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Serving: United States

Farm Futures Study Shows Grain Storage Pays - To a Point

Putting crops in the bin until spring doesn't always pay off, according to our long-term research.

Storing 2013 crop corn was a necessity for most growers, and paid off handsomely – up to a point. Prices rallied nicely during the spring, but the market collapsed once it became apparent that growers were able to put another big crop in the ground. Winners turned into losers, pointing out one of the big risks of storage.

According to USDA, U.S. on-farm grain storage capacity jumped from 11.6 billion bushels in 2006 to 13 billion in 2013.

To help gauge the risk of storage, Farm Futures tracked annual returns from different strategies from 1985 through the 2013 crop year. This is the entire period options traded on agricultural futures, allowing a side-by-side comparison of different cash, futures and options strategies for nine corn and eight soybeans locations. We’ve also include 10-year averages to account for changes to the market in the past decade, when volatile swings and record prices were seen.

In addition to year-by-year results by location for each strategy, these files contain summaries to help farmers balance overall risk and return. Depreciation on bins and equipment vary widely depending on age of the facilities, so these figures do not include any expense for capital costs, though operating costs are figured at as close to market rates as possible. 

On-farm storage costs include interest charge on stored grain using prevailing operating and CCC loan rates. Handling charges are 1 to 2 cents per month for on-farm storage, 2.5 to 5 cents per month for commercial storage.

In addition to net gains and losses over the harvest price, the results include the number of years the strategy made money. Some strategies hit home runs, but strike out a lot, too.

All positions are initiated in first week of October and liquidated upon expiration of July options for corn and soybeans in June. Brokerage commissions and slippage figured at $100 per round trip, or two cents per bushel.

Futures and options results are based on official Chicago Board of Trade settlement prices; results were estimated for a few dates when trades did not take place using a widely followed options model.

However, all results are hypothetical, not the result of actual trades. Moreover, past performance of a strategy is no guarantee of future results.

Check out the links below for more information:

10-Year Average Returns

2013 and Long-Term Average Returns

Year By Year Results Table

Central Illinois

Central Indiana

Denver Corn

Evansville Corn/Louisville Soybeans

Kansas City


North Central Iowa



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