Soybeans Pile Up, So Do Worries of Bean Rot

There was a record soybean crop this year just as China stopped buying. The beans are piling up. So are fears of rot.

The New York Times reports Farmers Hope Trade War Ends Before Beans Rot.

Kevin Karel, the general manager of the Arthur Companies, which has long sold soybeans to China. With that market now largely shut off, Mr. Karel said his firm has started to stockpile soybeans.

The latest federal data, through mid-October, shows American soybean sales to China have declined by 94 percent from last year’s harvest.

Mr. Karel, the general manager of the Arthur Companies, which operates six grain elevators in eastern North Dakota, has started to pile one million bushels of soybeans on a clear patch of ground behind some of his grain silos. The big mound of yellowish-white beans, already one of the taller hills in this flat part of the world, will then be covered with tarps.

“I’ve been to China 25 times in the last decade talking about the dependability of U.S. soybeans,” said Kirk Leeds, the chief executive of the Iowa Soybean Association. By undermining that reputation, he said, “We have done long-term damage to the industry.”

Public health officials in North Dakota, already confronting a recent rise in suicides, are concerned about the impact of falling prices, particularly on younger farmers with high levels of debt.

Brandon Hokama, whose family farms 3,500 acres near Ellendale, N.D., estimates that they need a price of $8.75 per bushel of soybeans to break even. Last year at this time, soybeans could be sold for almost $10 per bushel. Now, local elevators are offering prices below $7.

Storing a Record Soybean Crop

You cannot just pile them up indefinitely. Soybeans are a bit more susceptible to spoilage and need to be two percentage points drier.

This year was a Record Harvest so storing the beans before they rot is a record problem.

The Oct. 11 USDA Crop Production report forecasts Iowa farmers to harvest a record 606 million bushels of soybeans and an average yield of 61 bushels per acre.

Many grain elevators and a few farms were already carrying over more old-crop soybeans than normal. USDA reported that U.S. soybean stocks on Sept. 1 stood at 438 million bushels, up 45% from a year ago. Come Sept. 1, 2019, U.S. soybean stocks are forecast to increase to 885 million bushels, which if realized, would be a new record.

In a normal year, natural, unheated air will dry soybeans to 13% moisture. But in cool, wet, fall conditions, supplemental heat may be required.

Soybeans with less than 15% moisture can be dried with bin fans. Soybean seed stored over one planting season should be 12% moisture or less, while carryover seed should be stored at 10% moisture or less.

Compared to corn, soybeans are fragile and can be damaged by air that is too hot or too dry, and can be damaged from rough handling.

Not to fear, we call this "winning".

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

No. 1-12

Don' t really understand the aggression in the comment section; it seems relatively clear-cut argument. China has stopped buying soyabean, and price for farmers has dropped to $7. There is no doubt that the bumper crop didn't help....still don't really see the fake news here. Trade policy affected Soyabean farmer end of story!


The Chinese are attempting to reduce their overall soybean imports. They are trying to get by without any US soybeans at all by getting farmers to substitute other feedstocks for pigs. US farmers will have to find other markets for their soybeans.


The problem is the record harvest, not the China ban.

Obviously China has just bought from some other country. But that means whomever was buying from that country is now buying from the US. The global supply and demand hasn't changed and for the most part (baring record good/bad harvests) supply = demand. The reason for that should be obvious. It takes years of planning and equipment to harvest a crop (ie in your back yard you can switch from soybeans to corn on a yearly whim but farmers planting thousands of acres can't because they need special equipment/fertilizers/soil type/transportation/storage etc) commercially. A real change will take years of the trade war.


“I’ve been to China 25 times in the last decade talking about the dependability of U.S. soybeans” - Kirk Leeds, Iowa Soybean Assoc.

King Cotton never regained its crown over the American south after the Civil War as Egypt, India and other places moved in to fill the supply gap.


The party is over and you cannot hope to survive the hangover. 2018 is going to mark the year Americans remember as the last great Christmas of their generation.