When it came to marketing his corn crop, Keith Shaw wanted options. The best way for him to do that was to build on-farm storage and to dry his corn on his Florida farm.
"I bought a grain dryer because it's cheaper to dry my corn on the farm rather than outsourcing, and it makes my crop easier to market," said Shaw
He grew 375 acres of corn in 2012. All irrigated and Pioneer varieties, he averaged 250 bushels per acre in 2012.
But he wanted to market his corn 12 months out of the year if needed, but that is tough where he farms around Mayo, Fla., in the north-central part of the state. On-farm grain storage is a thing of the past if it ever was there. The grain-handling infrastructure is pretty much limited and has been for many decades.
Corn prices have run strong for the past few years, but that's not guaranteed to last. And it doesn't mean Shaw has been able to take full marketing advantage of the higher prices now. In the past, come harvest, he had to move the corn, contracting and selling as he could.
But last year, he set up a grain dryer on his farm because in Florida you can't depend on Mother Nature to dry corn in the field. Florida gets droughty, but it gets more tropical rainy weather than drought typically, like when Tropical Storm Debby dropped 20+ inches of rain on his fields in June. Some places got more than 30 inches in just two days. "Thankfully, the corn was pretty much finished and we didn't get hit too badly by it," he said.
He moved and retro-fitted tanks enough to hold 72,000 bushel and plans to put in more storage to hold another 24,000 bushels.
"For me, in our situation, it just made more sense to go this way," he said. "And I'd think other farmers should be thinking about it, too, especially considering the infrastructure to handle our corn just isn't here."
To fire up his grain dryer, Shaw participated in Propane's Farm Equipment Efficiency Demonstration program, or FEED. It saved him $5,000 in up-front costs. "The incentive obviously helped me save up front, and the cost savings on propane fuel helps me run a more efficient operation," he said.
The Propane Education & Research Council recently expanded the FEED program, a demonstration initiative that tests new propane-fueled equipment and offers incentives in return for reports from the field about the performance of the products.
To read more about Shaw and his on-farm venture, read the February issue of Southern Farmer out this week.