The first thing you notice at the grain bins located on Star Landing Road near Lake Cormorant, Miss., is the lack of long lines of trucks waiting to unload. If there is a line, it’s usually one or two trucks long.
The grain bins, which were built by International Farming Corporation, LLC, a North Carolina-based agriculture investment firm, are being used by Malcolm McClanahan, a cotton, corn, soybean and peanut producer from Lake Cormorant, and Mike Rohwer, Spirit Farms, both of whom lease farmland from IFC.
“Malcolm had grown cotton for years, but was new to corn, and Spirit Farms was new to rice,” says Shane Bray, regional agronomic account manager for IFC. “We decided it could help both operations if we had storage bins in close proximity for their crops.
The new storage facility, installed by Valley View Agri-Systems, and located just off U.S. Highway 61 near Lake Cormorant, includes a 12,000-bushel holding tank, a GSI continuous flow grain dryer and 10 GSI storage bins with a total capacity of 600,000 bushels of grain. It was designed so that it could be expanded to provide substantially more storage.
“Half the bins are used by Malcolm and Spirit Farms uses the other five,” says Bray, who covers territories in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida and makes his home in Lake Providence, La. “They have separate dump sites for each set of bins so they don’t comingle their grain.”
The bins mean the two operations can dump grain practically in their back yards. (The facility is located between the two.) Before they were built, grain had to be hauled through heavy traffic and frequent construction in Memphis or down Highway 61 to Friars’ Point or to Marks, Miss., via Highway 6 (where substandard bridges are a problem).
Bray designed the setup for the bins, arranging them so grain could be transferred via a loop system from bin to bin on either side of the facility. The GSI 5,000-bushel-per-hour grain dryer is equipped with a leg that allows grain to flow into the first grain bin in the series after it has been dried. From there, it can be moved to an empty bin down the line.
“We prefer to harvest corn when it is 24-percent to 25-percent moisture and dry it in our dryer,” says Bray. “We can do it for 4 cents or 5 cents per bushel compared to seven cents to eight cents at a commercial elevator.”
Having worked as an agronomist and weed scientist in the past, Bray knows the risk farmers take with trying to dry corn in the field. “The longer it sits in the field, the more difficult it is to harvest. The combine works better when the corn has more moisture in it. There are also issues with increased potential for damaged kernels and reduced test weight.”
There’s also the risk of storms, high winds and hurricanes, which have been less frequent in recent seasons after causing significant havoc for corn and rice farmers in the mid-2000s.
After the corn has been dried, it is monitored carefully to make sure it remains in good condition until it’s ready for transport to the elevator or end user. Each grain bin is equipped with sensors that measure the amount of moisture and the temperature throughout the bin.
“I receive a report on my smartphone each morning that tells me the moisture and temperature in different zones in each bin,” says Shane. “One of my next upgrade projects will be a system that allows us to operate the fans in the bins remotely.”
Cost is always a consideration, especially given the decline in grain prices of recent months. “We built these bins for about $3.25 a bushel,” Bray notes. “That’s one reason for going after the size bins we did. The total cash outlay is larger, but the cost per bushel is lower because it’s spread over higher capacity.”
If corn acreage and yields continue to climb in the Delta, Bray is considering adding a 100,000-bushel bin on a vacant site to the north and one to the south of the current bins. He believes he can add one more receiving pit and extend his entry ramp to allow growers to dump grain more quickly.
“It really makes a big difference for us to be able to move our grain a mile or two from the farm rather than truck to a commercial elevator,” says McClanahan. “With prices where they are, every cent we save helps.”
On the day Bray and McClanahan were interviewed, trucks were still unloading corn from Spirit Farms and McClanahan was preparing to harvest peanuts. The Spirit Farms bins now contain rice, corn and soybeans while McClanahan’s are holding corn and soybeans.
Sometime in January or February, when the lines at commercial elevators have disappeared, McClanahan will begin shipping grain out of the bins to commercial buyers. “We usually get a bump in prices early in the year, and we’ll start moving grain then,” he says.
“This gives us the added flexibility we need to be able to respond to an offer of premium or an opportunity to sell grain when the market is more welcoming,” says Bray. “That’s why we wanted to put this complex in, to expand our options.” For more information, visit www.intlfarming.com.