Happy new year from the Corn King!
I hope everyone’s holidays were safe, healthy and merry and Santa made it through the blizzards to bring you lots of goodies. The summer sun is long gone and my rooftop green went brown months ago, but I’m happy to report another successful Wrigleyville harvest. A hot, humid summer combined with abundant moisture yielded a nice crop, some of which you can see here.
With that, the second annual Corn King of Wrigleyville Corn and Bean Counting Contest is officially underway! Same deal as last year — give the photo below an eyeball and send me your best guess (through this blog or via email@example.com) on the total number of corn kernels and beans in the pitcher.
Whoever has the closest figure wins a special-issue CKOW t-shirt in the size of your choice. Deadline is midnight Jan. 16 (NOTE: DEADLINE HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO MIDNIGHT MARCH 1), and there’s no cost to enter. One estimate per person, please. Get your guesses in soon!
As for the real corn and soybean farmers of the U.S., 2010 brought a big harvest but not the home run many expected earlier in the year, as heavy August rains in parts of the Midwest hurt crop development. In a November report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture pegged the corn crop at 12.54 billion bushels, down 4.3 percent from 2009.
This is a problem if you like to eat steaks, pork chops and such – or if you like to eat, period. Corn is truly a hot commodity these days. Ethanol makers are sucking up a greater portion of the crop and demand from foreign buyers such as China is increasing, meaning domestic cattle and hog producers have to pay more for feed, pushing animal prices higher, and so on down the line to the supermarket meat case.
Corn futures rang out the old year Dec. 31 by hitting a 29-month high ($6.29 a bushel), and more fireworks may be in store after the 2011 opening bell rings Monday morning.
Retail beef and pork prices rose through most of 2010 (bacon hit a record $4.77 a pound nationwide average in October, for example), and probably will continue increasing in 2011. I expect inflating food prices to be a big story this year, along with escalating costs for other basic necessities, like oil and gasoline.
For the past year, I covered the agriculture markets and food industry from the CME Group trading floor for Vance Publishing’s AgNetwork, and will continue to do so this year. Follow me on Twitter and I’ll keep you posted on the latest as best I can.
Not to get your 2011 off on a down note. As we did a year ago, CKOW would like to extend best wishes to everyone for good health, strong whiskey and better times in the coming year. We’ll also remind everyone there are only 90 days until the gates open again at Wrigley Field.
Of course, new Cubs manager Mike Quade is officially invited to stop by the roof any time and discuss crop production techniques, hit-and-run strategy and any ways to right the Ricketts’ rickety ship (Note to Mike: the same invitation was extended to Lou Piniella and he never showed – look what happened to him).
Meantime, stay warm and get your contest guesses in soon! CKOW