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Next Generation Farming

Great Plains Storage Dilemma

Grain piles growing due to lack of storage and farmer selling.

My fiancée (who's from California and who is an avid hiker) typically finds western Kansas rather flat due to the complete lack of anything resembling a mountain or a stream. However, this harvest has given her one thing to be impressed about----the growing mountains of milo popping up across the countryside.  


Not long ago we couldn't get the fall crops in. Now, we have a new problem - what to do with the piles and piles of milo growing all over western Kansas.  


Too much wheat Gary Friesen, general manager of Scott Coop in Scott City, Kansas, had some enlightening words on the matter of having too much grain and too little storage. The problem, he says, actually isn't one of having too much milo, but rather too much wheat.


The storage problem stems from the impressive wheat crop we brought in earlier this year. The combination of relatively low wheat prices left producers hanging on to wheat until they saw better prices down the road – which ultimately didn't leave much storage capacity for the phenomenal fall harvest that is still in progress.


On one side of the coin, all the extra bushels are a boon for elevators as they generate revenue from storage. On the flip side, it's been a nightmare trying to figure out where to put the much-larger-than-expected fall crop with all the wheat taking up space in the elevator.

Fiancée Anne Breeden standing near a pile of milo in Scott City, Kansas.  

Just at Scott Co-op,
Gary figures there are about 900,000 to 950,000 bushels of corn piled on the ground. And for milo, the tally is at around 3 million bushels.

That's a lot of milo sitting out in the open with no protection from the elements.


Not all milo that is unprotected will be spoiled, though. As Gary explains, a pile of milo has a natural ability to seal itself by forming a crust on top that will help it shed water.

Still, though, there's pressure for elevators to get the product back into regular storage. Being a federally licensed warehouse, the piles have to be moved back into traditional storage no later than March 31, 2010.


And if push comes to shove and farmers still haven't sold enough wheat and milo to make room for the piles sitting in the outdoors, that puts elevators in a peculiar position of appealing to customers  to sell at prices they might not find favorable.


Gary's not worried, though.


"As a company, we feel pretty comfortably we're going to acquire some ownership," Gary says. The latest rally has already sparked farmers into selling, therefore giving the elevator a little more elbowroom to work with.


And while there's still about 15% of this year's crop still sitting in the field due to the wet weather, Gary's not betting that it will be coming in anytime soon if the damp conditions hold.


On the flip side, if we're really lucky and it snows all through winter, the mountains of milo will give my fiancée and me a new place to ski right here in western Kansas!

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