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Despite Weather Issues, Yield Estimates Better Than Expected (8/10/17)

Chad Hart, ISU Extension Grain Marketing Economist, provides a summary of the latest USDA reports.

Chad Hart imageThe first official tour of the nation’s fields this summer resulted in better crop yield and production estimates than the market was expecting. The national corn yield estimate came in at 169.5 bushels per acre, down 1.2 bushels from trend, but that was still a couple of bushels above trade expectations. If realized that points to a 14.15 billion bushel corn crop, which would be the 3rd largest ever, continuing a string of large corn crops. The soybean yield estimate was 49.4 bushels per acre. That is 1.4 bushels above trend and sets up this year’s crop to exceed last year’s. So bushels and bins would continue to overflow with these estimates.

On the demand side, news was mixed. Soybean export projections were raised 75 million bushels, but domestic soybean crush was lowered by 10 million. Corn feed usage and exports were reduced by 25 million bushels each. Combined, the corn adjustments shrank 2017/18 ending stock projections by 52 million, but stocks are still projected above 2.25 billion bushels. For soybeans, ending stock projections rose by 15 million bushels, to 475 million. For prices, USDA held their price range for corn, leaving the midpoint at $3.30 per bushel. While for soybeans, the price range tightened a bit, losing a bit more than the high end than the low, with the midpoint now at $9.30 per bushel.

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Pricing drought damaged silage

Contributed by William Edwards, extension economist

Corn that has suffered severe drought damage is sometimes harvested as silage instead of as grain. It can still have significant feed value if harvested at the right stage. See the article “Alternatives for Drought-damaged Corn—Grain Crop or Forage” for harvesting recommendations. Any damaged acres that are covered by crop insurance should be viewed by an adjuster and released by the insurance company before harvesting takes place.

Grain producers may be willing to sell to the corn standing in the field, to be harvested by the livestock producer or a custom operator. The buyer and the seller must agree on a selling price.  The seller would need to receive a price that would give at least as good a return as could be received from harvesting the corn as grain. The buyer would need to pay a price that would not exceed the feeding value of the corn.  Within that range the price can be negotiated.

One ton of normal, mature standing corn silage at 60% to 70% moisture can be valued at about 10 times the price of a bushel of corn. For a $3.50 corn price, a ton of silage would be worth about $35 per ton. However, drought stressed corn may have only 5 bushels of grain per ton of silage instead of the normal 6 to 7 bushels. A value of about 9 times the price of corn would more appropriate. For silage with little grain content, a factor of 8 times the price of corn can be used.

If the crop is sold after being harvested and transported, those costs must be added to that value, typically $5 to $10 per ton, depending on whether it is done by a custom operator or the buyer, and the distance it is hauled. A buyer would only consider the variable costs for harvesting and hauling, whereas a custom operator would need to recover fixed costs, as well.

More information on valuing forage in the field, including an electronic spreadsheet for estimating a value for corn silage, for both the buyer and the seller, is available from Ag Decision Maker.

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Acreage Shifts and Crop Flows (6/30/17)

Chad Hart, ISU Extension Grain Marketing Economist, provides a summary of the latest USDA reports.

The Acreage and Grain Stocks reports were released June 30th. And for the most part, the numbers were within the range of expectations.  The corn numbers ran a bit higher than the trade expectations, but the soybean numbers were a bit below. For corn, national acreage was estimated at 90.9 million acres. That is roughly 900,000 acres more than farmers indicated in March. Producers in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Michigan, and Colorado increased corn plantings, raising corn acreage by at least 100,000 acres in each state when compared to the March projections. Meanwhile, producers in Illinois, Indiana, and South Dakota reduced corn area by at least 100,000 acres in each state. For soybeans, national acreage was estimated at 89.5 million acres, just 31,000 acres more than the March intentions. While farmers in Illinois, North Dakota, and Missouri increased soybean plantings significantly when compared to intentions, farmers in Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, and Louisiana offset those gains. Overall, the trade expected more soybeans and less corn. And the bigger surprise is likely the smaller soybean acreage number.

National stocks for both crops were up 11 percent compared to last year, but that was to be expected given the record production for both crops last fall. The key feature in the stocks report to me was the disappearance rates  For corn, quarterly disappearance was up 9 percent, while for soybeans it was up 18 percent.  So crop usage remains robust and has continued to chew through the large supplies.  Combined, these reports provided a little positive news for the crop markets.

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Consider Use of a Basis Contract to Market Corn

Steven D. Johnson, Ph.D., Farm Management Specialist, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, shared marketing tools and tips for the 2016 crop.

