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The soybean market is strong, the corn market is not.

Ed Usset, Marketing specialist

February 13, 2023

3 Min Read

A new year has arrived, and grain markets are wavering. It was over two years ago that the corn and soybean markets came back to life and started presenting good to great prices for your consideration.

Now that we are into year three of a strong market, we need some fresh news to keep prices high.

Brazil is on the cusp of harvesting a record soybean crop and, oddly enough, it is the soybean market that is the strongest. Despite a tight supply situation, the corn market is drifting lower.

The corn market reminds us that a strong market needs more than short supplies – demand drives the market. Wheat is the weakest of the big three markets, even though stocks remain low relative to usage.

The best way to approach a wavering market is the same approach I recommend every year: have a marketing plan.

My pre-harvest marketing plan for 2023 corn is shown here. This is not a plan to sell the highest price. Selling the high is an unrealistic approach to marketing. I am looking to get a good average price.

My price targets begin with a minimum price objective, $5.50 cash or $5.90 Dec’23 futures. From these figures you can guess that my expected harvest basis is 40 cents under the December contract. If you want to adapt my plan to your operation, make sure to reflect your expectations for basis in your part of the Corn Belt.

The market is currently trading very close to my minimums. These minimums are much higher than a year ago, reflecting the rapid rise in production costs. They are also consistent with an estimated break-even cost of production in Southern Minnesota.

On the high side, my price target reaches $7.90 Dec’23 futures. This looks like an ambitious target, but don’t worry. Decision dates have a way making price targets less important.

Decision dates are dates when I price grain, regardless of whether I reach a price target, if the price is higher than my minimum. I cluster decision dates in April, May and June because spring is often a good time to price grain, just as it was in each of the last two years.

If a wavering market has you concerned about prices slipping below the minimum price, you can choose to be more aggressive early. Whatever it takes to get a good average price.

2023 Pre-Harvest Marketing Plan for Corn

Buy crop insurance to protect my production risk and price 75% of my anticipated corn crop (per APH yield) by late June.

  • Price 15,000 bushels at $5.50 cash price ($5.90 Dec. futures) using forward contract/futures hedge/HTA contract

  • Price 10,000 bushels at $5.90c/6.30f, or by April 6, pricing tool tbd

  • Price 15,000 bushels at $6.30c/6.70f, or by May 5, pricing tool tbd

  • Price 10,000 bushels at $6.70c/7.10f, or by May 17, pricing tool tbd

  • Price 15,000 bushels at $7.10c/7.50f, or by June 5, pricing tool tbd

  • Price 10,000 bushels at $7.50c/7.90f, or by June 21, pricing tool tbd

Plan starts on January 1, 2023. Earlier sales may be made at a 50-cent premium and limited to 30,000 bushels.

Ignore decision dates and make no sale if prices are lower than $5.50 local cash price/$5.90 December futures.

Exit all options positions by mid-September 2023.

About the Author(s)

Ed Usset

Marketing specialist, University of Minnesota Center for Farm Financial Management

Ed Usset is a marketing specialist at the University of Minnesota Center for Farm Financial Management. he authored "Grain Marketing is Simple (It's Just Not Easy)"; helped develop "Winning the Game" grain marketing workshops; and leads Commodity Challenge, an online trading game. He also blogs about grain marketing at Ed's World

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