Avoid a case of “backyard-itis” – Ohio Ag Net
By Jon Scheve, Superior Feed Ingredients, LLC
The market struggles to accurately estimate field yields. Additionally, demand remains uncertain, especially with the new COVID city closures in China last week. Worries about the global economy also kept the pressure on the markets. It looks like the market might be on hold until the September 12 USDA earnings report comes out.
“Backyard-itis” describes farmers who feel the weather in their immediate area is more prevalent than it actually is. Usually this happens when a farmer’s crops are not doing well, but sometimes I see it the other way around too. A common symptom of this “sickness” is wondering why markets aren’t reacting as much as they should, given the weather conditions a farmer sees nearby.
Recently I have seen many posts on social media from farmers with their corn cobs estimating the yield potential. Like every year, there are LOTS more posts showing potential production issues with healthy ears. It seems farmers don’t normally post when things are going well, perhaps out of a superstition that any positive comments will ‘jinx’ their final yields. Or maybe some are worried that positive yielding positions will drag the market down.
With the corn belt being 1,000 miles long and 500 miles wide, the 50 mile radius around anyone’s farm is only 1.5% of the entire county’s corn growing area. This is not a large enough sample size to have any real impact on national performance. Even if someone drove within 100 miles of their farm, that would only be 6% of the entire corn belt.
I have also found that the location of farmers often determines what they think the national yield will be as well. When I ask farmers what their yields are in “I” states, and their crops don’t look good, they think the national yield will be much lower than reported. Farmers in most other states are more realistic with their national yield estimates because they recognize that their “backyard” doesn’t matter as much across the country.
With my farm in southeast Nebraska, I know how difficult it is to watch a crop wither and reduce the yield in the field. We have often missed good rains, while “I” states have received consistent good weather, so the market is not rising. Our small region does not affect corn values across the country, so we need to pay attention to the entire corn belt to get a true understanding of widespread cropping potential and how prices will be affected.
Talk to other farmers in the corn belt
Conversations between Maize Belt farmers can be tricky as information can often be misinterpreted or misleading by accident. When asked what his harvest looks like this year, a farmer may say, “yields are nowhere near last year’s”. That might sound ominous, especially if someone isn’t familiar with the area or what it was like last year.
To keep things in perspective, follow-up questions such as “What were your returns last year” and/or “What are normal returns for you” can help. That same farmer can then say, “They got a record harvest last year and that was 10% more than normal.” Based on this additional information, this farmer’s normal yields and weather conditions could be disappointing this year. However, in reality, they may react more pessimistic than they should.
I also find that when I ask farmers how much of their new crop is being sold or how much of their old crop is still in storage, it shapes their attitude towards the market. I generally find that a farmer whose new crop is not being sold and whose old crop is still in the trash will see the state of their crops and the national yield differently than farmers who are selling their new crop or using risk management to protect it. Farmers are not alone in this bias, most market analysts and end users will often do the same. It seems to be human nature to have a perspective that matches your hopes and desires.
Seeking to understand the full scope of growing conditions is good, but it’s important to avoid looking for answers that only justify the desired outcome. It is generally more profitable to gather information with an open mind to results, which can open the door to more profitable marketing strategies and opportunities.
Please email [email protected] for any questions or to find out more. Jon grew up growing corn and soybeans on a farm near Beatrice, NE. After graduating from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, he became a grain trader and has been trading corn, soybeans and other grains for 18 years, building relationships with end users in the process. After successfully marketing his father’s grain and earning his MBA 10 years ago, he began helping farmer clients market their grain based on his principles of farmer education, reducing risk, by understanding the storage potential and using a grassroots strategy to maximize profits for individual farms. A strong believer in educating farmers about futures trading, Jon writes a weekly commentary for farmers interested in learning more and growing their farms.
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