Farmer Update – John Sturtevant

After harvest each fall, our farmers often send us a summary of their year, market information, and thoughts on next year. This update is from Farmer John Sturtevant, of Pasco, WA, and has lots of interesting bits of information. Farmers are definitely multi-taskers – John is a farmer, weatherman, and commodities market analyst all in one!

Here is his letter to Robin:


2014 was a different year hay marketwise than I’ve ever seen.  A number of market forces all kind of came into effect and collided.  The year started with lots of buzz about the drought in California and high hay prices because of that.  A lot of speculation was done by hay buyers on first cutting, that prices would remain high throughout the year.  Prices softened for second cutting, then the wheels sort of came off the market for third cutting with China’s discovery of GMO hay being exported from the U.S.

The export market came to a halt and really hasn’t quite recovered.  We found out through our export hay buyer that there is a lot of GMO contaminated hay seed, and that this is a problem.  Luckily none of our hay tested positive for GMO traits. This, combined with the largest corn crop ever and subsequent low corn prices and we had a hay market that went from bright to questionable.

We had pretty good luck in putting our hay up this year with some good quality and were able to sell it all.  Our first and fourth cuttings were especially nice, probably some of the nicest hay we ever put up.

I’m not sure what the hay market will be like next year.  It is still forecast to be a drought next year in California, but there appears to be plenty of feed for cows with cheap corn and small herd sizes.  Not sure how the GMO deal will figure out and I think with low wheat prices a lot of guys around me planted September alfalfa rather than wheat.  Acres should be up next year driving the supply of hay up and pressuring prices down.

Wheat -there’s too much of it worldwide.  I read an article last spring that an analyst wrote, which stated he thought wheat and corn would be in a 3 year downturn as a result of ample supply of each.  Barring a disaster somewhere I think he could be right as everybody around me must think this also – few have planted winter wheat.  Many opted for late planted alfalfa or timothy.  Hard Red Wheat will probably remain in the $6.50 to $7.50 (per bushel) range next year, which is OK.

Dry beans.  The Midwest put up a lot of pinto beans this year and I wonder if there will be a lot of carryover into next year keeping prices low.

Currently Pintos are at $30 (per cwt or hundredweight) here, and $24 in the Midwest.  This is a little above breakeven.  On a bright note my Red beans are at $38,  and along with Kidneys are the highest priced bean.  I guess there is a shortage of kidneys and dealers are substituting reds in some cases.  Last year there was a shortage of Navys.

The weather.  This has been the warmest fall I can ever remember.  We have yet, as of November 6th to have a frost yet.  I believe the lowest temperature we have had is 38*.  The orchard guys who have apples still to harvest like this, yet are concerned about the trees not going dormant and having a sudden damaging cold spell.  The one forecast I heard was that the Northwest was supposed to have a mild winter.  A mild winter usually means an early start to first cutting and more bugs and disease to deal with.

Hope all is well with you,



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