Nationwide shortage of liquid propane affecting Tri-State farmer - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Nationwide shortage of liquid propane affecting Tri-State farmers

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More than 14 million homes and one million businesses across the United States rely on liquid propane for heat. 

Now, a nationwide shortage is crippling the efforts of area farmers, leaving them fighting to save their crops and keep their livestock alive. 

Spring flowers, ferns and plants are starting to grow to be ready for the April 15th delivery date. They're on track right now, but that's about to change because owner Jeff Dikes says he can't get enough propane to heat his greenhouses.

"Our supplier called this morning and said all ag accounts have been deleted from the company, they're only servicing residential," Dikes says.

Dikes says he has four greenhouses with more than $100,000 worth of plants growing inside. It's 65 degrees inside, just warm enough for the plants to grow.

But Dikes could run out of propane in the next 24 hours. So he's dropping the temperature to 40 degrees, just enough to keep the plants alive. 

"It's went up over $1.70 a gallon over the last three weeks so that has cut into the profit margins substantially. These furnaces will run non-stop. I'll probably burn 250-300 gallons of gas alone tonight. Which will be $1,000," Dikes says.

Experts say the Midwest started this winter at a deficit because farmers used greater than the usual amount of propane to dry out rain soaked corn crop and these colder than average temperatures require much more fuel to maintain growing temperatures. 

"At these prices, we'll be lucky to just get a break even. Right now, if we can just get a break even and keep the product alive and re-coop that, we'll be pretty darn fortunate," Dikes says.

He says Synergy has stepped up and is lending him a hand, but says he's not sure how much propane he'll be able to buy or how much he'll ultimately be able to afford. 

"I love to grow things and I put a huge effort into this. This plant as it looks now it can be black in less than an hour," Dikes says.

He tells 14 News that it's not just greenhouses taking a hit, he says farmers in Dubois County can't get LP to heat their turkey houses. 

Ultimately, the cost to keep plants, livestock and poultry alive are going to be passed on to the consumer.

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