Propane shortage raising concerns for Wisconsin farmers

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Photo source: 123RF(WSAW)
Published: Nov. 21, 2019 at 9:14 PM CST
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A cold and wet start to winter is causing concern for Midwest farmers, as the region faces a propane shortage.

This time of year usually creates a greater need for LP on farms. But as demand grows this season, supply struggles to keep up.

“It's been a really bad year. There's a lot of farmers that would like to get 2019 over with and move on,” says Paul Mitchell, professor of agriculture and applied economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

2019 is a year for the books: setting the record for the latest harvest in Wisconsin. Experts say only 50 percent of Wisconsin fields are harvested right now, a number that should be in the 80s.

“We have a high moisture grain out there this year in corn. And traditionally we dry it. But with the LP shortage, it's hard for them to get their corn dried,” Mitchell explains.

That means farmers face a dilemma: deciding whether to harvest corn that may not have LP to dry it, or leave corn behind in the fields where it is prone to things like heavy winds, mold or deer eating the crops.

“We had this big demand for LP when it snowed and got cold all the sudden,” Mitchell says.

This difficulty affects more than just farmers.

“On the consumer end, the demand is up,” Mitchell tells NBC15 News. “Farmers are going to need it more than they anticipated, so it's just another group out there demanding LP. So it's going to put upward pressure on the prices for consumers."

Nicole Wagner, executive director of the Wisconsin Corn Program, says the propane shortage has not hit Wisconsin just yet.

“There are some areas that may have had a delay in their propane, but that's really going to depend on where you are in the state. We've seen more in southwest Wisconsin and creeping into the Madison area,” she says.

Wagner believes Wisconsin consumers will not be affected by the shortage. Instead, she says Wisconsin is in a good place.

“We do have a few advantages. Governor Evers signed an executive order so that those people that are delivering the propane can deliver for longer hours than normal,” she says.

Last month, Governor Tony Evers declared a State Energy Emergency, now allowing drivers who deliver propane to work longer hours than usual.

On a national level, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced a plan to bring more propane to the Midwest. Experts say it will be shipped to Illinois and delivered to neighboring states in need.