As corn and soybean prices continue their flight upward, a Missouri grower has landed an old aircraft hanger that's helped him clip the wings of forced grain sales caused by lack of storage space.
Bobby Lowrey, a cotton, corn, soybean and rice producer in Parma, MO, was among many growers facing a storage dilemma after hurricanes, record corn prices and production made a premium out of any cubic foot of storage.
Storage remained in demand in 2007 as growers sought to hold corn and soybeans and wait for a better basis and stronger market in early 2008. Portable ring-type outdoor storage pads went up Corn Belt-wide. More corn and soybeans than usual were piled at co-ops and other country elevators. Trucks often waited four to five hours to unload.
USDA's September stocks report indicated that corn stocks totaled 1.3 billion bushels, actually down 34% from the previous year. But soybean stocks were up 27% at 573 million bushels Still, with substantial acres in cotton, Lowrey had sufficient storage with his 250,000 bu. of bin space in 2007.
But not in 2005. They were busting at the seams at harvest. That's when he took his fly-by-night aircraft hanger idea to the max.
“We were looking at some substantial pressure for more storage,” he says. “You name it, we had grain piled there. It was everywhere. We had to be innovative.”
He acquired use of the 50 × 100 × 16-ft. hanger from a landlord who once had a small flying service in southern Missouri.
“They decided to give us the option of using the hanger for grain storage,” says Lowrey. “It had a good concrete floor, which was integral.”
The steel beams of the hanger provided a good anchor for 2 × 12-in. boards that were attached to provide support from a wall about 3 ft. tall. An auger with a swing arm was used to help move grain from semis onto the concrete surface.
Dry corn (14-15% moisture)was piled to the top of the beams. “When it was time to transport the corn to the elevator, we came in with a skid-steer loader with a bucket on the end like you would use to move fertilizer,” says Lowrey. “We scooped it up with the loader then dumped it into the auger then moved it to a truck. It took about 25 minutes to load a semi. It was a little more labor intensive, but it saved the day for us.”
The facility holds about 25,000 bu. — not a lot when compared to his 250,000-bu. bin space. “But with a negative basis of about 90¢ under at harvest, we saved about 70¢/bu. by not having to deliver it until January,” he says.
Marketing of held corn involved rolling December corn futures into March. And with the 70¢/bu. gain on the 25,000 bu., it produced about a $17,500 gain that likely wouldn't have been there before.
When not used for grain storage, the hanger can store several trucks, tractors, planters, combines and other equipment, not to mention a plane if needed.
“Fortunately, in 2007 we had enough storage for our soybeans (which yielded about 70 bu./acre) and corn (which yield up to 220 bu./acre),” says Lowrey.
“Cotton will always be our main crop and we had good yields in 2007. But there are going to be opportunities to take advantage of good prices for corn and soybeans. And if it's needed down the road, we'll use the hanger to store it,”he says.
Even if it means filing a new flight plan.