Be Vigilant About Kernel Damage

Types of Corn Damage ( Source: USDA )

Unfavorable harvest weather could have dealt a blow to corn and soybean kernel quality. As a result, farmers need to be especially mindful of USDA’s grade schedule, says Angie Setzer of Citizens Grain LLC.

“When entering into a contract, you’re agreeing to Grade 2 classifications,” she says. “Educating yourself on how the grade structure works is the first step. Asking for a discount schedule is the next.”

According to USDA’s grain inspection handbook, kernel damage includes kernels and pieces of kernels that are badly ground damaged, weather damaged, diseased, frost damaged, germ damaged, heat damaged, insect bored, mold damaged and sprout damaged.

If you have damage, Setzer says the next step is to have a conversation with your buyer or elevator. Try to be understanding, but don’t be afraid to have tough conversations, she advises.

“The elevator is also a customer in the end, meaning they have a certain set of expectations when it comes to the quality of grain they will ship,” she explains. “Because of the set of expectations and the subsequent loss that can come from discounts, they need to have guidelines when it comes to what is acceptable quality and discounts for what is not.”

In a perfect world, all grain would come in clean, dry and free of any unfavorable conditions, but that’s not always the case, Setzer says.

“Being aware of where your grain is going and what is expected of it when you’re making the sale or prior to shipment is a great first step in avoiding surprises,” she adds.

Setzer has heard farmers complain about the elevator’s ability to blend grain and how it’s unfair to a farmer. While blending is a possibility, it comes at a cost, and even then there’s no guarantee the product will be shipped without discount.

“Farmers are also capable of blending with the right set up,” she says. “But spiking a load or trying to pull one over on the scale operator is not the same principle.” 

To learn about other types of kernel damage, complete with photos, visit