Farmer Articles

Selling Futures Contracts vs. Hedge to Arrive, Which Grain Marketing Strategy is right for you?

Key Points:

  • Grain marketing requires the correct hedging strategy.
  • Two common hedging tactics include selling futures and hedge to arrive (HTA).
  • HTA lets you set a sale price with an elevator or end-user for delivery later, while selling futures uses an exchange, like the Chicago Board of Trade, to make contracts to sell commodities later at a certain price.
  • When choosing a hedging strategy, consider market conditions, storage availability, personal preferences, crop quality concerns, yield unpredictability, and risk tolerance.


Agricultural producers and farmers encounter a wide range of uncertainties when bringing their products to the market, such as fluctuations in prices, adverse weather conditions, and disruptions in the supply chain.

To mitigate these risks, hedging is an indispensable tool that involves leveraging financial instruments. In this blog post, we will delve into two commonly used hedging strategies in the agricultural sector: selling futures and hedge to arrive.

We will examine each approach’s mechanics, advantages, and disadvantages and provide instances where each strategy might prove useful. By the end of this article, you will have gained a deeper insight into which hedging technique aligns with your circumstances as an agricultural producer.

Understanding Hedging

Hedging is a risk management tactic that can potentially help safeguard against losses in financial markets. In the agricultural industry, hedging usually involves selling futures contracts to secure prices for crops or livestock before they are harvested or sold.

Agricultural producers face several risks that can impact their profitability, such as weather events, market demand changes, and commodity price fluctuations. By using hedging techniques like selling futures contracts, farmers can mitigate some of these risks and work toward receiving a more predictable price for their products.

For instance, a corn farmer could sell corn futures contracts to lock in a price for their crop before it is harvested. If the corn’s price drops before harvest time, the farmer will still receive the higher price agreed upon in the futures contract. On the other hand, if the corn’s price increases, the farmer may miss out on potential added profits but will still have secured a guaranteed sale at an agreed-upon price.

Overall, hedging can be an essential tool for agricultural producers to manage risk and protect their earnings from falling prices.

At Grain Basis, we specialize in providing personalized guidance to farmers who are looking to make informed decisions about their grain marketing strategy. Whether you’re exploring the use of hedge-to-arrive (HTA) contracts or short futures or simply seeking advice on when and how to sell your grain, our team has the knowledge and experience needed to help.

Hedge to Arrive Contracts

Hedge to Arrive (HTA) is a marketing strategy utilized in the agricultural sector, where farmers set a price for their crops on a future date, even before planting or harvesting. The approach enables them to secure a fixed selling price for their crop and mitigate the hazards of erratic market prices. Farmers frequently employ HTA contracts to guarantee sales and regulate their financial risks.

Pros of Hedge to Arrive:

  • Basis Improvements: Using a hedge to arrive allows producers to make a cash sale in two pieces, pricing futures (HTA) and setting basis. Futures and basis are not typically at their best prices at the same time. By turning this into two marketing decisions, farmers can often take advantage of these markets at different times.
  • Price certainty: Hedge to Arrive provides producers with a clear understanding of the price they will receive for their commodity, reducing uncertainty and allowing for better financial planning.
  • Risk management: By hedging, producers can manage price risk and protect themselves against potential losses due to market fluctuations.
  • Lock in prices: Producers can lock in a price before harvest or production, reducing the impact of market volatility on their bottom line.
  • No margin calls: Since the contract is made between the elevator or end-user, there are often no margin calls associated with writing an HTA contract.

Cons of Hedge to Arrive:

  • Limited upside potential: While hedge to arrive reduces downside risk, it also limits the potential for profit if the price of the commodity increases beyond the hedged price.
  • Delivery responsibility: Producers are still responsible for delivering the commodity, regardless of the price. This means that if costs increase during production or delivery, it could eat into profits.
  • Fees: Since an elevator or end user is taking the margin risk for a producer, there are often times fees associated with writing HTA. These fees can be costly depending on the amount of time between making the sale and the proposed delivery.

Examples of when a hedge to arrive contract might be appropriate

A hedge-to-arrive (HTA) contract can be appropriate for farmers who want to lock in a future price for their crops without immediately delivering them to the cash market. Some examples of when an HTA contract might be appropriate include:

  • When the farmer expects a good harvest but is uncertain about future prices.
  • When the farmer wants to avoid storage costs by selling the crop before harvest.
  • When the farmer wants to reduce risk by locking in a price for a portion of their expected crop.

HTA contracts can also be useful for grain elevators and other buyers who want to secure a supply of crops at a known price without taking immediate delivery.

Selling Futures Contracts

Selling futures is a straightforward strategy that involves entering into a contract to sell a commodity at an agreed-upon price at some point in the future. This allows traders to lock in a price for their goods, protecting them from future price drops. One advantage of selling futures is that it provides certainty and stability in an otherwise uncertain market. This can be particularly useful for producers who need to budget for their costs and revenues well in advance of their harvest or production cycles. However, they may miss out on potential profits if they produce more than they contracted for or if market prices rise significantly before their contracts expire.

Pros of Short Futures:

  • Basis Flexibility: Just like with an HTA, you can make a separate marketing decision on basis verse futures price. Since this is not done using an elevator or end user, you can set the basis to deliver to any location for physical delivery. This often leads to being the biggest advantage of using short futures positions.
  • Ability to lift a position: Short futures are able to be traded in and out of if necessary in the event of crop failure or to take advantage of market movements.
  • Hedge against price risk: Short futures contracts can provide a hedge against price risk, protecting producers from potential losses due to market fluctuations.

