Do you need to sell your soybeans and corn at a higher average price for the year? It probably wouldn't hurt, right?

With $2.50-plus diesel, $400/ton fertilizer, and higher inputs for just about everything else on the farm, that extra 25¢/bu. or more for corn and 50¢/bu. for beans could make the balance sheet look a lot more friendly.

This fall's depressed corn and bean prices have added more pressure to be a good marketer, says Kevin McNew, president of CashGrainBids.com, a commodity trading and consulting company in Bozeman, MT.

“It's times like this, with prices down every day, that we are reminded that good marketing is important,” says McNew, who helps coordinate the MarketMaxx game from The Corn And Soybean Digest.

Darrel Good, agricultural economist at the University of Illinois, says that on average, “Producers do a pretty good job of marketing their corn and soybean crops — better on soybeans than corn.

“Still, there is room for improvement. Getting more money from the market is important because of higher production costs, competition for land and uncertainty about government program payments,” he says.

Except for severe drought years when price trends get out of whack due to ultimate weather markets, corn and soybean prices historically have seasonal highs during certain months. Peak market months are nearly as dependable as the first freeze. And the late summer through autumn slide downward is just as good a bet.

However, too many growers don't get enough of their corn or beans sold during the robust price periods. Instead, they take the elevator's cash price, which is usually pushed lower by a glut of grain.

This year has been a good example of how corn and soybean prices peaked in mid-summer, then headed south.

For most of June and July, November soybean futures, from which cash markets are often set, were from between $6.60 and $7.70. A $7.60 price in mid-July dipped to $7.10 in early August, $6.50 in mid-August, $6 in early September and below $5.70 by Oct. 1 Corn took a similar path. In mid-June, December corn futures hit the $2.50 level. After a retreat to $2.30 near July 1, they started up and spiked at $2.70 in mid-July. After the dry weather scare was figured in and out of the market, prices dropped first to about $2.40 and $2.50 in late July, to $2.20 by mid-August, and to $2.10 and below through the end of September.

Virtually every grower could have taken steps to get more corn and beans sold before harvest.

“This year shows that it's important for growers to market throughout the year and not wait until harvest,” says McNew, adding that the pressure to become better at selling corn and soybeans will likely grow in the years ahead.

Shifts in the government farm program will likely impact what growers receive in subsidies and other payments. “The farm program has always been a wild card in the markets,” says McNew. “The message from farm policy has been that growers need to take marketing into their own hands.”

Good says being able to market your crops at the higher end of prices uplifts growers. “Doing a better job of marketing brings some satisfaction and reduces the stress level in farming,” he says, adding that the opposite occurs when growers miss out on good marketing opportunities.

“For example, a lot of producers regret not having sold corn and soybeans on the summer rally, which adds to the stress when prices are so low,” he says. “The big question is how to do a better job of marketing.”

McNew hopes that MarketMaxx is helping growers learn some lessons about how to become better marketers, saying that there may be opportunities this fall and next year to salvage a better price for the 2005 corn crop.

“There is (likely) a substantial LDP available to corn producers this year,” he says. “Growers may want to take the LDP, then hold on to their corn until we see market rallies. As low as prices have been, it seems like a safe bet that prices will not get much lower.”

To help keep a close track of up-to-the-minute corn and soybean prices, as well as monitor marketing trends and technical moves, go to www.MarketMaxx.net. You can also sign up for the 2006 MarketMaxx corn and soybean marketing games.

“Playing these games should help growers better understand how to market both crops in a more profitable manner,” says McNew.