Marketing is never one-size-fits-all. We've profiled two farmers to gain perspective on their strategies.
Rick Matthiesen, Rowley, IA, farms about 1,800 acres in a corporation with his brother-in-law, Chris Barron. They own most of the acres they farm and can store up to 80,000 bu — about half their corn crop. The farm used to be on a 50/50 rotation, but this year they'll plant 1,200 acres of corn to get soybean diseases under control.
Strategy: Matthiesen seeks advice from Russell Consulting, LLC. Since he can truck his crop 25 miles to processing facilities in Cedar Rapids, IA, or take the local elevator price, basis determines where his crop goes. He sells when it's narrow.
Corn basis was 12¢ under in Cedar Rapids in October. “That's the best basis I've had in at least five years. That puts it about 27¢ under locally and was something I had to take advantage of,” he says.
2003 Sales: Matthiesen has sold about 30% of his 2003 corn crop at $2.26-2.29/bu cash price. He's re-owned two thirds of what he's sold — buying December futures at $2.38 and 2.40. He also has a $2.40-2.90 call spread in place.
“If we get some rallies, we're selling more new crop,” he says. He was short December futures and reversed his position — going long on December futures — when he started selling cash new-crop for October delivery. He'll reverse at $2.50 and short the market again.
In soybeans, Matthiesen hasn't made a move. “If there's a rally we'll do something with them because we're not going to store them.”
2004 Sales: He hasn't sold any '04 crop, but if December '03 corn hits $2.50, he'll think about moving '04 crop too. “We'll do 5-10% at most. Not a big sale, but many times it's come out to be one of our best.”
Predictions: “I anticipate this will be a very volatile year,” says Matthiesen. “Seeing a dime up and down is not going to be uncommon. And a volatile market is going to give us some opportunities.”
Bob Metz, Browns Valley, MN, farms 2,700 acres with his wife and son. They own 1,200 acres and cash rent or share crop the rest. He plants 600 acres of hard red spring wheat, 700 of corn, and the rest in soybeans. Metz can store his entire crop on-farm.
Strategy: He tries to sell a third before planting and another third before harvest.
Nearby corn-processing facilities for ethanol and sweetener influence his marketing because the basis can vary widely from the local elevator's.
“We have a tendency to have a wide basis, so there's a lot of opportunity in storing grain on the farm. Then, as the basis narrows in the winter, we can capture that.”
Metz sells in 5,000-bu increments, puts offers in at the processing facilities and his local elevator and “ratchets them up” as he goes. “I make a decision on where I want to start marketing the grain and set my price,” he says. “It helps take the emotion out of it.”
2003 Sales: Metz has sold about 20% of his wheat crop with a forward contract for $4.25. He's forward-contracted 25% of his corn crop from $2.20 to $2.25 for either November or December delivery. He's using forward contracts and options to set basis as well as price.
“We'll buy back our corn — about 50% of what we've sold — in calls on the outside possibility that there would be a drought this summer. We're not worried about 10-15¢. We're worried about the market moving $1 and missing that.”
He hasn't sold any beans yet because the price isn't above loan.
2004 Sales: Metz hasn't sold any '04 crop yet and doesn't like to market that far ahead. “When you get two years out, that's just too much risk,” he says.
Predictions: “There are going to be corn opportunities,” he says. “Stocks are tight enough that any weather scare will move the markets, probably more so than in years past.”