While an improving economy creates a residential building boom in cities, high grain prices are giving rise to on-farm grain storage bins across Alabama’s countryside.
“Grain prices are up right now, and farmers are making money,” Alabama Farmers Wheat and Feed Grain Director Carla Hornady said. “They are investing that money into grain bins to help them control distribution and profitability in the future.”
The decision to build grain storage is no cheap one with prices ranging from a few thousand dollars to more than $1 million, but it’s necessary for feed grain farmers attempting to make the most of increasing yields, new technology and volatile commodity prices.
Morgan County Farmers Federation President Mark Byrd is putting the finishing touches on two 16,800-bushel bins.
“There are a couple of reasons we made this decision,” Byrd said. “We can now harvest our corn and not have to sit in line at the local elevators. We can sell it at a later date instead of marketing it right out of the field, and we can shell our corn wet in high moisture and dry it in the bins before we sell it. Another big one for us are the tax breaks we get. It’s like buying a tractor; it helps us because we get the depreciation off of this equipment.”
Local markets and wildlife hunters are also benefitting from the farmers’ investment because feed grains are readily available for bulk purchasing right down the road.
“We don’t have a local oat market,” said Washington County farmer Walt Richardson. “The only way to market our oats is to have on-sight storage.” Richardson is looking into the possibility of building up to a 1,000-bushel bin on his 800-acre farm.
While some farmers are still considering on-farm storage, others have already made the change and are reaping the benefits.
Lawrence County farmer Carl Letson made the decision three years ago to build storage bins on his farm. He said it has helped efficiently market his yield.
“Having our own bins speeds up harvesting time and allows us to choose who we sell to,” Letson said.
Bins today are no longer simple storage units. They now come highly automated with bin monitoring systems.
“Farmers are now installing moisture and temperature cables in the grain bins,” said Dr. Kathy Flanders, Auburn University professor and Alabama Cooperative Extension System agent. “The sensors on the cables measure the condition of the grain at various depths, and the data is transmitted wirelessly to the farmer’s computer. The software on the computer is programmed to control the aeration fans based on the data to maintain the safest conditions for the grain.”
“With the new computer systems, automated bins are going to save energy and money,” Byrd said. “They’ll pay for themselves over time.”