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On-Farm Storage Eases Elevator Business

Even though it's a big crop year, and outside piles of grain can be seen in some locations, grain elevator operators are downplaying worries about running out of space. Why? Because a lot more farmers are holding onto grain in storage bins on their own properties this year as prices waver.

With harvest wrapping up in the western Corn Belt, elevators in the northwestern areas are seeing plenty of grain. In south-central Minnesota, elevators saw record bean yields and impressive corn yields. Plenty of storage and the moving of some trains has helped them to stay on top of the grain flow. 

“Every year you see more people building on-farm storage. The expansion of on-farm storage doesn’t always get recognized,” said a grain buyer in south-central Minnesota who hasn’t seen a lot of ground piles in his trade area. However, the elevator he works for had a somewhat overwhelming soybean intake that required them to pile beans outside for two weeks. The elevator is currently holding a tarped corn pile outside.


The West Central Co-op in Adair, Iowa, has also had to pile grain outside this fall. A fast and early harvest combined with record soybean yields forced the elevator to throw together a temporary soybean pile outside to allow members to continue to progress through harvest. 

“We’ve had to take measures that we’ve never had to take in the past 84 years of company history,” said regional manager Brad Woodward.

The company has had to do some shifting to other co-op elevators to make room for more grain in certain areas. Of the 35 million bushels of corn they’ve brought in across the company, between 15% and 18% of that is outside in covered piles, which is pretty standard. In some areas, there is still 30% to 40% left to go.

In Battle Creek, Nebraska, Jesse Weidner of the Farmers Pride Co-op has seen a heavy flow of grain, but has plenty of space available still. “I do believe a lot of farmers are going straight to their bins because this is not a very enticing selling point,” Weidner said.

The co-op hasn’t had to run its dryer once this year, which is a positive change according to Weidner. They’ve taken in 950,000 bushels of corn at the Battle Creek location and 600,000 bushels of soybeans at this point. Those numbers are on track with their normal rate. 

Over on the eastern part of the Corn Belt, harvest is complete and elevators are feeling underwhelmed. In West Mansfield, Ohio, the Heritage Cooperative reported that soybean yields were a bit better than expected, but corn yields were much less impressive. The elevator saw less grain than they normally do this year, which a representative attributes to low yields and farmers having more on-farm storage.

In neighboring Indiana, Custer Grain Company, Inc. is optimistic that if higher prices come along, farmers may be more willing to bring their grain in. The Garrett, Indiana, elevator found beans were “decent” and corn was variable. Most elevators in northeast Indiana aren’t full at this time.

Last year grain elevators were struggling to find railcars, but this year has been painless in terms of grain transportation. 

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