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Local growers are working to wrap up harvest but demand for propane across the region may halt efforts. (File photo/Echo Press)

Propane shortage threatens harvest

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An all-at-once harvest has put pressure on the Midwest’s propane supply.

A late start for planting and a cool summer means harvest is happening all at once from Iowa to the Dakotas, creating a temporary propane shortage.

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In a good year, the peak harvesting times will be staggered throughout the Midwest, moving north as the fall progresses. But it hit the region all at once this year, said Matt Kumm of CHS Inc., a major propane distributor in the Midwest.

“The infrastructure is not built to handle that extreme of a demand over such a short time period,” said Kumm, the company’s propane marketing manager.

Kumm said CHS is bringing in truckers from the East Coast, the Pacific Coast “and everywhere in between” to try to tackle the shortage.

Farmers get better prices for crops that are below a certain moisture level.

Without enough propane to fuel grain dryers, some crops may remain in fields until it’s available.

Now, rolling into November, that raises the risk of harvesting in the snow.

Craig Haseman is vice-chairman of the Douglas County Corn and Soybean Grower Association and he grows corn and soybeans between Brandon and Evansville. So far, he said, they’ve been able to keep up with drying crops. 

However, he added, “Our fear is the calendar. We don’t have the window they do in Iowa to get crops out. Hopefully they’ll give us a little favoritism up here as it works itself out.”

Ken Johnson, general manager of the Ashby Equity Association, told the Echo Press on Wednesday, “There’s light at the end of tunnel... harvest in the southern states is wrapping up and it’s very likely we’ll see things get better next week. The challenge for now continues to be trucks and transportation.”

He said long lines at suppliers and going further to get it has cut into the system.

“Moving forward, we’re going to see it get better, but it might take another week. The late soybean harvest helped take the heat off elevators when farmers were back to soybeans last week. Generally, it’s fair to say our customers are pretty understanding and they acknowledge and understand it’s a major issue.”

State Representative Paul Anderson (R-District 12B), who represents a portion of Douglas County, is a farmer near Starbuck and in his weekly e-mail update to constituents noted: “The good news is experts say this situation should not be a factor in this winter’s heating season. The propane supply is saved first for home heating, then for animal and livestock systems that require heating, followed by grain drying. A new monthly allocation will take place Friday and should be adequate into the future.”

Last week, Governor Mark Dayton issued an emergency executive order exempting drivers transporting propane to affected areas from regulations limiting drivers’ on-the-road time.

Kyle Potter of the Forum News Service contributed to this report.

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Amy Chaffins
Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, Amy’s first job was at KSAX-TV working as an anchor and reporter. From 2003-2010, Amy worked as an editor and reporter for the Pope County Tribune and Starbuck Times newspapers. During her journalism career, Amy earned writing and photography awards from the Associated Press, Minnesota Newspaper Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Amy and her husband, Brandon, live in Alexandria and together write “He Sez, She Sez,” a humor column in the local women’s magazine, Chicz. Away from work, Amy and Brandon spend time bass fishing and keeping tabs on their charismatic dog, Cash, who has been known to jump out of the boat to “retrieve” the bass lures.
(320) 763-1242
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