This year’s Iowa corn crop is a real bin buster and due to a lack of storage, farmers will have to resort to piling nearly a fourth of the 2005 corn harvest on the ground. Iowa State University market analyst Robert Wisner says recent reports indicate between 15 and 22 percent of this year’s corn crop in Iowa cannot be stored in a bin or elevator. “The reason I am giving you a range is we don’t know how much new storage space has been put up this year,” Wisner says. “There has been some, but my impression is not a large amount statewide.”
Wisner says the storage crisis isn’t affecting all areas of the state, though, because corn fields in southeastern and east central Iowa have sharply lower yields He says yields are much better in central, western and northern Iowa so basically the western two-thirds of the state is “quite short on storage space.”
According to Wisner, much of the barge traffic that was shut down by the hurricanes that struck Mississippi River grain terminals has been revived and that’s not as much of a problem as the hold-over of corn harvested in 2004.
“Either farmers or elevators would have ended up storing that because market demand was not large enough to use all of last year’s crop,” Wisner says.
Another complication is there’s not enough capacity to ship the crop to market via train, either. “The industry was caught by surprise this year by the exceptionally high yields again for two years back-to-back,” Wisner says. “Had we dropped back to, say, the five-year-average-yield for corn and soybeans, the storage problem would have been a lot less this year.”
In the long term, Wisner expects elevators and farmers to expand their storage space for grain, and Iowa farmers won’t soon experience the kind of storage crunch they’re dealing with this year. Wisner says one bright spot in this year’s harvest is that the grain is exceptionally dry coming out of the field and requires little drying in the bin — which means farmers aren’t paying high bills for propane or natural gas to run driers on those bins.