Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig urges farmers and agribusinesses to start evaluating how much propane they’ll need to meet grain drying and home and livestock heating demands this fall and winter. The derecho that swept through Iowa on Aug. 10 created many unknowns for this year’s harvest. Propane users should anticipate, and suppliers should make plans to accommodate, increased propane demands this fall.
“After an ideal planting season and a warm, dry summer, we anticipated normal crop dry-down this fall, but the drought and derecho had significant impacts on our corn fields,” said Secretary Naig. “I encourage farmers to take a look at their grain drying and home and livestock heating needs, and formulate a plan with their propane suppliers to make sure their needs are covered and their tanks are full.”
The derecho’s sustained, high winds damaged an estimated 3.57 million acres of corn in 36 counties, just a few weeks before the harvest. While the degree of damage varies by field, millions of acres of corn stalks were snapped, flattened or tangled. This will reduce the amount of airflow around the crop, and farmers should anticipate harvested corn will have higher-than-normal moisture levels. Farmers should start engaging in planning conversations with their local propane suppliers, take advantage of early buying and booking programs, and top off their tanks now before harvest begins.
Planning Resources for Farmers
High-moisture corn must be dried before the grain can be stored in the bin to prevent grain quality issues. The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Grain Drying Economics Module helps farmers work through corn drying and marketing decisions.
The Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) has created a grain dryer propane use calculator to help crop farmers determine how much propane they may need this fall. Farmers can access the calculator at propane.com/propane-products/grain-dryers/. Enter the number of crop acres, the average anticipated yield per acre, and how much moisture may need to be removed from the crop to estimate how many gallons of propane may be needed.
The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Grain Quality Initiative also has resources to help agricultural decision-makers work through grain drying, storage and quality considerations.
Planning Resources for Suppliers
The National Propane Gas Association has developed an “ABCs of Supply Preparation” checklist. This tool guides propane suppliers through demand, supply, logistics, storage, and customer considerations to help decision-makers plan their fall inventories.
Suppliers can track Iowa propane demands, inventory levels and prices on the Iowa Propane Trends and Statistics website. This is a public resource that was launched in January 2020 by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa Department of Transportation to increase the visibility of key metrics that impact the propane supply chain in Iowa.
As of Aug. 26, 2020, U.S. propane stocks were at 90.8 million barrels or 86 days of supply. The U.S. propane inventory is expected to build over the next few weeks to peak around 91 million barrels. Midwest propane supplies stand at 25.26 million barrels, down from 26.12 million barrels at this time last year but supplies have been steadily increasing since July 10.
Iowa Propane Stakeholders Group
In the fall of 2019, Iowa experienced some propane supply challenges because grain drying demands caused by the late planting season coincided with an early cold snap that increased livestock and home heating needs.
Naig and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship convened a group of propane stakeholders, including the Iowa Governor’s office, members of the Iowa Legislature, Iowa Propane Gas Association, propane suppliers, and several agricultural groups, to anticipate and take action to prevent future propane supply chain issues.