The warnings started to come Monday and were realized Tuesday: There’s trouble in the corn market. Prices are dropping with few, if any, signs that any kind of boost is in store.

“We think the basis did about all the work it can possibly do,” said Kim Holsapple Monday at Total Grain Marketing in Effingham. “The spreads have narrowed, so they’ve done all the work they can do to move the grain, and the grain’s still not moving. So it’s going to take a flat price rally, a board rally, to make this thing work.”

Holsapple said basis levels had been near-record levels even at the first of this week, thanks to strong usage. There’s still record numbers of livestock to feed, and there were still ethanol plants needing to meet their daily grinds. But that started changing Tuesday when some ethanol plants stopped buying corn throughout the Corn Belt.

Gasoline futures have been trading around 70 cents, bringing ethanol futures down to a little more than a dollar. These price levels have compromised profitability, and there are no signals that a rebound is in order.

“To sit there and hope for a rally to get you $4 cash (per bushel) is unrealistic unless we get a threat to the new crop going,” said Brian Chastian at Market Wise Ag Solutions. “But with a 94, 95 million acre planted number at trendline yields … you look at 2.6-3 billion bushels carryout for the new crop, that suggests prices should be in the mid- to low-3s.”

USDA will release its Prospective Plantings Report March 31, and even the lowest estimates are calling for more than 90 million acres of corn this year. A looming big crop combined with weakening demand for last year’s grain is not a friendly scenario.