Commodities File: Wicked weeds, low jobless rate move markets

Weeds and the workforce are featured in this edition of Futures File, our weekly commodities wrap-up.

Weedkiller causes war

Farmers are facing a superweed and a super problem dealing with it. The terror, known as pigweed, grows rapidly and produces over 100,000 seeds, allowing it to spread like wildfire, sapping crops of much-needed sunlight, water and nutrients. Worse yet, pigweed has grown resistant to most common herbicides and often needs to be removed by hand, a time-consuming and expensive prospect for farmers who have hundreds or thousands of acres infested with the weed.

Pigweed is susceptible to a chemical known as dicamba, but that herbicide is also deadly to the crops in the field. In response, agribusinesses have produced new genetically modified crops that are dicamba-resistant, allowing farmers to plant soybeans and cotton that can survive dicamba sprayings.

However, neighboring fields are often not planted with dicamba-resistant crops and improper use of the chemical can result in a dead zone around sprayed fields, leading to heated arguments between neighbors. There have already been more than 1,000 complaints about dicamba misuse this year, and an argument between two Arkansas farmers over dicamba losses turned deadly in 2016. Increasing issues with the herbicide have resulted in a crackdown by states against the chemical.

Crop losses this year to weeds or dicamba are unknown, but the conflict between superweeds, herbicides and herbicide-resistant crops will continue to be an ongoing saga in modern agriculture for years to come.

Falling unemployment rocks markets

U.S. unemployment is at a 16-year low at a mere 4.3 percent, according to data release Friday morning from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The economy added 209,000 jobs in July and continues to show steady growth.

This better-than-expected news helped fuel stock markets higher with Dow Jones futures reaching an all-time high over 22,000. Strong earnings reports, low interest rates and improving foreign economies have continued to underpin the stock market rally, as well.

The stronger labor market will likely embolden the Federal Reserve to continue raising interest rates, which has discouraged investors in precious metals and bonds. These markets fell on Friday, especially silver, which dropped almost 60 cents to a two-week low at $16.20 per ounce.

Opinions are solely the writers’. Walt and Alex Breitinger are commodity futures brokers with Paragon Investments in Silver Lake, Kansas. They can be reached at 800-411-3888 or This is not a solicitation of any order to buy or sell any market.

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