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Propane Shortage Also Impacting Turkey Farms

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The winter's propane shortage isn't just affecting homeowners. Animals are being impacted, too.

Minnesota is the No. 1 turkey producer in the nation. And every winter, turkey farmers go through thousands of gallons of propane to heat barns and keep livestock warm.

For John Zimmerman, a healthy turkey means a healthy business.

He produces nearly four million pounds of turkey each year on his Northfield farms.

Keeping his birds fed isn't a problem. Keeping them warm is another story.

There are 27,000 baby turkeys in his brood barn, and for the first 10 days of their lives they have to be in temperatures at about 80 to 85 degrees, which means his furnace is running nearly non-stop.

And with consistent sub-zero temperatures this winter, Zimmerman's 12,000-gallon propane tank isn't running on empty ... but it's getting close.

"Normally I book my needs and this year, we've run out a month and a half sooner than we thought. Or run low a month and a half sooner than we thought," Zimmerman said.

In the next few days, he'll have to buy propane. But now, he's looking to pay up to four times more a gallon than he did a couple months ago.

"This has been a supply problem but now it's kind of morphed into a financial situation. A gallon of propane, as you know, has gone from $1.50 to over $6," said Commissioner of Agriculture Dave Frederickson.

But for Zimmerman, it's access to propane that has him worried.

Suppliers are now heading all the way to Texas to load up.

Zimmerman said it's not about gobbling up propane, but getting just what he needs to get his turkeys through the crisis.

"The price is higher but price doesn't concern me as much as availability. There's just a shortage of propane right now but when birds depend on it we will pay what we have to pay to get it," Zimmerman said.

The state agriculture department has sent up a hotline for any farm families facing a crisis over the propane shortage.

Just call 1-800-422-0798.

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