmers here can thank their ancestors for having more foresight.

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Stu Ellis is an observer of the Central Illinois agriculture scene. In addition to his weekly column, you can view his “From The Farm” and “Harvest Heritage” reports on WCIA 3 News.




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