Will Secor

Economist, Grain and Farm Supply

Will Secor is an economist in CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange research division, focusing on grain, oilseed, farm supply, and biofuel industries. Dr. Secor identifies and analyzes the impacts of strategic challenges, risks and opportunities in these industries, providing strategic insights for internal and external stakeholders. Prior to joining CoBank in 2017, Dr. Secor was a faculty member in Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business delivering professional development programs to agribusiness industry professionals.

Dr. Secor holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Virginia Tech in Agricultural & Applied Economics, and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in Applied Economics.


Many in the agricultural retail industry are transfixed by the rapid development of e-commerce start-ups in the space.

The U.S. economy is still performing well by most key measures. However, consumers, investors, companies and other market participants have become more wary about the near-term future with seemingly good reason.

Agriculture and its farmer cooperatives will face a challenging environment in 2019. Commodity markets have steadied, but resolution of ongoing trade disputes and completion of recently concluded trade negotiations will be critical to restoring optimism for the year ahead.
While the short-term soybean processor outlook is positive with elevated soybean crush margins expected through the spring of 2019, soybean processor profitability will be threatened as new soybean processing plants begin operations.

Trade disputes and large fall crops have been the major drivers of grain markets this year. Both factors have contributed to wider carry and weakened basis.

Help Wanted

August 2018

Part of the rural labor shortage story is best told through statistics and trends. But to gain a more full picture of how labor challenges are affecting businesses, it is best to hear directly from those meeting the challenges head on.

The risk of an escalating trade war is the greatest threat to the U.S. and agricultural economies in the near term. Nearly 70 percent of U.S. agricultural exports are sold to destinations that are under active negotiations or embroiled in trade disputes.

Crop protection and seed segment margins remain compressed for many agricultural retailers and agronomy divisions of combined grain and farm supply companies (the farm supply sector). The stressed farm economy and intense competition have driven gross margins to near- or below-breakeven levels in these segments. Rebate programs are the only mechanism for many in the farm supply sector to eke out a profit.
An impending trade war, continued large global supplies, and negotiations over a new farm bill and tax extenders continue to present challenges for U.S. agriculture and farmer cooperatives. Reduced harvests in Argentina and potential droughts in some parts of the U.S. have steadied grain and oilseed market prices but there remains a potential for significant volatility.
With more dicamba-tolerant acres expected to be planted in 2018, the issues that plagued dicamba in 2017 are likely to persist. Many changes are coming, however, including new labels, university recommendations, and agricultural retailer policies aimed at mitigating the risks associated with applying dicamba.

Grain Elevator Outlook

November 2017
The 2018 crop year is likely to offer much better prospects to elevators than producers. Wide carry in futures markets, weak harvest basis, and low transportation rates should provide opportunities for grain elevators to secure healthy margins. A wet fall in the Eastern Corn Belt and Northern Plains will also improve drying revenue in these areas. Demand growth is critical to reduce large stocks and support appreciating basis.