During another wet harvest season, drying this year’s crop faces an added challenge — a lack of propane.
Planting delays this spring combined with cool weather and early snows have left some fields of corn at as much as 25% moisture after the first week of November. That will lead farmers either to wait out the crop to get additional in-field drying or spend more on bin drying.
With some farmers opting to get harvest going, those using LP gas are facing a shortage.
“Our corn is a lot wetter this year, so it’s taking more propane to dry it down,” said Angie Rieck-Hinz, Iowa State Extension agronomist in North Central Iowa. “Talking to a couple of farmers and colleagues, it’s pretty ubiquitous statewide. It sounds like they are getting some propane, but not a whole lot.”
She said one of the co-ops in her coverage area had stopped accepting new grain for a period of time due to the lack of resources.
David Summers, location manager for the Tipton, Iowa, branch of Cedar County Co-op, said a large reason for the crunch this year is due to transportation.
He noted that much of the propane is in Texas.
“It’s just a matter of transportation and infrastructure being old, I guess,” Summers said. “There are companies right now that don’t have any propane, and I feel for that. I’m not going to say we will have it tomorrow or the next day either. We are working hard to keep our supply, but there’s only so many hours a person can work.”
He said the pipelines allocate how much product is delivered from terminals. Due to those limitations, cost has gone up, with a Reuters news article reporting propane prices had surged by as much as 20% in October across the Midwest.
Part of the added cost is the added travel distances needed to pick up more propane.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, along with leaders in Minnesota and Wisconsin, have eased the burden somewhat by signing executive orders to lift regulations on drivers.
Summers said the co-op may hold some propane back for livestock and houses. He said if issues persist long enough, they may have to implement scheduling to help ration the product.
“It’s a matter of helping whoever you can,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you have propane and my biggest competitor doesn’t. That’s not a big deal at this point. When that happens, neither one of us has a winning hand at that point.”
As harvest rolls along, farmers know they will have a challenge on their hands when they finally get the corn picked.
“I talked to a few guys it sounded like they were shut off for a week before their next load of LP,” Fayette, Iowa, farmer Mark Recker said. “That’s going to be hard to get anything done without that, as wet as the corn’s been.”