Farmers are harvesting profits this fall along with their corn, soybeans and grain sorghum.
A complex combination of factors has driven grain prices high and are likely to keep prices up — and maybe even send them higher — over the next three months.
As of this week, the corn harvest in south-central Kansas is over, and the soybean and grain sorghum harvests are nearly over.
Even though yields are down from last year and the cost of fertilizer and fuel prices is higher than 2009, the crop prices are making up for a lot of the difference.
On Tuesday, Mid-Kansas Co-Op in Whitewater was offering to buy corn at $5.10 a bushel, soybeans at $11.27 a bushel and grain sorghum at $4.94 a bushel.
It has made the question of whether to sell now or gamble on further price increases a big one for local farmers.
Ryan Speer, who farms south of Bentley, said he already has sold 85 percent of his corn
He said that 2010 will be good, but not as good as 2008 or even 2009, despite the difficulties in the harvest.
"Oh, yeah, the harvest was ridiculous, but the yields were tremendous," he said.
Tom Beck, manager of Mid-Kansas Co-op's elevator in Whitewater, said about half of the more than 700,000 bushels of corn he is holding has been sold. Farmers are hanging on to the rest.
"As long as (prices) keep going up, they just like to keep watching it," Beck said. "If they were going down, they would have a sell-off."
As an added bonus this fall, the August heat and lack of rain made fall harvest happen earlier than normal, and made it far easier than the wet, muddy, drawn-out affair of 2009.
"I don't think a farmer would trade 2010 for 2009," said Arlan Suderman, a locally based commodity market analyst with Farm Futures.
The benefits spread far beyond the farmers. They tend to spend that extra income on updating farm machinery, as well as buying household goods.
"The farmer has a big impact on the rural Kansas economy," Suderman said. "When he makes money, he spends money."
Two market analysts say they think crop prices will rise at least into January — and maybe longer.
Global supply and demand are strong, said Tom Leffler, a commodity broker/market adviser with Leffler Commodities in Augusta.
But speculators are also driving up prices by buying grain contracts.
Suderman said these speculators believe high inflation is inevitable and that food prices will shoot up as a result.
And, he said, the weak value of the dollar is making American grain less expensive, pushing up exports.
Even so, said Leffler, it's wise for farmers to sell grain in chunks as the prices rise, locking in profits.
Speer, the farmer, said he will sell his other crops soon.
"The chances of (prices) being there next August are slim to none," he said. "When they get high like this — the fastest cure for high prices is high prices, if you know what I mean."