Watch for a harvest low.
“Do your chart patterns work when you have earthquakes, tsunami, and a nuclear meltdown?” was the first question from a nervous farmer before the meeting even started. The meeting was on the day last March when corn and soybean prices had dropped the limit down. Her second question and comment were, “Why is this so hard? The volatility has made it impossible for me to sleep some nights. I feel like I don’t have any control even though I watch the markets all the time.”
2011 Corn: July - December Spread
Did you forecast grain prices to go this high last year? What caused it?” These were the first two questions from a farmer at a seminar in Colorado this winter.
“Making crop insurance decisions and marketing decisions are a lot harder than they were five years ago when prices were a lot lower.” This was the comment I got from a young lady at a meeting in central Missouri earlier this winter.
December 2008 CBOT Corn
Anxiety levels are going up. Even with the recent rally to $6 corn and $14+ soybeans, farmers are more worried than ever about cash rents, grain prices, and operating margins.
In 2006, my typical clients were farming 1,000 acres and grossing $675 per acre on corn and $525 per acre on soybeans. Their farms were grossing about $600,000 to bring $60,000 to the bottom line. Keep in mind that in the fall of 2006, farmers were collecting loan deficiency payments as part of their corn income.
have been providing farmers with advice and recommendations for 36 years. The products I offer and how I communicate with farmers have changed dramatically the last five years. How farmers use market advisory services has changed, as well.
The dramatic change in what I provide has been brought about by technology – especially what I send and provide through the Internet. What farmers want has also changed with more volatile markets and less government involvement.
In the 36 years I’ve been working with farmers, I have finally figured out what most crop producers want each year: They want a big crop and a big price. But that’s rarely happened. That’s because farmers had high prices when they had poor crops (or they were already sold out) or they had large crops and low prices.
“Will you use those seasonal patterns to make cash and new-crop sale recommendations after this year? It did not work real good in 2010.” That was the question and comment from a farmer in western Iowa.
I had to admit to the farmer that 2010 was a very unusual, counter-seasonal marketing year.
How can you have a market plan that works for you when commodity funds can run prices dramatically higher than they should go and then lower than you would imagine?
Like this year when corn futures dropped to $3.20 a bushel in June and then rallied sharply higher into harvest.” This was the question and comment from a frustrated Minnesota farmer. This producer had a lot of corn hedges and was looking at a 90¢ under-harvest basis. I did not have a simple answer to his complex question but rather an overall approach that I use with my customers.
This question was asked by a farmer at a grower meeting in Quincy, Illinois: Can the grain markets keep moving higher right into harvest, when the rest of the U.S. economy is moving lower?
Here was my short answer: The U.S. grain markets respond more to international grain fundamentals than ever before. And as long as China keeps buying, odds are good grain prices will stay strong.
The combination this year of record demand from China and the worst drought in 1,000 years in Russia has dramatically changed the global grain fundamentals. As a result, wheat futures soared by over $4 per bushel from late June into early August. Russia embargoed grain exports. (This is an ironic twist that Russia embargoes grain exports 30 years after the U.S. put an export embargo in place against Russia.) And U.S. farmers have the opportunity to forward-sell $7 wheat for delivery right off the combine in 2011.