It's nearly planting time. But many growers are paying as much attention to corn and soybean prices as they are the planter boxes. Futures prices above $2.50 for corn are among the reasons. And soybeans above $6 aren't sneezed at either.

Marketing continues as one of the most important areas of farming, especially with the volatile markets seen for feed grains and oilseed crops. Just ask growers who locked in corn last year at more than $2.50 — before any LDP was taken. Many of those growers were likely in the category that took some $6.50-plus soybeans to the bank.

Astute marketing was in their plan. And if you are eager to become a better marketer, then give MarketMaxx a try. MarketMaxx is the game from The Corn And Soybean Digest that enables players to trade corn and soybeans without putting their own crops or money on the table. And it's free.

More than 4,500 players are involved in MarketMaxx. There are both corn marketing and soybean marketing contests. You can sign up for the game at www.MarketMaxx.net.

Players receive a simulated volume of 100,000 bu. of corn and 50,000 bu. of soybeans to trade at the time they register, through the game's conclusion on Oct. 31, 2006. Trades are made based on Chicago Board of Trade corn and soybean futures contracts and local markets.

Adam Rozell, a grower from Elk Point, SD, is among the leaders in the MarketMaxx soybean marketing contest. His early trades have given him bean sales in the $6.20/bu. range. Those trades have helped him become a better marketer overall.

“The main thing this game has helped in my marketing plan is that it has shown me how to properly hedge my position in the cash market with futures and options,” says Rozell. “I think they are underused in the typical producer's marketing plan. It has also helped to point out the need to constantly monitor the everyday ups and downs in prices. Checking corn and soybean prices every couple of weeks doesn't work.”

Rozell says fully understanding the “intrinsic value of calls and puts” is difficult without having several examples to observe.

“The game has been fun and I think it's a good game for any producer,” he says. “It's perfect for someone who is new to marketing.”

How and when you sell MarketMaxx corn and soybeans is up to you. There is also the option of selling old-crop corn or beans.

If you achieve the highest average selling price, or rank second, third or fourth for corn or soybeans when the games end, you win one of several big prizes.

Grand prizes are one year's use of a Massey Ferguson combine in the corn contest or one year's use of a Massey Ferguson tractor in the soybean contest. Other prizes are a computer system from Syngenta Crop Protection, customized rugged mobile computers from Grayhill Custom Mobile Solutions, or a high-speed satellite Internet service from Agristar Global Networks.

Massey Ferguson and Syngenta are MarketMaxx sponsors. Grayhill Custom Mobile Solutions and Agristar Global Networks are prize sponsors. Learn more about these sponsors, prizes and how to become a better marketer by visiting the MarketMaxx Web site at www.MarketMaxx.net.

The Web site offers more than just rules of the game and prizes available. Al Kluis, contributing marketing editor to The Corn And Soybean Digest, provides market commentary.

Kevin McNew, Cash GrainBids, Inc., provides basis information from key growing areas. He also coordinates the Web site. Players receive a periodic MarketMaxx e-newsletter, featuring updates on contest leaders, market commentary and news important to corn and soybean production and prices.

There can be many other benefits of playing MarketMaxx, too. If you belong to a marketing club, you and other members can play the game and work against each other — in fun, of course. MarketMaxx can produce some entertaining coffee shop talk. Guys at the elevator can also quiz each other about their MarketMaxx strategies.

So sign up today. There are no margin calls to worry about and no options premiums needed. It's a game that can lead to more efficient marketing of your actual corn and soybeans.

For more information, go to the www.MarketMaxx.net site. As the cliché goes, you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.