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'It's Been Stressful': Propane Shortage Adding To Difficult Harvest For Minnesota Farmers

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota is now one of eight states under an emergency declaration when it comes to propane.

The propane shortage extends across the Midwest, and as far south as Kansas.

It can be blamed on a wet harvest and delivery issues caused by early winter weather in some states.

A wet fall means propane is needed to dry crops for many farmers before it can be stored. And they can burn through thousands of gallons of propane in a week. That also burns through their pocketbooks.

In some cases, propane has been brought in from Nebraska and other states, in order to keep up with corn dryers that are working overtime.

Brothers Dan and Daryl Patnode and their sons farm a thousand acres near Loretto.

"All the homes and businesses, turkey barns and chicken barns. The demand is there and they are just having a hard time keeping up," Dan said.

They also milk about 140 dairy cows as part of Patnode Dairy. We visited with them in 2013, during a similar harvest, when propane also became issue. A wet spring meant late planting. A wet fall means late harvesting.

"Start to finish. It's been stressful from the get-go. We couldn't get planting and now it seems like we can't get the harvest finished up," Daryl said.

On the dairy side of things, the Patnodes need propane to heat their milking parlor. So far they haven't had to wait for propane. But there's a concern that with early winter weather things could change, as it already has for other farmers across the Midwest.

"Now we are trying to get the crop out and do tillage, but now there is frost in the ground. Six inches of frost," Dan said.

Last year at this time, about 86% of Minnesota corn had been harvested. Right now, we are only at about 63%. But farmers are counting on the next, few days to be dry and warmer so progress can be made.

The emergency declaration for propane comes after the natural gas supply for commercial corn dryers was shut off on Monday. It's part of an effort to keep enough supply on hand for homes and schools.

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