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Published October 18, 2012, 06:48 AM

Woodworth a hill of beans: Corn, soybean crops pile up outside elevator

A perfect storm of good weather, high yields and some muskrat damage have created a multi-million dollar pile of corn at Woodworth Farmers Grain Co.

By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun

WOODWORTH, N.D. — A perfect storm of good weather, high yields and some muskrat damage have created a multi-million dollar pile of corn at Woodworth Farmers Grain Co.

Steve Wicks, manager of the elevator, takes it all in stride.

“There’s a little bit out there,” he said. “About a half million bushels of corn and 200,000 of soybeans.”

With cash corn prices at $6.70 per bushel and soybeans at $14 the total value of that “little bit” exceeds $6.5 million.

The Woodworth elevator is served by the Red River Valley and Western Railroad which had a derailment just west of Pingree on Sept. 28, according to Andy Thompson, president of the railroad.

“We found that muskrats had burrowed under the tracks,” he said. “When the train went over, three cars tipped over into the slough. We had the line back in service on Oct. 4.”

But the week without rail service corresponded with a week of intense harvest activity.

“The bulk of the corn came in during a seven-day span,” Wick said. “Good weather, good yields and big equipment. The harvest goes fast now.”

The elevator stored what it could in the bins and the rest is piled in a grassy field next to it. The elevator has been forced to store grain on the ground in some other years but not in these quantities, he said.

“There is a lot of dollars out there,” Wick said. “I’m always concerned about the weather when there is grain piled on the ground.”

Steve Strege, executive vice president of the North Dakota Grain Dealers, said the situation is not uncommon.

“There is a lot of ground storage because this harvest came quickly,” he said. “The whole harvest process is advanced about a month.”

Strege said some elevators routinely pile corn and soybeans outdoors.

“Some operators have (asphalt) pads sloped so moisture runs away from the crop,” he said. “Others have bunker storage with tarp covers. It all costs money.”

Corn and soybeans are less susceptible to weather damage than wheat or other small grains, Strege said. The grading process for corn is also different than the grading used in wheat because most of the corn is used for livestock feed or ethanol. However, long-term storage of any grain outdoors is not recommended.

“The sooner it’s off the ground the better,” Strege said. “You certainly want it taken care of by spring when there is more rain.”

Wick anticipates having the stockpiles shipped by the end of the year. He expects it will take about 200 rail cars, each hauling about 4,000 bushels, to clear the grain stored on the ground and what is in the bins of the elevator. RRV&W delivers about 25 cars at a time to Woodworth on an as-needed basis.

“The Red River Valley treats us well,” Wick said. “They got us up and running as soon as they could after the derailment. It was just bad timing.”

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at knorman@jamestownsun.com

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