ADM converts soybean processing plant into grain storage facility

Tim Landis

Archer Daniels Midland Co. continues to weigh into the grain-storage business in a big way with the opening of a 5-million-bushel-capacity elevator near Taylorville. 

Imagine 95 or so river barges floating into the community, or waiting on 14 100-unit freight trains at a downtown crossing. 

“It’s a good-sized facility. It’s one of the bigger elevators around,” remarked Christian County Farm Bureau manager Eric Johnson. 

A typical independent elevator in a small community, by comparison, might have total capacity of 2 million to 3 million bushels, according to state regulators and industry experts. The demand for volume also is among the reasons the number of commercial elevators in Illinois consolidated from more than 1,000 eight years ago to a little more than 900 at the end of 2007. 

Record-high commodity prices, while generally are good for farmers, have made the business of buying, selling and storing grain — often based on a promise of prices months into the future — that much tougher, said Don Ludwig, general manager of Elkhart Grain Co., just off Interstate 55, 20 miles north of Springfield. 

“It’s all about the volume and price. You have to have the volume to compete,” Ludwig said. 

Elkhart Grain has storage capacity of about 2.8 million bushels. 

The Taylorville elevator previously served as a soybean-processing facility purchased by ADM from Continental Grain Co. in 1984 and operated until 2000. The company declined to release figures on total storage capacity, but the executive vice president of the Grain & Feed Association of Illinois said ADM appears to be betting on continued high demand for food and fuel that has driven commodity prices to record highs this year. 

“It’s purely economics. We’ve seen these big increases, especially in corn acres,” Jeffrey Adkisson said. 

He added that entry of a player as large as ADM into a local market isn’t necessarily bad for smaller elevators. 

“It just depends on the community. A lot of it depends on transportation, and how far away they are from the competition,” Adkisson said. 

Even the 5-million bushel addition from ADM is a drop in the bucket in a state with more than 2.6 billion bushels of storage capacity, said Stuart Selinger, acting chief of the Bureau of Warehouses for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. 

He also pointed out that, as a result of last year’s bumper crop, the department granted permission for more than 193 million bushels of grain to be stored in temporary or emergency storage. 

“It’s a pretty common type of storage in the state of Illinois every fall. You just need to demonstrate you’re expecting more grain than you have storage capacity,” Selinger said. 

Temporary storage permits are good for up to six months, and emergency permits are for 90 days, he added. 

Elkhart Grain Co. has routinely resorted to temporary storage bunkers as farmers plant fence-row to fence-row in pursuit of higher commodity prices. It’s a trend Ludwig said he expects to continue. 

“We’ve never not needed it (temporary storage), but there have been some years when we didn’t fill it up,” Ludwig said.

Tim Landis can be reached at (217) 788-1536 or

Archer Daniels Midland

-Corporate headquarters: Decatur

-Among world’s largest processors of soybeans, corn, wheat and cocoa; ethanol, biodiesel, soybean oil and meal; corn sweetener and feed additives

-Net sales of $44 billion for the year ended June 30, 2007; 27,000 employees at 240 processing plants worldwide

How much is 5 million bushels?

-A typical Mississippi River barge carries 52,500 bushels of grain (ocean-going barges carry more than 100,000 bushels).

-A jumbo hopper car carries about 3,500 bushels, and a 100-car train about 350,000 bushels.

Source: Farm Bureau and Grain Transport Report