Winter Storm Closes Federal Offices

A raging winter storm that began in the western US but really took on a new life in the Southeast is closing some federal offices in Washington D.C., today.\r\n   The USDA appears to be open, however, with weekly export sales already released.  Its long-term Baseline figures are scheduled for later this morning.  Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s comments before the Senate Banking Committee this morning have been cancelled, according to news reports.  No new date has been set.\r\n   The storm already has locked parts of Georgia and the Carolinas in ice and snow, bringing down trees and power lines and snarling highways.  Rail service in such conditions also is next to impossible, and thousands of US flights have been cancelled.\r\n   This National Weather Service map shows the storm’s progress over the last 24 hours as a high pressure system moves out of New England and into the Atlantic Ocean, allowing a strong low pressure system to sweep up the coast and pull Atlantic moisture into the cold air that is behind it.\r\n   As consumers there hunker down for the storm and its aftermath, meat consumption could be hit.  The storm is taking place over the Valentine’s Day observance, which has become a take-her-out-to-dinner kind of celebration.  If roads are blocked and the power is out, restaurants of all kinds lose meals served and income.\r\n   The storm also may close pork and poultry processing facilities in the area for a day or two, backing up production and lowering farm prices, especially for hogs.\r\n   Meanwhile, grain and soybean markets continue to wait for fresh news to guide price direction.  The USDA Wednesday announced that China had cancelled 272,000 tonnes of old-crop soybeans while at the same time announcing a sale of 240,000 tonnes of new-crop to China.\r\n   More old-crop cancellations are expected since last week’s total US soybean commitments exceeded the USDA’s revised soybean export forecast by 1.9 million tonnes.\r\n   Corn traders continue to await an Environmental Protection Agency ruling on the ethanol mandate.  Currently, ethanol production is right on target to hit the USDA’s estimate, and plant margins are thought to be very profitable.  Many traders think a lower EPA fuel mandate at this time would do little to curb corn used for fuel because of the margin.\r\n   No cash cattle trading was reported in the Plains Wednesday, as the Feb Live Cattle futures contract set a two-week high and then retreated to close lower.  Weaker boxed-beef prices, despite lower slaughter rates, and technical profit taking were cited for the decline.  Ideas of storm-ravaged beef demand in the short term also may have played a role.\r\n   Overnight futures trade was a little higher, however, possibly the result of bargain buying.\r\n   Only very light fed cattle trading was reported in the Plains last week at $141 live and $225 dressed.  This left packers with fewer cattle to slaughter, but it also backed up cattle in the feedlots.\r\n   Packer bids were reported Wednesday at $138 to $140 per cwt in the South Plains, down from trial-balloon bids at a steady $141 on Tuesday, as futures sank.  Asking prices were holding around $144.\r\n   The USDA’s boxed-beef cutout fell Wednesday with choice down $1.09 per cwt at $208.05 and select off $0.53 at $207.63.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $0.42, but there were 217 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.\r\n   The CME Feeder Cattle Cash Index for the seven days ended Tuesday is $169.60, up $0.27, while the March futures contract settled Wednesday at $168.50, down $0.27.\r\n