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Why Were Grain Prices So High in 1988 and Other Market Mysteries

Sometimes you need to figure out something that was going on in the grain or livestock markets in the past and Wikipedia just does not cut it. For those lacking as much seniority as I have, it might be a mystery why grain prices were so high in 1988. Well, farmdoc to the rescue. I am incredibly pleased to announce that the complete archive of weekly Grain and Livestock Market Outlook Newsletters from the University of Illinois is now online back to 1975!

I think you will find that this archive is a treasure trove for researchers as well as market analysts. As far as I know, there is no other resource like this anywhere else in the world. The USDA provides an incredible database of their historical archive of WASDE reports found here: . These reports have some narrative material at the beginning, but it is not really a discussion of what was going on in the market at that time.

You can now find a nearly unbroken history of what I like to call the “market narrative” in grain markets, and livestock markets to a lesser extent, at farmdoc and farmdoc daily:

1975-2011 here

2011-2021 here

Both archives are also easily found through the menus at each site. Just look for the “Early farmdoc Publications” menu under “Publications” at farmdoc and the “Weekly Outlook” menu under “Series” at farmdoc daily. There is really nothing else like it anywhere in the world!

I realized the need for this archive when a grad student asked me a few years ago why grain prices were so high in 1988. I was surprised how hard it was to dig out material on the web about the huge drought that occurred that year, how it evolved, and then impacted grain markets. I realized this is not something that everyone just carries around with them in their head. Easy peazy now. Just go to 1988 in the archive and begin scanning the newsletter titles for the year. For example, the June 22, 1988 newsletter authored by Darrel Good is titled “The Heat Goes On”

Speaking of Darrel. This archive would not have been possible without the boxes he kept of virtually the entire history of the University of Illinois weekly outlooks, even before he began writing them in the late 70s. So, a big hat tip to Darrel for keeping hard copies of the newsletters and then willing them to me when he retired. I also want to thank Lee Bynum of the farmdoc staff who worked tirelessly with me to bring this archive project to completion.

So, market nerds like myself rejoice! There is now a nearly 50-year history of grain and livestock market news and dynamics available at farmdoc. Happy reading.

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