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