“There is a growing sense of concern about the slow rate of exports among all three major crops (corn, wheat and soybeans) compared to USDA projections,” Roberts said.

“Exports have been weak, sales and shipments have both been weak, and at the rate we’re going, we will fall short of USDA projections for the year.”

He said that general sentiment was reflected a little in the most recent USDA data, which cut soybean exports by 50 million bushels, to a total of 1.325 billion bushels for the year.
 Roberts said the export situation proves the old market adage that the best cure for high prices is high prices.

“It is driven by competition, because what we’re seeing is another example of price rationing occurring,” he said.

“As prices increase, driven by poor production in the U.S., they are dampening demand for American grain, and we’re seeing that reflected in the export numbers.”

While price rationing is also to account for the reduction in the amount of corn used for livestock feed, Roberts said there are some conflicting signals from the USDA data on feed usage.

 “If we’re not feeding as much corn, and we don’t see wheat feeding numbers particularly large, what are we feeding right now?” he asked.

“Animal numbers have not dropped as much as feed usage has, so there is some confusion in the market about that discrepancy.”

Roberts said with the 2011 crop production reports more or less in the books for the year, the market will likely turn its attention to 2012 acreage needs sometime in the next few weeks.

 That shift in focus will mark the next major opportunity to see commodity prices driven by fundamental factors, rather than the outside markets.

“I think we’ll start to see a shift as the market starts to think about how many acres we need for next year,” Roberts said.

“Over the past five or six years, we’ve seen that discussion start to heat up between Thanksgiving and Christmas. If we need 94 million acres of corn next year, what price will it take to make that a reality? With the high fertilizer and rent prices we’ve heard so much about, it will need to be a higher corn price than where we are now, but we’ll see if and when that sentiment starts to take hold.”