The Illinois Department of Agriculture is prepared to immediately authorize the use of temporary and emergency grain storage structures to ease space shortages caused by shipping delays on the Mississippi River.

Illinois exports nearly half of its corn and soybeans, transporting much of the grain down the Mississippi to New Orleans, where it is loaded onto ships and delivered to customers around the world. Damage done to Gulf ports by Hurricane Katrina, however, has slowed river traffic to a virtual standstill, restricting access to export markets at a time when storage capacity is limited because of carryover from last year’s record-breaking crops and Illinois producers are beginning this year’s harvest.

"Illinois has more warehouse storage than any state in the nation, but until grain starts moving on the rivers, available space may be scarce, especially at river terminals," says Agriculture director Chuck Hartke. "Whenever situations like this arise, the Illinois Department of Agriculture works closely with the grain industry to make sure there are markets for our crops. Last year, we authorized temporary and emergency storage space because of the bumper crop. And, if a need arises this year because of snarled traffic on the Mississippi, we’re ready to authorize it again."

Temporary storage enables licensed warehouses to store grain on a permanent base made of concrete, asphalt or a similar material provided the following requirements are met.

The authorization to use temporary storage expires after six months or on May 15, whichever comes first. If the licensee can demonstrate a continuing need, extensions of up to 90 days are available

Emergency storage enables licensees to store grain on the ground. However, it can be used only for three months and cannot be renewed.

One-point-two million bushels of grain have been approved for temporary storage thus far. Applications have been submitted for more than 19 million additional bushels.

Illinois warehouses have a combined storage capacity of 1.2 billion bushels, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Illinois Field Office. Grain bins and other on-farm storage structures are capable of holding another 1.2 billion bushels.

Illinois Department of Agriculture