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Propane council addresses concern for corn harvest

Kaitlyn Riley

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A cold fall and late corn harvest created the perfect propane storm. In recent weeks, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers declared an energy emergency for the state.

Executive Order 56 said Wisconsin propane terminals experienced increased out-of-state demand with grain drying and a lack of propane in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.

The Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) said those factors posed a set of unusual problems, but Director of Ag Business Development Mike Newland said they are working through it.

“We have plenty of fuel,” Newland said. “If you are in a situation where you don’t have the availability, it doesn’t matter how much you have.”

The logistical strain came from the corn crop entering the farm fields late because of a wet planting season. That delayed the fall harvest with pressures from winter weather.

“That is the same way from Indiana all of the way back through the upper Midwest to the Dakotas,” Newland said. “We are using more propane per bushel to dry than we’ve used in the last 20 years, and it is across a huge piece of geography. It is hard to meet the demand across that big of an area on a record pace.”

PERC state executives and state associations have been working with governors and directors of agriculture across the nation to put hours of service waivers in place allowing transport drivers to exceed their hour limits.

“The industry is rallying behind the cause,” Newland said. “We have extra transport trucks brought into some of those areas by our larger, wholesale customers within the industry. We are working on it 24/7. I wish I could say we are moving faster than we are, but right now, everybody is running combines, and it is hard to catch up from the situation.”

A break in the cold fall weather could help. Livestock buildings and homes are competing for gallons of propane. Newland noted the latest crop report from the USDA showed great progress in the harvest in large areas, which could lessen drying needs and help move propane to other areas of the country.

“Short term, there could be some bumps in the road,” Newland said. “We understand that is a very emotional thing that is going on for farmers and we are doing everything that we can in the short term to make this as painless and pain-free as possible.

PERC handles development and research work to look for opportunities to use propane. Propane is a clean, versatile fuel, according to Newland.

“It is an exceptional, versatile fuel,” Newland said. “It doesn’t go out of condition like some other fuels that are used on the farms. It is portable, so we can easily set tanks were they need to be.”

In addition to fueling machinery, PERC is using propane to kill weeds by disrupting cell growth. Another innovation is to use propane to disrupt the lifecycles of insects or diseases that impact various crops. PERC does offer incentives up to $5,000 to farmers who are looking to buy a new system or upgrade.

Newland noted Propane is also environmentally sustainable with emissions that are less than diesel fuel.

“We are very proud of how environmentally-friendly propane is,” Newland said. “I think we have a huge advantage over other fuels in that regard. It is a fantastic fuel.”

More information about propane can be found online.