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By Staff | Jul 25, 2014

I believe that in my life I have ridden a roller coaster not more than five times. And when I did ride one, it was because I was with others who wanted to ride and coerced me into riding with them.

You can safely assume I am a reluctant roller coaster rider.

The thoughts of a roller coaster ride came to me when looking at both corn and soybean charts over the last 10 years, and especially since the first of the year.

Those charts do resemble a roller coaster. There are the usually ups and downs and then long rises followed by a plunge.

When the roller coaster ride ends after its ups and downs, you are back where you started.

Looking ahead to the next months of prices, it is appearing we could be back where we started about 10 years ago.

Unfortunately, we have 10 years of increasing expenses that are not are dropping at the same rate.

My roller coaster metaphor does not work completely because when the roller coaster ride ends, we climb out, grateful that it is over, and walk away.

Grain markets do not have an end, so our bumpy ride continues.

The USDA has grain production and prices going back to 1866-1867 when nationally corn yielded 24.3 bushels, total production was 731 million bushels and it sold for 66 cents a bushel.

Good times, good times.

By 1896-1897 corn was 21 cents a bushel and average yield was at 30 bushels an acre.

My information is from a PDF file on historical grain prices from the USDA.

The USDA calls its prices “weighted average farm price” and they appear to be on the low side from my memory, so it is helpful to remember that these prices are relative to each other.

Corn prices peaked during World War I when during 1918-1919 it was at $1.45 per bushel. By 1921-1922, corn was down to 46 cents a bushel.

During the Depression years of 1932-1933, corn was 29 cents a bushel, U.S. yields were 26.5 bushels per acre, and total production was 2,579 million bushels.

Corn did reach $2.16 a bushel in 1947-1948 only to go back to $1.28 the next year.

It stayed below $1.50 until the 1970s, when the Soviet Union started buying and exports became big business.

Corn made a big jump in price in 1988-1989 to $2.54, which was probably related to that being a drought year.

It crossed the $3 threshold in 1995-1996 when yields nationally were 113.5 bpa and total production was 7,400 million bushels.

But by 1999-2000 the price was down to $1.82 and yields averaged 133.8 with total production at 9,431 million bushels.

USDA records show corn’s best year was 2011-2012 when corn was at $5.18 per bushel, U.S. average yield was 147.2 bushels per acre and total production was 12,360 million bushels.

Corn prices peaked the following year at $6.89 on a reduced crop of 10,780 million bushels and an average yield nationally of 123.40 bushels per acre.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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