It is likely that propane or other crop-drying fuel markets will be strained across much of the U.S., says Bryon Parman, North Dakota State University Extension agricultural finance specialist.

In March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected nearly 93 million acres of corn would be planted, with a state record 4.05 million acres of corn planted in North Dakota. However, persistent cold, rain and flooding across the Midwest has led to many acres being planted late, or not planted at all. In some regions, this issue will impact soybean planting as well.

The June 10 USDA crop progress report showed only 83% of corn planted nationally, compared to the 99% typical by this date, and 93% in North Dakota compared to 98% on average. Some states are much further behind with Illinois at 73% planted, compared to 100% on average, and South Dakota 64% planted compared to 99% on average.

Along with the typical yield drag that comes with planting after the optimal window, late-planted crops also run the risk of not drying down adequately by the time the crop is harvested. This is exacerbated when the late summer and early fall are particularly cold and wet.

NDSU Extension experts estimate that drying corn could cost as much as 3 to 4 cents per bushel, per point of moisture reduced, at propane prices between $1.50 and $2 per gallon. In that case, drying corn down from 26% to 16% could cost as much as 30 to 40 cents per bushel, so it is properly conditioned for long-term storage.

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