Heavy snow and and rain on frozen ground this past March throughout much of the Midwest caused widespread flooding. It really couldn’t have come at a worse time. Many farmers have been storing grain in hopes of better prices. Is there anything that can be done with grain that’s been damaged by floodwaters? Could relief from the fed be on the way?
Farmers have been holding onto grain
Crystal Thomas and Bryan Lowry of the Kansas City Star reported from a flooded Missouri farm last week. Heavy flooding throughout many areas of the Midwest has damaged a lot of the grain that farmers have been storing. Bruce Biermann’s farm near Corning, Missouri was flooded by the Missouri river earlier in March- four feet of floodwater inundated his grain bins, and Biermann is now looking at a $100,000 loss.
Like many farmers, Biermann had been holding onto his grain. The plan was to wait out the trade war with the hope of better prices. Now, all that grain is lost.
What is adulterated grain?
Iowa State University Extension published a couple of articles over the last week that addressed what could be done with grain damaged by floodwaters. According to current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy, grain that has been inundated with river or stream water is adulterated and must be destroyed. Adulterated grain is dangerous because of potential contaminants.
However, not all wet grain is necessarily lost- there’s a distinction to be made here. Grain that has been affected by pooled water on lower ground may have the possibility of being salvaged. It all depends on where the water is coming from. Grain that is damaged by water from tiles, pits and fields are also likely to be contaminated.
Damage to grain storage structures
Floodwaters not only affect grain. It also may destroy grain storage structures. If possible, it’s always best to move the grain before flood waters reach it. When stored grain gets wet, it swells and damages bins.
Damage to storage structures typically occurs along caulking seals, doors, nuts or bolts and any other potential weak spot. Foundations can also be compromised. if a storage bin isn’t perfectly round, it’s probably not working correctly.
ISU Extension provided useful steps of action to take when dealing with flooding and stored grain.
Cut all power and professionally verify that all structures are not energized.
Determine where the water line was, and therefore the extent of adulterated grain.
Consult your insurance carrier before moving any grain.
Remove good grain from the top or side, collect a 5-10 lb composite sample for Grading by an Official grader (https://www.extension.iastate.edu/grain/files/page/files/usda-fgis_directory_pdf.pdf) , including a mycotoxin screening. Off-farm use will require consultation with FDA; contact Keely Coppess (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship) for assistance.
Consult your local Iowa DNR Field Office for instructions on disposal of adulterated grain.
Clean and disinfect storage structures. Replace electrical components.
For on-farm feeding of the good grain, develop a use plan in consultation with a veterinarian.
What to do with flooded grain?
Recondition for sale
If you believe it could be possible to salvage some of your water damaged grain, you have a few options. Again, grain can only be salvaged if it’s above the water line in flooded bins, or the water contamination is from pooled water. If reconditioning for sale is at all possible, it must be evaluated by the FDA and you’ll need written consent. You will need to move quickly. Good grain should be removed, but not down through the soaked grain.
If you plan to use flooded grain for feed on site, you have three choices:
Dry the grain if needed.
Feed it immediately to their livestock
If wet, ensile the grain for future livestock feed, in bunkers or bags.
Feeding flooded grain should only be done under the supervision of a veterinarian. Ensiling it can protect the quality of the grain and may help increase palatability.
According to Iowa State University Extension, it also may be possible to use flood adulterated grain for nutrient supply on crops. Always consult your local DNR before doing so. In Iowa, check the Proper Management of Flooded Grain and Hay. In Iowa, spoiled grain can be applied on the same property at a rate of 146 bu corn/acre and 50 bu soybean/acre. It must be integrated into the ground on the same day to prevent poisoning of birds.
Applying adulterated grain to fields can be tricky. It can be challenging to get the application rate right, and there can be some nutrient supply uncertainty. But, its nutrients can help offset costs on your next corn or soybean crop. More in-depth nutrient information and advice about application rates is available at crops.extension.iastate.edu.
Flooded grain not covered by insurance
This year, a majority of the flooded grains throughout the Midwest are not salvageable. Dar Danielson of Radio Iowa reported that Iowa Senator Joni Ersnt has been working with fellow Senator Charles Grassley to get assistance for farmers that have been impacted by flooding. They’re hoping the USDA will compensate farmers with damaged grain.
“One of the major concerns I am hearing from farmers across the state is the stored grain that has gone to ruin,” Ernst explains.
The Senators are trying to pass an amendment to extend USDA coverage to stored grain. Right now, coverage is only for crops that have been planted and flooded. They’re also working on tax incentives, waiving penalties for withdrawing from IRA accounts, and offering compensation to businesses for keeping employees on the payroll during tough times.
Farm Bureau Federation’s efforts
According to Western Farmer-Stockmen, federal disaster relief has been at an impasse. Many natural disasters over the past few years have led to additional requested funds. Not only for the Midwest floods, but for Hurricanes Florence and Michael, the California wildfires, and continued recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.
American Farm Bureau president Zippy Duvall says that current assessments of losses due to Midwest flooding is at $8 billion.
“But we know that many farmers are facing near-complete losses of their crops, livestock and farm infrastructure. In times of unprecedented natural disaster, our nation always has stepped up to help farmers and ranchers recover from circumstances beyond their control and to restore their farms to productivity, so we can get back to the business of feeding our people and our economy. Farm Bureau urges U.S. senators to support farmers and ranchers and the rural communities impacted by these catastrophic weather events by moving past this political impasse.”
In Iowa, 59 of 99 counties have declared disaster proclamations. Many residents in those areas will be eligible for financial assistance, but that still won’t cover stored grain.