Flooded Grain Best Practices

Grain bins exposed to floodwaters are likely to have sustained damage and some grain loss can be expected. With few exceptions, flood-soaked grain is not useable for feed or food. Flooding affects the stored grain, the grain storage structure, and ancillary equipment of the grain bin.
Flood-damaged grain is adulterated grain because of the potential for many contaminants to enter through the water. Flood waters can contain animal waste, excessive silt, chemicals, fuel, bacteria, and other contaminants. This grain should be destroyed, never blended. Contact local public health and sanitation officials for the best disposal process in your area. NEGFA will add contact information as soon as that information is made available to us.

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Nebraska Farm Bureau - Disaster Assistance
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United Way of the Midlands

Disposal of Grain

Department of Environmental Quality - Disposal of Flood Damaged Grain & Hay:  "The department has historically allowed spoiled grain, hay, or some food processing by-products to be spread evenly on farm or ranch fields. ... Flood-damaged grain and hay has been demonstrated to be a danger to bird wildlife. As a result, the department recommends land application of flood damaged grain or hay to be disked into the soil within 24 hours of application. Depending on the nature of the contamination and the condition of the flood-damaged grain or hay, burning might be the best method of waste management."

FDA Policy on Flood Damaged Grain

“The FDA considers flood water to be inherently unsanitary and deems grains, oilseeds, feed and feed ingredients (including distillers grain) and food that has been in contact with flood water, to be unfit for human consumption or animal feed unless reconditioned (in the case of animal feed). This includes grain and oilseeds that might be destined for an ethanol plant or soybean processor because of the resultant use of the co-products (DDGs and soybean meal) in animal feed."
According to FDA: "If the edible portion of a crop is exposed to flood waters, it is considered adulterated under section 402(a) (4) (21 U.S.C. 342(a) (4) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and should not enter human food channels. There is no practical method of reconditioning the edible portion of a crop that will provide a reasonable assurance of human food safety. Therefore, the FDA recommends that these crops be disposed of in a manner that ensures they are kept separate from crops that have not been flood damaged to avoid adulterating 'clean' crops." Link to Guidance For Industry: Evaluation the Safety of Flood-Affected Food Crops for Human Consumption
The FDA guidance applies to crops that were flooded with water from rivers, creeks or streams. Pooled water, or rainwater that has collected in the field, is different from floodwater and is not likely to contaminate field crops. Farmers must be aware of this, and should not mix flooded, submerged, or otherwise moisture damaged grain with the good, dry grain, at risk of spoiling the entire lot and/or having the lot rejected at the elevator. 

FDA Reconditioning Requests Contact for contamination events occurring in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa: 
Victoria Wagoner, 913-495-5150.

Actions to Determine Damage of Grain and Grain Bin:

  1. Cut all power and verify that structures are not energized.
  2. Determine where the water line was, and therefore the extent of adulterated grain.
  3. Inspect Grain Bin, including unloading and aeration equipment
  4. Inspect the stored grain.
  5. Contact your insurance company.
  6. Contact Disaster Relief Agency to find out steps to document and report losses. (NE Dept. of Environmental Quality).
  7. Remove good grain from the top, have it graded by an official grader, and tested for mycotoxins.
  8. Clean grounds around storage facility.
  9. Clean and disinfect storage facilities. Replace electrical components.
  10. Feed the good grain in consultation with a veterinarian who may ask for additional tests.

Resource List with Contact Info: Services & Equipment List for Flood Damaged Grain

Salvaging Grain

Grain that was submerged for more than a few days will have a moisture content of about 30 to 50 percent. The moisture will not travel more than a few inches above the flood line. Remove grain that is in good condition before attempting to do anything with the portion damaged by floodwaters.

Removing Grain

Good grain on top of flooded grain must be removed from the top or side, not down through the damaged grain. Dry grain will be relatively safe for a few weeks, but it would be best to separate it from the wet grain as soon as you can because the wet grain will begin to spoil in a few days and generate heat and odors that could reduce the quality of the dry grain above it.
Using a vacuum-type grain conveyor to suck the grain out of the top of the bin. It is not suggested that you try to insert an auger into the dry grain through a small opening in the side door, if the water line was below the level of the side door on the bin, because unloading a bin from one side creates uneven sidewall pressures that can damage the bin. Grain in ruptured bins could contain bolts, bin hardware, or other debris that should be separated out (consider using grain cleaners and/or magnets) before the grain is fed.

Toxin Testing

Toxins are likely in rewetted grain. Warm, wet conditions are ideal for mold growth. Soaked grain will spoil within a day or two at high moisture and summer temperatures. This grain should be tested for mycotoxins before use. Use reconditioned grain immediately.

Reconditioned Grain

If the grain is to be sold, reconditioning must be done with the written consent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA allows for reconditioning (washing and drying at high temperatures) in cases where the floodwater did not remain long and did not contain contaminants.
For feed on site, producers have three alternatives:
  1. Dry the grain
  2. Feed it immediately to their livestock
  3. Ensile the grain for livestock feed
Drying the Grain
Get the wet grain to a dryer quickly, if possible. This is the surest way to save wet grain. If the grain depth is less than 6 feet, use a natural-air bin drying system with a perforated floor and a high-capacity drying fan. Verify that the air is coming through the grain. Supplemental heat can be used to speed drying, but do not raise the air temperature more than 10 or 15 degrees F. If a dryer is not available, spread the grain in as dry a place as possible. Don't pile it any higher than 6 inches. Stir it daily to prevent overheating and to speed drying. Watch for and remove molded grains.

