It’s nearing harvest time for Iowa corn and soybeans, and despite a storm last week that flattened some acres in northwest Iowa, it’s likely to be nearly the size of last year’s record crop. Iowa State University extension grain-marketing specialist Bob Wisner says it’s a critical time as we’ve still got a lot of grain left over in storage from last year, and he says the forecast from reporting districts in west-central Iowa is that this year’s harvest will be just one-percent smaller than last year’s alltime record volume. Right now, before harvest, he says farmers and elevators need to move out as much grain as they can. The Port of New Orleans, destroyed by Hurricane Katrina’s back operating at a little over 60-percent of its capacity, which Wisner says has surprised a lot of people. He points out the “peak capacity” is its greatest demand, which might only happen during surges of movement and 63-percent of that is good. And while the river’s a low-cost way to ship goods, Iowa’s been sending more of its farm produce by different routes in recent years. Particularly the Pacific Northwest, Wisner says — Portland and Seattle are destinations where we’ve been moving more corn in recent years, our share of exports increasing in that direction while it’s declined in the New Orleans area. It doesn’t all go south, and it doesn’t all go by barge — trains take the Iowa harvest to many sale points including a port in Texas.Houston’s a much smaller port but it does have some extra capacity, says Wisner. “The key in both the Pacific Northwest and Houston is, can we get enough rail cars to move the volume of grain we need to?” Shipping out last year’s harvest now and being ready to handle THIS year’s grain will ease market forces that are pressing grain prices downward. Another record harvest, combined with the lack of storage, will mean lots of grain stored on the ground, leading to loss of quality.
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