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Roy SmithWhat do we learn?

Agriculture.com Staff 01/29/2010 @ 11:03am

I thought that I was going to be doing a "Winning the Game" workshop today and would not be home to post a column.

My meeting scheduled for today was canceled, which was fine by me because I had a hectic time on Wednesday and Thursday. I did a post-harvest meeting in Blair on Wednesday afternoon, then drove 200 miles to Stuart NE where I did a pre-harvest meeting on Thursday morning. I was home by 6:00 P.M. Thursday evening after driving almost 500 miles and doing two, three and a half hour workshops in less than two days. Such fun!

I am asked the questions "What do people learn at these workshops" and "Why do they keep coming back?" I wish I could tell you that I teach them how to hit the highest price of the year with their grain sales. If I said that I would be lying because I do not always do it myself. What we do teach them is that there are certain times when they are more likely to hit the top. Spreading their sales out over that time period year after year will increase the probability of hitting prices that are close to the top.

The period when the top is most likely to happen is from mid-March through mid-June. That is true whether talking about pre- harvest pricing or pricing from storage post-harvest. Many marketing strategists recommend that our goal should be to sell in the top third of the price range. That is easy to say but difficult to do. Unfortunately we do not know what that range is until it is past. Diversifying sales through the months suggested will usually result in hitting the top-third even though we might not know it until after the fact.

We relate many of the other parts of the meeting to these seasonal trends. Crop insurance, basis plays, pricing tools and “drop dead” dates all fit into this general theme of targeting pricing opportunities to these late spring-early summer sale times.

I have done marketing meetings in Blair for several consecutive years. The one in Stuart was the first in that area. I saw many familiar faces in Blair. One farmer summed up the issue of why farmers keep coming back when he said that no matter how many times he has been to one of these workshops, he always picks up something useful. Testing the information with a simulation game challenges farmers to implement the facts they learn under conditions that are close to reality.

I have run these simulations hundreds of times and I still learn from them. Progressing from the game to the reality of actually marketing one's crop is a tough challenge. The results of this transition are the true test of what is learned. The score is kept in dollars. Unfortunately we do not get to measure our success rate against other players as is done in the "Winning the Game" workshops.

One of the principles expounded on in the workshops is that January and February are not normally months when we want to be making sales. It is quite common to have the lowest prices of the year in these two months. This year another factor has already made me violate that rule. It is the situation where we have corn in the bins that is not dry enough to store into the summer. In addition, tough winter weather has made it almost impossible to deliver.

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