In late February, grain elevator operators descended upon the land of bourbon and thoroughbreds for the 2013 edition of the GEAPS Exchange. The event, held at the Kentucky International Convention Center in the heart of Louisville, featured a diverse lineup of educational sessions, which tackled many of the industry’s critical issues, and a trade show with more than 300 exhibitors eager to showcase their latest equipment.
GEAPS Exchanges focus on education and information that provide “take home” value. Three concurrent session tracks focused on many different topics; however, the sessions Feed & Grain attended focused on three main areas: safety, what’s new and transportation issues.
The following is a brief recap of these sessions.
Preventing catastrophic events
In the workshop, “Preventing Catastrophic Events at Your Grain Facility,” attorney Mark Aljets, of Nyemaster Goode, a law firm in Iowa, explained that he’s not a safety expert. He has, however, toured facilities to see firsthand issues that can lead to a catastrophe, has experience in reviewing what contributed to grain facility explosions, has been involved in four litigations triggered by grain facility catastrophes, and reviewed more than 150 depositions “from guys shoveling grain to CEOs.”
Because of this unique perspective, he urged managers to take responsibility for establishing a “culture of safety” in their grain operation. Here’s a quick review of some of his recommendations and reminders:
- Someone in each facility must know “backwards and forwards” NFPA 61.
- Managers must ensure that written policies are in place for housekeeping procedures and preventive maintenance of equipment.
- Demand compliance; regularly review housekeeping and maintenance log sheets.
- Develop and implement an employee-training program. At the very least it must cover recognition and preventive measures for hazards related to dust accumulations.
- Specific procedures and safety practices applicable to their job tasks, including housekeeping procedures, hot work procedures and preventive maintenance.
- Conduct your own surprise inspections.
- Use outside resources for inspection — but pay attention to, respond to and implement plans based on their recommendations.
- If it’s not documented, assume it’s not being done.
“No company is immune from catastrophe, no matter how large or how small,” Aljet warns. It only takes one event to realize there’s a great deal more work to do.
Drought carries on ... and on?
Though likely better than last year, 2013 could be our fourth straight year of below-trend yields, suggested Dr. Elwynn Taylor, Iowa State University climatologist and agronomist during his presentation, “Drought and Its Impact on Worldwide Grain.”
The Corn Belt is struggling through the impact of both short- and long-term droughts, he explained. Short-term droughts are those that hurt crop production. Long-term droughts are hydrological droughts — the water table is drawn down and waterways dry up. The current drought is both short and long term and not likely to have a sudden recovery. “A year as extreme as 2012 is seldom followed by a full return to normal,” he said.
La Niña weather patterns often result in erratic yields year-over-year, while El Niño brings favorable Midwest yields. Since 1976, El Niño has been dominant. Then 2010 launched the second strongest La Niña on record, and the U.S. typically sees stronger weather events — drought, severe flooding and tornadoes — with La Niña. The recent La Niña was no exception.
If the United States is back in a pattern of more volatile weather and potential for severe weather, there’s more crop risk. The trend line for corn yields is an increase of 2 to 2.5 bushels/acre every year. Before 2010, Iowa corn growers had six years above trend line. For the past three years, yields were below trend — 20% below in 2012.