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Propane shortage hits farmers at harvest

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A late planting at the beginning of the growing season is creating a problem for farmers as the season concludes.

The Mankato Free Press reports farmers throughout the Midwest, including those in Minnesota, are experiencing a shortage of propane. The fuel is needed to run dryers to address unusually wet crops. Gov. Mark Dayton this week declared a state of emergency that loosened regulations on propane drivers; the action is designed to get the fuel to farmers who need it.

The newspaper reports that simultaneous harvests have contributed to the shortage. This year, a wet spring pushed the planting season back, creating a logjam at harvest. The network of pipelines, trains and trucks that distribute propane is built for a staggered harvest schedule.

In addition, MPR reported that Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson said a pipeline that formerly carried propane to Minnesota switched to carrying light condensates associated with oil shale. The Cochin pipeline stopped transporting propane in half their pipeline in April.

"That literally cut the supply of liquid propane to west-central part of Minnesota in half," Frederickson said.

The supply issue will force some farmers to leave their crop in the field until they can secure propane. That won’t necessarily reduce yield, but waiting too long raises the risk of a snow, which makes harvesting trickier.

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