MFA Rail Facility grain elevator at Hamilton, Mo

The MFA Rail Facility grain elevator at Hamilton, Mo., uses a rail line and technology to keep things moving along during harvest season.

HAMILTON, Mo. — Harvest is an exciting time on the farm, bringing the long-anticipated results and the paycheck from the year’s work growing crops. But it can also be a busy and challenging time, and this year there are plenty of obstacles slowing down harvest progress.

Farmers and grain elevators are doing what they can to keep things moving.

In Caldwell County, Mo., the MFA Rail Facility grain elevator rises above surrounding fields and vehicles on U.S. Highway 36. Jason Boeshore is the grain merchandiser for the elevator.

He says ongoing flooding has been an obstacle for harvest and getting crops to the grain elevator.

“There’s been constant flooding on (Highway) 65,” he says. “Norborne, they got flooded out pretty bad.”

After briefly reopening, Highway 65 in Carroll County closed again due to floodwaters rising, cutting off a main avenue of transportation for farmers.

In addition to preventing fields from being planted, the flooding and overall wet spring also delayed planting, and this fall the crops have been slow to mature.

Speaking on Oct. 18, Boeshore says his area was still “on the front end” of harvest.

“We’re way behind,” he says. “Guys are usually into soybeans by now. We’re a week, maybe two weeks (behind the normal schedule).”

Harvest field photo

Farmers and grain elevators are doing what they can to keep grain moving as quickly as possible during harvest season. 

Like many elevators, Boeshore says the MFA Rail Facility works to keep grain moving during harvest so farmers’ wait time is minimal while unloading. One way they do that is by hiring extra seasonal workers, although he says that can be a challenge. Boeshore says they contract with a company in nearby Chillicothe to help meet their labor needs.

“Finding people is hard, and keeping people is hard,” he says.

As evidenced by the grain elevator’s name, the facility has a Union Pacific railroad spur that allows it to move grain away quickly. The 110-car trains can move a lot of corn in a hurry, Boeshore says.

“That’s 430,000 bushels of corn, and we can load in about a day,” he says. “So we’re basically never full.”

The elevator is also relatively new, and technology helps it and other modern elevators be efficient during the busy times. The software does mean the elevator can operate with fewer workers, although it requires highly skilled workers. Boeshore says it helps make weighing and measuring precise and quick, and helps them track the grain movement.

“We know exactly how many bushels,” he says. “It’s better than the old chain and pulley system where you just had to guess where the grain was.”

Bob Garino, state statistician for the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service in Missouri, says the slow-maturing crops have been a challenge.

On the upside, he says the September weather helped the soybeans develop.

“The good thing was for soybeans we had that nice, warm September,” he says.

Despite the delays, a week or two of good weather could make a big difference, as evidenced by the weekly crop progress reports Garino helps put together. He says they have contacts at FSA county offices and university Extension offices to help put those reports together, and those sources are in contact with farmers.

“They can harvest them pretty quickly now,” he says. “It’s that rain that slows everything up.”

Garino says one of the few upsides to the flooding could be less grain filling up elevators and storage space.

“This year we have fewer acres, so elevators getting full is less of an issue this year,” he says.

Dylan Rosier, who farms in Holt County near Mound City, Mo., says he has not been directly affected by flooding damage, but he knows it has impacted his neighbors and community.

“I know we’ve got roads that are still washed out,” he says. “There have been roads that the water went back over and they’re closed.”

After a year of flooding in northwest Missouri and southwest Iowa, the waters have been on the rise again, Rosier says, referencing releases from the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, S.D.

“The water the last couple weeks has come back up,” he says.

Rosier, who serves on the Missouri Corn Growers Association board, says he has mostly been putting crops into grain bins, although he knows for some area farmers that has been a problem.

“One operation, all their grain storage was in the bottom,” he says. “They couldn’t hardly pick it because the water was over the road, so they couldn’t dry it down or get it to their bins.”

Rosier says there was also a concern for farmers who had grain contracts at an area elevator that had to close for a while, but he says the elevator is supposed to open back up in November.

Overall, it’s been a trying year, and some harvest challenges have added to that. Rosier summed up the thoughts of a lot of farmers, even as he expressed optimism for 2020.

“We’re ready for 2019 to be over,” he says.

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