Focus on Ag: Marketing Assistance Loans Offer Grain Marketing Flexibility

Focus on Ag: Marketing Assistance Loans Offer Grain Marketing Flexibility

By Kent Thiese

MinnStar Bank


Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) commodity loans on harvested corn, soybeans and wheat were regularly used by farm operators in the 1990’s and early 2000’s as a grain marketing tool. The use of CCC commodity loans dropped off considerably from 2008-2014 and again from 2020-2022, when grain prices reached their highest levels in many years. As farmers finish up the 2023 harvest season, the use of marketing assistance loans (MAL’s), which are the same as CCC commodity loans, has again taken on more significance as an option in setting up post-harvest grain marketing plans for corn and soybeans.

The CCC commodity loans (MAL’s) are originated through county Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices after the grain has been harvested. The MAL’s are 9-month loans from the time the loan is established. A CCC commodity loan can be established both on farm stored grain and on grain in commercial storage with a warehouse receipt. Producers receive the value of the loan at the time the CCC loan is established. The loan can be repaid at any time during the 9-month loan period, by repaying the amount of the loan principal plus the accrued interest.

The 2018 Farm Bill established national loan rates for the various commodities that are eligible for the marketing assistance loans. Following are the 2023 national loan rates for common crops in the Upper Midwest:  

Corn ——— $2.20 per bushel

Soybeans — $6.20 per bushel

Wheat ——- $3.38 per bushel

Barley ——- $2.50 per bushel

Oats ——— $2.00 per bushel

Grain Sorghum — $2.20 per bushel

The county loan rates are then adjusted higher or lower than national rates, based on local commodity price differentials compared to national price levels. Following is the range of county corn and soybean loan rates for MAL’s in the Upper Midwest States:

Minnesota ——– Corn = $2.02 to $2.13/bu.; Soybeans = $5.82 to $6.15/bu.

Iowa ————— Corn = $2.07 to $2.30/bu.; Soybeans = $6.07 to $6.32/bu.

Nebraska ———- Corn = $2.05 to $2.27/bu.; Soybeans = $5.82 to $6.18/bu.

South Dakota —– Corn = $2.04 to $2.21/bu.; Soybeans = $5.67 to $6.10/bu.

North Dakota —– Corn = $1.99 to $2.20/bu.; Soybeans = $5.67 to $5.97/bu.

Wisconsin ——— Corn = $2.03 to $2.20/bu.; Soybeans = $6.10 to $6.29/bu.

The MAL loan interest rate is adjusted monthly and is set up at one percent above the CCC borrowing rate from the U.S. Treasury. The interest rate on MAL loans is fixed for the entire term of the 9-month MAL, except for a potential CCC interest rate adjustment on January 1. The current interest rate on marketing assistance loans (as of 11-01-23) was 6.50 percent, which compares to an interest rate of 8 to 9 percent for short-term financing at many commercial ag lending institutions. Producers only pay interest for the time that the MAL is in place. (Example — $200,000 MAL corn loan at 6.50% interest for 180 days …… ($200,000 x .065) / 365 x 180 = $6,412 interest payment for 6 months).

Farm operators have the flexibility to place grain under a MAL at a local FSA office any time after the grain has been harvested. Producers also have the flexibility to treat the commodity loan as either “income” or as a “loan” when the loan proceeds are received. This can have income tax implications, depending on how and when the loan proceeds are received. It is best to consult with a tax consultant before determining the timing and the preferred method of receiving the loan proceeds.

If commodity prices drop to levels that are lower than county loan rates, eligible producers would potentially be eligible to release the grain that is under a marketing assistance loan at a rate that is lower than the county loan rate. FSA issues a “posted county price” (PCP) for commodities that are eligible for MAL’s, which are updated and posted daily at local FSA offices, or available on county FSA websites. If the PCP is lower than the county loan rate, the producer could realize a “marketing loan gain” (MLG), if the grain is released at that lower PCP. (Example — a producer places corn under a MAL at $2.10 per bushel, a few months later the PCP is $1.90 per bushel, resulting in the potential of a marketing loan gain of $.20 per bushel on the day the corn loan is released).

If the PCP drops below the county MAL loan rate, producers also have the option to collect a loan deficiency payment (LDP) on a commodity, in lieu of putting the grain under a commodity loan. The LDP calculation is similar to the calculation for marketing loan gains. Grain that is already under a commodity loan is not eligible for a LDP, and a LDP can only be utilized once on the same bushels of grain. There has not been significant LDP eligibility for corn and soybeans since the early 2000’s and we do not anticipate any LDP opportunities for the 2023 corn and soybean crop that is being placed in storage.

Producers must be eligible for USDA farm program benefits and must have submitted an acreage report at the FSA office for 2023 to be eligible for marketing assistance loans on this year’s crop production. Producers must maintain “beneficial interest” in the grain while it is under a MAL. Beneficial interest means that the producer maintains control and title of the commodity while it is under a commodity loan. Producers should contact their local FSA office to release any grain that is under a marketing assistance loan before it is delivered to market (“call before you haul”).

Following are some reasons that farm operators may want to consider utilizing marketing assistance loans (MAL’s) as part of their grain marketing strategies:

Provides short-term credit at relatively low and stable interest rates.

Loan funds can be used to pay post-harvest expenses and land rental payments for the current year or for prepaid crop inputs (seed, fertilizer, etc.) for the following crop year.

Loan funds can also provide the necessary funds to make year-end or January principal and interest payments on term loans and real estate loans.

Allows a producer to receive partial compensation for corn and soybeans during or following the Fall harvest season, when commodity prices are traditionally lower than average.

Allows a producer the flexibility to market the grain in future months after the grain has been placed under a MAL, including forward pricing the grain for future delivery (remember that the commodity loan must be satisfied at the FSA office before the grain is delivered.)

Commodity loans can also be used by livestock producers that plan to feed the corn or other grain, which is followed by just releasing the grain that is under loan as it is fed to livestock.

If commodity prices decline below the county CCC loan rates, the grain that is under loan can be released at the lower price, or producers can collect a loan deficiency payment (LDP).

For further information on USDA marketing assistance loans (MAL’s) and county loan rates for various commodities, farm operators should contact their local FSA office, or go to the following website:

https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs–and–services/price–support/Index

Note — For additional information contact Kent Thiesse, Farm Management Analyst and Sr. Vice President,

MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN.  (Phone — (507) 381-7960)

E-mail — kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com)  Web Site — http://www.minnstarbank.com/

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