Farmers running out of space for abundant harvest

November 28, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Farmers in Franklin County are reaping such a bountiful corn and soybean harvest this fall that they are having problems finding a place to store it all.

According to Jere Wingert, Agronomy and Livestock Educator for Penn State Cooperative Extension in Chambersburg, this fall's harvest is "one of the better ones we've ever had in Franklin County. Soybeans are above average, and the corn is probably almost twice what it usually is in most areas, (although) some areas are just average."

After farmers fill their on-site storage - grain bins, upright silos, ag bags and trench silos - with corn silage and, later in the season, shelled corn, they haul the excess shelled corn to local feed mills. The mills store the shelled corn, also called grain, and make cow feed out of it, delivering it back to the farmer all winter.


"The feed mills are full at this point," Wingert said. "They're having to haul some grain out to other storage facilities to make room. There's a delay in harvest because of this. There's some corn still standing (in the fields)."

In an average year, corn yields 120 to 130 bushels to the acre on limestone land, Wingert said.

"This year, limestone ground is running close to 200 bushels" to the acre, Wingert said.

Shale ground, which averages 80 to 100 bushels to the acre, also is yielding better, Wingert said.

The bumper harvest is "mostly weather-related," Wingert said. "We had a shower every week at the critical times, in July and August."

Alfalfa hay also yielded well, but "it was hard to get it made at the right time and to get it dry," Wingert said. "The quality wasn't quite there as it could have been."

Snider's Elevator Inc. in Lemasters, Pa., is having a "phenomenal" year, according to owner Bill Snider.

"We're usually full at this time of year, if we have a half-decent year, and normally we have to take some to outside storage, but nothing like this year," he said. "And we're not even done. We're about 95 percent done."

All the storage areas at the family-owned elevator are full, including a shed holding 40,000 bushels of shelled corn and a pile covered with plastic, similar to a trench silo, holding 50,000 bushels, Snider said.

Thousands of bushels also are stored at Snider's storage facilities in nearby Williamson, Pa. Local farmers have offered Snider space at their farms.

"At Daniel Brechbill's farm (near Greencastle, Pa.), we have 50,000 bushels of corn and 10,000 bushels of soybeans. And at Dave Heckman's farm (near St. Thomas, Pa.), there's 40,000 bushels" in an implement shed, Snider said.

Moving that much corn requires many hours of work. "We worked long hours," Snider said. "We had 10 vehicles running between Lemasters and Williamson. We had triaxles, farm wagons and tractor-trailers. We were out to Heckman's a lot, too."

Shelled corn has to be dried before it is stored so that it does not mold.

This year, not much drying is required.

"I've never seen a year where so much corn came in so nice," Snider said.

Corn that tests at 15 percent moisture is considered dry.

"It's not coming in at 20 to 23 percent moisture like I've seen it (other years)," Snider said. "It's coming in at 17 to 18 percent. Some samples were under 14 percent. That's drier than dry. It won't take near the amount of fuel."

Snider's huge propane-fired dryer kicks the corn out at between 13 1/2 and 14 1/2 percent moisture, he said.

"The drier the corn, the faster it kicks out," he said.

Soybeans did not have to dried at all this year, Snider said. Most of theirs go for roasting.

"We get back roasted ground soybean meal, an excellent source of bypass protein and fat for dairy cattle," he said.

Dairy farmer Dennis Peckman raises 600 to 700 acres of corn for silage and grain in St. Thomas. The yield has been "very good, 30 to 50 percent higher than normal," he said.

Peckman said he still has some corn standing in the field, but expects to be finished with the harvest in another week.

"It's a problem to find a place to take it," he said. "Everybody's full."

While Peckman feeds the corn to his 120-cow dairy herd, he grows much more than he can use and is selling the excess to a poultry farm.

"They use it daily, so that makes some more room," he said. "The (unharvested) corn is standing good in the field, so I can wait until they can take it."

Orchardists did not fare quite as well as corn growers this year.

Dwight Mickey of Shatzer's Orchard near Chambersburg said the peach crop did well, but apples yielded "only one-third to one-half of a crop."

"The rains came at the wrong times for us," he said.

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