Within less than a month, December 2006 corn futures dropped 14%, from nearly $2.90/bu. in late May to below $2.50 in late June. If you produce 150 bu./acre, that's a loss of $60/acre — or $30,000 on 500 acres. Ouch!

Playing the MarketMaxx game (www.marketmaxx.net) from The Corn And Soybean Digest might not have convinced you to lock in the high-$2.80s price. But the discipline gained from learning to use futures or options, or to develop and follow a sound marketing strategy, might have helped you keep part of that money.

“By playing MarketMaxx, I have the opportunity to experiment with futures,” says Dwight Rohrer, a Manheim, PA, producer who normally forward contracts his corn and soybeans when the price is right. “My wife and I both play MarketMaxx and have fun with it.”

MarketMaxx 2006 is into its final three months of trading. And plans are already in the works to kick off the 2007 version of the corn and soybean marketing contests the start of next year. Massey Ferguson and Syngenta Crop Protection are again MarketMaxx sponsors this year. Grayhill Custom Mobile Solutions and Agristar Global Networks are this year's prize sponsors for MarketMaxx.

About 5,000 players are pulling the trigger on simulated corn and soybean sales offered through MarketMaxx. Each player has a fictitious 100,000 bu. of corn and 50,000 bu. of soybeans to trade until the contest ends on Oct. 31, 2006.

Farmers make up the bulk of the players. But players also include ag lenders and business-people, students, seed, implement and chemical company reps and commodity handlers.

Only farmers 18 or older are eligible to win prizes in MarketMaxx. Rohrer, who is also an ag lender, and his wife, Rosie, both were in the top 10 leaders in the MarketMaxx corn marketing contest earlier this summer. “I received the MarketMaxx e-newsletter, looked at the leaders, then told her she was one of the best corn marketers in the country,” he says.

Rohrer himself did a pretty good job of marketing his real corn when he got it forward contracted in April for $2.93/bu. “Our basis was about 10¢-over at the time, and the December futures were about $2.80,” he says. “Then I got an extra 3¢ for agreeing to forego payment until January. That strategy also helps with my tax planning.

“While making those contracts, I used the MarketMaxx game to see how I could possibly use futures along with forward contracts. It has been a good way to experiment with futures,” Rohrer says.

Signup for the MarketMaxx contests ended on May 31. But even if you aren't playing, the MarketMaxx.net Web site offers bins full of information that can help you enhance your corn and soybean marketing skills.

There is a link to a step-by-step guide for developing and implementing your individual marketing plan on your farm. There is also a marketing library and glossary of marketing terms to help you know a put option from a call and one spread from another.

Market commentary is also available from Al Kluis, president of Northland Commodities, Minneapolis, MN, and Kevin McNew of Cash Grain Bids, Inc., a Bozeman, MT, company that provides risk management services. Cash Grain Bids also manages the www.MarketMaxx.net Web site.

Another feature is a series of corn and soybean futures charts which pinpoint market moves for the three most nearby Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) trading months.

Corn and soybean markets are volatile. And having enough time to monitor them in a typical dawn-to-dusk schedule for many growers is tough. But a few minutes at www.MarketMaxx.net can answer many of your marketing questions in a hurry.

So if you want to learn more about being a better corn or soybean marketer, visit the site. And if you are a MarketMaxx player, keep looking for opportunities to get all of your corn and beans sold before the Oct. 31 deadline.

You could be a big winner in more ways than one.