Iowa Farmers, Suppliers Should Anticipate Increased Propane Demands

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig on Aug. 28 urged farmers and agribusinesses to start evaluating how much propane they’ll need to meet grain drying and home and livestock heating demands this fall and winter. The derecho that swept through Iowa on Aug. 10 created many unknowns for this year’s harvest. Propane users should anticipate, and suppliers should make plans to accommodate, increased propane demands this fall.

“After an ideal planting season and a warm, dry summer, we anticipated normal crop dry-down this fall, but the drought and derecho had significant impacts on our corn fields,” said Secretary Naig. “I encourage farmers to take a look at their grain drying and home and livestock heating needs, and formulate a plan with their propane suppliers to make sure their needs are covered and their tanks are full.”

The derecho’s sustained, high winds damaged an estimated 3.57 million acres of corn in 36 counties, just a few weeks before the harvest. While the degree of damage varies by field, millions of acres of corn stalks were snapped, flattened, or tangled, reducing the amount of airflow around the crop. Farmers should anticipate harvested corn will have higher-than-normal moisture levels, and should start engaging in planning conversations with their local propane suppliers, take advantage of early buying and booking programs, and top off their tanks now before harvest begins.

High-moisture corn must be dried before the grain can be stored in the bin to prevent grain quality issues. The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Grain Drying Economics Module helps farmers work through corn drying and marketing decisions.

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) has created a grain dryer propane use calculator to help crop farmers determine how much propane they may need this fall. Farmers can access the calculator at The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Grain Quality Initiative also has resources to help agricultural decision-makers work through grain drying, storage, and quality considerations.

The National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) has developed an “ABCs of Supply Preparation” checklist to guide propane suppliers through demand, supply, logistics, storage, and customer considerations to help decision-makers plan their fall inventories.

Suppliers can track Iowa propane demands, inventory levels, and prices on the Iowa Propane Trends and Statistics website. This is a public resource that was launched in January 2020 by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa Department of Transportation to increase the visibility of key metrics that impact the propane supply chain in Iowa.

As of Aug. 26, U.S. propane stocks were at 90.8 MMbbl or 86 days of supply. The U.S. propane inventory is expected to build over the next few weeks to peak around 91 MMbbl. Midwest propane supplies stand at 25.26 MMbbl, down from 26.12 MMbbl at this time last year, but supplies have been steadily increasing since July 10.
Iowa experienced some propane supply challenges in the fall of 2019 due to grain drying demands caused by the late planting season that coincided with an early cold, which increased livestock and home heating needs.

Naig and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship convened a group of propane stakeholders, including the Iowa Governor’s office, members of the Iowa Legislature, Iowa Propane Gas Association, propane suppliers, and several agricultural groups, to anticipate and take action to prevent future propane supply chain issues.

If farmers or agribusinesses experience propane shortages, they should notify Paul Ovrom at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship at (515) 242-6239 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or Deb Grooms at the Iowa Propane Gas Association at (515) 564-1260 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, September 3, 2020. Weekly Propane Newsletter subscribers receive all the latest posted and spot prices from major terminals and refineries around the U.S. delivered to inboxes every week. Receive a center spread of posted prices with hundreds of postings updated each week, along with market analysis, insightful commentary, and much more not found elsewhere.