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The large size of fall-harvested crops in the United States has raised concerns about the ability to store the record supply of crops this year.

According to Darrel Good, University of Illinois agricultural economist, weather-related harvest delays to date and a rapid rate of consumption mean that overall storage issues may be less severe than feared this year.

Each year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides an estimate of grain storage capacity based on surveys conducted in December. Total storage capacity as of Dec. 1, 2013, was estimated at 23.44 billion bushels.

“Some additional capacity has been added in 2014, but the total fall crop supply this year likely represents about 95 percent of total storage capacity,” Good said. “While overall storage capacity appears to be fully adequate to handle the available crop supply, issues develop because some of that capacity is occupied by other crops and, more important, the location of available storage capacity does not always align with the location of fall-harvested crops. Still, not all of the supply has to be stored.  Harvest occurs over a relatively long period of time, and crops are continually consumed.”

Good said that harvest has proceeded more slowly this year than in the recent past due to wet weather in some major producing areas. As of Oct. 12, the USDA estimated that only 24 percent of the corn and 40 percent of soybean acreage had been harvested, compared to the five year average of 43 percent corn and 53 percent soybean. The slower pace of harvest has allowed for more crops to be consumed as harvest progresses, reducing the overall requirement for storage space.

Based on USDA weekly export inspection estimates, Good said that the exports of feed grains, wheat, and soybeans from Sept. 1 through Oct. 16 totaled about 625 million bushels. Considering the USDA’s projection of feed and residual use of corn for the same period, about 1.225 billion bushels were likely used in that category. About 800 million bushels of corn were likely used for domestic food and industrial products.

Feed and residual use of other feed grains and wheat was likely near only 50 million bushels. Based on the National Oilseed Processor Association (NOPA) estimate of the domestic soybean crush for September and a normal seasonal increase in October, about 170 million bushels of soybeans were likely processed. Seasonal pattern of soybean use was likely near 150 million bushels.

“In total, it is likely that consumption of feed grains, wheat, and soybeans during the period from Sept. 1 through Oct. 16 totaled about 3.2 billion bushels.” Good said. “That pace of use continues so that nearly 16 percent of the total fall crop supply has already been consumed. That magnitude of consumption has substantially reduced the requirement for crop storage capacity, resulting in a modest strengthening of the corn and soybean basis in many areas.”

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Dawn James is a Copy Editor for the JG-TC.

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