The Evolution of Nebraska Corn Basis

The Evolution of Nebraska Corn Basis September 6, 2018

In 2018 Nebraska farmers planted 9.7 million acres of corn, the most of any crop in the state. The primary uses for corn in the state are cattle feed and ethanol production. Nebraska currently has 25 ethanol plants producing around 2 billion gallons of ethanol annually. This capacity consumes approximately 40% of Nebraska’s annual corn production.

Ethanol became widely produced in the state after the introduction of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) in 2005, which mandates that a percentage of renewable fuels, mainly ethanol, be blended into transportation fuels. This article explores the changes in corn basis since the implementation of the RFS for five Nebraska locations.

Changes in basis are important to Nebraska corn farmers’ financial well-being. Changes in the average basis value directly impact the farmer’s bottom line. The more negative the average basis value is, the less revenue the farmer receives. Furthermore, more volatile basis values result in greater basis risk.


Basis is the difference between the cash price and the futures price. Basis is essentially the fee that grain buyers charge farmers for handling their grain. Many factors influence basis values, including the local supply and demand, transportation costs, quality of the grain, and the cost of doing business. The basis values used for this analysis were calculated using the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA AMS) Cash Grain Bids report for Nebraska ( WH_GR111). Reports were collected Thursday of each week.

Locations shown in this discussion must have had cash prices consistently reported since 1993, and are no closer than 50 miles from one another. The locations that have met these criteria are Beatrice, Greenwood, Grand Island, Lexington and Superior as shown in Figure 1. To obtain the basis, the cash price for each location was subtracted from the closing price of the nearby futures contract for that day. If there were missing observations, these values were interpolated using a simple average of the previous and subsequent basis values around the gap.

Nebraska map showing locations of ethanol facilities and reported basis locations
Figure 1. Nebraska ethanol facilities and reported basis locations.

Read more, including an analysis and a table of corn basis for selected Nebraska cities, in the Sept. 6, 2018 Cornhusker Economics article.