There is no shortage of issues the sunflower market, as well as most other commodities, is keeping a close watch on these days. Among them are the ongoing trade dispute with China, the recently announced Market Facilitation Program (MFP), planting progress and the weather.

John Sandbakken, executive director of the National Sunflower Association, writing in NSA’s weekly newsletter on May 28, said USDA’s announcement on the latest trade aid payment package surprised traders.

“The trade had expected to learn separate payment rates for soybeans, hogs, corn, and other crops rather than the announced direct payments that are not tied to a specific crop, but rather to aggregate planted acres,” Sandbakken said. “The announcement of another $14.5 billion in direct payments left traders feeling anxious that the current U.S.-China trade war will drag on.”

Sunflower is included in the plan for 2019 MFP payments.

“Payment will be based on a single county rate for all covered commodities multiplied by a farm’s total plantings to all crops in aggregate in 2019. The per acre payments are not dependent on the crops that are planted in 2019 to not influence planting decisions,” he explained.

“Each county will be assigned an MFP payment rate based on historical production,” he explained. “USDA did not release information on payment rates when announcing the program. All growers in a county will receive the same rate, regardless of the eligible crop grown.  Payments will be based on reported planted acres for 2019 which cannot exceed 2018 plantings.”

Weather and planting progress are factors that go hand-in-hand and are being watched closely by all grain commodity markets. Cool, wet weather across much of the region has impacted planting progress, especially for corn, which is having a trickle-down effect on other crops as producers consider switching to shorter maturing varieties or other crops, or taking the prevented plant option.

“Traders expect a big acreage shift to soybeans as spring planting progress lags in the key corn producing states,” Sandbakken said.

Farmers struggled to make significant inroads through the end of May in terms of planting progress. Drier weather conditions are forecasted for early June for the Dakotas and Minnesota and should allow for good planting progress.

According to the latest USDA report, sunflower planting is underway in all states and, like most other crops, is behind last year at this same time and the five-year average. With oilseed planting well under way, the markets will begin to trade U.S. weather and crop progress conditions to a greater degree.

Sandbakken said there is still plenty of time to plant sunflowers.

“As the optimal planting window is closing on some crops, there is still time to take advantage of the market opportunities that sunflowers can offer,” he said. “Late season planted crops like sunflower can be planted until late June and can perform well with the markets rewarding that production.”

Final planting dates for crop insurance purposes in North Dakota are June 10 or 15; South Dakota is June 15 or 20; and all of Minnesota is June 15.

Sunflower prices saw mixed reactions to the various factors, Sandbakken reported on May 28. Old crop NuSun was unchanged to up 20 cents with high oleic unchanged. New crop NuSun was unchanged with high oleic down 15 cents to unchanged.

As of May 28, old crop NuSun prices at the Cargill crush plant in Fargo, N.D., were listed at $17.30 per hundredweight for delivery in June. At the ADM crush plant in Enderlin, N.D., NuSun prices for delivery in June were $17.10.

High oleic sunflower prices at Fargo were $17.60 for delivery in June, and at Enderlin high oleic prices were $17.50 for delivery in June.

Sandbakken also noted out that crushing plants are still offering Act of God (AOG) and cash new crop contracts. At Cargill in Fargo, NuSun new crop prices were $16.55 cash and $16.05 with an AOG clause. At ADM in Enderlin, new crop NuSun prices were listed at $16.40 cash and $15.90 with an AOG.

High oleic 2019 new crop prices at Fargo were posted at $16.55 cash and $16.15 with an AOG. High oleic new crop prices at Enderlin were $16.60 cash and $16.10 with an AOG. High oleic new crop prices at Pingree, N.D., were $15.80 and $15.10 at Hebron, N.D.