The December corn contract hit a new high Monday, moving to about $4.93 per bushel. Most elevators have cash bids between $4.60 and $4.90 for this year’s crop.

That looks like a great price range, but the crop hasn’t even been planted. How many bushels should be marketed on a crop that’s still in the bag? Moreover, what if we have a stretch of poor weather during the growing season that pushes the price even higher? Farmers are still kicking themselves for selling so much ahead of last year’s rally. 

“I think that is one of the hardest things to do for most people is to sell a crop they haven’t even planted and may not have the seed in their shed yet,” said Brent Gloy with Agricultural Economic Insights. “One of the things I find is that there are all kinds of opinions out there. People ask me: ‘How much should you sell in your marketing program?' It depends; there’s no pat answer for anybody.”

While everyone can watch prices, spreads, basis levels and more, marketing decisions must be considered on an individual basis. “It depends on your financial situation, your ability to handle risk, your tolerance for risk … all those things come into play. I recommend people take a look and see what kind of profit they would have at these prices and maybe think about some; you don’t have to do a lot, but my guess if this is your worst sale you’re going to feel pretty good at the end of the year about things.”

While the thought of $5 December corn futures sounds enticing, at least one analyst remembers the last time the price was this strong so early in the year. “What happened to corn in 2014? It posted its high in late April,” says Darin Newsom, founder of his analytics firm. “Then it came tumbling down as it moved through the spring and summer. I think there’s a strong possibility that we get through $5, even if we follow this path the 2014 contract laid out.” Newsom adds caution that a good planting season and the possibility of even more corn acres than projected could bring some doubt into the markets in the months ahead.

One thing that could allow farmers to sell earlier than normal is the expectation of greater market volatility in the months ahead. Securing profitable prices and avoiding the uncertainty of wild market rides could prove to be a preferred plan in 2021.