grain elevator at Marshall MO

This grain elevator at Marshall added a rail loop to help keep grain moving quickly during harvest time. Department of Ag officials say many grain elevators have expanded their grain handling capacities to improve speed at harvest time. 

As farmers take to the fields for harvest, getting the grain to the elevator and unloaded in a timely manner is key. Chris Klenklen says grain elevators recognize the importance of this for farmers.

Klenklen, who is the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s division director for grain inspection and warehouse, says many grain elevators have invested in their facilities, particularly as yields have trended upward, this year’s drought notwithstanding.

“One thing that Missouri grain elevators have improved over the last 10 years is the ability to unload trucks,” he says. “Farmers are not interested in having those trucks sit in line. We have greatly increased the ability to unload trucks.”

Some of these improvements include new grain legs to handle more bushels and a second set of scales to keep the increased handling capacity busy.

“It’s quicker flow, if there’s a second set of scales,” Klenklen says. “If you put in a great big grain leg, you want to keep it full.”

Grain elevators have seen the increasing need to handle more bushels quicker.

“This year may be an exception, but we’ve seen increasing yields,” he says.

Klenklen says about a dozen grain elevators have rail lines to help keep the grain moving and clear space for new arriving crops. The Central Missouri Agri Service grain elevator in Marshall recently added a railroad loop at their facility, and MFA opened its Hamilton Rail facility in northwest Missouri in 2017.

Klenklen says trains give elevators the ability to move as much as 450,000 bushels at a time.

“They’ve made the investment in the grain leg, so they want to keep it busy,” he says. “(Having a rail line) has been very helpful.”

There have also been investments in public and private ports, which Klenklen says are crucial for moving grain in Missouri.

“I think we’re blessed,” he says. “We have two of the largest rivers in the world that run along and through our state. The St. Louis port is one of the busiest. It’s situated south of the lock and damns, and it sits in an area that’s ice-free in the winter.”

Good grain elevators along the rivers can make a big difference for farmers, Klenklen says. A grain elevator at Canton, along the Mississippi River, upgraded its facilities a few years ago, making things work better for farmers in the area.

“They have really made it a lot better to get grain to the river,” he says.

Klenklen says while the Mississippi is well known for its agricultural traffic, several ports along the Missouri River have expanded their grain handling operations in recent years.

“The Missouri River is becoming a bigger player,” he says.

The two major rivers have “two-way traffic,” Klenklen says, carrying grain down the rivers to markets around the world, but also bringing fertilizers and crop input products up the rivers to farmers.

As for this harvest season, Klenklen says it has seemed like a pretty normal year for getting grain to market.

“I think it’s going to be a fairly typical year with the grain movement,” he says, “with the exception of the lower prices, some people might hold onto some of the crop longer. I think farmers will sit on the sidelines and wait and see what happens (with prices and trade negotiations). Of course, some grain has already been marketed.”

Ben Herrold is Missouri field editor, writing for Missouri Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.