U.S. Farmers Hold onto Unsold Corn Amid Slumping Prices

Jun 20, 2024

After stockpiling crops for much of this season due to low prices, many farmers in the world’s largest corn-producing nation continue to shun buyers despite few signs that prices will improve. Grain supplies are ample and early ratings of summer crops are the best in years.

A larger-than-normal volume of grain remains unsold, according to Reuters interviews with 15 grain farmers across the U.S. Midwest. By September 2025, U.S. corn inventories are expected to reach a six-year high, according to the U.S Agriculture Department.

Uncertainty around if and when farmers will liquidate their stocks could make for choppy grain prices, both in cash and futures markets.
Farmers risk waiting too long to sell as a flood of newly harvested grain is likely to drag down prices this October and November. Buyers, aware the harvest is coming, still need enough supplies to keep processing plants running and exports flowing this summer.

An economic stare-down between growers and grain buyers is taking shape, said Angie Setzer, a partner at Michigan-based Consus Ag.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. No one’s engaged, not the farmer and not the consumer,” Setzer said.

Many growers sold just enough this spring to cover short-term cash-flow needs, Setzer said. Some are counting on adverse weather this summer to trigger price rallies, though nothing is guaranteed.

Three farmers told Reuters they convinced seed and chemical suppliers to reduce late fees, allowing them to hang on to their crop. Others, use the futures market to hedge the risk of further price declines.

Meanwhile, commercial buyers are banking on lower prices this summer due to the grain glut, analysts said.

USDA will offer an update of how much corn sits on farms in a quarterly stocks report on June 28.

U.S. corn supplies stored at the farm level stood at just over 5 billion bushels as of March 1, the second-highest on-farm stocks on record for that date, according to USDA.

Some buyers are enticing farmers with premiums for immediate grain supplies but adjust prices downward once orders are filled.

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