Unseasonably cold temperatures have area farmers facing new gas restrictions

The gas restrictions are impacting the ability to dry and harvest crops.

Posted: Nov 13, 2019 6:50 AM
Updated: Nov 14, 2019 1:05 PM

BLOOMING PRAIRIE, Minn. - Unseasonably cold temperatures this early in November have more people using natural gas to heat homes, schools, and other commercial buildings. 

The extra early use is impacting farmers. 

On Monday, Minnesota Energy Resources curtailed natural gas lines for about 70 customers including many farmers. It put harvesting operations at a standstill for farmers using corn dryers that run on natural gas. 

"Normally on a day like today we'd be harvesting corn. And the dryer behind me here, that would be especially on a cold day like today, there'd be a lot of steam coming out of it," Josh Toquam, a farmer at Toquam Family Farm, said on Tuesday. 

The curtailment is a headache for farmers already facing a tough harvest season, but Toquam said after a rainy summer, trade war, and cold fall, it's not the worst thing they've seen this year. 

"Nothing surprises us in 2019," Toquam said. "We were kind of chuckling about it the other day when they shut us off, even how bad this year is, I don't think shutting off our gas is in the top three for the most stressful things that have happened this fall. It's just been one of those year's where we're all ready to be done."

Starting Wednesday, Minnesota Energy Resources is implementing a 'self-curtailment.' Farmers are being asked to avoid using natural gas for farm equipment from 4am-8am until further notice. A spokesperson with the gas company said this is because many people are waking up and heating up buildings during those hours.

If farmers chose to use natural gas during those hours, they will have to pay a penalty.

For Toquam, there is no blame game here. 

"Minnesota Energy has been really good to work with so we're not placing any blame. And we get it, they have to keep the schools and hospitals and residential people heated first," he said. 

But, blame can be placed somewhere. 

"Mother nature. She's been fighting us all year and it doesn't sound like she's going to give it up any time soon," Toquam said. 

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