The skies darkened across Chicago after a generational event occurred across 14 states today. A total solar eclipse couldn’t create a total market eclipse, but grain prices finished in the red.
On Monday, the annual Farm Journal Midwest Crop Tour is kicking off its first day of corn and soybean scouting.
Here’s our daily recap of the grain markets from the Chicago Board of Trade on August 21.
Corn Prices Dip Ahead of USDA Quality Report
The September corn futures contract declined 3 cents to finish the day at $3.49 per bushel. The December futures contract declined 2.75 cents to close at $3.63.
In today’s exports report, the USDA said that the nation sent a little more than 690,000 metric tonnes during the week ending Aug. 17. That is almost a 46% drop in exports during the same period last year. What is driving that downturn?
With the South American market awash in corn and back in the market, U.S. corn producers have seen a sharp downturn in exports. It remains to be seen just how much of an impact that NAFTA negotiations will affect the U.S. relationship with its second-largest export market – Mexico.
In 2017, Mexico has turned more to South America to fill its steady demand for corn. That has been evidenced by Japan’s rise to become the largest export market for the U.S. for corn this year.
But export numbers aren’t what producers care about most on Monday. Today, the USDA released its weekly crop quality and progress report.
Markets had expected about a 1% to 2% bump in G-E ratings this week. However, those gains didn’t come.
According to today’s report, 48% of the crop was rated Good, while 14% was rated excellent. That’s in-line with last week’s 62% rating (49% – Good, 13%- Excellent)
The update comes on the first day of the annual crop tour. While we’ll be checking in our Doug Kirk, who is covering the event, we’re receiving some interesting preliminary data from a variety of sources.
Mark Benard at Agro Economics projected 190 to 210 bushels per acre in the seven counties he’s tracking in southern Minnesota.  Meanwhile, in Grant County, Indiana, expectations from AgXplore shows estimates of 156/bu. 
As the week progresses, we’ll find out about how the crop tour figures align with the USDA’s September WASDE report.
Soybean Prices Slide, Weekly Exports Rise
The November soybean futures contract slipped 1.5 cents to finish Monday’st trading session at $9.36. The January contract declined 1.25 cents to finish at $9.44.
In this morning’s export report, the U.S. noted that producers sent more than 665,000 metric tonnes of soybeans abroad last week. That figure was a double-digit uptick from the previous week. However, the figure is still off nearly 30% from this same period last year.
Once again, competition from South American markets has affected U.S. sales.
The USDA reported crop ratings at 4 p.m. EST on Monday. Markets expected a 1% to 2% uptick in G-E quality over the week, and the weekly estimate fell in the low range of that estimate.
The report indicated that 60% of the soy crop was rated G-E for last week. That’s a 1% gain from last Monday’s report.
Despite the slight uptick, the figure is still well off from the 72% G-E rating during this period last year.
Finally, the USDA reported that 97$ of the soybean crop is blooming, with setting pods coming in at 87%.
Wheat Prices Slump, Minneapolis Prices Drop Double Digits
Managed money has been turning bearish over the last week, with more than 20,000 contracts adding to the net short position last week in Chicago.
The September SRW contract in Chicago dropped 6.5 cents to end the day at $4.095 per bushel. The December wheat futures contract declined 5.5 cents to close at $4.37.
In Kansas City, the Hard Red Wheat contract dropped 6.75 cents to close just below $4.08. The December HRW contract ended the day off 6.5 cents to close under $4.36.
Spring wheat prices slumped by double digits on Monday at MGEX. The September contract dipped 13.75 cents to close at $6.55; meanwhile, the December contract fell to $6.69, a 13.5-cent decline.
We may see some additional pressure tomorrow after Monday’s crop progress report. The USDA reported that 58% of the spring wheat crop has been harvested and that 34% of the spring wheat crop is rated G-E.
That crop quality figure is a 1% jump from last week.
The USDA reported that total exports for wheat hit 583,126 metric tonnes for the week ending August 17.
On the deal front, the Saudi Grains Organization bought another 490,000 metric tonnes of wheat from North America, South America, Europe and Australia.