Guest Post - "2012 Grain Outlook"

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 - 10:33am

A few days ago, I commissioned our resident grain trading expert, "Art Lomax", to write up a guest post that includes some basics about the grains as well as some of his personal opinions regarding the upcoming season. Thankfully, he obliged.

2012 Grain Outlook


Art Lomax

So what’s the skinny on the grain markets for 2012? There appears to be a widespread concern that there will be an expansion of corn acres and production beyond demand leading to a big increase in corn ending stocks, and at the same time leaving a tighter bean situation with too small an acre base. And with wheat, another historically large global crop on the horizon for 2012. The wheat market seems to be trying to trace out a bottom, corn is transitioning to be the weak sister of the complex, and soybeans becoming the leader, especially with recent production problems in South America now placing a little more bullish sensitivity to US planted acres and early season new crop development in the US.

2011 was a good year for most US grain farmers. While some were hurt in drought areas and flooding in other areas, most farms saw record income due to high prices and record exports. World wheat, rice, and cotton stocks were replenished with the increase in supply reflected in prices. However, corn and soybeans just came off a short crop due to weather issues, and now the South American crop has been reduced due to drought and high temperatures in key growing areas. Soybeans over $12 and corn near $6 are still at historically high price levels. The seasonal high price for corn and soybeans occurred last September, and the lows will likely come later this summer. But in between, price volatility should be high. The topic of most interest now is how many acres of each crop will be planted.

On March 30, this question will be answered. The Prospective Plantings report, put out by the USDA, will report the expected plantings for most major commodities grown in the US. This report is particularly important, as it gives the first indications of what we will see in the US crop mix. Historically, this report has been a market driver, resulting in a “battle for acres”.

But remember, this report is only an indication of planting intentions. Another report comes out on June 30, which tends to be the final number on US acres. Other reports to look for throughout the growing season are the crop progress reports and the crop production reports. The crop progress report is a weekly report that covers planting progress, developmental progress, and the condition ratings for the crop. The production report is a monthly report that focuses on production, usage, and ending stocks. All of these reports, along with potential weather issues, will give the market plenty of news to trade. Throw in some middle east oil market disruptions, the Euro Union meltdown, unexpected Chinese buying, the accommodative Federal Reserve, and some election year shenanigans, and there should be plenty of trading opportunities in the grain markets this year.

Currently, the market is trading a bean acres number of 75 million acres, unchanged vs last year but down 1.6 million from last year intentions which were not achieved due to excessive moisture during planting. Increased winter wheat acres and more corn is why this number is unchanged. Even with trend line yields on these acres, US bean stocks are expected to decrease, especially now that the US will have to make up for the South American shortfall. Beans are pretty overbought right now and due a correction, but should be well supported on any pullbacks due to the expected increase in US demand caused by the reduced crops in South America.

Corn is probably trading 94 million acres vs 91.9 last year. A trend line yield on these acres would put US ending stocks next summer at 1.6 billion bushels, double the 801 million this year. Production estimates do not get a lot of argument but recognize that we have not been able to dependably produce the trend line yields used by the USDA for the last two years. But the bottom line is that corn acres should be big, and a USDA number of 95 million acres would be bearish. Also, corn use for ethanol is flattening and is expected to fall this year. Do not look for buyers to chase the market, and farmer selling could pick up. The USDA surprised the market several times last year. Be careful here.

One wildcard this year could be increased Chinese buying of corn and soybeans. This could be a positive catalyst to US markets if they decide to be more active in imports. The Chinese are very concerned about food security and keeping domestic food prices under control. Food shortages and high prices lead to political instability, like we saw last year in MENA.

The other wildcard would be weather. With rising global trade and increased demand for protein, the US and the world cannot afford another year of decreasing corn supplies. The balance between the grain we produce and the grain we consume is razor thin. We saw what happened last summer as corn had to trade over $8 to ration demand.

I am not trying to call this market one way or another, but just wanted to present the factors that will affect the grain markets this year, and look at the big picture. The US stocks/use ratio remain on the lower end of historical ranges, certainly not high enough to cushion a severe crop failure. Let’s all hope for record yields on record acres to provide more breathing room.

I hope this summary helps explain to those not familiar with the grain trade the dynamics that can affect the markets. I appreciate Mr. Ferguson giving me opportunity to share.



For those of you wishing to trade the grains this spring, of course the most direct way to do this would be futures and futures options on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT). Those unwilling to go that route can also attempt to profit by trading an ETF that goes by the symbol "DAG". It is composed of roughly 25% soybean futures, 25% corn futures, 25% wheat futures and 25% sugar futures.

