Grain Bin safety week

It’s Grain Bin safety week!
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Massive Grain Elevator Expansion

The following article is describing one of the bins that we built:

Elgin, MN sees massive, $6.5 million grain elevator expansion

ELGIN — A visitor at All American Co-op’s open house to show off its new $6.5 million expansion in Elgin blurted out what many were probably thinking while standing inside a cavernous 1 million bushel storage bin Wednesday night:

“That’s one fricking huge grain bin.”

Inside a huge grain bin in Elgin, MN

The expansion project was built on a gigantic scale, doubling the Elgin grain elevator’s storage capacity to 2 million bushels and quadrupling the speed in which a load of grain can be handled.

“It’s been a long time coming,” says Todd Stockdale, All American’s operations manager. “I have no doubt we’ll fill this. We already have enough coming to fill this.”

The fertile fields around Elgin and Millville produce plenty of corn, as well as winter wheat and soybeans to keep All American’s crew busy.

“Most years, we’d need to ship out a million-and-half bushels right away. Now, that might get down to half-a-million bushels,” he says.

The massive 1 million bushel storage bin is only one piece of what All American has been building since first breaking ground in February. Here are some of the highlights:

  • A new 140,000 bushel bin to hold wet corn before being dried.
  • A new drying facility that can dry 7,000 bushels in one hour.
  • An expanded receiving station that’s wide enough for tractors with dual tires.
  • Two new receiving “legs” that can accept 20,000 bushels of corn in an hour.
  • A new truck/wagon scale and an upgraded office system to speed up processing of incoming loads.

Commercial Grain Bin construction

This is just the first phase of a long-term expansion plan spanning the next 10 to 15 years. This first round of work is a significant start, because it laid the necessary foundation of infrastructure.

“This was built for the future,” said All American general Manager Glenn Lutteke. “This is a very good farming area around Elgin, Millville and Potsdam. It is worth this big investment.”

This is a particularly good time to wrap up this first phase. Local farmers are expected to reap high yields even as corn prices soar.

This summer’s drought is expected to drive down the nation’s harvest numbers to the lowest levels in a decade. That forecast is driving corn prices to about twice what they were last year.

While it is expected to be a tough year for many farmers, southeastern Minnesota seems to be an oasis, with higher-than-average yields.

State agriculture officials are forecasting a yield averaging 194 bushels per acre in the southeastern region, compared to a three-year average of 186 per acre. By comparison, the state average is predicted to run about as low 156 bushels an acre. That is in line with what much of the country is expecting to see.

Gesturing around at Elgin and beyond, Stockdale grinned as he said, “This is the bread basket of America right now.”

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How Grain Storage Systems Work

Once grain is harvested, it must be stored properly in order for it to remain intact and ready for market.

Efficient grain storage systems have been established to keep grains at peak levels so that they can be marketed when they are at their best. Today’s grain farmers utilize many storage processes to assure that their grain business remains profitable and safe.

Grain is usually stored in large facilities known as silos. These silos store the grain so that it germinates properly and stays fresh until it’s ready for market. Before entering the silo, the grain is sent to an area where it is cleaned thoroughly. During this process, the chaff and other debris are removed before the remaining grain is sent to a screen where drops into an elevator bucket. Then, the grain is taken up by the elevator to waiting storage bins for further drying. Here it stays and is continually aerated during the entire storage period.


Farmers must always be on the lookout for mold in their grain storage facilities, especially during cold, wet weather. If a grain bin is poorly ventilated, there is a greater chance that mold will result and thrive during adverse weather conditions. Not only will stored grains be seriously damaged but the health risks to workers increase substantially if mold or other toxic substances are present.

In order to keep storage systems working properly, the grain must be kept dry. This means, essentially, that the moisture content should be no more than 15%. In addition, as much debris as possible must be removed before the grain enters a storage bin so that mold doesn’t build up from excess moisture. If the grain is stored outside rather than in a silo, it must be securely covered with tarps and stored up off the damp ground.

In order for grain storage systems to keep grain at its peak, they must be set up to handle grain with care from the time it is harvested until it is sent to market. This means that these systems must be set up according to strict operating standards and follow all governmental safety regulations.

Matt writes more about Grain Storage Systems at []

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Brownton, MN Feed & Grain Article

United Grain Systems, a joint venture between United Farmers Cooperative and ADM, opens new high-speed shuttle loading facility.

The purpose of a corporate mission statement is to define the reason the organization exists and to provide a framework for how it conducts business now and in the future; however, how firmly — and creatively — it sticks to this path is another story.

From the top down, United Farmers Cooperative (UFC), a farmer-owned co-op operating in southern Minnesota, keeps true to its promise to member owners: “To provide, products, services and technology in a manner extraordinary enough to add value to people’s lives.”

The co-op’s commitment to this mission is affirmed by its mindful decision making; its dedication to customer service; a penchant for hiring the best talent; and its determination to roll out unconventional offerings, i.e., insurance and financial services.

“Sure, at the end of the day we’re moving commodities, selling fertilizer, buying grain — it’s not fancy stuff — but it’s important stuff and it holds these communities together,” explains UFC’s CEO Jeff Nielsen.

Also aligning with the institutional goals, the cooperative’s latest innovation, the creation of United Grain Systems (UGS), a 50/50 joint venture between UFC and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), grew out of a willingness for both entities to think outside of the box.

Grain bins and bin erectors“The genesis of UGS has always been about how [UFC] can access global markets for our local producers,” says Nielsen, who also serves as UGS’s general manager. “We had to step up and do something to remain competitive and to deliver the best value and opportunities for our producers.”

