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Grain Piles Cause Headaches for Elevators

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Fieldwork for the 2014 harvest might be wrapping up, but the next step in the process - handling just under 14.5 billion bushels of corn - is still ongoing.

When corn arrives at Smith Fertilizer and Grain's Albia location, it normally follows a very direct route.

Kyle Smith of Smith Fertilizer and Grain says, "Yep. Basically, it'll pull onto our scales up there. Pull it on and get a loaded weight. We'll take a probe from the back of the semi and front of the semi, test it, determine the moisture and the foreign material of it. From then, we'll redirect them down to our pit, and we can dump it there, and depending on whether it's wet corn or dry corn, we'll disperse it to where it goes."

The final numbers aren't out yet, but USDA expects that farmers have harvested a record corn crop this year.

Kyle Smith says the crop in his area has been substantial, "Down here in Monroe and Appanoose County, it's been excellent. We've just had lot of - a slug of corn and beans come in."

That might be an understatement. Smith is standing in front of a pile of 260,000 bushels of corn, which weighs about as much as the Eiffel tower.

He says it's unusual to have to pile corn outside, "Yeah, it's not a very common deal. About once every five years, if that. At least for us; there's other locations that have to do that, but we're not really equipped to go ahead and do that. We try to keep most of our grain located inside of our elevator."

In an elevator, corn can be climate controlled and its quality can be monitored. Outside, it's exposed to the elements, but at this time of year, the elements act as a kind of cold storage. If it were warmer or wetter, the potential for all that corn to spoil would be a major concern, but even without that worry, Smith says there's a few issues with keeping corn outside.

Smith says, "You'll have to double-handle it. Putting it on the ground, you've got to lay tarps down and get an augur and tractor to put it outside, rather than just dumping it straight into a pit and running it through your elevator."

Much of the corn will be bound for Cargill's corn processing plant in Eddyville, a little farther south, and Smith expects the post-harvest activity to taper off as the end of the year draws closer.


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