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Is ‘store and ignore’ a game-winning marketing strategy?

Ag Marketing IQ: 6 ways to take advantage of opportunities and make the best grain marketing decisions.

Luke Williams

November 21, 2023

5 Min Read
monsitj/Getty Images Plus

Is history repeating Itself?

Today’s grain market seems eerily similar to a few moments in our recent past. I can’t help but think back to 2009 and 2013, both of which followed $7 corn markets like we saw in 2022 (see below). And during those bull runs, the best marketing plan was to simply do nothing. However, we all know the “store and ignore” approach is not a long-term winning strategy.

Sure, it might give you a chance at that once in a lifetime homerun sale, but it simply leaves too much risk on the table. And in today’s farming world, one huge marketing mistake can force you out of business.

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So how do we keep from locking up and doing nothing during this current scenario of high inputs/lower prices? Is it still possible for us to move forward and make good marketing decisions? The answers to these questions can be found by looking at your daily approach to the farm.

Develop a winning culture

I recently watched a program with legendary NBA player/coach Steve Kerr, where he was asked about the keys to his coaching success. He was very direct in saying that you first have to develop a “winning culture.” That is an environment where every member of the organization feels a certain way when they walk in the building.

Regardless of how much talent the team has, every person has to be willing to make sacrifices and hold their teammates accountable. And there can’t be any doubt about the team’s mission, or what is expected to achieve that ultimate championship goal. So be organized about your daily approach and pay attention to every little detail. They all matter when it comes to winning.

Remain positive

As I listened to his comments, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my recent conversations with farmers about the challenges of this upcoming 2024 crop year. Things don’t look as bright as they once did. Prices the past four months have floundered. Export demand has backed off. Grain buyers aren’t as aggressive with their bids. Equipment and interest expenses are the highest in 40 years.

We could sit here and dwell on all of the negative things that seem to be dominating our business lately. But where will that get us? We have already committed to farming in 2024 by (in some cases) fertilizing the soil and buying our seed. So, to be honest, we have no choice but to get focused and try to find some positive solutions. Remember, the details matter, so how can we organize our thoughts to get started?

Written plan

You all have a to-do list written up in the machine shed for daily work on the farm. I know because I’ve seen them at your shops. It’s either on a bulletin board, a white dry-erase board, or on a big yellow note pad. Regardless of your style, it’s there to help you stay organized and on track. We all need to do the same thing when it comes to marketing.

Develop a plan and get it written down with specific goals and completion dates. Hold yourself accountable and don’t let the weather or any outside factor get in the way of checking off your plans. It might seem trivial, but make sure you “x” off the marketing items as you accomplish them. Just like your daily work, it will give you a sense of accomplishment and make you realize that you have in fact made some good marketing decisions during the year.

Back to basics

Most of us have spent the majority of our farming careers dealing with burdensome world supplies and lower prices. As a result, we have learned how to pick-up nickels and dimes where we can by utilizing things like forward sales, put strategies, board carry, basis appreciation, and specialty grain premiums.

The current situation is nothing we haven’t dealt with before. But for the last two years with high prices, we could get by without paying attention to those details. The market allowed us to be lazy with our approach. However, those times are gone. So now it’s about re-learning the old tricks that made us successful in the first place.

Be aggressive

When margins are tight and your opportunities for success are limited, being aggressive in your approach is crucial. Waiting back for the second or third chance might prove to be a big mistake. Know your break-even costs and when you get the chance to sell or protect that level, do it on a large percentage. Use a strategy like backing sales with calls or call spreads to give you the confidence to push that sold percentage higher than you have in the past.

Look ahead

It’s easy to get bogged down thinking about the past. We have all calculated what we could have made if we had sold every bushel at the high for the year. But there’s no sense dwelling on that. Farming is one of the best professions at helping us focus on the future.

Each year the crop gets harvested, and then we plow under last year’s issues and start new. Treat your grain marketing the same way. Pick three things from the previous year that you want to improve on, develop a gameplan, and then plow those mistakes under.

Are you fired up and ready for the challenge? Because just when we all thought there was no hope, weather problems in South America have now given us a boost. As I write today, Jan 24 soybean futures have rallied over $1 in the last 30 days, and Nov 24 is back up over $13 again.

How are you going to take advantage of this opportunity? Are you going to keep your foot on the gas pedal or sit back and do nothing? My suggestion: Go Make it Happen.

Contact Advance Trading at (800) 747-9021 or go to www.advance-trading.com.

Information provided may include opinions of the author and is subject to the following disclosures:

The risk of trading futures and options can be substantial. All information, publications, and material used and distributed by Advance Trading Inc. shall be construed as a solicitation. ATI does not maintain an independent research department as defined in CFTC Regulation 1.71. Information obtained from third-party sources is believed to be reliable, but its accuracy is not guaranteed by Advance Trading Inc. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.

About the Author(s)

Luke Williams

Ag risk management advisor, Advance Trading Inc.

Luke is an ag risk management advisor for the Brocton, Illinois branch office. He spent eight years at Cargill as a farmer marketer before joining ATI in 2008. Luke has customers all over East Central Illinois and covers counties such as Champaign, Edgar, Douglas, Coles and parts of Ford and McLean. He grew up on his family's farm in Brocton, Illinois and graduated in May 2001 from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Science in Food and Ag Business Management.

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