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Videos provide financial tips, explain mediation

Chad Hart, ISU Extension Grain Marketing Economist, highlights new Iowa State University Extension and Outreach videos for today’s current farm financial situation.

With commodity prices low and projected to stay that way over the next couple years, farmers have begun to feel the pinch in their pocketbooks. This has made managing the finances of the farm that much more important. With this in mind, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has released two videos that deal with the current farm financial situation and what can be done to alleviate financial pressure.

I host the first video, titled Tips for Managing Margins. It offers ideas for how to weather the next few years of low crop prices like protecting capital, reviewing production costs and renegotiating loans.

The second video, called Understanding Farm Mediation, was created in partnership with Iowa Mediation Service and is about the process of mediation. Mediation is an option available to farmers as they work with their creditors to find a mutually beneficial solution to a delinquent secured agricultural debt of $20,000 or more.

This short video provides tips to help farmers better understand what mediation is and when it may be necessary. It describes the process and provides a step-by-step guide on how to prepare for mediation.

While mediation is available should it be needed, ISU Extension and Outreach also provides these financial resources to help farmers create a financial plan for their operation:

  • The Iowa Concern Hotline provides free legal information to both rural and urban Iowans. Services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 1-800-447-1985.
  • The Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation provides information about the application of developments in agricultural law and taxation.
  • Farm Financial Associates are available to provide a no-cost look at a farm’s complete financial situation.
  • The Beginning Farmer Center helps inform and support those who are getting started in farming. It also works with established farmers on succession planning for when they leave the industry.

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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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Farm Bill Safety Net Payments Provide Producers Small Cushion

ajsmplastina_alejandro_2014Alejandro Plastina, ISU Extension Economist, and Ann Johanns, Extension Program Specialist, provide an explanation of the data used in calculating 2015 ARC-CO payments in Iowa.

Final data on 2015 county level yields was recently released by the USDA Farm Service Agency. This is the final information needed for calculating payment rates under the Agriculture Risk Coverage-County (ARC-CO) program.

The Marketing Year Average (MYA) prices for the marketing year starting Sept. 1, 2015 and ending Aug. 31, 2016 were $3.61 for corn and $8.95 for soybeans. The payments released by the USDA Farm Service Agency starting in October 2016 are for crop acres enrolled during the 2015 crop year.

Payments under the 2014 Farm Bill are tied to the base acres on a farm and are not influenced by the crop grown in the payment year.

ARC-CO Payments

2015 ARC-CO payments on corn base acres (payments rounded to nearest dollar)

2015 ARC-CO payments on corn base acres (payments rounded to nearest dollar)

ARC-CO payments by base acre for corn and soybeans are shown in Figures 1 and 2. Under the ARC-CO program, producers receive payment on 85 percent of their base acres. This 15 percent reduction is factored into the values seen in the related figures. Furthermore, a 6.8 percent deduction is applied due to the federal government’s sequestration of the budget. Seven counties (Appanoose, Decatur, Henry, Lucas, Marion, Monroe and Washington), all located in the south central and southeast portion of the state, will not see a payment for corn or soybean acres.

Eight counties (Clarke, Jefferson, Keokuk, Pottawattamie, Ringgold, Van Buren, Warren and Wayne) will receive a payment on soybean acres and not on corn. Another 26 counties will receive a corn payment and no soybean payment (Adair, Bremer, Buena Vista, Calhoun, Carroll, Cerro Gordo, Clay, Davis, Dickinson, Emmet, Floyd, Franklin, Guthrie, Hancock, Howard, Humboldt, Kossuth, Madison, Mitchell, Monona, Palo Alto, Pocahontas, Sac, Winnebago, Worth and Wright). Base acres enrolled in ARC-CO in the remaining fifty-eight counties will receive a payment at some level for both crops.

soybeanpayments2016

2015 ARC-CO payments on soybean base acres (payments rounded to nearest dollar)

PLC Payments

With the 2014 Farm Bill, Iowa producers had two options to choose from, ARC-CO or Price Loss Coverage (PLC). The PLC program provided a safety net for producers should the MYA prices be below the set reference prices of $3.70 for corn and $8.40 for soybeans. No payments were seen in Iowa under the PLC program for 2014, but a small payment will be received for corn base acres enrolled in PLC for 2015. The payment per bushel will be $0.07 (after 6.8 percent sequestration) and based on yield information at the farm level. Producers were given the option to update their yield information with FSA during program sign-up.

Statewide Payments

The average ARC-CO payment per base acre on corn was $33.51 and $15.68 for soybean acres in Iowa. With over 22 million base acres in the state enrolled in ARC-CO or PLC, estimated payments for Iowa producers under ARC-CO for the 2015 marketing year is approximately $646 million with another $3.8 million going towards corn base acres enrolled in PLC.

More information on the 2014 Farm Bill, including decision tools to see detailed calculations of payments by county, are available through the Ag Decision Maker website. Maps of payments can be found through the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development Farm Bill mapping tool. Projections for 2016/17 payments are updated regularly as information is released by USDA FSA.

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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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Positive Demand News from USDA (6/10/16)

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

Hart_Chad-thumbUSDA’s June updates contained good news on the demand front for corn and soybeans. International demand continues to strengthen, while domestic usage holds steady. With no major changes on the supply side, this implies lower ending stocks and projections of higher prices. Starting with corn, the losses and delays in the South American harvest have opened up some off-season selling opportunities for the U.S. Old crop (2015/16) exports were raised 100 million bushels as a result. Although corn imports were increased slightly, the overall impact for old crop corn is a 95 million drop in ending stocks and a 10 cent increase in the season-average price to $3.70 per bushel. That drop in ending stocks, combined with another increase in new crop (2016/17) exports of 50 million bushels, lowered new crop ending stocks by 145 million bushels. The changes added 15 cents to the new crop corn season-average price estimate, raising it to $3.50 per bushel.

For soybeans, both old crop domestic and international demand were on the upswing. Crush added 10 million bushels, while exports grew by 20 million bushels. With the 30 million bushel drop in old crop ending stocks, USDA raised its 2015/16 season-average price by 20 cents to $9.05 per bushel. As with corn, the export demand increase extended into the new crop as well, adding another 15 million bushels. That pushed new crop ending stocks below 300 million bushels and lifted the 2016/17 season-average price estimate by 40 cents, to $9.50 per bushel.

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