Farmers, ag businesses, rural residents and other Iowans who use propane should consider taking steps now to ensure they have adequate propane supplies this fall and winter.
“As of the first week of September, propane inventories were significantly higher than what they were at this time last year and just shy of the five-year average high,” notes Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “Due to the late planting season across the state this year, Iowans need to be aware of the length of time and amount of propane that will be needed this fall.”
According to the weekly USDA crop progress survey as of Sept. 15, only 74% of the 2019 Iowa corn crop had reached dent stage or beyond, 15 days behind last year and 10 days behind the five-year average. Eight percent of the corn had reached maturity, 19 days behind last year and 13 days behind average. A year ago, 93% of the corn was dented and 49% was mature.
Wet corn means more drying
The later crop maturity this year in large portions of the state will likely mean a steady demand for propane use for grain drying throughout the fall. Actions that farmers and other propane users can take now to prepare for this fall and winter include:
- Confirm propane supplies you have in your tanks for grain drying, livestock facilities, homes and machine sheds. Make sure they are full going into the fall season.
- Take advantage of early buy and booking programs.
- Consider expanding on-site storage capacity at your facilities and home.
- Communicate early and regularly with propane suppliers.
Propane production has continued to increase across the country over the summer and exports were down in August. Those two factors have helped to boost late-summer supplies. It is estimated that just over a million more barrels of propane is being stored in the Midwest and about 21 million barrels more in the Gulf Coast region compared to this time last year.
Increased propane supply, lower prices
The increase in supply means prices have decreased since last year. The latest average for propane in Iowa is $1.11 per gallon, down 15 cents from fall 2018. Nevertheless, it is important for users to be prepared as fall and early-winter weather patterns approach.
With the chance of export pressures to increase this fall, ensuring adequate supplies on hand now can help avoid any possible unforeseen spikes in demand later this year.
As of Sept. 6, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports propane stocks in the Midwest “PADD 2” region at 26.9 million barrels. That is up from 25.8 million barrels a year ago. EIA reports that U.S. propane stocks as of that same date at 97.8 million barrels, compared to 74.6 million barrels a year ago. Higher supply levels are attributed primarily to increased production and lower August export pressures.
The Iowa Department of Ag & Land Stewardship continues to work with Iowa ag organizations and the Iowa Propane Gas Association. IPGA and the state’s propane suppliers work toward communicating the supply-and=demand information for this agricultural energy resource.