Millions of Bushels on the Ground

Millions of Bushels on the Ground

High yields and steady prices have elevators struggling to absorb grain volume

While states such as Michigan are struggling to get the crop out, Illinois is nearly done. According to the Nov. 24 USDA Crop Progress Report, 97% of corn and 100% of soybeans have been cut in Illinois. The challenge might be finding where to store all that grain. The state of Illinois has the largest permanent storage capacity space in the nation, capable of storing about 1.4 billion bushels. Yet this year, millions of bushels are ending up on the ground.

“Obviously, when you have a record crop to handle, it’s very challenging, but it’s also very rewarding to see the big yields the farmers talk about as they come into the elevator,” says Brian Stark, regional manager at The Andersons. Just outside sits a mountain of grain at The Andersons elevator in Champaign, Ill.

Because of the big yields, elevators have piled grain in either temporary or emergency storage. Temporary is covered, usually with a tarp. Emergency isn’t. This elevator will pile more than 3 million bushels of uncovered grain on the ground this season.

“We pile corn every year, but this is the most we have piled on the ground in quite some time,” Stark says.

While they have maxed out available ground space, there should be enough grain bin space to accommodate the rest of harvest.

As of Nov. 13, Illinois had nearly 119 million bushels in temporary storage and 11 million bushels in emergency storage, either requested or approved.

More than 95% of The Andersons’ Champaign elevator ships by rail. The rest is by truck. “We’ve shipped some units throughout the harvest season to help maintain space, but it’s been few,” Stark says. 

Even so, he’s confident the rail system will pull through into next year.

“We’ve got a good plan in place to maintain good quality of grain and get it done in a timely fashion,” he says.

The facility has seen more grain on the ground than this, he adds, and this year, they haven’t had to cut hours. “We haven’t had many delays. For that, we can be thankful,” Stark says.

This year’s weather breaks helped, too. When combines stayed parked, it allowed a few days for farmers and 
elevators to move grain.

“To go six to eight weeks straight with this size of crop—I don’t know if anyone would be able to handle that,” Stark adds.

Still, the golden mountains are proof 2014 might be one of the biggest grain crops we’ve ever had.

Illinois Department of Agriculture Chief of Warehouses Stuart Selinger says historically this isn’t the biggest grain pile the state has seen for emergency and temporary storage. Since grain stocks were down early in the year, there was plenty of permanent storage space before harvest.


Catch up with “AgDay’s” travels along the 
Interstate 80 corridor during the 2014 harvest. National “AgDay” reporter Betsy Jibben traveled to five key states, from Ohio to Nebraska, to see how harvest was going. 

To watch tour reports, visit 


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