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Corn+Soybean Digest

Hope that corn futures history repeats itself

If you’re pondering what price you’ll receive for corn this fall, you probably hope history of December 2014 corn futures repeats itself. But just in case, consider pricing a small amount of your anticipated production now, advises a Texas A&M Extension economist.

Last week’s USDA production and ending stocks reports created a little flitter in corn futures prices, which saw December 2014 futures increase by about 20 cents per bushel. Unfortunately, the price in the $4.50 range (it closed at just over $4.49 Friday) is far below the contract high of over $6.

Grain futures contracts have been extremely volatile in recent years. The past two years saw record prices that surpassed $7 on many occasions. The December 2014 contract wasn’t as wild, as farmers and other grain traders figured drought and short supply wouldn’t last forever.

“In the bio-fuel era since 2007, the January crop report has created significant volatility,” says Mark Welch, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension economist. “On average, the December contract at expiration has been within 2 cents of the closing price on the day of the January crop report. But that average includes two years of contract expiration $1.50 over the price in January and two years going off the board $1.50 below.”

In his marketing suggestions, Welch says consider pricing the first 20% of 2014 production. “There is still a long way to go in this marketing year with plenty of uncertainty ahead,” he says.

“I hope the price I lock in this early is the worst of the year. I have plenty more corn to sell. If prices do move lower, I will be glad to have gotten some priced at this time.”

When the contract December 2014 opened on the Chicago Board of Trade in January 2011, it saw a price of just over $5. By mid-year, it had risen to above $6. The market remained there until harvest.

By mid-2012, the contract had declined back to below $5. It took off again after the drought became a reality. It topped $6 in late summer and remained there until after harvest of the weak 2012 crop.

That was the final time $6 would be seen. The price slid to about $5.30 in early 2013, then followed other markets back up when the corn pipeline was virtually empty. It reached $5.80 last May – but has retreated ever since.

In reviewing the January crop reports, there are no current signs that major price rallies are in the forecast. USDA reported that 2013 production was 13.925 billion bushels, down 64 million bushels from its previous estimate. Ending stocks were pegged at 1.63 billion bushels, down from more than 1.8 billion many had expected.

Welch says feed use of corn increased by 100 million bushels and the stocks to use ratio was 12.4%, down from 13.7% in December.

USDA indicated the average yield was 158.8 bushels per acre. That and the reduced production and ending stocks numbers cause the 20-cent increase in the December futures price.

Since the contract price will determine the market price for setting revenue protection insurance in March, there’s hope that some sort of unexpected rally occurs once more.

Those who thought a $5 corn price, or even $6 wasn’t high enough sell, can only hope that the contract’s history repeats itself at least one more time with an upswing in price. 

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