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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Big Crops Get Bigger (11/10/15)

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

Hart_Chad-thumbThe November update from USDA found bigger corn and soybean crops than previously estimated. The national corn yield was raised to 169.3 bushels per acre, which added roughly 100 million bushels to estimated production. State-level yield estimates were higher in the northern and western Corn Belt, but lower to the south and east. The Iowa corn yield was set at 189 bushels per acre, which would be a record. The national soybean yield was also increased significantly, to 48.3 bushels per acre, adding again nearly 100 million bushels to the national total. The yield increases were more uniform across the country for soybeans, but Iowa is again projected to see a record yield for soybeans as well.

The supply strength, however, was coupled with some demand weakness. For corn, export and ethanol demand was reduced by a combined 125 million bushels. While feed demand increased 25 million bushels, the growth was not enough to offset the losses. For soybeans, USDA raised both crush and export demand from previous estimates, but the export number remains well below last year’s level. Ending stocks grew for both crops. Corn ending stocks were projected at 1.76 billion bushels. Soybean ending stocks were set at 465 million bushels. And the season-average prices estimates were lowered as well. The midpoints on the price ranges now set at $3.65 per bushel for corn (down 15 cents) and $8.90 per bushel for soybeans (down 25 cents).

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Acreage Adjustment (10/9/15)

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

Hart_Chad-thumbIt took until the October reports, but USDA adjusted its crop acreage estimates for corn and soybeans down. Corn area was reduced by a half of a million acres. Soybeans lost 1.1 million acres. These moves more than offset the slight yield bump USDA projected. The national corn yield estimate was raised a half of a bushel to 168 bushels per acre. The national soybean yield estimate increased a tenth of a bushel to 47.2 bushels per acre. National corn production was lowered by 30 million bushels; national soybean production was reduced by 47 million bushels.

There were no adjustments made to new crop corn demand. So the drop in production led to a slight increase in USDA’s projection for the marketing year average price. The midpoint of their price range now sits at $3.80 per bushel, up 5 cents from last month. New crop soybean demand took a hit though. While domestic crush increased 10 million bushels, soybean exports were dropped by 50 million bushels. And USDA held firm on their soybean marketing year price range, with the midpoint remaining at $9.15 per bushel.

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Mixed News in the Reports (9/11/15)

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

Hart_Chad-thumbDemand for the 2014 crops came out a little stronger, but the prospects for the 2015 crop production remain at or above trade expectations. Starting with demand for the old crop, the estimates show a little across-the-board surge to finish out the marketing year. Corn demand via ethanol was raised 5 million bushels; corn usage in sweeteners and other food products rose 10 million bushels; and exports jumped 25 million bushels. For soybeans, old crop demand increased both domestically (up 23 million bushels) and internationally (up 10 million bushels). The increase in demand lowered ending stocks going into the 2015 marketing year. But the impact on the season-average price was rather small, with the corn price lowered 2 cents to $3.68 per bushel, while the soybean price was raised a penny to $10.06 per bushel.

Looking forward to this fall’s harvest, USDA’s projections were reduced on the corn side, but increased for soybeans. The national corn yield estimate was dropped to 167.5 bushels per acre. While record yields are still being projected for several states, the conditions through August resulted a one to three bushel reduction in expected yields across the upper Midwest. Overall, corn production is estimated at 13.585 billion bushels, down roughly 100 million from last month and down 630 million from last year. But that is still strong enough to be the 3rd largest corn crop in U.S. history. The national soybean yield estimate rose to 47.1 bushels per acre, up 0.2 bushels. Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana soybean yields were all raised by a bushel, with Iowa projected at a record 53 bushels per acre. The current soybean crop estimate puts U.S. total production just 34 million bushels below last year’s record. So the supply side of the market remains robust.

The demand outlook for the 2015 crops was mixed. Soybean demand is up slightly, as domestic usage was raised 8 million bushels. The projection for soybean exports was held steady as 1.725 billion bushels, down 110 million from last year. For corn, feed and residual demand was lowered by 25 million bushels. But corn sweetener demand was expected to rise by 5 million bushels and exports were held steady with last month’s projections. The projected ending stocks for the 2015/16 marketing year now stand at 1.59 billion bushels for corn, down 121 million from last month, and 450 million bushels for soybeans, down 20 million from last month. Based on these adjustments, USDA raised the midpoint on their season-average price range for corn back to $3.75 per bushel, but kept the soybean price at $9.15 per bushel. Futures prices before the release of the reports had pointed to 2015/16 season-average prices below those levels, indicating corn in the $3.50 range and soybeans around $8.25-8.50. So the USDA report does offer some hope for slightly higher prices as we move through the marketing year, but the improvement will not be very large.

