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Improved Market Prospects for U.S. Grain Elevators in 2023-24

By Jean-Paul McDonald

The U.S. grain elevators are poised for a more profitable 2023-24 marketing year, thanks to favorable market shifts. The National Milk Producers Federation's recent annual meeting highlighted the U.S. dairy industry's perseverance and progress, discussing future challenges and opportunities. 

Tanner Ehmke, a grains and oilseeds economist at CoBank, notes that despite the current difficulty in acquiring corn and soybean bushels, this challenge is expected to ease early in 2024.  Elevated costs and the need for cash for spring planting will likely drive farmers to sell, especially if prices rally. 

Inverted futures markets have limited elevator profit-making opportunities in the past two years. As buy basis falls and carries return to futures markets, elevators are considering wider carries and basis levels. Farmers are reluctant to own bushels due to a sharp drop in corn and soybean prices. 

CoBank's report also mentions how some elevators are compensating for the lack of bushel ownership through higher storage fees and delayed pricing programs. These strategies have become popular as farmers await price rallies.  

The basis for corn and soybeans is expected to appreciate, supported by strong domestic demand and cheaper transportation rates. The global abundance of these grains is likely to limit the rise in basis. 

The report highlights the impact of U.S. corn and soybean export programs, international market dynamics, Chinese demand, and South American crop yields on carry and basis. 

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