Johnson_Steve_smKeep an eye on your local basis to see if you should continue to store or price some of your corn. Farmers who have unpriced corn might consider using a basis contract to market at least a portion of those bushels. An attractive basis in late December and the need for cash will be the main drivers for farmers to move some of those stored bushels. Most of the cash price movement in late fall and early winter months typically comes from better basis being offered as farmers slow grain movement. In addition, two 3-day weekends in late December increase the odds of potential “quick ship” bids to meet processor demands for additional bushels.

Seasonal futures price trends indicate corn futures prices don’t typically rally in the fall and winter months. That’s because most everything is known about the Northern Hemisphere feed grain crops by then, and that’s where nearly 85% of the world production takes place. However, most farmers will be reluctant to give up ownership of bushels at sub-$3.50 per bushel cash corn prices.

Farmers need to pay attention to the costs of ownership

Chart of storage costs, on farm vs. commerical

Cost of 2016 Corn Ownership

Compare the cost of storing corn at a commercial elevator to your own on-farm storage costs. The ISU Extension and Outreach Iowa Commodity Challenge website can show you how. It uses the following 2016 crop assumptions: cash corn is valued at $3.11 per bushel at a central Iowa elevator when about 50% of the Iowa harvest was complete. Interest is accruing on stored grain at a rate of 5% or 1.75% if the USDA marketing loan is used. On-farm storage is 1 cent per bushel per month while commercial storage is 16 cents for the first 90 days and 2.8 cents per bushel for each month thereafter. Note the cash prices (dotted line) are below the typical cost of corn ownership as of late November.

Cost of 2016 Corn Ownership

Once you store corn, imagine how much cash prices will need to improve each month to justify storage. Commercial storage could easily be 3 to 4 times more expensive per bushel than on-farm storage costs. The cash price received for commercially stored bushels will also reflect the basis offered at that commercial storage facility. If history is any indication, the likelihood of selling those cash corn bushels above the cost of storage probably means a significant futures price rally is needed (more likely in the spring months)and improvement in the basis.

How does a basis contract actually work?

Most grain merchandisers offer a marketing tool called a basis contract. A farmer delivers cash corn and eliminates storage costs and basis risks. The merchandiser buys a corn futures contract (goes long) in a deferred month on behalf of the farmer. The merchandiser will likely charge a small service fee of 1 to 2 cents per bushel subtracted when the basis contract is settled, likely in the spring.

Upon delivery of the cash bushels, a farmer can collect 70% to 80% of the corn’s value. The merchandiser holds the remaining 20% to 30% balance of the cash value to make potential margin calls should futures prices decline. Any excess funds minus the 1- to 2-cent service fee are returned to the farmer upon settling the basis contract.

Eliminating storage costs and basis risk

The farmer needs to convey to the merchandiser a date and price at which the farmer wishes to have this long futures position lifted. Consider being “long” the May 2017 or July 2017 corn futures contracts when using a basis contract to increase the chance of benefiting from a spring futures price rally.

Discuss risks and rewards with your merchandiser when you’re initiating cash sales and basis contracts. Be sure you understand the risk of being “long” futures and the flow of cash funds involved in the transaction. The farmer isn’t able to take advantage of the carry offered in the futures markets with a basis contract. However, there are several advantages a basis contract provides. Those include providing cash to help pay expenses and meet your farm operation’s cash flow needs, elimination of storage costs and basis risk, and minimizing the concern for on-farm stored corn quality.

Take the Iowa Commodity Challenge and learn new marketing skills

The website featuring the Iowa Commodity Challenge has related crop marketing information including 14 videos and a 65-page Marketing Tools Workbook.

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Iowa Commodity Challenge Helps Improve Crop Marketing Skills

Steve Johnson, ISU extension field specialist, shares details on the Iowa Commodity Challenge, a program developed with Chad Hart, ISU extension economist and Ed Kordick, Iowa Farm Bureau, offers simulation using real world prices to help explore various marketing strategies.

Steve Johnson, ISU ExtensionThe Iowa Commodity Challenge is an educational series developed by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the Iowa Farm Bureau that reflects real world crop markets so users can explore how various tools work – without putting their actual money on the table.

The materials, hosted on the Ag Decision Maker website, include 14 instructional videos explaining various aspects of marketing. Three new videos – Successful Market Planning, Using Crop Contracts and Working with Your Grain Merchandiser – have been recently added.

