My lifelong fascination with commodity markets started as a young boy tagging along with my father to check the latest prices from ‘Chicago’ at our local grain elevator. I have had the good fortune of being able to continue research on these ever changing markets for my entire professional career. Specific research interests include price analysis and forecasting, forecast evaluation, performance of market advisory services, agricultural risk management, commodity market efficiency, and the behavior and role of speculators in commodity markets. My focus has always been on research that (hopefully) addresses timely and relevant questions of broad interest to market participants, regulators, and policymakers. A notable example is AgMAS, a long-term research project to provide unbiased and rigorous performance evaluations of agricultural market advisory services. The research results have been widely-used by U.S. farmers in deciding whether to subscribe to an advisory service and have also provided the foundation for a new generation of grain market ‘averaging’ contracts.
This section includes links to my most recent research publications and presentations. Many of my conference papers can be found at the AgEcon Search and NCCC-134 websites. You can also track citations to my research articles at this personalized Google Scholar page.
Recently Published Journal Articles (View All Articles)
Commodity Index Investment and Food Prices:
Does the "Masters Hypothesis" Explain Recent Price Spikes? Agricultural Economics 44(2013):29-41.
Bubbles in Food Commodity Markets: Four Decades of Evidence Journal of International Money and Finance (2013):1-27.
When Do the USDA Forecasters Make Mistakes? Applied Economics 45(2013):5086-5103.
Measuring Index Investment in Commodity Futures Markets The Energy Journal 34(2013):105-127.
Do Big Crops Get Bigger and Small Crops Get Smaller? Further Evidence on Smoothing in USDA Crop Production Forecasts Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics 45(2013):95-107.
Returns to Individual Traders in Agricultural Futures Markets: Skill or Luck? Applied Economics 45(2013):3650-3666.
How Market Efficiency and the Theory of Storage Link Corn and Ethanol Markets Energy Economics 34(2012):2157–2166.
A Reappraisal of Investing in Commodity Futures Markets Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 34(2012):515–530.
Composite and Outlook Forecast Accuracy Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics 37(2012):228–246.
Financialization and Structural Change in Commodity Futures Markets Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics 44(2012):371–396.
Testing the Masters Hypothesis in Commodity Futures Markets Energy Economics 34(2012):256–269.
Forthcoming Journal Articles
The Behavior of Bid-Ask Spreads in the Electronically Traded Corn Futures Market American Journal of Agricultural Economics
Price Explosiveness, Index Traders, and Grain Futures Prices (November 2013)
The Cost of Post-Harvest Forward Contracting in Corn and Soybeans (July 2013)
Do Index Traders Drive Commodity Futures Prices? New Evidence from Daily Position Data (June 2013)
Information Transmission between Livestock Futures and Expert Price Forecasts (June 2013)
Commodity Storage under Backwardation: Does the Working Curve Still Work? (March 2013)
Forecast Performance of WASDE Price Projections for Corn, Soybeans, and Wheat (January 2013)
The Cost of Forward Contracting Corn and Soybeans in Volatile Markets (December 2012)
Futures Market Failure? (October 2012)
Behavioral Biases in Grain Marketing: Evidence from Market Advisory Service Recommendations (January 2009)
How to Hedge Selectively: A Bayesian Approach (November 2008)
The Profitability of Technical Trading Rules in US Futures Markets:A Data Mining Free Test (May 2005)
Does the Market Anticipate Smoothing in USDA Crop Production Forecasts? (August 2004)
Heterogeneity in Economic Behavior (May 2004)
farmdoc Publication Series
Marketing & Outlook Briefs (View Archived Publications)
