Grain Elevators Facing Tighter Margins, Revenue Pressures in 2020

Grain elevators face significant challenges in the year ahead as they buy basis on corn, soybeans and wheat at the highest levels seen in years, according to a new report. CoBank reports basis for the three major grains is significantly tighter across the country from strong end-user bids, limited pipeline supplies, and lack of farmer selling amid an uncertain fall harvest. A CoBank researcher says, “grain elevators are being compelled to offer farmers a range of incentives to sell bushels,” including lower rates on storage, free delayed pricing and free grain drying, all cutting into elevator margins. Grain quality issues resulting from high moisture at harvest and frost damage on immature crops will also raise management costs for elevators, potentially resulting in greater losses to shrinkage and spoilage. A propane supply shortage in some regions is also driving up the cost of drying grain. However, grain elevators also have an opportunity to improve margins in an otherwise stressful year, as basis will likely soften as more bushels come to market as harvest operations conclude.