Cons of Short Futures:

  • Margin or collateral required: Producers must post margin or collateral to enter into short futures contracts, which can impact cash flow and require additional capital.
  • Potential for loss: If the price of the commodity increases beyond the hedged price, producers will have to pay the difference to settle the futures contract, potentially resulting in a loss. Grain Basis recommends marrying short futures positions up with physical bushels on the farm to allow them to appreciate in a rising market to offset a loss on the brokerage position.
  • Examples of when selling futures contracts might be appropriate

  • In a year where large amounts of basis appreciation is expected but the producer in unsure at what market this will happen.
  • Selling futures contracts can be appropriate for several reasons, including hedging, speculation, arbitrage, and risk management.
  • Farmers or producers of a commodity can sell futures contracts to lock in prices and protect themselves against price fluctuations.
  • Speculators can sell futures contracts if they believe that the price of a commodity will fall in the future to profit from the price decline.
  • Arbitrageurs can sell high-priced futures contracts and buy low-priced cash commodities to make profits on the price difference.
  • Selling futures contracts can also be used as part of an overall risk management strategy to mitigate potential losses in other investments or trades.

Key Differences Between the Two Methods

Here are the main points to consider when comparing hedge-to-arrive (HTA) contracts and selling futures contracts:

  • HTA contracts allow farmers to set a future price for their crop while selling futures contracts require farmers to sell their crop at the time of contract execution.
  • HTA contracts offer more flexibility in terms of delivery dates and payment, whereas selling futures contracts have a fixed delivery date and price.
  • The pricing structure for HTA contracts is typically based on local cash prices, while selling futures contracts are priced based on global commodity markets.
  • Short futures positions offer a greater opportunity to capture large basis moves.

When deciding which method to use, it’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each:

HTA Contracts:

  • Advantages: Flexibility in terms of delivery dates, ability to lock in a price before harvest, protection against price volatility
  • Disadvantages: Potential limitation on profits if market prices increase, the trust required in buyer fulfilling contract obligations

Selling Futures Contracts:

  • Advantages: Guaranteed sale at a specific price, no need to find a buyer, potential to take advantage of market price increases before the delivery date
  • Disadvantages: Must deliver crops on the specified delivery date with limited flexibility in terms of pricing and delivery if the position is not exited prior to delivery

Factors that should be taken into account when choosing between these methods include market conditions, crop quality concerns, or yield uncertainty favoring an HTA contract providing more flexibility in delivery logistics. Risk tolerance is also important, as those with lower risk tolerance might prefer selling futures contracts for guaranteed prices.

The Role of Hedge to Arrive and Short Futures in Grain Marketing

Grain marketing is a crucial component of the agricultural industry, involving the buying and selling grains like wheat, corn, and soybeans to ensure fair prices for farmers and meet consumer demand.

One popular approach to grain marketing is hedging, which seeks to minimize risks associated with price fluctuations by securing a future price for grain sales. This can be achieved through short futures or hedge-to-arrive (HTA) contracts.

Short futures involve selling a futures contract for a specific amount of grain at a predetermined price, providing protection against potential price drops while potentially limiting profits if prices rise.

HTA contracts offer more flexibility, allowing farmers to choose a futures price, a delivery location, and a grade closer to harvest time while still having some protection against price drops.

The choice between short futures and HTA contracts depends on factors such as market conditions, storage availability, and personal preferences. Farmers should stay informed about market trends by monitoring commodity prices and industry news updates and seeking advice from trusted advisors or consultants.

Crop quality management and transportation logistics are important aspects of successful grain marketing. Farmers must ensure their crops meet certain standards before they can be sold on the market, while transportation plays a critical role in getting crops from farms to buyers efficiently.

Overall, effective grain marketing requires careful planning, attention to detail, and knowledge about strategies such as hedging with short futures or HTA contracts. By considering these factors, farmers can optimize their profits while contributing to the stability of the agricultural industry.

Fees Associated with Hedge to Arrive and Short Futures

As for using hedge-to-arrive (HTA) contracts or short futures in grain marketing, fees may be involved depending on factors like the brokerage firm and contract terms. For the futures markets, for instance, some firms might charge a commission fee for executing these contracts, while others could impose additional fees for services like storage or delivery. Farmers must carefully scrutinize the HTA or short future contract terms and conditions before signing to comprehend related costs.

Can a farmer sell my grain before the delivery date specified in either type of contract?

No, selling your grain before the delivery date specified in an HTA contract or short future is typically not allowed. These types of contracts are binding agreements to deliver a certain amount of grain at a specific price and time, and deviating from those terms can result in penalties or legal consequences.

However, some contracts may include early delivery or cancellation provisions with proper notice and agreement between both parties involved. It’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions of any contract before signing to understand all restrictions and options available.


Hedge-to-arrive (HTA) contracts and selling futures contracts are important hedging tools for agricultural producers. HTA contracts provide price certainty, risk management, and delivery date and payment flexibility. Selling futures contracts guarantees sales at a specific price level and potential profits if market prices increase before delivery.

When choosing between these methods, it’s crucial to consider market conditions, crop quality concerns, yield uncertainty, and risk tolerance. Ultimately, the decision should align with the producer’s objectives and overall risk management strategy.

In conclusion, hedging is essential for managing risk in agricultural production. Producers can make informed decisions that optimize profitability and safeguard earnings by understanding the mechanics’ basis risk and the advantages of each approach.