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Friday, June 24, 2011

What Are Your Decisions With Flood-Damaged Grain?


If your farmstead flooded, the rest of the Cornbelt pours out its sympathy to you.  Many farmsteads have been lost, whether they were in the New Madrid Floodway in southeastern Missouri, or somewhere along the Ohio, Mississippi, or Missouri Rivers and their many tributaries.  Flood waters have washed through machine sheds and have seeped into grain bins.  Since grain is a commodity that ostensibly has value, can you market grain that has seen floodwaters if it has been dried or not overtly damaged?

Your state may have specific laws regarding the sale or use of flood damaged grain, but where there is no guidance, the US Food and Drug Administration’s policy is that grain may be reconditioned where flood waters are not contaminated, but before it is reconditioned the FDA must provide written approval.  That is the message from the Iowa Department of Agriculture where flood damage to grain bins has been reported.

Iowa State University grain quality specialist Charles Hurburgh says with only a few exceptions can flood soaked grain be used for either food or feed.  He said grain that has been soaked with flood water has been adulterated with contaminants in the water and should be destroyed under the direction of local health and sanitation officials.  Hurburgh says floodwater can enter elevators through drains and pits, and around farm bin sites it may have accumulated chemicals from field tiles.

If a bin has been surrounded by floodwater, Hurburgh says the contaminated grain will be limited to that which has been submerged and up to a foot above the waterline.  On top of that the grain may not be damaged, and would need to be removed from the bin through the top or the side, but not through the damaged grain.  And he says remove the good grain before trying to handle the spoiled grain, and don’t try to start your dryer fans.

The wet grain will likely contain molds and other toxins which are a safety hazard, and anyone working with such grain should have the proper personal protection equipment.  And he says to protect unspoiled grain from mud or other debris that might have come in contact with floodwater.

Regarding the reconditioning process, Hurburgh says the FDA will allow the grain to be washed and dried at high temperature where it was in contact with floodwaters for only a short period of time, and where the water was known to not contain any contaminants.  But he questions how you would know if the floodwater was clean.

Your grain bins may have suffered irreparable harm if they contained grain that was soaked with floodwater says Hurburgh:
• Sheared bolts
• Elongated bolt holes
• Stretched caulking seals
• Doors misaligned
• Misshapen stirring equipment
• Foundation shifts
• Deteriorated wiring and electronic controls for drying equipment.

So what do you do with the grain that was in contact by floodwater?  If the FDA will provide permission, it can be dried and sold, fed immediately, ensiled, but again, only with FDA permission.  Wet corn can replace wet corn in the animals’ current ration, with adjustments for moisture.  Wet beans can be fed to cattle within 10% to 12% of the ration’s dry matter.  Beans do not need to be heat treated before being fed to cattle, but whole raw beans can only be fed to mature sows.  They must be heat treated before being fed to finishing hogs.

The bottom line is that Hurburgh says the flooding of 2011 is not likely to create conditions where grain is salvageable.

Floodwaters in many parts of the Cornbelt have damaged stored grain, which means it is likely not salvageable for either food or feed use.  To recondition grain, it must not have been in contact with contaminated water and requires FDA approval.  Flood damaged grain can also damage grain bins from swelling.

Posted by Stu Ellis on 06/24 at 07:23 AM | Permalink


As unfortunate as it is, I wouldn't try to salvage anything that had the least amount of exposure to the water. I would consider mold(s) to be the greatest threat. Although I have not read the USDA criteria for possible salvage, the safest route would be guided destruction of infected grains. The consequences are too great.

Posted by: cowgirl at June 24, 2011 11:11PM

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