Here are some charts of the grains plus sugar:

Lastly, I thought I should attach below a comment I posted in the previous thread regarding the Commitment of Traders report from late yesterday. The net change of positions over the course of the "manufactured corrective event" is breathtaking. It looks quite certain that the bottoms for the "event" have been reached!

​Large Specs down 32,938 or -14.26%
Small Specs down 11,963 or -17.00%
​Cartel short down 37,235 or -9.54%
Cartel net short down 45,143 or -18.4%
Additionally, the last two days of OI changes show continued short covering and long initiation in gold. Combine that with price holding above 1680 and closing above 1710 and I firmly believe that it is safe to say: BUY BUY BUY! THE BOTTOM OF THIS "CORRECTION" IS IN!
Large Specs down 7,377 or -19.41%
Small Specs down 1,621 or -6.7%
Cartel short down 6,270 or -8.00%
Cartel net short down 8,797 or -19.73%
Silver looks great, too. Getting the EE net short ratio back under 2 is significant. The last time this ratio was under 2 was the CoT survey of 1/31/12. That night silver closed at 33.32. This past Tuesday, silver closed at 32.78. Therefore, it would definitely appear that he worst is over for silver, too."""

Now, all of that said, apparently Santa advised traders yesterday to move to a net flat position based upon the uncertainty that the Greek "default" adds to the mix. Prudence would dictate that he is right. This upcoming week may be quite volatile and anyone using leverage could quickly be put in a world of hurt. Be cautious if trading but I wouldn't hesitate to use any additional weakness to add phyzz for stacking.

Have a great weekend and be ready come Monday! TF

About the Author

turd [at] tfmetalsreport [dot] com ()


Luigi Draghi
Mar 12, 2012 - 8:28pm

Regarding cotton, my opinion

Regarding cotton, my opinion is that this recent price run up will bring a lot of pain into the sector, and future harvests will resent.

ClinkinKYthurd aye
Mar 12, 2012 - 11:16am

@ thurd aye

just saying

Submitted by thurd aye on March 12, 2012 - 7:05am.

I am a farmer of average age.I take a different standpoint to all this.I admit that it gets harder as you age,therefore I did something different.I found a couple of guys who really want to farm.They run the operation now on a profit splitting basis.I own the land and pay the bills,not wages at all, and they do the hard work.I am virtually retired now, but for the paper work of invoices etc.

At the term end, all the season's expenses are paid off first with the crop returns, and the balance is then split between us,50 /50.That takes the aging concern out of the equation.Just saying.

Imagine that, someone is rewarded for their hard work. Well done.

Mar 12, 2012 - 8:48am
thurd ayeKatie Rose
Mar 12, 2012 - 8:05am

just saying

I am a farmer of average age.I take a different standpoint to all this.I admit that it gets harder as you age,therefore I did something different.I found a couple of guys who really want to farm.They run the operation now on a profit splitting basis.I own the land and pay the bills,not wages at all, and they do the hard work.I am virtually retired now, but for the paper work of invoices etc.

At the term end, all the season's expenses are paid off first with the crop returns, and the balance is then split between us,50 /50.That takes the aging concern out of the equation.Just saying.

Mar 12, 2012 - 12:41am

Indian Manipulation here we go...each passing day confirms that the Indian commodity Exchange is in cahoots with the Cartel or is a part of cartel.Silver was at $34.04 soon as the Indian markets opened..pooff....34.87 in a jiffy!!!!!!!!!!!Blatant Manpulation..but for how long..Even an Indian Sweeper has his assets in Gold & Silver

Mar 11, 2012 - 3:59pm

Thank you so much Art!

Outstanding, I will set about researching these this week. Thank you for taking the time to answer, I would be happy to buy you a virtual cold one at The Speak and even more happy to buy you one in person someday. Thank you sir!

Art LomaxPining 4 the fjords
Mar 11, 2012 - 3:53pm

Pining 4 the Fjords

Pining said: "When you have the time, could you post any AG investing websites or information outlets you use to gather info for trading? Is there a 'Turd Ferguson of grains' somewhere out there?"

Here are a few sites related to agriculture. Some are subscription, which I have access to through my business. I also receive proprietary research from my broker which they make available to their clients.

Progressive Farmer




Pro Farmer

Corn and Soybean Digest

World Grain

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Mar 11, 2012 - 3:43pm

Thanks, Art

I would add to anyone interested in this subject: Remember to check the "Grains" forum on this site. Art hangs out there quite a bit in spring and summer, as do I. Grain trading can be quite fun and profitable. Looking forward to 3/30!

Art Lomaxtallydynasty
Mar 11, 2012 - 3:15pm


Same here, good discussions and trading on corn last year. Like silver, trend was there with good trading opportunities.

I have been on the sidelines since first of year. Crop report March 30 should give the market some clarity and direction, possibly a good dip to buy against prior to summer.

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