Alva Review-Courier -

By Amy Bickel
The Hutchinson News 

Record crops, low prices lead to big wheat harvest in Kansas 


August 28, 2016

HUTCHINSON, Kansas (AP, Aug. 28, 2016) – A 5-million-bushel mountain of wheat is growing on an old Naval runway near Yoder. At Minneola, a crew is bagging wheat to make room for corn harvest.

And, at Oakley - already full of wheat - the cooperative has purchased land for ground piles and is trying to acquire more.

It's a similar story across the entire state, The Hutchinson News reported ( ).

Four seasons of record crops plus low prices equal a temporary mountain range.

While there has been growth in storage capacity in recent years, almost every elevator, bin and farm grainery is full - causing the state's grain facilities to build mammoth ground piles at many locations.

"The last wheat harvest was the largest we've ever had at most of our facilities and now we are coming up on a big fall harvest," said Ben Brandvik, lead grain marketer at Oakley-based Frontier Ag.

He added the projected record harvest could mean the cooperative will have put up to 80 percent of the fall harvest on the ground.

The northwest Kansas cooperative hasn't experienced anything comparable in magnitude - multiple harvest seasons of bumper crops. Most other elevators in Kansas haven't seen anything like it, either.

Wheat harvest, for many farmers, was a crop of a lifetime - with some farmers tabulating yields in the triple digits. Kansas farmers harvested 462 million bushels of wheat - up 43 percent from last year's crop and the highest production in 13 years, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

That would be the fourth biggest crop in the state's history - and on fewer acres.

Meanwhile, corn and soybeans are forecast to hit production records both nationally as well as in Kansas. NASS estimates production at 660 million bushels and 164 million bushels, respectively.

Now elevator operators are grappling with where to put it all.

Elevators are required to have either federal or state permits to put grain on the ground. So far, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's warehouse division has approved applications for the state's 285 federally-licensed facilities to store 24.4 million bushels in temporary piles - largely wheat.

Last year, according to the agency, elevators only requested permits to put 2.5 million bushels of wheat on the ground.

In all, federal elevators have a total capacity of about 595 million bushels. Last year for all grains, facilities were approved to put about 70 million bushels on the ground and federal officials expect that number to increase for 2016.

Meanwhile, of the 82 state-inspected facilities, the Kansas Department of Agriculture received requests to store 7.1 million bushels of wheat in temporary ground piles, said Heather Lansdowne, the department's spokeswoman.

The most ground permits issued in recent years was in 2007, with more than 3.6 million bushels of wheat. That same year, elevators asked to pile about 35 million bushels of corn and milo in ground piles.

Also, she said, conditional storage requests for wheat - or storage in a building or structure other than an elevator - totals 5.725 million bushels.

Both agencies are still awaiting permits for fall harvest.

The glut of grain is extending the slump in commodity prices as the farm economy continues to spiral downward.

That doesn't just impact farmers, said Kim Barnes, chief financial officer at Pawnee County Cooperative Association. It affects everyone - from other ag suppliers to the restaurants and storefronts along Main Street.

At the Larned-based cooperative Friday, the price of wheat was around $2.72. The government loan rate in the county Friday was $3.09. Farmers have put about 100,000 bushels of wheat into the government marketing loan program - hoping for better prices. Others are taking loan-deficiency payments.

"We need some export business," Barnes said. "Yes, we are in mid-America, we are in Pawnee County, but what is happening in China and the world around us affects our daily lives."

With the start of a bumper harvest less than 10 days away, his employees are making more room in the elevators - shipping out wheat by rail and by truck to terminals in Wichita. Barnes said the company received a record 4 million bushels of wheat - 800,000 bushels more than the previous record, which was set in 2015.

"We are trying to make as much space as we can in our elevators," he said, but added, "This harvest is big enough we won't contain it all."

The cooperative didn't need to put wheat on the ground this year with the addition of 700,000 bushels of concrete storage at its Garfield location just before wheat harvest. Also, the cooperative added 1.2 million bushels of storage capacity before last year's fall harvest.

"And we still had to put 1.3 million bushels of milo on the ground," said Barnes of the 2015 fall harvest. "We'll have that much or more on the ground this year."

Farmers have sold about 65 percent of their wheat crop, said Barnes, but added concern mounts for the 2017 wheat crop. With the stagnant markets, the cooperative still has corn and milo carryover from 2015 - just like many elevators.

Besides permanent storage, Pawnee County has leased land and invested in equipment for ground piles, Barnes said.

"We are making the commitment to get ready to store on the ground," he said, adding they are doing the best they can to make unloading grain as smooth and efficient as possible. "We are here to take care of our costumers and we will do that."

Dave Strecker, general manager at Minneola Co-op, said employees are in the process of bagging 300,000 bushels of wheat to help create space in the elevators. The cooperative is also building an additional bunker to put milo outside.

Meanwhile, at its Bloom location, they are constructing a half-million-bushel concrete storage bin - which will be done in time for harvest in September.

He excepted the fall bushels to be similar to last year if not more.

"Last year was a record for us," Strecker said, adding his territory has had a string of phenomenal harvests. "We are going to have four monster harvests here in a row."

As some cooperatives are just days away from the beginning of the fall harvest season, corn harvest has already started in south-central Kansas where Moundridge-based Mid-Kansas Co-op crews have been working all summer to make room for the abundant harvest.

Among the biggest jobs - transferring grain from its south-central Kansas elevators to an old Naval airbase near Yoder.

When finished, the mound will contain 5 million bushels, Erik Lange, MKC's vice president of southern operations, said. Rains have slowed the process. At present, the pile sits at about 4.3 million bushels.

Yoder is one of two new ground pile locations, he said, adding there also is additional ground storage across the MKC territory.

A new outdoor location at Talmage holds another 700,000 to 800,000 bushels, he said.

Lange said during harvest that the cooperative took in 20 to 25 percent more wheat than a normal year. Besides piles, MKC is also shipping unit trains of grain to Mexico and the Gulf Coast every four or five days from the Canton terminal.

At Oakley, Brandvik said they continue to lease or purchase more space as the harvest nears. He projected the cooperative could take 30 percent more in fall grains than normal.

However, he added, like every elevator group across the state, despite the volume expected this fall, he and his crew will make sure it happens efficiently for the farmer.

"That's what we do - take grain," Brandvik said.


Reader Comments


Our Family of Publications Includes:

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019