Grain trucks wait their turns at elevator

Grain trucks wait their turns at Danvers Farmers Elevator Company in McLean County, Ill. A late harvest complicated by frigid temperatures and propane shortages has taxed some elevators in the Corn Belt.

A late harvest, harsh weather and difficulty drying grain is resulting in long lines at some elevators this fall.

“Lines, in general, have been a thing of the past until this year,” said Joe Daniels of Danvers Farmers Elevator Company in Danvers, Illinois. “But this moisture in the corn, combined with the temperatures we’re experiencing, has led to a little bit of a line. But it’s been smooth sailing, for the most part, at this elevator.”

An early cold snap that plunged temperatures into the single digits and dumped snow across a broad swath of the Corn Belt has left farmers scrambling to get their crops out of the field and in selling condition.

Justin Robbins, who farms in Greene County, in western Iowa, pushed hard to get his crops harvested earlier than some. Because of that, he avoided many problems. Robbins wrapped up harvest early in November.

“The lines around here are starting to get a little longer during the days. The co-ops just don’t have the storage right now for the amount of wet grain,” he said. “And the lack of LP available right now is forcing a lot of people to keep plugging away, and take it to the co-op when they can. There’s nothing available around here. For guys wanting to run their own dryers, there’s just very little LP.”

Some elevators have been forced to reduce the hours they accept grain, Robbins and other said.

Nathan Montgomery at Monica Elevator Company in Princeville, Illinois, said grain trucks have been backed up on some days.

“We’ve had a few lines here and there,” he said. “It’s all coming in at once, or at a trickle. The past week, with (reduced) availability of gas and colder temps, that’s caused some issues. Once it warms back up and we get a couple propane deliveries, we’ll be good to go.”

Many farmers and elevators are being forced to deal with grain at extremely high moisture levels. The shortage of propane has complicated the problem.

“Most years past we typically take corn in at 22% or below,” Daniels said. “Last Thursday and Friday we had ranges anywhere from 17% to 32% moisture. It’s a little bit of a challenge to put those bushels through our dryers. (Grain) at 22% or below dries more quickly than 28 or 29 and up. With the cold temperatures, the dryers are running at about half the pace than they typically could.”

Robbins said he is keeping about 100,000 bushels of corn in grain bins on his farm. He believes pushing to get the crop harvested has helped him get it dried. But it’s been a slow process because of the propane shortage.

“We put it in at 17 to 19 (percent moisture), and we’re just blowing air on it,” he said.

He recalled that a few years ago in his area some farmers abandoned the idea of harvesting wet grain in the fall.

“We had some farmers here about four years ago who left half of it standing,” Robbin said. “They didn’t combine it until spring. They lost about 6%, but it was cheaper than trying to dry it in the bin.”

Robbins forced his combine through snow-covered fields, which led to some extra work, as he had to clean some snow from his equipment.

“I’m glad that we plugged away as hard as we did,” he said. “I got snowed out and went about an hour too long. I still think it was well worth the effort to keep going.”

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Nat Williams is Southern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.