Some of the dozens of combines working together to set a world-record soybean harvest head onto a 160-acre field near Monkton, ON, in 2011.
LONDON, ON - Soybean prices surged to a record high Tuesday, setting the stage for winners and losers in Ontario's farm belt where the versatile bean rivals corn as the most important crop.
The winners will be the farmers in areas that have received enough rainfall, while those in Ontario's drought-stricken pockets will be out of luck.
Soybeans are a major source of feed for livestock and are used in a wide range of food products, including vegetable oil, tofu and soy milk.
Typically, soybeans account for more than $1 billion a year in farm sales in Ontario, with most of the production in the southwest.
This year, Ontario farmers planted a record 2.6 million acres.
About 20% of the Ontario soybean crop, mainly south and west of London, ON, looks like it will yield above average this year, said Peter Johnson, a crop specialist with Ontario's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Another 20% of the crop is going to be very disappointing, he said.
The hardest-hit areas are the crops on heavier soils in the Niagara area and on sandier soils in the Tillsonburg, Aylmer and Dorchester areas.
The remaining 60% of the crop will probably yield below average, but still better than many feared earlier in the season, Johnson said.
"Hopefully, it will be close to average," he said.
Much of the climb in soybean prices to record territory is due to the U.S. drought, which has slashed potential yields, and earlier damage to the important Brazilian crop.
On the Chicago Board of Trade, soybeans climbed nearly 3% Tuesday to settle at $17.32 1/2 cents a bushel.
The previous record price was $16.91 a bushel.
A few months ago, soybean futures were trading below $13 a bushel.
Todd Austin, marketing manager for Grain Farmers of Ontario, said the prices are a good-news story for Ontario producers, but farmers really won't know what they'll have until they harvest the crop.
"Let's hope these prices are there so producers can take advantage of them," Austin said.
Farmers can sell their crop in advance, but that comes with a risk if their yield fails to meet the volume they sold.
Austin urges caution.
"This year it may not hurt to wait and see what you have, especially if you have had a prolonged dry period," he said.