MIDDLETON — A graffitied railcar sits behind a mid-Michigan corn processing facility.
By earning its organic certification, Michigan Agricultural Commodities Inc. (MAC) says its Middleton elevator will help corn growers looking to store their organic harvests. The company plans to accept orders starting this fall.
It’s a “baby step” in the right direction, said Nick Reigler, a grain merchandiser for MAC, one of Michigan’s largest handlers of grain.
“We are seeing a growing need for harvest space on the organic front,” Reigler said. “We looked at some data that showed the amount of area that’s actually organic (corn). It kind of surprised us initially … and talking with growers, there’s a need for harvest space on the organic front.”
Recent chatter among growers and end-users about additional harvest space sparked MAC’s interest to operate and run an organic corn facility. That’s why the company purchased the facility in 2018 and pursued organic certification this summer.
According to Reigler, the company’s Middleton facility can receive 250,000 bushels of organic corn and have a dump capacity of 5,000 bushels per hour. Also included in the facility’s organic corn program is 30,000 bushels of wet organic corn space and a drying capacity of 1,500 bushels per hour.
“This facility is going to be a step ahead of what a producer might be used to,” Reigler told Michigan Farm News. “It’s an isolated facility. We can ‘identity preserve’ the crop at that facility. From an organic standpoint, anything we can do to isolate those bushels and keep them away from any possible contamination (is) where the real value is.
“It’s about maintaining the product so we can trace it back to the grower.”
Saginaw represents Michigan’s largest organic corn production area, but “we are seeing production increase pretty rapidly here in Gratiot County,” according to Reigler.
To send corn to the facility, Reigler said growers will need to send their organic certification before MAC can issue a contract. When finalized, MAC can truck or rail product.
“With end-users here in Michigan, the largest being the Herbruck’s (Poultry Ranch), we see the amount of organic corn production in the state increasing beyond their current needs to where there is excess corn production,” Reigler added. “A lot of that (product) leaves the state via truck. … We can utilize our rail assets to work in the same truck markets at a lower cost from a freight standpoint.”
Untapped Potential for Hog Producers?
A profitable business opportunity awaits Michigan hog producers as demand in the organic corn arena continues to grow, Reigler said.
“I think growers are looking at this model of corn production as achievable, as profitable,” he said. “Hog producers in the area can put a barn on their property, utilize their manure on their acres, and increase corn production to ultimately become vertically integrated from top to bottom. That’s where we are seeing the largest growth — in the hog sector.”
According to Ernie Birchmeier, livestock and dairy specialist for the Michigan Farm Bureau, the new plant is an opportunity to “segregate organic corn for livestock production and meet the potential for growth.”
“If we have a market that is demanding all organic production, someone needs to produce for it, and that requires additional checks and balances,” Birchmeier said. “The new facility will help with that. This is further proof that there are opportunities in the marketplace if we are willing to make the investment.”
A bushel of harvest organic corn is currently $9.25. This is roughly two to three times the price of conventionally grown corn, according to Reigler, who notes the facility will specifically offer up a new market for central Michigan producers.
“There are some limitations for some of these growers,” Reigler said. “If you are a corn producer and one of your end-users purchased his needs for the year, you are looking at out-of-state demand. With hopper bottoms that need to travel 100 to 150 miles — that is not always feasible.
“That’s why with this rail access we are able to move volume in and out of the state in a reasonable fashion.”
For pricing or additional information, contact Reigler at 800-878-8900 or [email protected]