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Market 2010 harvested wheat now

Nearly all of the 2009 harvested wheat has been sold. Top dressing 2010 wheat is nearly complete. Stockers are off the wheat that is to be harvested. Now is a good time to market 2010 harvested wheat.

Marketing means developing strategies that will guide the selling of wheat. Strategies depend on past wheat prices, current wheat prices, and wheat price expectations.

Few people can forget March 12, 2008, when Oklahoma and Texas wheat prices were around $12.50. During the 2008 wheat harvest, wheat prices were above $8.50. Wheat prices during June 2009 were above $5 the entire month and started the month at near $6.50. These memories make the possibility of $3.50 wheat during June 2010 almost unthinkable.

At this writing, the Kansas City Board of Trade July wheat contract price is $5.20. Using a minus 85 cent basis, wheat may be forward contracted for a June 2010 delivery for $4.35. This forward contact price ($4.35) is the first benchmark for developing a marketing strategy.

The next benchmarks are the potential wheat price ranges between now and Dec. 31. This time period is used because research shows that wheat should be sold between April 1 and Dec. 31. After storage and interest is subtracted, only seven times since 1975 has it paid to store wheat past Dec. 31. January was the best month in four of these seven years.

Between now and June, cash wheat prices for central Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle could range between $3.50 and $5.50.

The danger of forward contracting wheat at $4.35 is that if prices are above $5, there will be significantly less wheat to sell. In this case, the higher harvest price would be needed to make up the difference in bushels.

If prices are below $4, there will be more bushels to sell. The additional bushels will mostly offset the decline in price. From a gross revenue point of view, the risk of forward contracting may be higher than the risk of lower prices at harvest.

The strategy between now and harvest may be to do nothing. If you are concerned that the June price will be below $4.35 and you will beat yourself up for a couple of weeks because you did not forward contract, forward contract 10 percent or 15 percent of your expected production. This amount is not enough to have a big impact, but is large enough so that at least some wheat was sold some wheat at $4.35.

Now envision that it is harvest, June 2010. Yields are above average, and the price of wheat is less than $4 and could go as low as $3.50. One strategy would be to sell one-fourth to one-third of the wheat at harvest and store the remaining two-thirds to three-fourths. Then you hope for a crop failure in other major wheat growing areas and that prices increase in the September through November time period.

If yields are below average and wheat prices are $5 or better? Yields will probably be low and there will not be much wheat to sell.

The choice is to sell or store the short crop. If the U.S. spring wheat crop and foreign wheat crops are above average, wheat prices will fall. Below average production and relatively low prices plus storage and interest costs are not a receipt for success.

The short crop, high price scenario is tough. Stored wheat, declining prices, plus storage and interest costs are the worst of all scenarios. You have to decide, financially and psychologically, is the risk of a $1 less per bushels worth the potential gain from storage? With a short crop, you may want to consider selling one-half to two-thirds at harvest and storing the rest.

A strategy needs to be developed for each supply, demand and price situation. Research has shown that having any strategy produces better results than having no strategy at all. Now is the best time to develop that strategy.

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