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Grain storage, transportation issues could pose challenge

Charles Ring has on-farm storage capacity for about two-thirds of his anticipated corn harvest, but finding a good place to hold the rest or a timely means of moving it into market channels could pose a challenge.

Ring, who farms near Stinton, in San Patricio County, Texas, expects corn production in the Coastal Bend to tax elevator and transportation capabilities. Others agree.

“We’re looking at a big crop,” says David Gibson, Executive director of the Texas Corn Producers Board. “Elevators may be swamped,” he says. “Some grain may go on the ground, so farmers need to be aware of requirements for outside storage.”

He said a shortage of trucks and rail cars also could cause harvest-time bottlenecks. “It’s not just corn that will stretch storage and transportation,” Gibson says. “We have large wheat and grain sorghum crops coming off, too.”

Gibson says Texas farmers planted from 2.1 to 2.2 million acres of corn this year. That compares to a 1.6-million acre crop in 2006.

Ring estimated harvest would begin by early July. Good yield potential and increased acreage, he says, means a busy harvest season. Harvest costs will be up too. “Higher fuel rates mean a higher cost for harvest and transportation,” Ring says.

Early harvest will be critical.

“I have an extra hopper-bottom trailer to help move my grain into my own facility,” he says. “We need to get this crop out as soon as possible. I have about 120 rail cars of storage on my farm. It looks now like I may need 180 cars worth of storage. But it’s a nice problem to have.”

Ring says farmers in the Coastal Bend got off to a good start at planting with a full soil moisture profile. “It turned a bit dry until mid May and corn almost began to suffer a little before we got rain. But we had no major hot spells. Now the corn looks good and our grain sorghum looks tremendous.”

Ring says he’ll begin spraying Roundup over grain sorghum by late June to “speed up harvest. That could be critical.”

He says poor crops the last two years have left elevators empty. “That will change. The volume of grain we expect will cause an overflow.”

Nueces County Extension agent Harvey Buehring says grain elevator and storage capacity has diminished significantly during the past 10 years in Nueces as well as surrounding counties in the Coastal Bend area. “Older and less efficient grain storage facilities have been dismantled and not replaced,” he says.

“That occurred partly from loss of storage income from government-owned facilities used in foreign-aid programs like ‘Food for Peace’ and reduced government food security grain after the cold war. Combine those forces with a decline in planted grain acres when cotton returned as a more profitable crop for many South Texas farmers and you have no incentive to replace lost storage and elevator capacity.”

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