Art of Grain Merchandising

Sherry Lorton

Sherry joined WCC in 1978 where she learned the skills of merchandising by working alongside some of the best merchants in the business. She has since authored/coauthored several books, including "The Art of Grain Merchandising", and developed an extensive line of educational programs and materials on grain merchandising for the industry, including the only Grain Certification Course in the industry.

Recent Posts

No One Wants To Be A Mushroom

Posted by Sherry Lorton

Jul 26, 2016 10:18:51 AM

In our last Grain Accounting class the discussion turned to the importance of having a good banking relationship. A lender in the meeting made the comment “just don’t treat me like a mushroom.” With a lot of puzzled looks staring back at him he went on to explain, “you know … keep me in the dark and shovel on the manure.”

While his comment got a good chuckle from the group it also rang with a lot of truth. It hit home not just with the lenders but all who are a part of the grain merchandising team … the merchandiser, the accountant, the lender and upper management. Sometimes it feels like you’re being left in the dark about what’s going on with the numbers.

Maintaining an open line of communication is difficult in many businesses but it can be especially so in a grain-focused basis trading operation. The challenge is that the different sectors of the operation seem to hold different pieces of the puzzle. Until all pieces are put together no one really has a clear view of what the picture looks like. Let me give you a few examples:
Read More

Topics: Mark-to-Market

Preparing for the Grain Merchandising Inevitable: Part 3

Posted by Sherry Lorton

Feb 3, 2015 11:00:00 AM

A Plan in the Making

Read More

Preparing for the Grain Merchandising Inevitable: Part 2

Posted by Sherry Lorton

Jan 27, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Planning with a Purpose

Read More

Preparing for the Grain Merchandising Inevitable: Part 1

Posted by Sherry Lorton

Jan 20, 2015 11:00:00 AM

It is winter and the grain elevator is abuzz with activity . . . you have old crop bushels to empty out of the bin, grain to move off the farm, and for those involved in agronomy, chemicals, seed and fertilizer are on the horizon as well. The last thing that you are thinking about at this point is grain merchandising for next year’s crop.

Read More

Using the Profit Talk In Your Grain Origination Program

Posted by Sherry Lorton

Dec 2, 2014 11:00:00 AM

The typical discussion that occurs with a farmer at the elevator or coffee shop centers a lot around price.

Read More

10 Ways for Grain Merchandisers to Make Better Forward Sales

Posted by Sherry Lorton

Nov 18, 2014 11:00:00 AM

One of the greatest weapons in a grain merchandiser's arsenal can be making deferred basis sales. It can be a great way to reduce basis risk, reduce margin call/cash flow risk, and set the stage for some big margin opportunities. As grain merchandisers, we’re good at selling what we own but it's convincing users of the opportunities to lock in future needs that elevators struggle with most. How do we learn to be a better seller?

Read More

Topics: Grain Merchandising

Why the Best Accountants in the Grain Business Think Like a Merchandiser

Posted by Sherry Lorton

Oct 28, 2014 11:00:00 AM

As the Controller, CFO or CPA responsible for producing financial statements for your company’s grain division, do you sometimes feel that you are talking a different language than those around you?  Are there times when others disagree with the numbers even though you know everything is correct?  Can you discern why the numbers look the way they do from a merchandising perspective?  Are you as confident as you would like to be discussing the financial statement with the owner, grain manager, Board of Directors or lender and in terms they understand? 

Don’t feel alone.  The truth is, the complexity of today’s grain businesses require you and your grain accounting team not only to be skilled in the practices of accounting, but to also have a detailed working knowledge of basis trading, spreads and market values-- concepts and practices never taught in your accounting classes.

Read More

Topics: Mark-to-Market

5 Disciplines of Grain Merchandising that Stand the Test of Time

Posted by Sherry Lorton

Jul 29, 2014 11:51:00 AM

When you see what appear to be good, well-established, long-standing companies suddenly fall apart it makes you wonder.  How do good businesses go bad?  When you take a close look at companies that get into trouble, there tends to be a common denominator that leads to their demise… they stray from the core disciplines of sound business management.  In simpler terms:  they get distracted and forget to follow the rules. 

The grain business is no exception to distraction.  The commodity markets by nature attract a lot of noise that can steer even the soundest of companies off course.  It takes a constant dedication to keep on a disciplined track, especially when there is a lot of hype over the newest, latest and greatest idea.  But, as it has been proven time and time again, those that stay focused on the core disciplines of their business stand strong through good times and bad.

Read More

Topics: Grain Merchandising

The Forgotten Farm Marketing Alternative

Posted by Sherry Lorton

Jul 15, 2014 11:01:07 AM

The emotions of farmers have run the gamut these last two months as they sat in disbelief watching new crop prices plummet.  For many it was a feeling of total helplessness.  “What could I have done differently?” 

These circumstances serve as a good reminder that there is a farm marketing alternative available to farmers that can take away the downside risk – that being the Minimum Price Contract.  With this contract, the farmer sets a floor price on his grain so he never takes less than the stated price but remains open to the possibility of more if prices increase. 

Read More

Topics: Farmer Marketing

3 Myths of Basis In Farm Marketing

Posted by Sherry Lorton

Jun 10, 2014 11:00:00 AM

I want to initiate a Public Relations Campaign within the farming community to get BASIS the respect and understanding it deserves.

Read More