Kevin McNew, Chief Economist at Farmers Business Network℠, oversees a team of analysts who use data-driven insights to develop market views that help farmers make informed crop marketing decisions.
Brian Paff: What are the experiences that you've had in your professional life and values that led you to your current role with FBN?
Kevin McNew: I grew up on a farm, and so I knew what it meant to try and make decisions around marketing your grain. I saw my father struggle with that. He was a great farmer, but the business aspect of marketing grain and knowing when to sell was such a struggle—as it is for any farmer because it's so emotional.
And so for me, 25 or 30 years removed from the farm, I’ve been on a quest to really try and figure out how to demystify markets, how to make it simpler, how to make concrete decisions that are useful for farmers. I'm fortunate to have been working with FBN for three years now, and I feel like I’m on the right side of the coin, if you will, of working on behalf of farmers to help solve the marketing riddle.
BP: Obviously data is part of that equation in terms of taking emotion out of the process. How does our team of analysts use data to develop market views?
KM: Data—and using that data wisely—is central to what we do in crop marketing at FBN. We don't want to make decisions that are based on emotion or gut reaction. Instead we want to look at the data historically and the type of environment we're in, and then ask, “What do we tend to see in terms of price action?” And this has many, many broader applications.
Take a look at crop yield forecasting, for example. Last season, a lot of people went into August and saw the USDA's critical report around crop yield. They were thinking that the crop yield was going to be quite a bit lower because of poor spring planting conditions. Well, our objective approach to looking at all of the historical data—not only weather, planting progress and crop conditions but also satellite imagery—showed that the crop yield was not as bad as people feared. Many farmers at the time were convinced national yield was going to be horrible and the market was going to skyrocket, when in fact it didn't. So that's one example how we're taking data and trying to make an objective, unemotional decision around it.
BP: You touched on this already, but why is it important to have a systematic plan in place for marketing grain? How does our Market Advisory program help farmers achieve that?
KM: I remind farmers that if everyone had a perfect crystal ball, you'd make one crop marketing decision a year. You would know exactly when the market high is, and you’d just sell your entire crop. But no one has that perfect foresight, so we have to systematically try and pick the times we want to sell our crop.
We've developed our HedgeCommand tool to help Market Advisory members follow a roadmap, if you will, or a trajectory for crop marketing. You can think about this as systematically selling grain. And there are certain times of the year when you want to systematically sell grain based on history. But things will change, you know—markets move around, conditions change—and so we're constantly updating and adjusting that game plan throughout the season as factors take shape.
With HedgeCommand, you can apply FBN analysts’
market view or your own bullish or bearish view.
BP: What role do your team of analysts as well as the farm marketing advisors (FMAs) play in terms of helping farmers make choices about when to sell and how much to sell?
KM: Our group of analysts are constantly sifting through market data and looking at indicators for where we think the price is going to move. We're covering a wide swath of commodities—corn, soybeans, five different classes of wheat, canola in Canada and a lot of other specialty crops there—looking for the key elements of what we think is going to drive prices going forward.
And then we translate that into actionable decisions for our producers. We're working constantly with the FMAs at FBN to help them operationalize those decisions. What we’re trying to do here again is provide that objective approach to looking at things. So when we see the market deviate from what we think is the right course or we think it's too high or too low, then we work with the FMAs who in turn work with farmers to take action.
HedgeCommand, available to FBN Market Advisory members inside the FBN app, allows you to track and manage your percent hedged.
With HedgeCommand, we’ve created a methodology, framework and technology to help you understand how hedged you are given your underlying crop economics and everything you've done to manage price risk. This helps you leave some of the emotion at the door when making grain marketing decisions.
Conversation edited for clarity and brevity.
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