John Story had about 25% of his expected 2012 corn production marketed by March 2011, two months before the government’s intentional explosion of a Mississippi River levee that flooded his fields in southeastern Missouri. Despite the worst disaster in his region’s history, the deep water didn’t drown his spirits as he geared up for even stronger grain sales this year.

Story farms near Charleston, and has some fields just below the big river’s levee system, or “spillway” to the locals. His corn, soybean and wheat rotation takes advantage of the sandy loam soil that normally delivers strong yields.

He developed a marketing plan designed to generate acceptable profits when they’re available, working with a marketing consulting firm, Hurley & Associates. He doesn’t expect a home run every time he takes a swing at sales. Bunches of singles keep his profits at levels he can take to the bank. He feels it’s worth the consulting fee to secure the marketing service.

Story knows he can’t outsmart price volatility, like when December 2012 corn futures saw a whopping 80¢/bu. drop in prices within two weeks last November, slumping to about $5.35/bu. It rebounded to above $5.80 by Jan. 1 and was still above $5.80 by mid-month. That compared to old-crop March and May 2012 futures that soared from $5.80 past $6.60, due to corn stocks shortages worldwide.

Hot, dry weather in Argentina and Brazil added fire to U.S. corn and soybean prices. USDA and other forecasters indicated that early year rains weren’t enough to save the South American crops from significant losses. Such news made Story feel comfortable about holding off on major marketing moves over and above his early sales.

He strives to get a portion of his corn marketed a year or more in advance, if there is profit potential. His 2012 sales began in October 2010, when corn prices were struggling to stay near $5. “We used December 2012 futures contracts to get some initial sales made in that range,” he says. “That level is above our normal breakeven.

“We continued making sales into March of last year using December futures.  We managed to get about 25% of our expected 2012 production marketed in the $5.80 range overall. We will be making more sales when December futures climb back above $6-6.25 bu.”