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Demand for grain storage bins running high

By Janet Kubat Willette

jkubat@agrinews.com

Demand for grain bins is running high this season and windy, rainy and hot weather have created challenges for bin builders.

The growing ethanol industry has fueled demand, bin builders say. Ethanol plants generally don’t have long-term storage, so farmers must store their corn for delivery to the ethanol plant.

Farmers are also planting more corn-on-corn to fuel the ethanol plants, which creates the need for more storage, said Dave Broskoff of Broskoff Structures of Geneva, Minn.

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Grain elevators haven’t been able to keep pace with the increased demand for storage, Broskoff said.

Another driving force is low-interest money from the federal government.

The Farm Storage Facility Loan Program, which has been around since 2000, has generated plenty of interest in Minnesota and Iowa.

Iowa has had 25 percent of the national loan count in the program, said Jim Book, program specialist with the Iowa FSA.

Since 2000, 3,965 loans have been approved involving $138 million for 101.5 million bushels of storage.

In Minnesota, more than 3,000 loans for nearly $65 million have been approved since 2000, said Perry Aasness, Minnesota FSA state executive director.

Storing grain makes farmers money, said Joe Holschlag of Holschlag Bin Sales of New Hampton, Iowa. The last five years have been especially busy for bin builders, with a steady increase in demand and bin size.

The average bin built this year holds 50,000 to 65,000 bushels of grain, bin builders said. It costs about $1.50 per bushel to build, Broskoff said, including the concrete pad. A bin will last 30 to 40 years if it’s maintained.

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Bin builders are in a race against a fast-maturing crop, and Mother Nature has thrown plenty of curves their way.

In the spring, when it wasn’t windy, it was raining, Holschlag said.

"We’ve had an excessive amount of wind this year," Broskoff said.

It’s hard to build bins in the wind and the new steel also gets pretty hot on bright, sunny days, Broskoff said.

They’re swamped at Ron’s Electric Motor Repair in Blue Earth, Shelli Ziegler said, but they’ll keep going until the job is done.

Bin builders say now’s the time to order bins for next year. If someone walked in today wanting to put up a bin, the earliest delivery date would be next spring, Ziegler said. Now through December is the best time to purchase a grain bin, she said.

"The time to buy grain bins is in the wintertime," Broskoff agreed.

He’s trying to get farmers who want to put up bins in 2008 to pour cement this year.

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Spring time road postings keep gravel and cement trucks off township roads until June 1, Broskoff said.

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