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Tough Harvest Time: Wet Crop, Expensive Propane

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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HAMM, Minn. (WCCO) – This week’s snow has added to an already wet crop, and that means a lot of farmers will rely on grain dryers to dry out their corn.

“You can’t dry it, you can’t combine it, and you can’t get done,” said Peter Leuer of Leuer Farms.

That’s how Leuer sums up what’s left of his corn crop. About 200 snow-covered acres remain near his Hamel, Minn., farm. And like most Minnesota farmers, Leuer planted late and due to the wet weather, he’s harvesting late.

“It takes the profit out of it, let’s go that way,” Leuer said.

This fall has been so wet that every bushel of corn that Leuer has harvested has gone through the dryer – and that isn’t cheap.

Leuer said he is using his grain dryer for the first time in about four years. With moisture content near 30 percent in the field, the dryer is needed to get it down to about 15 percent so it can be sold.

“It’s kind of like gas in your car,” he said. “When you can’t get any, you don’t care what you pay as long as you get it.”

Luckily for Leuer, his dryer runs on natural gas, which is far cheaper than the propane dryer his neighbor Daryl Patnode is using.

“A tank like costs about $1,200,” Patnode said. “And it won’t last — not even a day.”

With the harvest season shortened, demand for propane has gone up. And it has created a shortage for farmers in western Minnesota.

The lack of propane has even caused some elevators to stop drying. Propane distributor CHS is now bringing in trucks from across the country to try and help.

At the Patnode farm, propane can still be found. But there’s now a sense of urgency to get done before Mother Nature throws another curveball.

“As I got up that morning and saw the snow on the ground, I thought to myself, ‘This would feel kind of good if I was done with my crops,'” Patnode said. “But I’m not done.”

Experts said the propane shortage should not impact home heating as the supply is saved for home heating first.

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