With the plunge of corn and soybean markets the last half of the summer, it's likely that many of the 3,500 MarketMaxx players are smiling over trades they made when prices peaked earlier for both commodities.

MarketMaxx — what's that?

Well, in case you haven't heard, it is a marketing game conducted this year by The Corn And Soybean Digest. It involves growers and others who are striving to do the best job of marketing a fictitious 100,000 bu. of corn and 50,000 bu. of soybeans using local sales, futures, options or other marketing tools.

The contest continues until Oct. 31. Growers who make the highest priced sales by the end of the contest will win some major prizes. First-prize winner in the corn marketing contest is a year's use (not to exceed 100 separator hours) of a Massey Ferguson MF 9000 self-propelled combine, valued at $12,000. First prize in the soybean contest is a year's use (not to exceed 250 hours) of the grower's choice of any Massey Ferguson tractor in the MF 7400 or MF 8400 series, also valued at $12,000.

Second place winners in each contest also cash in with a GPS Manual Guidance System from Mid-Tech valued at $3,750. Third place winners will receive a computer and software from Syngenta Crop Protection valued at $2,500. Massey Ferguson, Mid-Tech, Syngenta and Crop 1 Insurance are MarketMaxx sponsors.

There is a bin full of information on MarketMaxx at www.MarketMaxx.net. It features valuable marketing oriented information for players and others interested in learning how to become better marketers.

Two items that immediately catch the user's eye are charts on the nearby and next two corn and soybean futures months from the Chicago Board of Trade. The charts are updated every 10 minutes when markets are in session.

They immediately illustrate the price swoon in corn and soybeans since July 1.

That's about the time the November '05 soybean contract pushed to about $7.70/bu. Before July 10, November beans had sunk to below $6.70 before rebounding to about $7.50 in mid-July. But that price could not hold, even as forecasts for dry weather persisted in the heart of key growing areas. By mid-August, November beans were below $6.25, even after the Aug. 12 crop report indicated that production was about 10% below that of 2004.

December '05 corn futures have been just as erratic. In mid-July they surged to $2.70 and higher. But by mid-August, December corn was down to $2.20. And that was after the Aug. 12 crop report showed corn production down 12% from the big crop in 2004.

If corn and soybeans follow their seasonal patterns the next few months, look for prices to feel continuous pressure. Michael Swanson, economist with Wells Fargo & Co. in Minneapolis, points out that October and November remain the worst months for cash sales in terms of expected cash price in any given year.

“Over the last 25 years, October has consistently been the month with the lowest cash price for the majority of crop marketing years,” says Swanson. “The volume of grain sold in October puts the market squarely in the buyer's corner when it comes to who has the upper hand.

“If producers sold their crop evenly throughout the year, we should expect 8% of the crop to be sold each month, but October has seen sales range between 12% and 15% with an average of 13.4% of the crop being sold. This rush of sales continues into November with another 12.3% of the crop being sold on average.”

Swanson says the gush of grain pushes the average October and November cash corn price down to $2.23, about 15¢ below the average of $2.38. “Interestingly, the flood of sales shuts down in December as producers solve some of their cash flow problems and look for ways to delay a tax bill,” he says. “This slowdown in sales has an impressive impact on cash prices with prices climbing 9¢/bu. to $2.32 on average.”

Of course, corn and soybean markets have been extra volatile all year because of the potential for more exports, world stocks and the weather. So price spikes could occur at just about any time.

The www.MarketMaxx.net Web site is a good place to keep up with market trends. If you are not participating in the '05 MarketMaxx contest, you can prepare for the '06 contest scheduled to begin in January. If you are one of the 3,500 MarketMaxx players, we invite you to let us know how the game can be improved for next year. Send your comments to lstalcup@primediabusiness.com.