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Published October 08, 2012, 10:15 AM

Adding 'the money crop'

Farmers Elevator Co. of Alvarado, Minn., isn’t ready to take corn quite yet. But the elevator, which recently began offering corn bids, is getting close.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Farmers Elevator Co. of Alvarado, Minn., isn’t ready to take corn quite yet. But the elevator, which recently began offering corn bids, is getting close.

“We’re prepping,” says Bruce Chwialkowski, the elevator’s general manager. “We want people to know we’ll be taking corn.”

The move into corn is part of an expansion that will add 500,000 bushels of storage to the elevator’s existing 1 million bushels of storage. Work is expected to begin this fall and be finished next year.

Corn, which typically yields many more bushels per acre than wheat and corn, is increasingly popular in the Alvarado area, Chwialkowski says.

“It’s the money crop,” he says.

Alvarado is in Marshall County, in northwest Minnesota — an area where corn traditionally hasn’t been common. In 2010, Marshall County ranked 72nd statewide in corn production, 17th in soybeans and second in wheat, according to the Minnesota field office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But corn production keeps expanding in northwest Minnesota as new varieties allow the crop to be grown in an area where corn traditionally wasn’t grown.

Northwest Minnesota farmers planted 402,000 acres of corn in 2011, up from 188,000 in 2006, according to NASS.

Corn acres rose sharply statewide this year, so 2012 corn acres in the region almost certainly will exceed 2011 acreage.

When soybeans moved into northwest Minnesota, elevators adjusted to deal with the crop, says Bob Zalenka, executive director of the Minnesota Grain and Feed Association. Now, elevators are adjusting as corn moves into the area, he says.

Zalenka doesn’t know how many elevators in northwest Minnesota have begun handling corn in recent years.

“But it’s just a matter of time until every elevator north to the Canadian border” is handling it, he says.

Corn production continues to expand north and west in North Dakota, as well. Historically, most North Dakota corn was grown in the southeast part of the state.

Steve Strege, executive vice president of the North Dakota Grain Elevators Association, says some elevators in the state have added corn in recent years, but is uncertain how many.

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