While UGS includes UFC’s existing grain division, this new business entity is hallmarked by a new 7-million-bushel, high-speed, high-volume shuttle loading facility in Brownton, MN.

The story of this collaboration begins a decade ago in the cornstalk-laden fields surrounding the intersection of the highways MN 15 and U.S. Route 212.

Field of dreams

Nielsen, who grew up on a farm in rural Wisconsin and has worked for various agribusinesses professionally before joining UFC in 1995, credits having a life-long connection to agriculture for giving him “the opportunity to see how many things are done in many different ways,” and thereby broadening his perception and fostering a solutions-based mind-set.

“During my first 10 years with the cooperative, we focused on making sure we were world class in whatever we did by investing in our facilities — such as our feed mills, fertilizer plants and an adjusted energy division,” he explains.

Meanwhile, as the yields and volume increased year over year, growth of the co-op’s grain division happened organically. For example, in 2005 UFC’s five elevators handled roughly 6 million bushels; in 2011, the volume tripled.

“While our feed business is robust, it wouldn’t grow at a pace to consume all the additional grain,” explains Nielsen.

Logistics and storage began to pose a problem for the co-op — and there was no indication the volume would let up.

“At the time, we were trucking grain to a neighboring co-op to the south to be loaded on to unit trains or to a barge loader on the river — which is obviously inefficient,” he says. “It was clear the cooperative needed to make significant investments in its grain operation.”

At a board meeting in 2009, expansion of UFC’s Winthrop elevator was on the table, when a board member suggested that perhaps investing in a landlocked site without rail access might not be the best use of the cooperative’s resources.

“One director posed the questions: ‘Would an expansion enhance our ability to serve?’ Since it wouldn’t provide access to global markets, the answer was no so we decided to take a different direction,” Nielsen recalls. “[The board member] turned to me and said, ‘Jeff, what do you think we should do?’ I looked at them and said, ‘Well, I have an idea…’”

Read the rest of the article here…

Download the Brownton, MN Feed Grain Article here.

50/50 Joint Venture Delivers MN Grain to Global Markets

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Harvest Benefits ADM-Benson Quinn Elevator

This article, published in the St. Cloud Times, does not have our name in it, but Cross Country Construction built this facility last spring.

Go to to watch a video of the process of grain processing at the ADM-Benson Quinn elevator in St. Joseph Township.

Cross Country Constructions recently built elevator

Article on ADM elevator in St. Joseph township, MN

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Cross Country Construction article in the Grant County Herald

Cross Country Construction is a major player in grain bin construction business by Chris Ray, Editor of the Grant County Herald.

One of the companies on the forefront of the corn-based ethanol industry explosion is Cross Country construction from Elbow Lake, Minnesota.

Click here to read the AG Day 2012 Article in the Grant County Herald

Chris Ray, Editor
Grant County Herald

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Learn more about CCCBins

The growth of the corn-based ethanol industry has changed farming, and nearly everything about farming, including the skylines of small towns such as Elbow Lake. Where once every farm used to have one or two small steel grain bins to store grain after harvest, one million bushel bins anchor grain elevators near major rail terminals now. All because ethanol plants insatiable hunger for corn.

Cross Country ConstructionOne of the companies on the forefront of this explosion is Cross Country Construction from Elbow Lake, Minnesota. Simply put, CCC builds grain bins. They don’t provide the materials for the bins, they provide the labor and expertise for putting these huge, gleaming storage bins up and making them operational. Dan Hengel moved to Elbow Lake in 1993.

An engineer by trade he started working for CI Construction .“Grain bins were a big business for them at the time,” he said. Even back then, grain bins were getting bigger and heavier. In 1999, Hengel branched off and started his own company, Hengel Design and Construction, specializing in grain bins. Dan’s son Kris, and his basketball buddies, would work for Dan in the summer. “We started with crews of six,” Dan said. When Kris graduated from West Central Area, he planned to get a degree in Elementary Education. But after receiving his AA degree decided to change his career path. In 2006 Hengel Design and Construction became Cross Country Construction with Dan and Kris in partnership running it.

Last year, CCC had 72 people, divided into seven crews, putting up grain bins. They have built in 20 states, Mexico and Jamaica. Last summer CCC supplied the labor for the two new 720,000 bushel grain bins put up by Elbow Lake Co-op Grain. The business is coordinated through the office and its three staff people in Elbow Lake.

The Hengels have learned to be innovators in the business. As grain bins have grown in size, the way they are built has had to change. Bins, large or small, are built from the top down. In other words, as the top and sides are bolted together, the bin is lifted up using hydraulic jacks that have to be coordinated so they go up at the same speed. “We use house moving technology,” Dan explained.

As the bins got larger, and heavier with triple walled steel, more and more jacks were required to lift them safely and smoothly. Eventually large bin builders were employing over 100 hydraulic jacks. But the Hengels developed a new kind of jack that allows them to lift a million bushel bin with only forty jacks.

Dan and Kris aren’t home much nowadays, as they constantly travel around the country and beyond, keeping things going. Both were home for a few days in late January, before Dan flew off to Arizona to supervise a project for a huge feed lot. Kris headed out to Memphis, Tennessee a few days later to supervise a crew building some new bins at a barge loading facility near the Mississippi River.

Cross Country Construction crews travel with a fleet of eight dually pick-up trucks and utilize sixteen semi trailer to carry the jacks and related equipment. You will always find someone at the office helping to coordinate the business operations in downtown Elbow Lake, MN.

To see some photos of their jobs you can find them at

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Milmine Article


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