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Published October 26, 2010, 10:29 AM

Kansas elevators face fast harvest, storage shortage

GARDEN CITY, Kan. — Kansas elevators still flush with grain from last year’s wheat harvest are struggling to keep up with a rapid fall harvest that has resulted in millions of bushels of grain being stored on the ground.

GARDEN CITY, Kan. — Kansas elevators still flush with grain from last year’s wheat harvest are struggling to keep up with a rapid fall harvest that has resulted in millions of bushels of grain being stored on the ground.

Warm, dry weather has helped farmers get their crops in from the fields much faster than a year ago, when wet weather extended fall cutting past Christmas. The Hutchinson News reported Saturday that the rapid harvest has made it difficult to transport the grain — especially with a corn harvest that, according to the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service, looks to be the largest since 1933.

Farmers planted 700,000 more acres of corn this year than in 2009, the highest amount planted since 1936. It’s the second-largest Kansas corn crop on record.

That crop, plus a sizable wheat crop, has the state’s elevators re-evaluating their storage capacities.

Ken Jameson, vice president of the grain division at Garden City Co-op, said his cooperative plans to add about 2.4 million more bushels of space this year. Still, the western Kansas cooperative has 2.1 million bushels of corn on the ground and 3 million more bushels ready for quick ship, which are sales that go from the elevator directly to an end user.

Garden City’s WindRiver Grain, which is affiliated with the cooperative, has more than 5 million bushels on the ground along with 2 million to 3 million bushels of milo.

Statewide, elevators have increased their storage space by 10 percent in the past five years, allowing them to store grain while waiting for good marketing opportunities, said Tom Tunnell, executive director of the Kansas Feed and Grain Association.

State-licensed elevators have been authorized to store as much as 26 million bushels on the ground.

“The fall harvest follows a record fall harvest from the previous year,” said John McClelland, general manager of Garden City Co-op. “While most farmers would report their individual yields are down 10 to 15 percent from a year ago, we didn’t have any swaths of hail like we usually have in the past.”

KASS reported last month that winter wheat still in storage in September was the largest amount this late in the season since 1987. There were 400 million bushels of wheat in storage, up 14 percent from a year ago.

“The wheat market has been a wait-and-hold type market,” said Eric Lang, Mid-Kansas Co-op’s director of southeast operations. “Terminals are doing a lot of the same things. When the market dictates you hold on to grain, you do so to the best of your ability.”

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