Kansas Grain Elevators Bracing for Big Winter Wheat Harvest06/01/2016
Grain elevators are bracing for a bountiful winter wheat crop in Kansas at a time many facilities are already brimming with last year’s crops due to lackluster global exports and low commodity prices.
The Kansas Grain and Feed Association, the trade group for the state’s elevators, noted the industry has built “a whole bunch” of new grain storage space in recent years. Plus, a tremendous amount of grain from last year’s crops has been moving out on unit trains, long ones that carry the same commodity to a single destination.
“Everybody is confident they are going to be able to handle wheat harvest,” said Tom Tunnell, the group’s executive director. “It’s just what happens next, where are we going to go with the fall crops? That is the real consternation out there.”
Some of the storage issues stem from the fact that farmers and grain elevators haven’t sold much of last year’s crops given the low prices and weak export demand. In Kansas, stored wheat stocks were up 40 percent in March from a year ago, 53 percent for sorghum and 21 percent for corn, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The Kansas wheat harvest typically gears up in June, and growers have some 8.2 million acres of it to cut this year. While that number is down by 500,000 acres from a year ago, timely rains have raised expectations of a larger crop.
The U.S. Agriculture Department earlier this month estimated the crop to come in at 353 million bushels with yields of 43 bushels per acre. But that’s lower than the industry’s own forecast a week from farmers and other agriculture leaders who went on the annual three-day hard wheat tour of the state, which projected 387.4 million bushels with an average yield of 48.6 bushels an acre.
Tunnell believes those wheat forecasts are still too low given the recent rains in the state, and expects as much as 400 million bushels with average yields possibly as high as 50 bushels an acre.
To make room for it all, elevator managers have been scrambling to move last year’s crops out.
The Pawnee County Co-op elevators have added 2 million bushels of storage in the past two years, bringing its capacity at its three elevator locations to 8.2 million bushels of storage, its grain merchandiser, Kim Barnes, said. But the company still had to put 1.3 million bushels of milo on the ground during the fall harvest, most of which was shipped out this past February and March.
“Our biggest hurdle will be this upcoming fall harvest and how we will get the space necessary to handle the fall crop,” Barnes said.
Some of the older crops in the tall upright silos that dot the Kansas landscape are going into nontraditional storage such as bunkers, storage facilities that often are as long as two football fields with short concrete walls and tarps covering the grain.
“Big crop, lots of new storage, moving grain out — that all equals the capacity to handle the wheat crop,” Tunnell said. “But it leaves the big question of fall harvest.”
Source: Roxana Hegeman, Kansas Agland