Iowa Public Television


Propane Shortages Cause Grain Drying Problems

posted on November 25, 2009

Farmers in the Midwest are struggling to bring in some of the nation's largest -- and wettest -- crops in history.

According to a USDA report released Monday, 94 percent of the nation's soybeans have been harvested, up 5 percentage points from the previous week and virtually on par with the five-year average pace.

Only 68 percent of the nation's corn has been harvested. That's up slightly from the previous week, but well below the five-year average of 94 percent.

Excessive moisture content is adding to the problems. Growers are using about twice as much propane as normal to dry this year's crop. And while national propane supplies are abundant, the fuel is becoming scarce in some regions.

Propane Shortages Cause Grain Drying Problems

Persistent fall rains and short supplies of propane are delivering a one/two punch to farmers across the Midwest who depend on the fuel to dry corn that is wetter than usual.

Jim Sartwelle, Economist - American Farm Bureau Federation: "Wet weather at harvest time poses two big problems to farmers. First, it's simply too wet to get the combines and grain carts in the fields to harvest. The second problem is wet grain. You just can't store wet grain very long without having mold problems and other quality issues down the road."

Farmers have been working to harvest one of the largest corn crops in history during one of the wettest Octobers on record. The combination is fueling propane shortages that have some producers choosing between leaving corn in the field to harvest later, paying more in energy costs to dry the harvest, or selling wet grain to elevators at a discount. Faced with the same fuel shortage, some elevators are refusing to take grain that is too wet or have set other restrictions on the amount of grain they are willing to take.

In order to assist farmers, governors in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin have suspended restrictions for truckers hauling propane, allowing drivers to increase their hours of operation and to carry larger loads.


Tags: agriculture crops news