Create a Plan in Case of Aflatoxin

This is another situation where thinking forward will save you in the long run.

If your corn crop contains a certain level of aflatoxin (measured in parts per billion, or ppb), it's possible that it could get rejected at the grain elevator or ethanol plant. I know you didn't need one more thing to stress about – but it's possible that you'll find aflatoxin in that drought damaged corn. So what do you do with it? Here's a place where good decision making could save you from future regrets.

You'll need a plan, especially if you want to make a quality adjustment claim on your crop insurance policy based on aflatoxin levels. Otherwise, you could find yourself with harvested grain that you're suddenly unable to sell. Each elevator is a little different in terms of what they'll accept. If you're going to feed corn with aflatoxin in it, check to see what levels are acceptable for your animals. Ethanol plants often have a lower threshold for aflatoxin as their byproduct goes into livestock feed. Some won't accept corn unless it tests at 0 ppb.

The main problem is grain storage. Here's what can happen: A farmer has his grain tested for aflatoxin, which comes back from a certified tester at 20 ppb. That's right at the threshold level before crop insurance starts to pay out for a quality adjustment. However, this farmer decides to store his corn in an on-farm bin. In the spring, he delivers it to the elevator, where it's tested a second time for aflatoxin. But by now the levels have increased to 50 ppb. The elevator won't accept it because it's above their threshold level and the farmer can't get a crop insurance payment for quality adjustment, either. It's too late.

Experts differ over whether or not conditions in grain bins are ripe for aflatoxin levels to increase by springtime making it clear there are risks with storage. The question then…what is the wise thing for a farmer to do with his 2012 grain?

If your corn tests within the "accepted" levels for aflatoxin, it's recommended that you store it at the elevator and not in your bins. This doesn't mean you have to sell it right when you take it to the elevator. You can simply pay to have them store it until you are ready to sell it.

If you find out aflatoxin is in your area, call your adjuster to find out if you should leave a strip of standing corn. Submit your crop insurance claim NOW. The adjuster will then need to complete a test from that strip. Aflatoxin is the only toxin that MUST be tested from standing corn. To receive a payout for a quality adjustment claim, the corn cannot be tested from a bin.

You should turn in claims now. The rule is to turn in a claim within 72 hours of discovery of a loss on a unit. There is no penalty for withdrawing a claim. Depending on your circumstances, you could have a yield loss or quality losses due to test weight or aflatoxin – or a combination of losses.

Overall, be prepared to enter the claim process for corn with levels above 20 ppb of aflatoxin. The best situation is that the level of aflatoxin in your corn is under acceptable level determined by the elevator. This eliminates the risk created for the farmer by allowing grain containing any amount of aflatoxin to sit in your own bin until spring. Don't be caught in a situation where you have harvested grain with nowhere to go.

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