Get the most out of your harvest: Tips to get the best prices at the elevator

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silos grain bins
Grain bins

WOOSTER, Ohio — As if low commodity prices weren’t crippling enough to the farm budget, farmers take the chance of getting slammed with discounts once they get their product to the elevator.

While farmers may not be able to control pricing, they can control the quality and delivery of their own product, and they can make the final decisions in how and where their grain is sold.

Moisture content

Take a personal moisture tester into a local elevator and compare its results to the results of an elevator you plan to bring your grain to.

“We check our testers with the federal government each year,” said Lee Lipp, grain merchandiser for Agland Co-op in Canfield, Ohio. If there are any discrepancies in the reading, Agland consults with Columbus Grain Inspection in Bucyrus, Ohio. When inspecting moisture content, pull ears from several different locations in the fields to get a true reading.

“There is going to be a lot of variations between the bottoms and the hilltops (of the fields),” said Lipp. “The bottoms are going to be pretty high in moisture content.”

If grain is picked at a high moisture content, Lipp advises to not let it sit in wagons or bins for long before drying. Grain temperatures can rise, causing it to spoil. Inversely, dry corn can be easily damaged in the harvesting process.

“Dryer corn is more easily shattered and cracked,” added Ralph Wince, grain merchandiser for Agland Co-op.

Calibrate equipment

“Make sure combines are set up to do the best job cleaning the grain,” said Wince. Corn and soybean grains that are ready for the elevator should be free of any weeds, seeds, pods and cobs.

“The pods clog up the grain bins. We have discounted for too many pods in the grain,” said Lipp. “If it does not flow from out of your truck, chances are it will not flow through our grain bins.”

Most farmers today own equipment with some of the best technologies, Wince said. Local equipment dealers can help farmers with fine tuning and making sure their equipment is running smoothly for harvest season.

Keep it clean

“Every year we reject soybean loads that contain residue from treated seeds,” said Lipp.

Sometimes farmers will use the same equipment they used to haul treated seed in the spring.

“Make sure your equipment is clean. Whether you are using the same bins, trucks, augurs … sweep out wagons and the corners of trucks. There can be absolutely no contamination.”

Connect with elevators

Be in contact with the elevator. Check websites for prices, discount specials and for planned closings or hours, reminds Zach Bolinger, grain origination, marketing and merchandising, for Town and Country Co-op in Ashland, Ohio. If there is no website available, pick up the phone.

“With farmers facing a lower price structure, the farmer may have some questions on ‘what do I want to do?’ He has more options than just delivering the load and selling it,” said Bolinger.

Working with a marketing adviser at a local elevator can be beneficial in deciding what to do with the product. The farmer “has to be willing to pick up the phone and trust the guidance of a marketing adviser,” said Bolinger. “We don’t know which way the market is going, but we do know the different options farmers have.”

Bolinger added farmers should be looking at risk management plans and return on investment plans months before the harvest season arrives.

Trucking

For those who plan on using a trucking service for their grains, make sure all costs are laid out ahead of time. Just because the price at one elevator looks better than another, if it is farther away, is it really worth the extra trucking cost to get it there? Communicate instructions clearly to the driver so he or she knows what to do with the load when he or she arrives at the elevator.

For example, “the trucker doesn’t know what to do with the load so they say just put it in delayed price, when in reality, the farmer wanted it to be sold,” said Bolinger. “That can create a real problem down the road if the market makes a significant move.”

And if the farmer plans on hauling the load, how much time is being taken away from his or her duties on the farm?

At the elevator

Before leaving the elevator, “always double check the ticket,” added Bolinger.

Make sure the commodity was recorded accurately, the grain was distributed correctly and check the price. Pay attention to basis, trucking costs, time and efficiency, he added.

“The farmer has the right to appeal his grade before he dumps the load,” he said. If the farmer requests a re-grade and still is not happy with the grade, he or she can send the grain away for a federal appeal.

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Catie Noyes lives in Ashland County and earned a bachelor's degree in agriculture communications from The Ohio State University. She enjoys photography, softball and sharing stories about agriculture. Formerly a reporter for the Farm and Dairy, Catie is now pursuing her master's degree in education.

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