What is in your grain marketing toolbox?

By Jon Scheve, Superior Feed Ingredients, LLC 

Throughout October so far, the corn market has closed within a tight 25 cent range. Lack of farmers selling has kept prices from declining much during harvest. However, the potential carryout concerns are also keeping prices from increasing.

During the same time, soybeans traded within a 60-cent price range. Again, lack of farmers selling, plus lower than expected yields in the west, is keeping a floor under prices. The potential of Brazil’s next crop is keeping prices in check.

What I also found interesting is that a year ago the trading range on corn and beans for this exact same three-week time frame was the same as it is this year. The only difference was that corn was trading $2 per bushel higher last year than it is today while beans are trading nearly $1 per bushel lower now.

What is in your marketing toolbox?

Over the last month I have been on the farm helping with harvest. While fixing a broken sickle, I looked inside the toolbox at the many tools we carry on the combine to fix potential problems in the field. It reminded me of all the grain marketing tools we use to price the grain we are harvesting.

Just as most farmers know how to use their tools and would not go to the fields without them, farmers should be knowledgeable about the grain marketing tools available to them too. Unfortunately, some farmers are not.

For example, not using futures is like going to the fields with only a hammer, screwdriver, vice grip and crescent wrench. They will be able to fix some problems, but they would be more effective and efficient with a more diverse toolbox. Let me explain.

The hammer

It is easy to understand what will happen when you use it, but it does not offer many options. Hit something just right, and all problems are solved. But swing too hard, or in the wrong spot, and you can break something. The hammer is like Selling Cash Grain. Every farmer knows how this will work because it is easy and takes little skill. Selling at the right price at the right time (a direct hit) feels great. But selling at the wrong price or time is hard to fix and causes frustration.

The screwdriver

The screwdriver is also an easy tool to use but limited in function. It can be very useful in the right situation, but unless you have the right screw or bolt, this tool may not be the answer. It is similar to just counting on insurance revenue programs or government payments to help set a floor price or make up for any short fall in prices. It is an indispensable tool you cannot live without, but it will not fix everything.

The crescent wrench

When you are not sure what size of bolt you will need to loosen, the crescent wrench can come in very handy. However, if the bolt is too tight, you can round off the corners and be in an even worse position. This is similar to Buying a Put or Call Option. There are times buying a put or call can be the right “tool” in the marketing world. However, there are situations where it does not work as well or makes a problem worse than when you started. For example, in less volatile markets options can cost farmers more than they can potentially gain from them.

The vice grip

The vice grip is a companion tool. It can keep your fingers safe holding a nail when using a hammer or it can hold a nut in place when screwing in a bolt head with a screwdriver or crescent wrench. This is like forward selling grain to an end user. It can be handy on its own or used with other tools (i.e., Hedge to Arrive, minimum priced contracts, or deferred pricing). However, just like the name “vice” suggests, it can also lock you in tight with limited options when there are production issues or other end users have higher basis levels when it is time to move the grain you sold. Flexibility is usually limited.

What is in my toolbox?

Obviously, I have the above tools in my toolbox, but I also have other tools available to me that better fit more grain marketing situations.

Socket set

I have a complete standard and metric socket set with extensions that fit any bolt needing repair. Futures, like sockets, provide flexibility to pick the exact price I want to sell. Deep sockets are like using deferred contracts that allow me to sell late in the year and pick up market carry. Different drives are like futures contracts that allow me to pick the right year to market. Extensions are comparable to how futures allow me to take advantage of basis opportunities. These extra tools may be heavier to carry, keep organized, and be more complicated, but the flexibility of what I can do and how much I can fix is worth it.

Open-ended box wrenches

Sometimes sockets do not fit, and I need an open-ended box wrench to reach a difficult bolt head. While not as quick as a socket, it can be the perfect tool for a very specific, tricky fix. This is like using straddles in a sideways market. While I may not use them all the time, these types of trades can generate a little extra premium when futures are not at the level I want to sell.

Like using a socket on one end of a bolt and an open-ended box wrench on the other, straddles can easily compliment futures trades.


Sometimes a little extra help is needed to loosen tight bolts. This is like selling calls. When things are tight and none of the other tools are working, a little extra premium that I can pick up and add to a future sale is sometimes all that is needed to get the job done.

Next time you knock a sickle out while cutting beans or have to fix a broken gathering chain on the corn head, ask yourself what tool will do the best job and what do you have in your toolbox. Your grain marketing toolbox should be just as diverse, so you can take advantage of every opportunity and challenge you will face.

Reach out to me if you would like to understand more about how to use all the different tools in the marketing toolbox.

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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