Bin-busting crops boost bin building
PAULLINA – Todd Brown builds grain bins for a living, and he’s loving the harvests of the past few years.
Iowa corn production has increased dramatically, and growing demand had pushed grain prices to the stratosphere during the past three years.
“The last three years have been incredibly strong,” Brown said, taking a break on Sept. 16 from bolting the final, long sheet of steel around the bottom of a 22,000-bushel bin.
Now it is fully installed on Dan Ebel’s farm and livestock feeding operation near Paullina, in O’Brien County.
“In the 1990s, we had to go knocking on doors, trying to sell bins,” Brown said of his Paullina-based bin-building business – Brown and Associates. “This year, we’ve got all the work we can get done. That’s because this year’s harvest looks good, too.”
Reminded that current corn prices are slumping – $3.42 on Sept. 16 – he counters, “They’re still better than before.”
He declared 2014 as a fourth consecutive good year for both farmers and bin builders, despite the current lower grain prices.
Brown predicts next year will be closer to normal, for prices, but he has already sold a couple bins to be built next year.
Ebel is replacing an old bin, not adding storage. He feeds most of his corn into his hog and cattle operation and sells a small amount to the nearby Roorda Dairy, on Iowa Highway 10.
“We bring very little to the elevator,” he said.
Elevators not losing out
The elevator he mentioned is AgPartners in Alton, in Sioux County, a half-coop/half limited liability corporation, partially owned by Cargill and based in Albert City.
That some farmers truck little corn to the elevator doesn’t faze Fran Marron, vice president of grain for Ag Partners – at least not this year or in the near future.
Marron said that even with this year’s lower corn prices Ag Partners has continued increasing its own storage capacity, something it’s been doing over the past five years.
“We’re not growing 150-bushel corn anymore,” he said. “With today’s hybrids we have the potential for 224-to-250-bushels (per acre).
“I think today’s hybrids have that potential if you have perfect weather.
“I think that’s why some producers are choosing to build silos on-farm. They’re running bigger machinery, and they’re farming bigger crops.”
He said some big producers may choose to combine 24 hours a day, but most elevators aren’t open even 12 hours a day during harvest, so on-site storage allows the farmer to keep harvesting.
Brothers Mark and Craig Hayenga plant 3,000 acres in grain each year on their farm near Sibley, in Osceola County.
They have no livestock and sell all of their grain into the market. This year, they added a 65,000-bushel bin to their on-farm storage capacity.
“We are a member of a co-op,” Mark Hayenga said. “But owning a bin to cash-and-carry on the market keeps you from paying the storage costs at the elevator.
“We’d like to be able to store the majority of our grain.”
If Ag Partners’s projections come to fruition, its own new bins will continue to be filled each harvest for a long time, as well.
The company’s current storage capacity is 32 million bushels of permanent space, plus 8 million bushels of temporary storage.
Its service territory runs from Fonda to Sheldon-Matlock with its elevators in Iowa’s Northwest crop district.
Marron said his company expects its storage capacity to be filled this fall, despite the current growth in on-farm storage.
Brown foresees a lot more grain – and bins – in the future, too.
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