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Grain Bins Offer Flexibility

Gain a Better Market Position

Mitchell Farm Partnership is one of many Arkansas producers who have adopted grain bins as part of an overall marketing strategy, which both helps protect harvested crops and gives growers some leverage in a market in which the primary producers are typically “price takers” rather than “price setters.”

Mitchell purchased the five massive bins, each of which can store 40,000 bushels of grain, in 2009. Prior to that, corn would field-dry as harvest time approached, leaving the crops exposed to the weather until a desired moisture level was achieved.

By storing grains, growers can gain marketing advantage by not selling immediately after harvest, says Jeff Welch, staff chair for the Lonoke County Cooperative Extension Office.

“Typically, the price throughout the year is at it’s very lowest at harvest,” he says. “And the reason for that is that there’s a glut of grain in the United States, and people can only use so much.

“They’ll use their grain bins to store their grain until the price recovers to a point where they can make a profit and that’s what grain bins are for,” he says. “It allows flexibility in marketing, and that’s everything.”

Scott Mitchell, farm manager of Mitchell Farm Partnership, says that using the bins added a new element of responsibility between harvest and delivery.

“Once you’ve got a harvest in there, that bin is basically full of money,” he says. “After a rain, you’ve got to get in there and check that everything’s all right. Until it’s delivered, it’s an added risk you’re taking on — a bigger responsibility for the owner.”

Safety Essentials

The bins also require an additional eye toward safety.

“Grain bin safety is absolutely crucial,” Welch says. “What can happen is that the producer will fill his bin, his grain will be dry, but at some point, he’ll take some grain out of the bottom of the bin. If there’s a crust on top, what happens is, it looks like the bin is full, but it may only be half full. And if he gets in that bin at that point, he can crash through that crust, and it can swallow him alive.”

Grain should be “coned” at the top of the bin, rather than flat across. Grain should also be dried as much as possible before it goes in the bin; workers should wear safety harnesses and never enter a bin alone.

“More and more farmers are trying to achieve economies of scale through farming larger and larger acreages,” Welch says. “Once that happens, grain bins come into play, because they have to have the ability to market their product effectively.”

For more information on grain storage, contact your local Extension agent or visit www.uaex.edu.

Article by Ryan McGeeney and provided by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.