Grain Storage Costs Skyrocket, Creating Concerns for Elevators and Co-ops

Jul 04, 2023

Record-High Expenses and Market Challenges Worry Grain Merchandisers and Farmers

By Jean-Paul MacDonald

Grain elevators and co-ops in the St. Louis region are grappling with unprecedented storage costs for corn, soybeans, and wheat. A recent report from CoBank, an agricultural lender, reveals that factors such as rising interest rates, elevated crop prices, and increased transportation expenses have contributed to the record-high costs.

The surge in expenses has left grain merchandisers eager to sell their grain quickly to maximize profits. However, the current conditions pose logistical challenges. Grain elevators simply cannot ship all their inventory at once.

The scenario makes it less likely for end users, such as ethanol plants, flour mills, and cattle feeders, to buy grain before it is absolutely essential. CoBank economist Tanner Emhke explains that it becomes a game of passing on the risk, and co-ops often end up bearing the burden due to their obligations to hold the grain.

Elevated interest rates exacerbate the issue, putting those who store grain for longer durations in a difficult position. Emhke highlights the combination of high prices and borrowing costs, resulting in the highest borrowing expenses on record for storing grain.

While these factors may not directly impact consumers, farmers are likely to face repercussions. Co-ops and elevators could reduce upfront payments for grain to mitigate the rising storage expenses.

Amidst this challenging landscape, grain operators closely monitor the Federal Reserve's actions and weather conditions. The possibility of further interest rate hikes adds uncertainty, while deepening droughts in parts of the Midwest, including Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri, threaten corn crop yields.

As the industry grapples with mounting storage costs and market dynamics, the coming weeks will be critical in determining the fate of the corn crop. Farmers anxiously await both the Federal Reserve's decisions and the weather forecast, recognizing that these factors will significantly impact their profitability and the overall grain market.

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