HILLSBORO, N.D. — This fall's harvest could become even more difficult as the supply of propane in the upper Red River Valley becomes tighter, meaning delays for farmers at a critical time.
Many farmers in the region are currently using propane to dry wet grain, but the normally common fuel is increasingly difficult to find, making a frustrating harvest even tougher as the days go on.
Farmers who need propane may not be getting their deliveries on time. Without the propane, their dryers can't run, causing delays up and down the Valley.
"My main supplier sent out a message that they would not be able to fill any dryers over the weekend and the first part of this week," said Jon Bertsch, a farmer in east-central North Dakota.
Many farmers use propane to power dryers for corn, and after a wet fall, Bertsch said some farmers are also using dryers for soybeans and sunflowers so it can be stored properly through the winter months. The problem is many other farmers have the same idea and demand is increasing.
Supplies of propane can come from as far as Missouri, and often North Dakota is getting what remains after it is transported through other states, Bertsch said.
"Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, Illinois — we all need propane," he explained. "It's getting harder to get it delivered this far out because so many other people need the propane along the way to us."
As winter gets closer, propane use is expected to increase. The harvest could soon be competing with homes and businesses for propane.
"To heat their homes (and) heat the businesses, we're going to see the demand even crawl up there as well too," Bertsch said. "This harvest is going to be drawn out ... there's going to be a lot of harvesting done in December, January, and probably February as well."
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz have both eased restrictions on propane deliveries in an effort to help farmers.