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More reasons why farmers have so little interest in futures markets

David J. Pannell, Getu Hailu, Alfons Weersink, Amanda Burt


The use by farmers of futures contracts and other hedging instruments has been observed to be low in many situations, and this has sometimes seemed to be considered surprising or even mysterious. We propose that it is, in fact, readily understandable and consistent with rational decision making. Standard models of the decision about optimal hedging show that it is negatively related to basis risk, to quantity risk, and to transaction costs. Farmers who have less uncertainty about prices and those with a diversified portfolio of investments have lower optimal levels of hedging. If a farmer has optimistic price expectations relative to the futures market, the incentive to hedge can be greatly reduced. And finally, farmers who have low levels of risk aversion have little to gain from hedging in terms of risk reduction, in that the certainty‐equivalent payoff at their optimal hedge may be little different than the certainty equivalent under zero hedging. These reasons are additional to the argument of Simmons (2002) who showed that, if capital markets are efficient, farmers can manage their risk exposure through adjusting their leverage, obviating the need for hedging instruments.

Publication: Agricultural Economics
Date: January, 2008

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