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Large on-farm storage systems add profit potential but require more management
More profit potential
On-farm storage gives growers the opportunity to hold onto their grain longer, snatch any higher prices that might occur after harvest, and take control of storage costs, says Chad Hart, Iowa State University agricultural economist. “On-farm storage extends the marketing window to help farmers find a better price,” he says. “Generally, it gives farmers a cheaper per-bushel storage cost, but the disadvantage is that the farmers have to spend their own time and effort to properly maintain their crop while it’s in storage.”
Part of the storage cost that a farmer would normally pay to a grain elevator is for sweat equity, Hart says. “If you store it on the farm, it becomes your sweat equity, not theirs, but it’s more work for you,” he points out. “When fans and dryers break down, or hot spots develop, it’s up to you to fix it. There’s more risk involved in storing it on the farm. Even a small drop in quality can mean a large drop in value on a large-capacity bin.”
In some cases, the value of the grain in an on-farm bin is worth $9 million, Becker says.
Still, if managed well, “historically, farmers who store grain on their own farms end up reaping better prices and better returns,” Hart says. “It also provides a feeling of being in control, including control over drying costs and moisture levels.”
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As corn yields continue to go up annually, the need for more grain storage capacity also continues to increase. “More bushels of corn are coming from the same fields, year after year, so the need for more storage is growing,” Hart says.
Farmers interested in building a new grain bin should act sooner rather than later. “The time frame on how soon a bin can be built varies by the dealer, the size of the bin and the time of the year,” GSI’s Becker says. “It’s best if customers start planning for a new bin in November-December, but the sooner the planning starts, the better it is for prompt construction.”
Sukup’s Hanig points out that wait times and costs for building bins are lower during spring than right before harvest. “There’s not a lot of carry in the market right now, so farmers are less anxious to put more grain bins up on their farms as they were last year,” he says. “Right now, new bins are available in a relatively short time frame.”
Hanig also notes, “Rather than building onto an antiquated setup, many farmers are choosing to build on new ground. They are starting over on a new, bare site or a green-field setup.”