Posted by: usset001 | June 9, 2009

Looking ahead to 2010 and pricing corn

cornfieldYesterday was a final decision date for my 2009 pre-harvest marketing plan for corn. I made a sale of Dec’09 corn futures at $4.58 per bushel, well above my minimum price objective of $3.95, but not nearly as high as the $6.45 level at which I made my first sales last August. I am now 75% priced on my mythical 2009 corn corn at an average Dec’09 futures price of just over $5.00 per bushel, or a cash price of $4.50-4.60 per bushel at harvest. I think it is time to turn my attention to 2010.

Every producer struggles with the question of when to start pricing a crop. On one extreme is the farmer who says, “You can’t price what you don’t have.” These are producers who start the process at harvest time. At the other extreme are those who note that futures quotes and pricing opportunities are available for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 corn (quotes for 2011 corn started in July of last year and I saw the first quotes for Dec’12 corn futures today). I am not comfortable reaching out more than two crop years. To look out as far as 2011 or 2012 demands a high level of confidence in crop rotations, input costs and government program support.

That said, it is time to look ahead to the 2010 corn crop and pricing opportunities. Fertlizer quotes for fall 2009 application are readily available, and nitrogan and DAP prices are back to levels last seen in 2007. Only potash prices remain stubbornly high. If I have a handle on rent and fertilizer prices, I have a pretty good handle on my 2010 production costs. I used the FINBIN data base (the most important and underutilized tool available to farmers) to estimate production costs for corn in Southern Minnesota. Assuming 4-year average yields of 175 bu./acre, I estimate that I can produce a bushel of corn for $3.60-3.70 per bushel. This figure assumes a direct government payment of about $20 per acre, and includes a labor and management charge of $40 per acre.

Based on the cost of production analysis, I wrote a pre-harvest marketing plan for 2010 corn. I posted the plan earlier today. My minimum price objective for 2010 is a cash corn price of $3.65 per bushel (consistent with COP analysis). Assuming a harvest basis of 40 cents under the Dec’10 contract translates into a futures price minimum of $4.05 per bushel.

With Dec’10 futures currently trading near the $4.55 level, a sale at current 2010 futures prices can lock in a profit level of nearly 50 cents per bushel. Last year aside, the market rarely gives corn farmers an opportunity to lock-in profit levels of more than 25 cents. I took action yesterday to price roughly 20% of the 2010 crop. I suggest that anyone who chooses to price corn for 2010 also lock-in their fertilizer needs at the same time. My interest in 2010 is not driven by price alone, rather the estimated margin over input costs.

Stay tuned. I plan to talk 2010 soybean and spring wheat pre-harvest plans in the days ahead.


  1. Ed

    Do you have a historical chart on the return per bushel that you reference?

    I like the purchase of some inputs at the same time as locking in some sales….as it is really bottom line oriented like it should be!


  2. note

  3. new here just trying to on your email list

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: