Bulk carrier ship in river port. Dry cargo grain elevator trade.

Commodity Markets

Commodity markets are big business, and for farmers the rise and fall of commodity prices can have a significant impact on the bottom line for their production agriculture business. Keeping up to date on prices and factors influencing the market helps producers make informed business decisions.

Every week, Market to Market provides expert analysis of major commodity markets with the Market Analysis and Market Plus segments. Experienced analysts provide thoughtful insight to price trends and strategies to help producers and processors cope with changing times.

With so many sources for commodities data, how does a producer gather information and data to help make the most informed marketing choices for their business? With all of this uncertainty, how can a farmer ensure the best price for a commodity?

  • Background Essay
  • Discussion Questions
  • Challenge
  • Related Resources
  • Teacher Notes
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4740
Matt Bennett discusses the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4740
Matt Bennett discusses the commodity markets.
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4739
Naomi Blohm discusses the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4739
Naomi Blohm discusses the commodity markets.
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4738
Mark Gold discusses the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4738
Mark Gold discusses the commodity markets.
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4737
Shawn Hackett discusses the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4737
Shawn Hackett discusses the commodity markets.
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4736
Jeff French discusses the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4736
Jeff French discusses the commodity markets.
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4735
Angie Setzer discusses the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4735
Angie Setzer discusses the commodity markets.
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4734
Chris Robinson discusses the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4734
Chris Robinson discusses the commodity markets.
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4733
Ted Seifried, Naomi Blohm, and Matt Bennett join Paul Yeager to discuss the latest commodity market news.
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4733
Ted Seifried, Naomi Blohm, and Matt Bennett join Paul Yeager to discuss the latest commodity market news
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4732
Elaine Kub discusses the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.
Market to Market
PodcastSeason47Episode4732
Elaine Kub discusses the commodity markets.
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4731
Arlan Suderman discusses the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.
Market to Market
PodcastSeason47Episode4731
Arlan Suderman discusses the commodity markets.
Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4730

John Roach discusses the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.

Market to Market
PodcastSeason47Episode4730

John Roach discusses the commodity markets.

Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4729

Don Roose discusses the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.

Market to Market
PodcastSeason47Episode4729

Don Roose discusses the commodity markets.

Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4728

Ted Seifried discusses the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.

Market to Market
PodcastSeason47Episode4728

Ted Seifried discusses the commodity markets.

Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4727

Sue Martin discusses the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.

Market to Market
PodcastSeason47Episode4727

Sue Martin discusses the commodity markets.

Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4726

Dan Hueber discusses the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.

Market to Market
PodcastSeason47Episode4726

Dan Hueber discusses the commodity markets.

Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4725

Mark Gold discusses the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.

Market to Market
PodcastSeason47Episode4725

Mark Gold discusses the commodity markets.

Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4724

Elaine Kub discusses the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.

Market to Market
PodcastSeason47Episode4724

Elaine Kub discusses the commodity markets.

Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4723

Angie Setzer and Chris Swift discuss the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.

Market to Market
PodcastSeason47Episode4723

Angie Setzer and Chris Swift discuss the commodity markets.

Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4722

Naomi Blohm, Ted Seifried, and Matt Bennett discuss the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.

Market to Market
PodcastSeason47Episode4722

Naomi Blohm, Ted Seifried, and Matt Bennett discuss the commodity markets.

Market to Market
ExtraSeason47Episode4721

Jeff French discusses the commodity markets in a special web-only feature.

Market to Market
PodcastSeason47Episode4721

Jeff French discusses the commodity markets.

Commodity Markets

Producers (farmers, ranchers), processors, retailers, and consumers rely on each other. Producers need to be able to sell the raw products they produce to processors. Processors then use these raw materials to create goods that are sold to retailers. Producers and processors both require a place to negotiate prices and either buy or sell their agricultural products. But how are prices for commodities determined? The answer is commodity markets.

What is a Commodity?

A commodity is a raw product. Examples of commodities include grains, like corn, wheat and soybeans; livestock like cattle and hogs; metals like gold and silver, and energy sources like crude oil and natural gas. This raw product is typically sold, and then processed and/or packaged in some way. So corn may be sold to a processor who makes ethanol; gold is sold to a processor making jewelry; and crude oil is sold to a processor who makes plastic. These processed goods are then shipped to retailers, who then sell a finished product to consumers.

To make it easier to buy and sell these raw goods, the quality of the commodity must be uniform from all producers. So all the bushels of corn, all the bales of cotton, and all the barrels of crude oil are essentially the same, regardless of who produced them.

Watch this short video that explains a commodity.

IFrame

Marketing Commodities and Managing Risk

Farming is full of risk. In any year, growers can face weather perils that include droughts and floods. Even when producers escape those extremes, conditions must be favorable at key periods during planting, growing, and harvesting. And even after crops are grown and harvested, producers still encounter risk. Changes in consumer demand, unforeseen international events, costs for fuel, and other circumstances can all influence profit. But the greatest risk of all may not be associated with producing commodities, but in marketing, or selling, them for a profit. Two methods that are commonly used to market commodities are cash marketing and forward contracting, both outlined in this brief video.

IFrame

Cash Marketing

Cash marketing takes place when a farmer sells his commodity for cash. For a grain farmer, this is usually done at a local cooperative or elevator. The farmer has not entered into any kind of contract to deliver the commodity at a certain time or at a certain price. In fact, cash marketing can take place anytime after harvest, and can be delayed by months if the producer stores his/her crop. The farmer's primary risk is if prices move lower while holding the commodity, he or she will have missed the opportunity to sell at the higher price.

A trade on the cash market always involves transfer of the actual commodity. The farmer delivers their grain to the elevator after harvest or from storage, and receives the current price.

Forward Contracting

forward contract is a way to minimize the risk that the price of a commodity might go down before a farmer sells. A forward contract is an agreement to deliver a specific amount of a specific commodity at a specific time in the future. Because no one really knows whether prices will go up or down, a forward contract "locks-in" a price that is higher than the current cash price.

A farmer who forward contracts with the local elevator is guaranteed a known price for a specific amount of his crop, however, the arrangement doesn't offer much flexibility. If prices move higher before the delivery date, the farmer is still obligated to deliver the contracted grain at the lower, previously agreed to price. Also, the farmer is obligated to deliver the contracted amount of the commodity, even if his yields are lower than expected.

Example: In July, a farmer contracts to deliver 5,000 bushels of corn to a grain elevator operator in November. The contract price is $4.00 a bushel. The cash price of corn could go higher or lower between July and November. In November, even if the market price for corn is only $3.60 a bushel, the elevator operator is obligated to pay the farmer $4.00 a bushel. Likewise, if corn sells for $4.75 a bushel, the farmer still receives only $4.00 a bushel.

What are Commodity Markets?

A commodity market is a place where you can buy, sell, or trade these raw products. But imagine having to transport all of the world's grain, gold, crude oil and other commodities to a single place in order to sell them. It would be unwieldy and costly to have a huge central location, to which all the sellers would deliver their commodities and from which all the buyers would haul them away. So, instead of trading the physical commodity, buyers and sellers in a commodity market trade contracts representing specific amounts of each commodity. For example, a producer could sell a contract to deliver 5,000 bushels of grain at a set price at a certain time. In exchange for payment, the contract would require the producer to deliver the grain to a specific location by a certain date. A processor could then use the market to purchase the contract for 5,000 bushels of grain at a set price and time.

It is in the commodities market that the prices of raw commodities, such as grain and livestock, are set. In the example of a grain farmer, it is these markets that set the price a farmer will receive when she sells her grain at the local elevator. By understanding how the markets work, processors attempt to buy their raw goods at the lowest price, and producers attempt to sell their commodity for the highest price.

There are many commodities markets around the world. Regardless of their names or locations, these trading centers all provide the same thing: a central location for buyers and sellers to negotiate prices and execute trades. The world's largest commodities market is the Chicago Board of Trade, known as CBOT. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange, or the CME, is another example of a commodities market. The CME, also located in Chicago, is the world's largest agricultural market. It is used mainly for the buying and selling of livestock and livestock products.

There are a variety of participants in the commodities market. Traders are anyone who buys or sells a contract—also known as " taking a position" in the commodities market. Speculators are those traders who buy or sell in an attempt to profit from price movements. Hedgers are traders who "hedge their bets" for favorable prices in one market by buying or selling a commodity in another.

Market Prices & Decision Making

Commodity markets are big business, and for farmers the rise and fall of commodity prices can have a significant impact on the bottom line. Keeping up to date on prices and factors influencing the market helps producers make informed business decisions. Things that can impact the price of many commodities include the weather, government policies, international events, consumer preferences, shifting input costs, and general supply and demand for the commodity.

Because of all of the different factors that influence prices, buying or selling contracts in a commodity market requires detailed data-gathering, critical thinking, and an ability to tolerate and manage risk. There are many sources a producer or trader can use for this data, including industry publications, weather forecasts, news headlines, and government reports. Many traders rely on personal experience and an understanding of market history and trends to help make decisions.

With so many sources for commodities data, how does a producer gather information and data to help make the most informed marketing choices for their business? With all of this uncertainty, how can a farmer ensure the best price for a commodity?

Discovery Questions

  • How do the analyst observations and recommendations compare to segments from the previous week?
  • What factors are influencing each commodity?
  • How are the commodity prices influencing each other?
  • How is the supply of and demand for the commodity influencing its price?
  • How is weather impacting each commodity?
  • What impact does federal government policy have in the analyst's observations?
  • How are consumer preferences and actions impacting each commodity?
  • How are international events impacting the commodities?
  • As a consumer, how might the information in the analysis impact your purchasing decisions?
  • What information would you like to know to make a better marketing decision? How might you go about obtaining this information?

Challenge

View and Print the Challenge | View and Print the Challenge Rubric

Commodity markets are big business, and for farmers the rise and fall of commodity prices has a significant impact on the bottom line for their production agriculture business. Keeping up to date on prices and factors influencing the market helps producers make informed business decisions.

Your challenge is to analyze the information and perspective provided in the most recent episode of Market to Market's Market Analysis and Market Plus reports. These weekly reports feature a discussion with a market analyst, trader, or broker on recent market trends and issues impacting the agricultural industry.

View the most recent editions of the Market Analysis and Market Plus segments. Identify the commodities discussed; the current state of the markets; and determine what actions you would take as a producer, processor, retailer, consumer, or investor. Answer the questions below to guide your decision.

1. The Market Analyst

Write a brief description of the participants in the analysis discussion. Consider:

  1. Who is providing the analysis?
  2. What is their background?
  3. If there is more than one analyst on this episode, do they agree in their observations and recommendations of the market? If not, on what points do they differ?

2. Commodity and Market Information

Summarize the information provided in the analysis. Be sure to describe the following details:

  1. What commodities are being discussed?
  2. What trends are the analyst(s) observing for each commodity?
  3. On what data are they basing their observations?
  4. Does the analysis support buying or selling a commodity? Which ones?

3. Influencing Factors

What factors are influencing each commodity? List the factors and explain how they influence the price and trends of each commodity. Consider the following:

  1. Are the prices of some commodities influencing those of another?
  2. How is weather impacting each commodity?
  3. What impact does federal government policy have in the analyst's observations or recommendations?
  4. How are consumer preferences and actions impacting each commodity?
  5. How are international events impacting the commodities?

4. Taking Action

How might the information in the analysis impact your decisions as a producer, processor, or retailer? In the chart below, list the actions you would take for each role after considering the information in the video segments. Consider the following questions:

  1. Imagine you are a producer (farmer/rancher) of one of the commodities that was discussed. What actions might you take as a result of the information provided by the analysis?
  2. Now imagine you are processor (manufacturer, packager) of a product that relies on one of the commodities discussed as a raw ingredient. What actions might you take as a result of the information provided by the analysis?
  3. As a retailer, how might the information in the analysis impact your decisions?
  4. Is there additional information you need to make a decision? What questions would you like to ask the analyst?

ProducerProcessorRetailer

 

Related Resources

  • Market to Market: Ask the Analysts in PBS LearningMedia
    Listen to analysts respond to common market questions. They answers may surprise you! Market to Market
  • CME Group Products List
    View a list of various commodities and products traded in various CME exchanges. CME Group
  • The New Commodity Challenge
    The New Commodity Challenge helps people learn the ins and outs of grain marketing in a cost-free & risk-free environment. University of Minnesota, Center for Farm Financial Management
  • Managing Risk With Commodities Markets - How it all Works
    This simple introduction to the role CME Group (and commodities markets in general) plays in helping people manage risk. It breaks the terminology and general concepts down into terms everyone can understand. CME Group
  • Learn About Agricultural Markets
    This free online module, provides a basic overview of the history,function and purpose of agricultural futures markets. Many links are provided to informative documents. CME Group
  • America Revealed: Energy Exchange
    Discover how the prices of gasoline and other commodities are determined by global events. Observe the inner workings of the Mercantile Exchange and find out which countries are the largest energy consumers. PBS LearningMedia, America Revealed
  • The Market Maker: The Moving Parts of a Market
    This video from Wide Angle: "The Market Maker" looks at the efforts of Ethiopian market reformers to create an Ethiopian Commodities Exchange (ECX). It explains the basic role of an exchange, outlines its key elements, and describes the specific challenges faced by the reformers. PBS LearningMedia, Wide Angle
  • The Market Maker: Next Steps
    In this video segment from Wide Angle, Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) market reformers celebrate the opening of a new sesame market while acknowledging the massive challenges they still face in bringing the ECX to millions of Ethiopia's poor subsistence farmers. PBS LearningMedia, Wide Angle
  • The Market Maker: The Coffee Crisis
    This video segment from Wide Angle: "The Market Maker" follows the Ethiopian government's effort to mitigate the impact of the 2008 global economic collapse by calling upon Eleni Gabre-Madhins' fledgling Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) to start trading coffee—the nation's primary cash crop—before it is logistically prepared to do so. PBS LearningMedia, Wide Angle
  • Introduction to Hedging
    This short video explains this method of reducing risk in a portfolio. Investopedia
  • How Hedging Works
    This presentation examines how hedging works and hedging strategies using both futures and options. It reviews real world scenarios in the grains and oilseeds markets, specifically how hedgers, both buyers and sellers, manage their risk in the ever-changing market. CME Group
  • Practice Simulator
    Study the charts, add your indicators, test your strategies, and manage your account (free sign up required). CME Group

Teacher Notes

Module Overview

The Commodity Markets module defines commodities and commodity markets and explores factors influencing economic risks associated with agriculture. It highlights differences between cash marketing and forward contracting; describes how commodity markets work and types of participants in the markets; and emphasizes the importance for producers to understand the many factors that influence the commodity markets.

This module introduces students to several big ideas. Commodity markets exist to bring together buyers and sellers of commodities and to set a global price for commodities. Many factors can influence a commodity price. There are different ways for a producer to sell their commodities, each with unique risks and benefits.

Learning Goals

This module connects with the following learning goals:

  • Describe an agricultural commodity.
  • Simulate an agricultural commodity market.
  • Identify the different players in an agricultural commodity market and describe the unique role of each.
  • Describe the functions of agricultural marketing.
  • Evaluate the different methods to sell a commodity.

 

View and download the module Teacher Notes for standards connections, lesson plan ideas, vocabulary and more.

View and Print the Challenge | View and Print the Challenge Rubric