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Demand Remains Robust (7/10/15)

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

Hart_Chad-thumbThe July USDA World Ag Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report held some interesting nuggets for the market to chew on. Starting with the 2014 crops, demand remained robust as all of the major demand sectors were increased for the crops in the bins. Corn feed demand was increased 50 million bushels. Ethanol demand for corn was raised 25 million bushels. Corn export demand was also increased 25 million bushels. Soybean crush bumped up 15 million bushels and soybean exports were increased the same amount. These changes pulled 2014/15 ending stocks below the average trade expectations and allowed USDA to increase its season-average price estimate for corn to $3.70 per bushel, up 5 cents from last month. The soybean season-average price estimate remained at $10.05 per bushel.

Looking at the 2015 crops, the acreage numbers from last month’s report were the only update on the supply side. So yield and production estimates came in above trade expectations as the trade was looking for a downshift in yields given the weather issues this spring and summer. Current estimates have the national average corn yield at 166.8 bushels per acre and the national average soybean yield at 46 bushels per acre. Given the June acreage numbers, that would put production at 13.53 billion bushels for corn and 3.885 billion bushels for soybeans. Both of those numbers were roughly 100 million bushels above trade expectations.

On the demand side for the 2015 crops, the news was mixed. Increases were reported for corn usage in ethanol and for soybean crush. However, corn feed usage and exports were lowered. The end result is lower 2015/16 ending stocks than previously estimated by USDA, but the numbers still exceeded trade expectations. Corn stocks were projected at 1.6 billion bushels, while soybean stocks stood at 425 million bushels. With the tightening of the stocks for 2015/16, USDA increased both the corn and soybean season-average price estimates by 25 cents per bushel, with corn at $3.75 per bushel and soybeans at $9.25 per bushel.

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High Grain Prices means “The Russians are Coming”

Contributed by Kelvin Leibold, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist, kleibold@iastate.edu. Leibold_K03-L

With several years of extremely high grain prices the world of agriculture is changing.

1). We are seeing profits increasing to all-time highs. This is creating a strong incentive to expand land use which could result in a substantial decline in crop prices worldwide.

2). Cost of production has increased but not as much as revenues have increased resulting in motivation for producers to boost output.

3). Boosts in production may outpace increase in demand in the short run. Boosts in production of wheat, for example, will drag down the price of all crops.

I recently returned from Voronezh, Russia which is located in the “black earth zone” where the soils are as black as Iowa and they have enough organic matter you can scrape it loose with your foot. These are ideal soils for raising sugar beets or potatoes. They can also raise corn and soybeans. In the short run they are seeing a lot of demand for feed from the domestic livestock industry. Dairy is growing extremely fast with assistance from the government in the form of interest rate subsidies.

Land values for top land range from $250 to $750 per acre, depending on the quality of the “land title” and no property taxes. If they get adequate rain corn yields can reach 175 bushels per acre. One feels quite at home talking about seed corn companies, machinery suppliers and GPS technology. Labor is a lot different as are certain overhead costs.

Walking the fields of EKONIVA, http://ekoniva-apk.ru/en, gives one a good sense of their vastness at almost 460,000 acres. They have almost 3,000 employees. Not bad for a company that started off with $200,000 in capital less than twenty years ago. This is just one example. Black Earth Farms, http://blackearthfarming.com/about.html, is another operation with over 750,000 acres, mostly owned, which has been operating since 2005. High prices have encouraged the expansion of these and the development of many more farms. Producers from the UK, Germany, Sweden and other western European countries all faced with limited land availability and high taxes have looked to the east for opportunities.

It remains to be seen how competitive these farms will be in the long run. Competition is a function of production costs, land rents, and infrastructure (ex. Transportation costs). Russia also joined the World Trade Organization in 2012 and this will impact their domestic livestock in the coming years as we should export more meats and dairy products into their country.

On a closing note and a little closer to home: in 2012 which was more profitable on the average – an acre of corn in Iowa or in North Dakota? It’s not only the Russians to think about!

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