USDA Corn and Soybean Acreage Estimates and Yield Forecasts: Dispelling Myths and Misunderstandings (Mar 2011)
Agricultural Policy Briefs (View Archived Publications)
Could a Variable Ethanol Blenders' Tax Credit Work? (Oct 2010)
Marketing & Outlook Research Reports (View Archived Publications)
Poor Convergence Performance of CBOT Corn, Soybean and Wheat Futures Contracts: Causes and Solutions (Mar 2009)
AgMAS Reports (View Archived Publications)
Report 2012-02: The Pricing Performance of Market Advisory Services in Cattle Over 1995-2004 (June 2012)
Report 2012-01: The Pricing Performance of Market Advisory Services in Hogs Over 1995-2004 (June 2012)
Bubbles, Food Prices, and Speculation: Evidence from the CFTC’s Daily Large Trader Data Files (May 2013) NBER Working paper No. 19065
What We’ve Learned About Speculation (Oct 2012) Open Markets blog post
Blaming Energy Futures for Energy’s Current Costs (May 2012) Op-Ed in The Washington Times
The Impact of Index and Swap Funds on Commodity Futures Markets: Preliminary Results (Jun 2010) OECD Working Paper
The Impact of Index and Swap Funds in Commodity Futures Markets (Jun 2010) OECD Technical Report
Index Funds and Commodity Prices... Here We Go Again (Jul 2009) Guest blog post at Econbrowser
Comments on Permanent Senate Subcommittee on Investigations Report "Excessive Speculation in the Wheat Market" (Jul 2009)
Market Instability in a New Era of Corn, Soybean, and Wheat Prices (Apr 2009)
Choices, 1st Quarter 2009, 24(1)
The Misadventures of Mr. Masters: Act II (Sep 2008)
Guest blog post at Econbrowser
Futures Imperfect (Jul 2008)
Op-Ed in the New York Times
Is Speculation by Long-Only Index Funds Harmful to Commodity Markets? (Jul 2008)
Testimony Prepared for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture
Recent Convergence Performance of CBOT Corn, Soybean, and Wheat Futures Contracts (Jul 2008)
Choices, 2nd Quarter 2008, 23(2)
Recent Delivery Performance of CBOT Corn, Soybean, and Wheat Futures Contracts (Apr 2008)
Statement to the CFTC Agricultural Forum
Commodity Arbitrage (Apr 2008)
Guest blog post at Econbrowser
The Performance of Chicago Board of Trade Corn, Soybean, and Wheat Futures Contracts after Recent Changes in Speculative Limits (May 2007)
Presentations and Interviews
Managing Risk in Today’s Markets
Plenary Panel Presentation at the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum (Feb 2013)
(Irwin remarks start about the 38:00 minute mark) Slides that accompany the remarks found here.
Futures Markets and Speculation: Lessons from the Past for Today (Oct 2012)
Chancellor’s Illinois Lecture
How Agricultural Economics Saved Futures Markets: An Untold Story of Leadership (Oct 2011)
William K. Deal Leadership Lecture, Iowa State University
Surveillance Midday (April 2011)
Interview with Tom Keene on Bloomberg Television
Feud Over Food Futures (Jan 2011)
Interview on CNBC
Feeding Frenzy (Jan 2011)
Interview on the BBC Radio 4 Program: "Face The Facts"
Devil or Angel: The Role of Speculation in the Recent Commodity Price Boom (Nov 2008)
Farrell Distinguished Public Policy Lecture, Department of Food, Agricultural, and Resource Economics, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada
300 Bushels in Every Field? The Rising Debate about Corn Trend Yields (Apr 2008)
34th James C. Snyder Lecture to the Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University
What I Wish I Knew 20 Years Ago about Writing and Submitting Journal Articles (Jul 2007)
Organized symposium presentation at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Agricultural Economics Association. The session was entitled, " Guidelines on Writing and Submitting Journal Articles."
Writing Competitive, Outstanding Proposals (Jul 2005)
Organized Symposium Presentation at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the American Agricultural Economics Association. The session was entitled, "Preparing Social Science Research Proposals: Competing with Small Fish in a Big Pond, or Small Fish in a Small Pond?"