Not big on bagging

Not everyone is big on bagging.

Some growers think their money is better invested in long-term steel bins rather than temporary plastic that becomes a liability once the bag is empty.

Ten years ago, farmers were skeptical about storing grain in these new plastic bags. At that time, one of the biggest suppliers of steel bins happened to also be one of the biggest bag promoters.

Dave Wall is founder and owner of Wall Grain in Winnipeg, with offices across the Prairies. Wall sells steel bins. Lots of them.

But a decade ago, Wall was a big fan of the new plastic tube technology. New acres were going into production, yields per acre were increasing and bin suppliers could not keep up with demand.

“Ten years ago, grain bags were a Band-Aid solution to the problem of grain storage,” recalls Wall.

“I still hold the opinion that we could dump the grain in a big pile on the ground and it would be just as effective as bagging it. But it wouldn’t fly. Too big of a learning curve for people to learn how to manage grain in a pile outside.

“We didn’t find that animal feces and contamination (were) a problem 15 and 20 years ago when we were piling on the ground.”

Wall was asked about the advisability of farmers investing in infrastructure such as steel bins on somebody else’s land, a practice many farmers don’t agree with.

“True enough, farmers do think like that. But they can work a deal with the landowner. I emphasize to people that a smart landowner builds the bins himself to increase the value of his land.

Build it directly on the lease section or very near so it can serve different fields. It not only increases land value, but the landowner gains revenue by renting the bins. Instead, the producer throws away 20 cents a bushel every year by bagging.

“You spend 20 cents a bushel with the bag system and you cannot manage the grain inside. You can’t cool it or aerate it or dry it. And every time you extract the grain, the bag is garbage. It becomes a problem for you.

“With a bin, you spend two dollars a bushel and you can move it in and out, cool it, blend it, dry it, clean it, re-hydrate it if the moisture is too low. You can’t do anything like that with grain in a bag.”

Wall says the company is building more bins on leased land every year, ranging in size from 30,000 bushels to 60,000 bushels. He says there are a variety of business arrangements. Sometimes the bin is incorporated into the land rent, other times the grower pays something in the order of 20 cents a bushel for storage.

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