Also included is an updated 65-page Marketing Tools Workbook and a variety of learning activities. The workbook provides the basics on marketing tools as well as setting personal marketing goals and resources participants can use on their own farm operation.

Participants can choose to participate in an online grain market simulation game to help improve marketing skills. The game includes using futures and ag options as marketing tools, and participation can also help users improve strategies to sell cash corn and soybeans.

Iowa Commodity Challenge partners“It gives players a chance to look at commodity markets and how they work over the course of several months,” said Steve Johnson, farm management specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “The simulation reflects what is going on in the real world markets so participants are able to try out marketing strategies in a setting where they can explore how these various marketing tools work without risk.”

As a part of the online grain market simulation game; participants are given 75,000 bushels of corn and 25,000 bushels of soybeans stored commercially to market before spring using March 2017 corn and soybean futures. Storage costs will accrue on bushels as if they were in the bin (six cents per bushel per month).

Crop marketing is difficult and the stakes are high. Participating in the Iowa Commodity Challenge will provide greater understanding of marketing tools available and aid in making decisions in the noisy world of crop marketing.

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Yield Adjustments, but Still Record Crops (10/12/16)

Chad Hart, ISU Extension Grain Marketing Economist, provides a summary of the latest USDA reports.

Hart_Chad-thumbUSDA updated its projections for the 2016 corn and soybean crops. And while the national corn yield is reduced, the national soybean yield is increased and record production is still on the books for both crops. The national corn yield is set at 173.4 bushels per acre, down a bushel from last month, but still 2.4 bushels above the previous record set in 2014. With the yield this high, a 15 billion bushel corn crop is projected to be heading in from the fields during harvest. Combined with the 1.7 billion bushel carryover, total corn supplies for the 2016/17 marketing year stand at 16.85 billion bushels. Corn usage is also projected at record levels, but demand has not been able and is not projected to keep up with the supply surge. Corn export projections are raised 50 million bushels, bringing total usage up to a record 14.5 billion bushels. The end result is an ending stock level roughly 600 million bushels higher than we had for the 2015/16 marketing year, but slightly lower than last month’s estimate. That slight tightening of ending stocks gave USDA a little room to raise their projected price range by 5 cents per bushel, with the midpoint now at $3.25 per bushel.

The national soybean yield is projected at 51.4 bushels per acre, up 0.8 bushels from last month and well above the previous record. With production approaching 4.3 billion bushels, the soybean market has never had more beans to work with. So again, it’s a story of record supplies and demand, but demand growth lags behind supply growth. Soybean export projections are raised 40 million bushels, bringing total usage to 4.1 billion bushels. But ending stocks are projected to double and price projections are held steady, with the midpoint of the season-average farm price range set at $9.05 per bushel.

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Stocks Inline with Expectations (9/30/16)

Chad Hart, ISU Extension Grain Marketing Economist, provides a summary of the latest USDA reports.

Hart_Chad-thumbStock levels for corn and soybeans were up in the most recent USDA report, but the trade expected that as we move into the next marketing year. Corn ending stocks were estimated at 1.74 billion bushels, up just 6 million bushels from last year. While total corn stocks are about the same, farmers are holding more back on the farm than they did last year. Strong demand from the ethanol and export sectors boosted June-August corn disappearance by 9 percent. For soybeans, we entered the 2016/17 marketing year with 197 million bushels in storage. That’s 3 percent above last year’s level. And reversing the pattern for corn, less soybeans are being held by farmers on the farm. Summer crush and export demand were firm as well, with June-August soybean disappearance increasing by 55 percent. So the stocks report confirmed strong demand for corn and soybeans, but stocks still grew year-over-year.

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Flood damaged crops, crop insurance payments, and lease contracts

William Edwards, retired extension economist, on issues from flooding regarding crop insurance, rented acres and looking ahead to 2017.

edwardswm_finalSome Iowa corn and soybean producers are facing substantial if not complete crop losses due to flooding. Fortunately, nearly 90 percent of Iowa’s corn and soybean acres are protected by Multiple Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI).

Crop insurance

Most Iowa producers purchase crop insurance policies with a 75 to 85 percent level of coverage. This means that if crops are a total loss, the producer must withstand the first 15 to 25 percent of the loss. However, in 2016 nearly 90 percent of the crop acres insured in Iowa were covered under Revenue Protection policies, which offer an increasing guarantee if prices increase between February and October. So far, this has added about $.80 per bushel to soybean guarantees, while the current corn futures price is actually below the February average. Moreover, since Revenue Protection (RP) policies are settled at the average nearby futures price during the month of October, rather than local cash prices, farmers receive a bonus equal to the fall grain basis in their area.

