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11-23-04 Area corn crop overflows bins

By Nancy Allen

  This year's record corn crop is forcing farmers across the state to come up with alternative places to store corn.

  But it's a good problem to have, according to local producers.
  Willshire grain farmer Gary Hamrick is renting several bins at neighboring farms to store his corn because grain elevators and others buying corn are over capacity.
  "We moved ours early and ended up leasing some bins that we had not used before," Hamrick said, adding that the last time he had to do that was in 1997. "It is probably across the board the best crop we have probably raised since 1968."
  Celina dairy and grain farmer Judy Hellwarth said their on-farm storage bins have never been so full.  "We were lucky," she said. "We've used every bin and had to haul some of it to a different farm and took an old grainery here and reinforced it so we could use that too."
  The lack off on-farm storage has caused farmers to sell their corn earlier this year, keeping them from waiting for low market prices to improve.
  Hellwarth said she thinks her corn averaged 180 to 190 bushels per acre, noting she had some fields top 200 bushels per acre.
  "It's really a blessing, but at the end when you are scrambling and trying to find a place to put it, it can be difficult ... It's still a good problem to have," she said.
  Nearly two weeks ago the Mercer Landmark grain elevator on Market Street in Celina surpassed its 250,000 bushel corn storage capacity for one afternoon, but did not close. Some of the corn was quickly moved out so operations could continue, branch manager Scott Boulis said this morning.
  Boulis said the elevator was able to stay ahead of the game, because it was able to keep moving the corn by grinding it for feed, trucking it out and moving it by rail.
   "It was by far the biggest harvest we have ever had and we were fortunate that things were laid out that we were able to keep the place open for our customers," Boulis said, noting he heard a few Mercer County elevators closed for a couple of days until they could move out some of the corn.
  Van Wert County farmer Mike Heffelfinger has two trucks and nine hopper wagons full of corn sitting on his farm. He can't take it anywhere because the area's grain elevators are stuffed with a record crop.
''We've had excellent yields this year,'' said Heffelfinger, who farms about 800 acres. ''The grain elevators are filled up, and unfortunately the grain has sat close to a week on the wagons and trucks.''
  Ohio farmers will likely have a second consecutive record-breaking corn crop, averaging about 160 bushels per acre this year.
  Favorable weather around the nation has produced a bumper crop in most places. Nationwide, the crop is predicted to top 11 billion bushels, 15 percent larger than last year's record.
  Heffelfinger's wagons are stored in a machine shed with about 3,400 bushels of corn. A grain elevator where he normally takes his crop is at capacity because it can't get any railroad cars to move out the corn.
  Other grain elevators are stuck too.
  Ron Dentinger, general manager of Country Star Co-Op in Bucyrus, spent much of last Wednesday morning trying to get rail cars to the elevator.
  ''We're having quite a time,'' he said, noting that there's little space for more corn despite having a capacity of 4.7 million bushels.
  Some farmers are leaving their corn in the field longer than normal, which is risky because it could lead to damage to the corn.
  Matt Roberts, an Ohio State University agricultural economist, said that may still be a better option than leaving the corn in piles outside where they can suffer insect and mold damage.
  -- The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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