UNDERWOOD — According to recent USDA numbers, just 23 percent of corn has been harvested across the state.
It was 73 percent at this point last year.
2019 has been a wet year and all that moisture means wet corn, and farmers need to dry that corn before shipping it out.
And they need propane to do that. It turns out getting that propane is harder than you might think.
“The propane guys, they’re stressed to the max, I think one morning I called just to talk and he said I was the 17th farmer that had called him,” said Underwood Farmer Steven Heger.
It’s well documented the challenges North Dakota farmers have faced this year, from record rains to crippling blizzards. But now many are facing a new hurdle this harvest season — a lack of gas, propane to be specific.
Steven and Katie Heger manage over 8,000 acres of farmland in and around Underwood and they told KX News the shortage of propane is crippling.
“We are not able to run late into the evening full days, because the propane’s at 25 percent. We can only run at 25 percent out in the field. And so that is going to push our harvest potentially into January, if not later,” said Katie.
The Hegers need 6,000 gallons of propane a week to keep their dryers running 24/7 but right now they’re only getting a third of that, meaning they are falling further and further behind.
“This year we’re not gonna be done by Thanksgiving, in fact, I don’t think we’re gonna be done by Christmas. At our current pace, we’re probably done by the middle of January and one big snow event kinda ends all of that,” Steven said.
And with all that wet corn just sitting out there…there’s another potential issue cropping up.
“Mold is a potential risk. It’s something we don’t think will be a huge problem for us, but again, that’s why it’s a priority to get our crop out of the ground,” said Katie.
Katie told KX News they’re so desperate she’s even reached out to Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer, as well as Rep. Kelly Armstrong, and has yet to get a response.
North Dakota isn’t the only place dealing with propane supply issues.
Nearly every other Mid-Western state is as well.
In fact, eight states, including North Dakota have declared emergencies related to propane.
The emergencies, loosen restrictions on transporting the gas to make it easier to get it to states that need it.
Experts say there’s plenty of propane to go around, the trouble right now is so many states are in need of it, that supply can’t keep up with demand.
KX News talked to one supplier in Wilton who told us by the time the propane makes it up to our area after feeding other states, there’s not much left.
“The corn’s wet and it’s all the way down through the “I States” and it’s everywhere, so everyone’s putting demand on the system and it’s a domino effect from Iowa all the way up here, and it’s just really hard to get you know? We’re only getting about 60-percent of what we need,” said Jon Proesch, General Manager of Farmers Union Oil Company in Wilton.
He adds he’s been in the business since 1987 and he’s never seen it this bad, but hopefully, the problem eases in a few weeks.