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01-25-2014 11:38 AM
This was in todays paper:
A propane squeeze caused by January’s bitter cold has put the hurt on Minnesota’s livestock industry, as farmers scramble to find costly fuel to keep their animals warm.
Some turkey growers are being told by suppliers that the propane spigot might get turned off if the cold keeps up over the next week.
Relatively mild weather Friday and Saturday should help matters some, but the deep freeze is supposed to be back early next week.
“With the onset of severely cold weather over the past weeks, propane supplies in the Midwest are extremely tight,” according to a report Thursday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Agriculture uses about 30 percent of Minnesota’s propane.
Shortage worries are particularly acute in the turkey industry, and Minnesota is the nation’s leading turkey-producing state, with about 250 growers.
Fuel suppliers have told some farmers that they have “five days left of propane,” said Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. “The big concern is availability.”
Young turkeys require 90-degree heat, while full-sized birds need temperatures of 45 to 50 degrees. So far, supplies haven’t gotten so low that growers have dialed down the thermostat. But’s that’s a possibility. “It’s going to be the last resort,” Olson said.
If the heat goes down, turkeys get more stressed, which in turn makes them more susceptible to disease, he said.
Concerns over propane supplies have surfaced in the hog industry, too, and Minnesota is one of the nation’s top pig producing states.
“I’ve heard from folks who’ve been told by suppliers that they don’t know where their next load of propane is coming from,” said David Preisler, executive director of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association.
Faced with shortages, some hog farmers have tried to find alternate propane suppliers only to be told the dealers aren’t taking on new business.
The propane shortage is also having an effect in the dairy industry, though less for animal heating. The larger the animal, the more body heat it generates, and cows generate enough that their heating needs are less.
But propane is often the prime fuel used to heat water, and piping hot water is vital to keeping dairy farm equipment clean.
Farmers pay big premiums
Farmers — along with propane users of all stripes — are paying huge premiums for the fuel these days. Wholesale spot prices in Minnesota have gone from about $3.75 per gallon a few days ago to just south of $5 a gallon. Last fall, the propane price was $1.55 per gallon, and most of the run-up since then has occurred this month.
There are several reasons. Last fall’s bumper U.S. corn crop came in wet, and corn drying is done primarily by propane-powered heaters, taxing fuel supplies. Then, logistical problems prevented the Midwest from fully replenishing its propane inventories before winter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The Cochin pipeline, which delivers propane to the Upper Midwest from Canada, was out of service for maintenance from late November to Dec.
20. The pipeline, operated by Kinder Morgan, carries 40 percent of Minnesota’s propane.
That shutdown foreshadows long-term supply problems for the state. Kinder Morgan plans to halt propane shipments on the pipeline this spring, reversing its direction to carry light petroleum condensate from the United States to Canada. Propane wholesalers are scrambling to retool their supply chains, increasing storage capacity and getting access to more railroad tank cars.
Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003
01-25-2014 11:50 AM - edited 01-25-2014 11:58 AM
The real hurt is with the young working class and the elderly on fixed incomes that only have a very limited budget left for heat. Their $200 to $300 a month they can scrape up to stay warm isn't going to cut it.
Starting Monday our high here in southern Iowa is going to be +2 F with a breeze and nothing above freezing till the weekend at best. Might be good to check on a few neighbors...
Prices are nuts here too... got a card from one of my suppliers I buy from with a "winter fill special" told me day before yesterday they would honor the $1.899 price and fill the tanks on both houses this coming week. My renters are glad I got the card. At the time I ordered it their tank was @ 20%. Here at my house I have a ground source heat pump and still have the wood furnaces in the basement. Electricity is my concern here at home.
01-25-2014 12:44 PM
01-25-2014 12:54 PM - edited 01-25-2014 12:56 PM
I think everyone should be planting short season varieties regardless. I mean some of these short season varieties yield just as well as the more adapted varieities. I am sick and tired of the myth that equates long season varieties to big yields.
most variety trials show some varieties that are 100-200 CHU less and yield just as well in my area. as well, spreading your maturity by 10 days can give you a significant chance of catching good pollination weather if it all goes in the ground in the first 5 days. there just isnt a significant difference in many cases, but not always.. long season varieties, and evon longer season varieties struggled in some areas.
$10/gal propane by next week.
apparently this may carry over next year.. time for people to buy an 8000 gallon tank and get tractor trailer loads in august.
from .33/l to 1..60/l... ridiculous!!!
01-25-2014 12:59 PM
Shaggy, seeing what I'm seeing happening on the sun, I think all midwest farmers should be evaluating their choice of hybrids. The suns output is not what we should be getting at solar max. It appears that the magnetic fields on the sun are weakening, and putting out less radiation than normal for this point in the solar cycle. Add to that what we saw last summer - and now this winter - that systems seem to be getting "stuck", with the same area experiancing weather events for longer periods of time. That's the thing causing havoc now. Some are blaming the the gulf stream, and ocean currents in general. I did some reading on the affect of fresh (ice) water into the gulf stream circulation pattern some time ago. If I remember correctly, the slowing of weather systems was one of the things the researcher was concerned with.
Anyway, I would look at modifing hybrids this coming season, especially in the north - WI, MI, ND, MN - and areas that have not typically grown corn in the past but opted to in the last 5 years to take advantage of price - maybe should rethink their cropping choice this coming year.
01-25-2014 01:08 PM
By the way, I'm still in AZ - about the only place in the states right now that is really nice. It's supposed to be in the mid 70's here all week. I actually got a little sunburned on Thursday. Drove down to Bisbee yesterday and checked out the copper mines that closed down in the mid 70's. It is amazing seeing the diversity of minerals that came out of those mines.
I've been looking for a chance to get back with the motorhome to MN without having to winterize the home (we have a heated shed for it when we get there) but it doesn't look promising for the next ten days. I really wanted to be home for Feb 6th when the Olympics begin, and to finish up the tax stuff. But, we'll see what the weather does. In the mean time, I can think of worse places to be stuck
Stay warm - throw another pail of corn in the stove!