Producers with crops that have been totally destroyed by flooding will not have to incur the variable costs of harvesting. This could save around $20 per acre for soybeans and perhaps $50 per acre for corn, depending on potential yields and drying costs. Nevertheless, even producers who carried insurance at a high coverage level could be looking at net revenues near or below those obtained from normal yields this year.

2016 flooded bean field

Potential losses

For example, assume an insured tract has an expected corn yield and insurance proven yield of 175 bushels per acre. A normal crop marketed at $3.00 per bushel would bring $525 per acre. The insurance indemnity payment for an 80 percent RP guarantee, zero yield, and a February futures price of $3.86 would equal 175 bu. x $3.86 x 80% = $540. Saving $50 in harvest costs would give an equivalent of $590 per acre, or $65 above the value of a normal crop.

For soybeans, assume both the expected yield and the proven yield are 60 bushels per acre, and the crop could be marketed at $9.00 per bushel. Gross income for a normal crop would be $540 per acre. The insurance payment for a complete crop failure and a $9.65 October futures price would be 60 bu. x $9.65 x 80% = $463. Savings of $20 in harvesting costs brings the equivalent of $483 per acre, or $57 below the value of a normal crop.

In many cases, of course, flooded acres will make up only a portion of the insured unit, so production from non-flooded acres will be averaged in with the zero yields from the flooded acres.

The real question is how much will it cost to clean up fields and bring them back into production next year? Most Iowa farmers have not had experience with fields being under water for extended periods of time, so effects are difficult to estimate. Problems will range from physically removing debris to leveling eroded areas to restoring fertility.

Flooded field, 2016

Rental contracts

What do these questions imply for rental contracts? A great deal of uncertainty, for one thing. Lease agreements in Iowa continue in effect for another year under the same terms if they were not terminated on or before September 1.

Landowners will have to bear the burden of mitigating flood damages – that goes with owning property. But, a better solution may be for renters and owners to work together to repair the damage and bring the land back into production. Farm operators may have access to machinery that can help accomplish the job that owners do not. In return, tenants should be compensated for their efforts, either directly, through a significant discount on the 2017 rent, or with a long-term lease.

Next year

In some cases there may be doubt as to whether land flooded this year can even be planted next year. Risk Management Agency rules state that land must be physically available for planting to be insurable. Land that cannot be planted due to weather events that occurred before the sales closing date (March 15 in Iowa) is not eligible for prevented planting payments. When operators report their 2016 production, they can request that their 2016 yield histories reflect a value equal to 60 percent of the county “T-yield” rather than a zero or very low yield.

Close communication and cooperation between owners, crop insurance agents and renters can be a “win-win” strategy in the long run, but recovery may take several years.

Additional information about managing flood damaged cropland will be available from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach as the waters recede and the situation is assessed. Keep in mind, dealing with issues from flooding can be stressful. Reach out to resources such as the Iowa Concern Hotline, with trained staff who are available to listen.

Iowa Concern –All calls, chats, and emails are free and confidential. Language interpretation available.

  • 24/7 Phone Support – Trained staff take your calls via a toll-free hotline at 1-800-447-1985.
  • Live Chat Services – Live chat for online, one-on-one support.
  • Email an Expert – Send your questions related to legal issues, finance, stress and crisis or disaster to our staff.

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Supply and Demand Move Higher (7/12/16)

Chad Hart, ISU Extension Grain Marketing Economist, provides a summary of the latest USDA reports.

Hart_Chad-thumbThe July updates from USDA pushed both crop supplies and demands higher. But in the longer run, stock levels are projected to be higher, with steady to lower prices. On the supply side, the revised acreage and stock numbers from last month were fully incorporated into the projections. Corn production was increased by 110 million bushels, while soybean production rose by 80 million.

On the demand side, there were several offsetting moves. For corn in both old and new crop settings, feed and ethanol usage were lowered, while food and export usage rose. For soybeans, export demand was increased for both old and new crop. Crush demand was lifted slightly for the new crop, but seed and other uses were lowered for the old crop. Putting all of the shifts together results in slightly lower old crop ending stocks, but higher new crop (2016/17) stocks.

Season-average prices were held steady for soybeans, at $9.05 for the 2015/16 crop and $9.50 for the 2016/17 crop. Corn season-average prices were reduced by 5 cents on the 2015/16 crop to $3.65 per bushel and by 10 cents on the 2016/17 crop to $3.40 per bushel.

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