What is a Terminal Elevator

A terminal elevator is a large pulley system, typically found at distribution centers, that is used to transfer large amounts of grain to trucks, rail cars, barges and ships for transport. The terminal elevator is typically located in areas that have the greatest accumulation of the particular agricultural product, in order to transfer the commodity to one of its processors, such as flour mills, breweries and ethanol or alcohol distilleries. 

BREAKING DOWN Terminal Elevator

Terminal elevators tend to be  in market centers that have access to ship facilities, such as railroads or shipping facilities on water. They bring together major buyers and sellers and have the capacity to dry the grain, segregate grains of different qualities and blend grains to meet the buyers needs for export or production of flour. Terminal elevator markets are used as base locations for posted county prices. The grain in a terminal elevator does is differentiated by owner; products may mix together. Before a terminal elevator can be used, an exchange must recognize the facility as a terminal elevator.

A terminal elevator performs three functions.  It is a storage facility where grain is stored after harvest and before shipping to domestic and foreign points. The terminal elevator is also a  wholesale distributor. In addition, the terminal elevator conditions grain for storing to preserve its value. The terminal elevator is the main link between farmers and consumers of the grain. As such, they are typically located close to grain production areas and transportation hubs.

Types of Grain Elevators

Several types of grain elevators, including primary elevators, process elevators, transfer elevators and terminal elevators.

  • Primary electors receive grain from farms for storage or forwarding.
  • Process elevators receive and store grain that will be used for  manufacturing or processing.
  • Transfer elevators transfer inspected and weighed grain.
  • Terminal elevators receive inspected and weighed grain. Transfer elevators may clean, treat and store grain. 

Grain elevators are grappling with the recent need for separate storage facilities for genetically-modified and ordinary grains to avoid mixing the two.