By LARRY KERSHNER
HUMBOLDT – In the world of grain marketing, Reed Burres, 19, a freshman ag student at Iowa State University, said he knows some people hit home runs, but even more strike out.
In his parlance, he hit .317 in 2014- no home runs, but he got on base with a profit.
Burres, a 2014 national FFA representative for Iowa from Humboldt High School, said it was a challenging growing season.
“I learned how to manage and not manage the grain markets,” he said.
Burres talked about his summer during a crop insurance meeting on Feb. 13 in Dakota City, sponsored by AgriPeril Insurance Inc., of Humboldt. The business is owned by his father, Tim Burres.
In order to understand what farmers go through during an entire growing and marketing season, he cash-rented a 107-acre farm and planted corn.
“Being a high school senior,” Burres said, “can be unnerving going into the ag realm.”
He said Joe Olson, an agronomist with Tri-County Ag in Humboldt, helped him pick the corn hybrids and different traits to plant.
“He explained it all to me,” Burres said. “And once planted, it was a waiting game.”
Waiting for harvest, Burres started attending ISU grain marketing classes.
“I understood that marketing was more than watching the dollars,” he said. “You have to watch what Brazil and China are doing and how they affect markets.”
He said he was confident he would do well financially by trying to market within the top 20 percent of market rallies.
He said knowing when to sell a portion of his anticipated yield, with little or experience was tough.
“I used a lot of online tools and databases at Ames,” Burres said. “And I used professors’ insights, these all played a pivotal role” in how he merchandised his corn.
If he were to advise someone venturing into their first growing and marketing season, Burres said “A third person is essential.
“You can lose a 15-cent rally in the market if you miss that China signed a contract.”
As the season drew to harvest, Burres said he forward contracted his crop incrementally by small percentages.
The cooperative in Humboldt bought his grain.
“I think it’s better to sell 5 percent at a time, rather that 30 percent,” Burres said. “You can better diversify yourself.”
He quoted Warren Buffet urging a marketer to know their confidence level.
“If you don’t know, ask somebody who knows,” Burres said. “Warren Buffet said, ‘There’s no room for marketing errors.’
“I’d rather be safe than sorry. It’s better to be diversified.”
He said he’ll try again in 2015, planting soybeans to get nitrogen back into the 107 acres.
“Will I be as profitable?” he asked. “Who knows?
“But I have better tools available to try to predict where the markets will be heading.”
He said he’s also looking forward to gaining more skills in analyzing markets, purchasing puts and calls to protect profits against market volatility.
“I’m particularly interested in that.”
When asked what was his biggest surprise in the experience, Burres said, “How volatile the grain markets are.
“To see how strong South America and China are.”
He said he will be traveling to Argentina this year and looks forward to getting insight into that country’s agriculture.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how a foreign presence plays into U.S. markets,” Burres said. “It’s a good thing to learn early in life.”
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