ISA Newsroom

Agricultural news farmers want to know.

FOMO, trade, leading indicators worth monitoring, experts advise

Article cover photo
Paul Mussman of AgWest Commodities warns farmers to pay attention to FOMO (the “Fear of Missing Out”) which gets fueled by noise and is difficult to tune out. (Photo: Aaron Putze/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Aaron Putze, APR

How much of Iowa’s corn and soybean crop remains in the field? How will land and equipment values change in 2020? What does “FOMO” mean? How can and why would a farming enterprise increase its working capital?

These were just a few of the questions answered during the annual Farm4Profit Conference sponsored in part by the Iowa Soybean Association held Dec. 6 near Nevada. The gathering of industry representatives and nationally-recognized speakers is dedicated to helping farmers reduce risk, maximize yield and increase profitability.

This was the third consecutive Farm4Proft Conference I’ve attended. And while attendance was down slightly from last year (no doubt a casualty of another lengthy harvest season), speakers brought a wealth of information pertinent to the conversation.

Here’s a sampling of their sentiments and insights:

Mike Naig, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture

  • More than 1 million acres of corn and a few stray soybean fields are left to harvest in the state yet. It’s been a challenging year for farmers and it’s continuing right through to the very end.
  • Every day U.S. trade negotiators are negotiating with Congress is a wasted day. A deal with China is going to take longer than we thought. The good news is we’re still talking. The bad news is we’re still talking.
  • Two challenges facing Iowa: maintaining an adequate workforce and building on water quality successes. “We are, after all, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. We focus a considerable amount of our time on water and soil quality. A lot of states are watching what we’re doing on water. We want to move faster and do things better; we’re going to continue to work on that.”

Paul Mussman, President, AgWest Commodities

  • There’s a big USDA report coming in January and yet 10% of the corn crop as of Dec. 6 is still in the field. That production will be counted as “farmer-owned inventory.”
  • Soybean farmers have a lot of questions. Will we ever ship these large U.S. supplies? Where’s China? Where’s the demand? Answer: We’re moving soybeans. Year-to-date sales are 928 million bushels, up 7.5% from a year ago.
  • Need to move 21.5 million bushels of soybeans weekly; we’re well above that this marketing year. Would it help if China bought more? Yes, but we're selling soybeans.
  • Price of U.S. soybeans to China has been about 35 cents higher than our competitors. U.S. soybeans around 11 cents higher to China come February. That may not sound like a lot, but it adds up to around $231,000 more per vessel to China. And considering China prefers to buy in 3, 6 and 9 ships, that quickly adds up to millions of dollars.
  • Pay attention to FOMO… otherwise known as “Fear of Missing Out!” FOMO gets fueled by noise and is difficult to tune out. “Farm for profit” sounds easy but it’s not when emotions enter the equation and there's a fear of missing out. Financially, FOMO can mean losing out of profit opportunities.
  • Acknowledge that FOMO is messing up your marketing, do something to stop it. You know yourself better than anyone. If noise messes up your plan, work to drown out the noise. Don’t react to hype. Know yourself well enough to do something different. Focus on those things that don’t mess so much with your emotions or psyche.
Scott Steffes of Steffes Group addresses the crowd at the annual Farm4Profit Conference. (Photo: Aaron Putze/Iowa Soybean Association)

Scott Steffes, President, Steffes Group

  • Our most important asset in agriculture is the land.
  • Big differences in the farm economy today versus the 1980s? Land values and interest rates. We had a 50% reduction in land values in the early ‘80s and interest rates of around 17 to 21%.
  • The Internet is your friend as a farmer. Utilize web sites such as,,, and to compare prices.
  • For land and late-model machinery values going forward, don’t read the newspaper or listen to your neighbors. The machinery industry is alive and well. At Steffes Group, we’re selling good quality, late-model machinery. Market is robust and unless something dramatically changes, the used machinery market is going to remain strong in 2020.
  • If you want to know what’s going to happen in the future for land and equipment prices, pay attention to three leading indicators: commodity prices, production and interest rates. The single most important factor that impacts the market on the immediate basis is commodity prices. Most significant risk to land values is rising interest rates.
  • Weather markets change everything. We live in a very big world and you can’t judge market conditions on just what you see in your neighborhood. For example, specialty equipment used for edible soybean production sells well and travels a long distance.

Tanner Winterhof, Sr. VP, Commercial Banker, VisionBank (Ames)

  • Know your working capital. What could you accomplish if you have more working capital?
  • If you need more working capital, how do you get it? Options: raise rates (others get raises for experience); market yourself to receive a bit more for what you do; refinance (stretch out amortizations that make sense); liquidate; Invest in productive assets; reduce expenses and increase margins.
  • If you haven’t used something in two years, consider selling it, renting it or scrapping it. Never underestimate the power of communication to your operation. Poor communication can be costly. Use various methods, share concerns, ask questions to eliminate guesses. Know your banker’s needs; provide accurate information; leverage networks; eliminate the guessing game.

Contact Aaron Putze at

For media inquiries, permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos, please contact Katie James, ISA Public Relations Manager at © 2020 Iowa Soybean Association. All rights reserved.