Is the U.S. out of corn?

By Jon Scheve, Superior Feed Ingredients, LLC 

Some in the trade are questioning the national corn yield after the USDA lowered it this week. Early field reports I am seeing across the country would suggest the yield is better than some are expecting. In 8 of the last 22 years, the national yield average went up from the September report to the January report, so there is a chance the national yield can still increase.

Corn export demand, on the other hand, is lousy. The USDA has estimated it should be running more than 20% higher at this point in the marketing year verses last season, but it is currently running nearly 10% behind last year’s pace. This makes a sustained corn rally difficult even if the yield does get smaller in future reports.

Do the “quick ship” high basis bids mean the U.S. is out of corn?Recently some farmers on social media have suggested the U.S. may be out of corn because of the high basis bid values at various locations in the Corn Belt. I don’t think that this is likely the reason for high basis bids. Instead, I believe that the inverses in both futures and the basis market throughout summer is the reason for the quick ship bids.

An inverse market is when nearby values are higher than prices further out in time. It incentivizes farmers and commercial facilities to move grain and not store it, because it is worth more now versus later. It also incentivizes grain buyers to limit their purchases because grain will likely be cheaper later in time, especially as the new crop harvest approaches. 

Therefore, it seems likely that that end users have been purchasing grain as they need it to try to keep costs down. In June when the inverse between old crop and new crop futures widened due to dry weather, many end users began planning for the new crop grain to be available in early September. This meant they likely tried purchasing less of the expensive grain mid-summer, while waiting for lower basis values as harvest approached.

In July and early August basis values in the western corn belt were at or above +100 but those bids are now between +20 and -20. That is a price drop of 80 to 120 cents. End users probably waited until the last minute to buy their late August and September usage, because it seemed likely that it would be more profitable for them to scramble and pay for a few loads at higher values before new crop becomes available, than to pay the guaranteed higher prices earlier in the summer.

In other words, end users with “quick ship” higher basis bids probably planned to be out of corn as close to the start of harvest as possible. They were likely willing to pay +20, when other end users in the market were paying -20, to avoid paying +100 in early August for their September needs.

So, I would argue the current higher basis bids throughout the US are not an indication of low supply. Instead, I think most end users understand how an inverse market impacts grain prices and adjusted their plans accordingly to maximize profitability.

Farmers should have set basis before July 1

Farmers who did not set their basis values before July 1 learned a painful lesson about basis inverses. Yes, the dry weather could have caused a futures rally. However, new crop will always push basis values down significantly from July until late September, especially when futures are inverted.

Farmers who held cash grain until now are looking at a $1 per bushel basis value drop, and this does not include what they missed in futures value during the same time frame. Grain marketing is complex, and it pays to have someone help you understand the dynamics of all the moving parts. 

I helped many farmers throughout the U.S. get some of the highest basis values of the year before the steep basis decline in July. If you would like a private grain merchandiser to help to maximize your local basis values profits, like the end users do above, or if you just want more information on how the basis market works in your location reach out to me. 

Please email jon@superiorfeed.com with any questions or to learn more. Jon grew up raising corn and soybeans on a farm near Beatrice, Neb. Upon graduation from The University of Nebraska in Lincoln, he became a grain merchandiser and has been trading corn, soybeans and other grains for the last 18 years, building relationships with end-users in the process. After successfully marketing his father’s grain and getting his MBA, 10 years ago he started helping farmer clients market their grain based upon his principals of farmer education, reducing risk, understanding storage potential and using basis strategy to maximize individual farm operation profits. A big believer in farmer education of futures trading, Jon writes a weekly commentary to farmers interested in learning more and growing their farm operations.

Trading of futures, options, swaps and other derivatives is risky and is not suitable for all persons. All of these investment products are leveraged, and you can lose more than your initial deposit. Each investment product is offered only to and from jurisdictions where solicitation and sale are lawful, and in accordance with applicable laws and regulations in such jurisdiction. The information provided here should not be relied upon as a substitute for independent research before making your investment decisions. Superior Feed Ingredients, LLC is merely providing this information for your general information and the information does not take into account any particular individual’s investment objectives, financial situation, or needs. All investors should obtain advice based on their unique situation before making any investment decision. The contents of this communication and any attachments are for informational purposes only and under no circumstances should they be construed as an offer to buy or sell, or a solicitation to buy or sell any future, option, swap or other derivative. The sources for the information and any opinions in this communication are believed to be reliable, but Superior Feed Ingredients, LLC does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy of such information or opinions. Superior Feed Ingredients, LLC and its principals and employees may take positions different from any positions described in this communication. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results.

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