Sunflower prices at the crush plants ended the week unchanged to up 15 cents. Birdfood prices have seen little movement after large purchases were made in August/September taking care of current needs. Harvest has begun in the sunflower production region with initial quality generally very good. Yields are being reported in the 1,500-2,500 pound range with some reports over 3,500 pounds in areas not impacted by this summer’s drought. Drought impacted areas have seen yields closer to 1,000 pounds per acre. USDA forecasts that average yields in the Dakotas are expected to be down more than 500 pounds per acre compared with last year due to drought conditions. The drought impact on production in the Dakotas, the largest sunflower producers, will keep traders anxiously watching yield trends as harvest continues. Last week USDA lowered US 2017/18 soyoil ending stocks from 1,757 million pounds to 1,537. This was due to lower beginning stocks and higher 2016/17 biodiesel use. Also, EPA put to bed any concerns that the agency would be making changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes which could have been harmful to agriculture and biofuels. EPA had earlier signaled that a reduction in RFS volumes was likely. This was positive news for oil values and sunflower prices in general as they are closely tied to CBoT soyoil values.
Now that we have had a hard freeze in most of the sunflower production area it is a great time to get your sunflower crop harvested as soon as possible. Getting the crop harvested several weeks early can result in higher yields and lower drying costs. Late season crop damage and blackbird damage can be reduced significantly. Warmer than normal temperatures are expected the next couple of weeks and can also minimize artificial drying costs as it often allows the use of air-drying to lower seed moisture in storage.