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Family farmers raise questions about propane shortage, demand answers/solutions
By Communications Director

MFU President wrote the following letter about the propane shortage in MN:

Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) is calling for increased action at the state and federal levels to deal with Minnesota’s ongoing propane shortage crisis.  Minnesota farmers and rural residents need real answers.


MFU thanks our Congressional delegation and Governor Dayton for their ongoing efforts in helping ease this crisis. However, there are still questions as to why and how this happened, starting with: is the federal government moving to correct the cause of the propane shortage?


  • Exports.  Is part of the problem because propane that could have been used in Minnesota was sold and exported overseas?  Did the federal government not see the shortage coming? Consideration should have been given to crop and harvest conditions when considering the export of propane.


  • Closed Pipelines.  We appreciate and thank the Obama Administration for releasing $15.8 million to Minnesota to address propane shortage, but we also want the Administration to step up their efforts to determine why this happened, and to keep it from happening again.  That includes looking into why the Cochin pipeline from Canada, carrying 40 percent of Minnesota’s propane, was out of service during November and December, peak heating times.  MFU wants to know whether the plans to halt propane shipments on the Cochin pipeline in April should be permitted to go forward as a matter of national security?  Also, we need to address the challenge of transporting propane, and why there are rail and road bottlenecks.  Furthermore, should we heat farms and homes, or should oil companies just be allowed to make more profits for oil production?


  • Gouging.  We want an explanation whether price gouging was and is a part of propane pricing this winter?  Why have costs skyrocketed from $1.50 to $5.00 per gallon?  How many of our urban and suburban cousins could afford paying three times what it usually costs to heat their homes or businesses? Farmers are also tired of having the blame shoved on them for this problem. Yes, it was a wet harvest, but we have had those before without seeing exorbitant and unaffordable increases in propane prices.  Minnesota farmers are demanding to know where in the process the profit is being made, and who is making it?  Who gets that extra $3.50 and why?  It begs the question of profiteering.


  • Certainty.  We understand supply and demand, but this shortage goes beyond that.  We are demanding that there be certainty for farmers and rural residents, beyond the “pre-buy” system.  Many farmers and rural residents save all summer to buy their propane in the winter months.  That certainty and ability to pay their heating bills is now gone, and people are being forced to pay outrageous prices for what is an essential element of existence in wintertime Minnesota.


Cold weather is a serious issue and policymakers need to treat it seriously. People should not have to choose between food and fuel!


Doug Peterson


Minnesota Farmers Union

Madison, MN