Management of Flood-Submerged Grain

September 25, 2016
ICM News

Grain submerged by uncontrolled flood waters is considered Adulterated under the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act. This policy dates to 2008 when grain storages in Cedar Rapids were inundated, and has been applied to several situations since then. Adulterated material cannot be put in commercial facilities of any type, where there would be a chance of entering human or animal food. There have been flooded (over the grain height) fields in northeast Iowa since mid-September. Late September rains have increased the scope of this problem to north central and east central Iowa, as well.

Here is a possible disposition strategy that does not involve a commercial facility:


  1. Make a 3rd party documentation of the affected area (GPS, photo documentation of water depth). This would probably be done by a crop insurance adjuster, and would have to be done before harvest to preserve insurance coverage. 
  2. Harvest the grain as soon as possible to limit further spoilage. Dry immediately to below 14% moisture, and keep wet holding time to a minimum. Isolate both wet and dry grain from each other.
  3. This grain should not be taken to a commercial elevator, warehouse, or feed mill.
  4. Clean combines, wagons, and handling equipment as completely as possible.
  5. Feed in a documented on-farm livestock feeding plan approved by a veterinarian. Test for potential hazards--mycotoxins, heavy metals, PCB’s, pathogens--appropriate for the species to be fed based on knowledge of the flooding situation. Test result documentation and feeding records should be retained.
  6. If testing is done, submit at least 10 lbs (shelled) collected from multiple locations across the area of grain that was submerged. Veterinarians have access to the Iowa State University Vet Diagnostic Lab, but there are also commercial laboratories that can test for these factors. Refrigerate the samples and submit as quickly as possible.  
  7. This grain should never be fed to dairy animals or laying hens.
  8. If an on-farm feeding plan meeting these conditions is not possible, the grain should be destroyed in the field or after harvest, using methods accepted by FDA and local health officials.
  9. Hay and silage is normally fed on-farm; the same criteria for testing and feeding corn applies to hay and silage. Flooded hay should not be baled and taken to a hay auction.


  1. Soybeans have very few direct feed uses. Flooded soybeans should not be taken to an elevator or processing plant.
  2. Flooded soybeans should be destroyed unless there is an on-farm operation that could meet the criteria for on-farm feeding of corn.

Regulatory policy and officials are not involved in the price/value determination. Grain that was above the water line is marketable, although mycotoxin testing may be advisable. The continued hot, humid weather is increasing the chances for mold growth on all corn.

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Charles Hurburgh Professor, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Dr. Charles R. Hurburgh, Charlie to most everyone, is a native Iowan from Rockwell City (Iowa, USA). He continues to operate the family farm, and is a professor of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at Iowa State University. He has a bachelor's degree, master's degree, and doctoral degree fr...