Dakota Farmer

The need to dry late-planted corn could raise propane prices and cause spot shortages.

June 21, 2019

1 Min Read
grain elevator
CORN DRYING: Corn is dried at an Arlington, S.D., grain elevator. Lon Tonneson

By David Ripplinger

Late corn planting has raised a variety of concerns. In North Dakota, farmers should be considering possible grain drying needs, fuel price and availability.

Even in years when planting is timely, crop and harvest conditions in North Dakota often require grain drying prior to sale or storage. This year's late corn planting sets the stage for a late harvest and the risk that field drying won't be enough.

Farmers should evaluate their potential drying fuel needs now: assessing their corn production potential, estimating the amount of fuel needed for drying, getting summer and fall drying fuel prices from local suppliers, and reviewing the availability of fuel storage and drying systems.

Farmers should consider taking advantage of summer fuel pricing. This requires delivery long before harvest, before actual drying fuel needs are known.

This uncertainty and challenging financial conditions may lead some farmers to forgo early purchase. However, reliance on spot purchases after adverse crop and harvest conditions are known could lead to a large, simultaneous rush to secure fuel, driving up prices and the likelihood that fuel cannot be delivered in a timely manner.

There have been structural changes in North Dakota’s propane market that could impact this year’s harvest. A pipeline that had been used to supply propane has been repurposed, a new rail and tank system built near Hannaford and new gas plants in western North Dakota provide an extremely large, relatively local supply.

Ripplinger is a North Dakota State University Extension bioenergy and bioproducts economics specialist.

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