Timing of propane shortage couldn't be worse as farmers hurry to harvest

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A shortage of propane is hampering farmers and grain elevators as they attempt to dry an exceptionally wet corn crop.

Bob Zelenka, executive director of the Minnesota Grain and Feed Association, told the Rochester Post Bulletin that typically only a small percentage of the state's corn needs propane-powered artificial drying before it is stored at a grain elevator. This year, the crop has a higher moisture content due to a late planting and a wet spring. A dryer running at full capacity can burn through a semi-load of propane in four hours.

Some farmers must decide whether to risk rot by storing wet corn, or leave crops in the field and risk the weather preventing their harvest.

To speed deliveries, Gov. Mark Dayton signed an executive order on Oct. 23 to exempt drivers who haul propane from driving restrictions. Governors in Wisconsin, North and South Dakota and Iowa signed similar exemptions. MPR reports the shortage continues almost two weeks after Dayton signed the emergency order.
The Red River Farm Network talked to CHS, Inc. propane marketing manager Matt Kumm, who said corn drying is usually staggered across the country. This season, all areas need to dry corn at the same time. Kumm says the infrastructure cannot handle the volume needed to meet the demand, even though propane distributors have increased the trucks hauling the fuel from the pipeline terminal to the retail stores.

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