What makes an already difficult, wet and nasty harvest even worse? Shortages of supplies you desperately need. Liquid propane is in scarce supply in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, leaving farmers to make difficult harvest decisions.
“We have tremendous demand on the [propane] system,” said Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig on AgriTalk Monday. “Below average temperatures have boosted residential and livestock demand. We got shut off last week and we’ve got corn to dry.”
Reports from farmers last week in Iowa and other states with shortages said retailers were cutting farmers off at as little as 30% of allocation. With many corn acres yet to harvest, and stalk conditions deteriorating, farmers and cooperatives are looking at a potentially devastating wet grain situation if a propane supply solution isn’t found.
Governors in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin are easing up on trucking hours of service to try to address propane demand. Drivers are often meeting six- to 12-hour waits at the rack, which means they’re timing out on driving hours while waiting.
With the waiver, including a regional waiver, trucks can wait in line and get back on the road right away, or they can drive to other states. For farmers in Iowa, many truckers are headed to Kansas to access propane, Naig said.
“It’s a bit like an anhydrous-type situation where it doesn’t take long to exhaust the storage capacity in-state and then you become reliant on what the pipeline can bring you and what you can bring in on transports,” he added.
While it’s natural to look for who, or what, to point the blame, Naig said there’s too many factors to pin it on a single group or incident. Instead, they’re looking for solutions to hopefully avoid this type of difficulty in the future.
“We need to make sure that we will hopefully never go through this again,” he said. “At this point, some warmer temperatures and getting harvest completed in parts of the state is probably the most realistic thing that start to change this supply dynamic.”
Any long-term or regulatory-type solution Naig and others reach probably won’t have much, if any, impact on 2019 harvest.
Check out more tips on managing this year's wet harvest: