More than ever, today's farm women are taking charge of making marketing decisions. They leave babying the crop to their husbands. Instead, they plow the DTN, Internet or other areas for price quotes, weather patterns and other data that can cause price changes.

Women often can make the best marketers, says Steve Amosson, Texas A&M University economist in Amarillo. "They don't get attached to production. They see it as braces, eyeglasses or new furniture. They're removed from much of the emotional attachment men have with the crop."

That's the attitude of Marietta Lakness of Hayti, SD. She and her husband, Nathan, her father-in-law and her brother-in-law farm 7,000 acres, including corn, beans and spring wheat.

"I see crops as material things we have to part with to pay the bills," she explains.

Lakness took the lead in marketing as the farm grew. "I was doing the books," she recalls. "Since I was in the office with the markets on the screen in front of me, it became my responsibility to pass on any significant market changes to the men and decide if we should do some marketing."

Her savvy sales of corn and beans generated stout prices on part of their crops this year. But her willingness in late '98 to lock in $2-plus corn and $5.55 beans for '99 wasn't based on women's intuition. She made the moves when opportunities for profits were there.

"We work with a 56"cents"-under (futures) corn basis and 66"cents"-under soybeans," she says. "We forward-contracted corn based off $2.60 futures and beans based off $6.15-plus futures."

She's also looking at a 25"cents" or higher loan deficiency payment (LDP) for corn and $1 for soybeans. "We could see $6.55 off our beans. Not a bad price this year," she says.

Natalie Borchardt, who raises cotton, wheat and grain sorghum and runs cattle with her husband, Brian, at Tulia, TX, was looking to market their '99 cotton in mid-summer. Of course, their son, three-year-old Jacob, and another future farmer due in January, come first. Finding time to study marketing techniques is tough. But she consistently monitors futures prices and local gin prices for possible profit potential.

"There haven't been many chances to lock in a good cotton price," says Borchardt. She's considering selling this year's crop at harvest, then buying a spring call option to take advantage of any rise in prices.

Her marketing training has included Women in Agriculture, local extension seminars and the Texas A&M Mastering Marketing Program. In that program, producers, ag lenders and others in agribusiness receive 60 hours of advanced training in alternative marketing using straight futures, options, forward contracts and other marketing tools.

Lakness has also attended marketing seminars and worked closely with elevator managers, her husband and her father-in-law to learn of potential marketing opportunities.

"I take advantage of all the training I can get," she says.

"I have learned a lot from a marketing class taken via video from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. I talk about marketing with other farmers and their wives. I also talk with a local woman on the state Farm Service Agency committee to stay informed about any farm program changes."

Final decisions are made after consulting with her husband and others in the operation. "I let them know beans are up 20"cents" and we decide what to do," Lakness says.

Unlike their husbands, farm women don't let coffee shop talk irk their egos. "I'm not one who goes to the coffee shop," says Lakness. "I won't brag about the best spot in the field. I deal with realities. The actual yield is what the banker has to deal with."

Deb Rood, programs coordinator in the University of Nebraska ag economics department, coordinates the Women in Ag Marketing program.

"They see that hitting the market high is not the most important thing," she says. "They know their cost of production and how prices relate to it and the basis."

When participants complete the program, they know of contracts available at their local elevators or through their brokers, how to use options and how to apply various other marketing tools.

"They look at their ability to manage risk through marketing," says Rood. Lakness advises other wives to talk marketing with their husbands or other farmers. "Don't be afraid to talk to as many people as you can about marketing," she says.

Borchardt is in a local marketing club with her husband. They analyze charts, discuss prices and share ideas to help make them better marketers "As our operation grows, it really helps having Natalie more involved," says Brian Borchardt. "If she can do some of the marketing, I can spend more time in the field. And that's one less person I have to hire."