The weather market may be over for corn, but farmers may want to batten down their financial hatches in preparation for some very turbulent markets in the weeks ahead.
How stormy could it get? Consider last week’s corn markets. “We came within a penny of the 2014 low of $3.18 that was set on September 30th of that year,” said Mike North of Commodity Risk Management Group, speaking on U.S. Farm Report with host Tyne Morgan. “That's a big deal because we've talked about this price for a long time. On the heels of a drought market, it often takes us about four years to find the low. To do that effectively, we need to take out that $3.18 low, so it was a big week in that regard.”
It leaves analysts warning that new lows could be right around the corner.
When asked if the market could take out that long-standing $3.18 low price, Bill Biedermann of Allendale replied, “Absolutely.”
“I don’t think there’s much chance that we won’t (take out that low),” he added. “We’ve got the yields that are going to becoming out here in the next few weeks. We’ve got the Pro Farmer Crop Tour, (where) we’ll get a good physical look at it. We’ve got the Allendale survey. We’ll get a good number on it, and we are really going to be shocked at how good this can be.”
Biedermann, for example, predicts that USDA might up its corn yield estimate to between 171 to 172 bushels per acre, with 48 bushels per acre for soybeans.
Such yields could be record-setting. The highest national average corn yield is 171 bushels per acre, set in 2014, and the highest national average soybean yield stands at 48 bushels per acre, set in 2015.
And North said that some analysts think the corn number could even go higher. “They could run up six bushels on this thing, and that would be a 174 (bushels per acre),” he said. “A lot of the trade has already moved to numbers that high or higher. At the end of the day, I don’t expect (USDA) to do that, but given (USDA’s) track record, it wouldn’t surprise me if they made a big adjustment going into this report, given all the data we’ve seen so far.”
Such high production, of course, could put major pressure on prices, taking out that 2014 low that has survived since the last time U.S. corn farmers saw such bumper crops.
“We always go farther than you think we should or could, and the reality of that is that $3.18 is an old low,” said North. “That to me is an easy number to take out. The big question is, can $3 corn hold? Can we put a $2 in front of corn this year? I think that’s a possibility under the right circumstances.”
How might that happen? Just add a lot of talk, some market momentum, chatter about great crops in the field, “and suddenly you create a case for massive balance sheets and much lower prices,” North said. “The worst part is that all of that could be happening right when farmers have got to clean out their bins to get room for the new crop, so it could be a rough way to maneuver through this.”
Of course, the low prices that result from such big supplies will likely also lead to “huge demand,” according to Biedermann, which should chew up some of those stocks.
But producers better prepare themselves—and their marketing plans-- for plenty of volatility during that process. “Markets are always violent before they turn,” North said. “It’s true at the top, it’s true at the bottom, and I believe we’re going to see some prices that not too many people like.”
It may be ugly, but smart growers may want to figure out now how they can take advantage of the situation, should it happen.
“It’s most violent at the top and the bottom,” Biedermann agreed. “And that’s where your most opportunities exist.”