If We Build it, It Will Grow

Is there anything remotely positive we can take from this year’s growing season?

The Summer of 2012: The longest period of prolonged dryness in the United States since Prohibition. That’s the way I’ve chosen to catalog it in my personalized database of weather-related events that have had a transforming effect on my career. I can remember distinctly turning on the TV one night in July and watching what I perceived to be some incredible aerial visuals of the Serengeti in Tanzania. Moments later, I learned the images were of Missouri, the “grasslands” were corn fields, and the “zebras” were dairy cows embarking on an involuntary 40-day fast. As a guy who makes his living on corn availability, this realization was more disturbing than Hannibal Lector going AWOL at the end of The Silence of the Lambs.

What kept me from scaling the largest 2-story building in Albert Lea, Minn.? A couple things in particular: The first, which coincidentally helped resolve the devastating “drought” in the 1920s and early 1930s, was the 21st Amendment. The second was the entertainment value I derived from reading various market experts commenting on the severity of the drought. Who will ever forget the pictures of all the newly orphaned, forlorn-looking, little itsy-bitsy corn cobs completely savaged by this summer’s oppressive heat wave? I kept waiting for looting to breakout in grocery stores across the country with desperate Americans making a run on canned corn. Surprisingly, that never happened despite the gallons of highly flammable sensationalism the media poured onto this storyline on a near nightly basis.

Is there anything remotely positive we can take from this year’s growing season? I think we’ve learned that despite Mother Nature’s best intentions it’s probably best if we (speaking now on behalf of the ethanol plant) continue cooking and fermenting the corn AFTER it’s been harvested and run through the hammermill. The attempt to accelerate that process by scorching the corn crop while still in the field has proven itself to be extremely counter-productive. The only other granule of positivity I can summon from the summer of 2012 is that apparently we’re good now on major droughts for another 100 years. I’ve officially crossed it off my bucket list. Furthermore, I recently learned that trading corn futures has catapulted itself into one of the top ten leading risk factors for a premature death. Assuming recent market volatility trends continue in due time I think securing a place in the top five remains an achievable goal. Am I troubled by this? Absolutely not, I feel like I just won the lottery.

However, if I’ve learned anything over the last 12-years trading corn it’s to expect the unexpected. Every good plan needs an even better plan B. I can’t bet the farm this will never happen again in my lifetime based purely on historical, cyclical weather patterns. Therefore, after much independent study on my part I’ve come to only one full-proof solution that I believe blends the current needs of our country along with containing a bold vision for insuring our future food and fuel security. The Chinese built a wall. We’re going to build a retractable roof…over the entire Midwest. It’s shovel ready, it’s job intensive, and it’s entirely Made in the USA. Go ahead and laugh; however, when you see me at the ribbon cutting ceremony, being led off the stage in hand-cuffs screaming at the guy who invariably stole my idea, remember where you heard it first.

If we build it, it will grow.

Marcus Ludtke graduated from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn., in 2001 and started working for POET Risk Management in May of that year. His primary responsibilities include managing POET’s corn position and market research.




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