Grain Bins

Grain expands when wet. Most likely the bin is damaged. Soybeans will swell more than any other grain. There are few wood grain bins left in Nebraska, but if you have one wood structures are likely to sustain more damage than metal and will also retain mold and contaminants. Check bins with stirring devices carefully. The bin must be perfectly round for them to work correctly. Beware that grain in ruptured bins could contain bolts, bin hardware, or other debris that should be separated out (consider using grain cleaners and/or magnets) before the grain is fed.

Inspecting the Structure

Look for signs of stretched caulking seals, misaligned doors, sheared bolts, elongated holes, or similar structural problems.  Inspect foundations carefully, bin foundations can shift, float, or deteriorate from flooding. An engineer evaluation is a best practice for large bins.

Lock Out Tag Out – Energy Controls

Expect electric wiring, controls and fans to be ruined. Do not energize wet components. Be sure the power is off before touching any electrical components of flooded systems. If electric motors on the unloading system have been underwater, it is best not to start them until they have been cleaned, dried, and lubricated. Be very careful when cleaning out the bottom-unloading sump. Proceed with Caution and use your safety knowledge.
Drying, aeration, and unloading equipment on bins are likely to be inoperable immediately after floods. In many cases, however, electric motors and controls, and gas burners will work again after they are cleaned and dried. Mud in electrical motors and equipment may cause electrical faults and other damage. Do not try to start electric motors until they have been cleaned and dried or they might burn out. You should also clean mud and debris off of fan blades to prevent imbalances that might lead to bearing damage. In many cases, aeration ducts and areas under full-perforated floors will contain mud and saturated grain fines. Clean these areas before the bin is filled again.

Elevated Grain Bin Foundations

If the bin has an elevated, full-perforated floor, and the water level remained below the floor, the grain is probably fine. You might still need to check for erosion around the foundation, damage to the fan and unloading system, and mud accumulation under the floor.
If grain rests directly on a concrete floor, it is possible that water moved up through small cracks and pores and wet a few inches of grain next to the floor. It is also possible that in-floor aeration ducts are full of water and mud and that the fan and unloading system have been damaged by water. If you can get the aeration system to work, attempt to dry the layer of wet grain by aerating it. Or, if you can get the unloading system to work, consider transferring grain from one bin to another to get the layer of wet grain off the floor before it molds.

Flooded Hay/Silage

Best Practice for flooded hay and silage is to dispose of by spreading on fields as a fertilizer.

Because of hay's tendency to heat and mold quickly, it should be spread out to dry as soon as possible and turned often. Hay bales that are at 30 to 40 percent moisture content pose the greatest risk of fire. Check hay storage often for pungent odors, hot damp areas on the stack, emission of water vapors and other signs of heating.

To check a stack's temperature for fire risk, drive a sharp pointed pipe into the hay, lower a thermometer inside the pipe and leave it there for about 20 minutes. At 150 degrees F, the hay is approaching the danger zone. At 170 degrees F, hot spots or fire pockets are possible. Have the fire department on standby.

Hay Drop Off Points

Livestock Safety Reminder for Feeding Water-Damaged Grains and Feed

Toxin Testing. Do not feed flood-damaged grains until they are tested for mycotoxins, toxic substances produced by fungi. Ask your county Extension agent for locations of testing laboratories. Even if the feed is deemed safe to use, watch animals carefully for signs of illness.
Nutritive Value. Mixed feeds, grains and roughages that have heated or spoiled will have little nutritive value for livestock, depending on the extent of the damage. Remember to adjust amounts fed for moisture.
Substituting Soybeans in Rations - Wet, whole soybeans can be fed to cattle if the soybeans are limited to 10 to 12 percent of the ration's dry matter. Soybeans substitute well for the protein in soybean meal, but they need to be fed with a vitamin-mineral-additive premix if substituted for a complete protein supplement. It is not necessary to heat-treat the soybeans for cattle. Also, if adding whole soybeans to diets high in distillers' grains, watch the total ration fat content.  For hogs, raw soybeans can only be fed to mature sows. The soybeans need to be heat treated if fed to younger pigs.
Safety. Do not feed heated, molded or sour feeds, or moldy legume hays (such as alfalfa or clover) to any livestock. Reduced performance, sickness, abortion or death may occur.

USDA Help for Farmers and Ranchers Impacted by Flooding 

Grain Safety Reminder

  • Turn off gas valves and electrical power until you have a chance to clean, dry, and inspect gas and electrical systems.
  • Work in pairs and stay out of flowing grain.
  • Wear a tight-fitting, high-quality dust mask or respirator that is designed to filter mold spores and other toxic dusts when handling flood-damaged grain. The mask will generally have an N-95 rating and two straps.


FDA Outlines Resources for Food Producers in Flooded Areas
Nebraska Extension Flood Resources
How to Handle Flooded Grain - NC Soybean Producers Association
Salvaging Stored Wet Feed and Grain with Contact Info for University Specialists - North Dakota State University
FDA: Food Crops Exposed to Flood Waters Should Be Destroyed - DTN
Managing Flooded Grain Bins - Extension
Flooding and Stored Grain - Farms.Com
Flooding and Stored Grain - UNL Crop Watch
Flooded Grain and Other Harvest Issues – Iowa State University