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As silos fill up, Pa. farmers find new way to store grain

November 14, 2000

As silos fill up, Pa. farmers find new way to store grain



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro


GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Storage silos at the Farmers Union in Greencastle can hold more than a half-million bushels of shucked corn but this year, due to a "perfect crop," the silos are bursting at the seams, the manager of the 75-farmer co-op said Tuesday.

Manager Dave Forrester has 36,000 bushels of corn more than he expected at the beginning of the growing season from the 75 Franklin and Washington county farmers who belong to the co-op.

"We knew in August that we would run out of (storage) capacity," he said.

He decided to "bag" the excess. The bags he's using are not anything like conventional grain sacks that hold 100 pounds. Each one is made of a tough white vinyl material, is 15 feet in diameter, stretches along the ground for 300 feet and holds 14,000 bushels of corn.

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Workers were busy filling the three bags lined up in a field behind the co-op office Tuesday.

Giant dump trucks capable of holding 10,000 bushels of corn backed up to a machine alongside each bag. They tipped up the big truck bodies to send the corn through a hatch onto a conveyor, which fed it into a machine that filled the bags. As the bag filled, it pushed the machine forward until it reached the far end where it was sealed shut.

Bags like those in the co-op field have become familiar sights on Tri-State area farms. This is the first time in his memory that they have been used by a grain elevator, he said.

Forrester said the bags have been popular on the West Coast for more than a decade and are just now being embraced by Eastern farmers.

Forrester bought his bags from Ag Services of Hagerstown for about $600 each. Ag Services provides the machine that fills the bags and the personnel to run it. In the spring the Hagerstown firm will return to the Farmers Union to remove the corn and put it into the co-op's storage silos. A 6-inch hose sucks out the corn like a big vacuum cleaner, Forrester said.

Forrester, 44, has worked for the Farmers Union for 21 years. He said this was the biggest corn crop he's ever seen, and called it "a once in a lifetime harvest."

Some farmers have seen their acreage yield from 11/2 to two times what was considered normal in other years, he said. "This has been a very blessed year for farmers around here," he said.

Forrester said three things came together this year to create the perfect crop. There was adequate moisture. Temperatures only rose above 90 degrees for a few days and there was no rain after mid-August, so the crop could be taken in.

"It was a beautiful harvest in a perfect growing season, a bountiful crop that will really help this year with milk prices being the lowest in decades," he said.

Farmers pay Farmers Union to store their corn, process it into dairy feed and send it back to them.

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