This week's GEAPS International Technical Conference in Louisville, Kentucky brought with it countless opportunities to listen and learn—and learn we did. Jim Cary, VICAM's National Sales Manager, took a few minutes to highlight recent happenings in the grain world and the buzz around the coming crop year.
Q: What are people talking about at this year's GEAPS meeting?
Jim: Many of the people here at GEAPS are gearing up for another large corn crop. The grain elevator owners and managers are all talking with growers to see how many acres will be going to corn. They all say that corn acres will be up this coming year due to corn prices being up and demand also being up for US grains.
Q: How is last season's drought affecting grain managers now?
Jim: Following a drought year everyone is relieved to be finished with harvest and looking forward to a new growing season. The hope is that any drought damaged grain would have been rejected prior to storage and therefore would not become an issue in the bin or later when that grain is loaded out on train, truck or barge. Unfortunately, aflatoxin is showing up in some locations where they had been testing during harvest in order to prevent problems. Aflatoxin is challenging because it can be present in just a few kernels in an entire truckload. If those particular kernels are not found during the sampling process, then contaminated grain can unwittingly be accepted into storage or processing.
One way to help mitigate the complexity of managing mycotoxins is to be sure that testing takes place not only as grain enters the storage facility, but also as it exits and is loaded for shipment. In addition, good sampling practices are critical because they provide the best opportunity for obtaining a representative sample for a lot or load of grain. Grain storage practices also have an significant impact on whether molds will be able to thrive and continue producing toxins during storage. Unfortunately, once aflatoxin is present, it isn't going anywhere soon. Aflatoxin is very heat stable and can withstand some of the most vigorous processing, such as extrusion and cooking in a processing facility.
Q: Does last year's drought pose any risks to the new crop season?
Jim: Yes and no. Some areas are getting quite a bit of snow, and if that moisture can saturate the soil it could help tremendously for planting season and helping the crops get a good head start. The southern US, Texas in particular, looks to finally be recovering from their long term drought in many areas. That will please quite a few farmers who simply could not sustain a crop during the worst of drought problems in that area.
Q: How would you rate this year's GEAPS Annual Conference?
Jim: GEAPS is always an important meeting for us because we can talk face to face with grain elevator managers, merchandisers, and executives that are impacted directly by grain and food quality and safety issues. With the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in the US the grain industry is going to become more visible in the food production chain and meetings like GEAPS help to bring everyone together to discuss how to meet the new and always-changing expectations of the global marketplace. People look to GEAPS for this kind of support and they trust the information they find here and they also have some very valuable opportunities to network and learn from those who have been there, done that in this business.
Many thanks to Jim for sharing his insights from this year's GEAPS annual conference. Here's to a fruitful 2013 crop year for all grain growers, elevators, and processors!