The latest crop production report from USDA forecasts a record soybean crop, the second largest corn crop on record, and a larger than anticipated wheat crop. Given the late planting season and the large crops many farmers may need to dry grain this fall. Mark Leitman, director of agriculture programs for the Propane Education and Research Council, says nearly eight out of 10 farmers who dry grain will use propane.
The energy required to power grain dryers is an annual expenditure for a number of U.S. farmers and Leitman says the propane industry is proud to help farmers deliver quality grain to the market by providing an efficient energy source for grain drying. He notes 90% of all propane drawn from tanks is converted to energy, reducing waste and costs.
"I would encourage farmers to take a look at the new upgrades and the technology that is available today," Leitman said. "Consider that the grain dryers of today are much more efficient, 30% to 50% more efficient than the grain dryers produced 20 or 30 years ago. So new equipment can save a lot of money in the long run in terms of grain drying costs."
Leitman says annual maintenance checks of propane-fueled grain drying systems before operation and throughout the drying season will improve the efficiency and safety of the equipment. To that end he says the manufacturer is a great resource. He also says farmers should talk to their local propane marketer.
"Propane marketers and their farmer customers need to be talking about contracts at this time to make sure that the fuel needed for grain drying is in fact contracted," Leitman said. "That not only helps the propane marketer ensure that the supply is there and available when needed, but it also helps the farmer receive the best possible price for their fuel."
Leitman says farmers can also set payment plans with their local propane marketer to help mitigate the risk of rising prices and spread propane costs over several months.
To help farmers find the most cost-effective source for irrigation and grain drying a cost comparison tool is available at www.agpropane.com. Growers can also find information about USDA's Rural Energy for America Program and learn how a farmer used it to secure a grant to purchase a more efficient propane-fueled grain dryer.