Just released: Cash Rental Rates for Iowa 2024 Survey

The cash rental rate information is from a survey of farmers, landowners, agricultural lenders, and professional farm managers. They supplied information based on their best judgments about typical cash rental rates for high, medium, and low quality cropland in their counties, as well as for land devoted to production of hay, oat, and pasture. The survey does not ask about rents for individual farms. The rental rates summarized in this publication do not include the value of any buildings or storage structures, manure application contracts, or seed production contracts.

The cooperation and assistance of the landowners, farmers, and agribusiness professionals who responded to this survey are greatly appreciated. The distribution of the 1,278 responses was 42% from farm operators, 36% from landowners, 8% from professional farm managers and realtors, 8% from agricultural lenders, and 6% from other professions and respondents who chose not to report their status. Respondents indicated being familiar with 1.7 million cash rented acres across the state.

2024 average county cash rents
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Ag Market Outlook, January 15, 2024 with Chad Hart, Iowa State University Extension Economist

The January report is usually a big one, as it contains the “final” estimates for the 2023 crops. Beyond that, this report is also the one where they adjust the 2018-2022 data based on the Census of Agriculture. There was a lot going on, with the punchline being, USDA found even bigger crops and stocks, pressuring the markets down.

For 2023 corn, planted and harvested acreage was reduced, but the national average yield was increased by 2.4 bushels per acre, leading to a 108 million bushel increase in production. Feed and residual use was boosted by 25 million bushels, and there was a 50 million bushel increase in ethanol. Putting everything together, 2023-24 ending stocks increased by 31 million bushels, approaching 2.2 billion bushels. USDA lowered its 2023-24 season average price by five cents to $4.80 per bushel.

For 2023 soybeans, it was a similar tale: acreage down, yield up (0.7 bushels). Production increased by 36 million bushels with minimal changes were made to usage. So 2023-24 ending stocks moved up 35 million bushels (to 280 million) and USDA lowered its 2023-24 season average price to $12.75 per bushel (down 15 cents).

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Ag Market Outlook, November 13, 2023 with Chad Hart

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For 2023 corn, USDA raised its yield estimate by 1.9 bushels per acre (to 174.9 bushels per acre; Iowa’s estimate came in at 200, up a bushel). The yield change pushed production up by 170 million bushels.  Feed usage was increased by 50 million bushels, as were exports, along with a 25 million bushel bump for ethanol. Thus, 2023-24 ending stocks increased by only 45 million bushels. Given the larger stocks, USDA decreased its 2023-24 season average price to $4.85 per bushel (down 10 cents).

For 2023 soybeans, USDA raised its yield estimate by 0.3 bushels per acre (to 49.9 bushels per acre; Iowa’s estimate remains at 58). The soybean production estimate rose by 25 million bushels. Seed and residual usage was decreased by less than 1 million bushels. There were no other changes to soy usage. So 2023-24 ending stocks increased by 25 million bushels to 245 million. USDA maintained its 2023-24 season average price at $12.90 per bushel.

For the 2024 crops, USDA has lower corn planting, higher soy planting, continuing struggles to boost usage leading to higher ending stocks, and lower prices across the board.

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March USDA Prospective Plantings and Grain Stocks Summary

Chad Hart, ISU Extension Grain Marketing Economist, provides a summary of the March 31, 2021 USDA reports.

For most of the March 31, 2021 stats, USDA’s new numbers were below expectations and that was good news for the markets. Corn and soybean plantings are above last year’s levels, but below trade guesses. Corn stocks were below both last year’s level and trade expectations, while soybean stocks were below last year, but slightly above expectations. The acreage change will drop USDA’s projected corn production by 141 million bushels (now setting at 15 billion bushels) and soybean production by 121 million (new estimate for 2021 is 4.4 billion bushels). The changes will further tighten 2021/22 projected ending stocks. For soybeans, if I held soybean usage to USDA’s earlier estimates, ending stocks fall to 24 million bushels (an incredibly low number). Thus, expect some major shifts in both crop usage and price estimates for the 2021 crops, once USDA starts the monthly projections in May (until then, USDA’s last complete set of estimates is from the Ag Outlook Forum in February).

Chad shares insights on these numbers and more in his latest Ag Market Outlook video. Latest slides on Ag Market Outlook.

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Consider Use of a Basis Contract to Market Corn

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

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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

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 20-30% 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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