Farmers certainly don’t store their corn for six months in hopes of receiving $3 per bushel, but unfortunately that’s where some farmers find themselves. The demand destruction coming from a sharp decline in ethanol production is just one reason corn markets have struggled in the last two months.
These struggles might last quite a while. USDA in its World Ag Supply and Demand Estimates confirmed many fears, projecting next year’s ending stocks at more than 3.3 billion bushels. Less usage this year, combined with an expected big crop, would mean huge supplies and low prices. In fact, USDA projected the average corn price to be $3.20 per bushel in the 2020-2021 marketing year.
“With stocks at more than three billion bushels and a stocks-to-use ratio at 22%, which is pretty substantial,” said USDA’s chief economist Rob Johansson. “We haven’t seen something like that since the 90s. We’ve been right around two billion for the last couple of years with diminished trade. This coronavirus is adding to that and building stocks.”
These bearish scenarios make it difficult to wait for a big rally before selling grain. That’s especially the case for areas that rely on the Illinois River, which in just a few weeks will be closed for repairs. “We’re still saying $3.25-$3.30 on this old-crop corn needs sold. Time is winding down and is certainly not our friend as the Illinois River will shut down on July 1st,” said Cole Stock, grain originator for Western Grain Marketing.
“We’re telling people: 'Do not put hope on your ethanol plants, your rail terminals making a comeback this summer,'” Stock said. “We’re keeping our message the same on the old-crop corn side.”
Stock’s key word is that the corn needs sold; $3.30 is not at all an attractive price, but it may be the best a farmer might get. He says if soybeans get to $8.65-$8.75, they also need to be sold.